MarketingSherpa just interviewed Joan Steltman, IBM's Market Development Executive of Internet Strategies.
About 38% of all U.S. businesses are women-owned, according to the National Foundation of Women Business Owners, and "they're starting them at twice the rate than their male counterparts," says Joan. Over 95% of the businesses owned by women are defined as small business (less than 100 employees). And these are the two main factors behind IBM's "very focused program of marketing to women entrepreneurs."
"One of the core pieces of our marketing strategy is the Internet. The cornerstone of that is the women's small business site," she says. IBM has funded numerous research projects into what works for women online. Joan offers her tips for catering to these business-savvy female users.
#1. Make it easier to use your technology. Women see technology as a tool, rather than a toy, so they focus on how it helps their small business. "Men and women use the same technology. It isn't about building different products," says Joan.
#2. Focus on the user's budget limitations. IBM offers special promotions and affinity programs throughout the site, so there are financial benefits to buying products there.
#3. Cater to the technical needs of home-based businesses. Along these lines, IBM recently launched a related email-based promotion with a partner that provides a computer back-up capability.
#4. Stress the availability of technical support. Women want to know that when they buy technology, someone will be there when they use it.
#5. Mentor the growth of women's skills. IBM recently did a "buy one (class), get one free" promotion with tutorials.com. "If you need to learn to use your technology, you can take a class on that. You can also learn business management skills," says Joan.
#6. Tap into female experts for content. "Women view their peers as credible references," added Joan.
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