You Want To Target Mom? Email Her

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Kevin Burke founded Lucid Marketing to build relationships between brands and customers. About a year ago, the company started focusing on mothers, figuring Mom was key to the household budget. That focus has turned up some interesting nuggets. Gwynne Young, managing editor of CRMGuru.com, spoke with Burke, to find out what makes moms different—and how marketers can benefit from that knowledge.

The following interview was edited for length and clarity.

Gwynne Young

I’d like to welcome you to a discussion on a report Lucid Marketing did on a survey of mothers’ in their use of email and response to email marketing, Email Marketing’s Impact With Moms. Kevin Burke, would you introduce yourself, and tell us a little bit about Lucid Marketing?

Kevin Burke

I started Lucid approximately six years ago, with the vision of getting more involved in permission marketing, particularly building relationships between brands and customers. It was around the time when CRM was just starting to get hot, and the Internet, as an email marketing medium, was really getting going. I viewed email just as a great tool for building relationships with customers. We’ve evolved the business over a number of years, and one of the opportunities we’ve seen in the marketplace is building relationships between brands and moms.

Gwynne Young

What prompted you to look at email and moms?

Kevin Burke

In general, women are very good at building relationships among themselves and with peers, but they are also looking for relationships with brands. When we looked at the work we had done for some of our clients and other opportunities out there, “Mom” just really popped on the radar screen that she was a very underserved consumer segment. So, we have taken our business to really focus on helping businesses get closer to moms, develop that relationship with moms and grow their business through marketing to moms.

Gwynne Young

How long have you been doing that focus?

Kevin Burke

Well, it’s been less than a year.

Gwynne Young

You mentioned moms, and my first thought was: How do you define a mom? You talk about women, and I’m wondering if “mom” is another term for a woman, or if it’s a specific category: You have kids, you’re in charge of a household or—

Kevin Burke

Well, we look at it as just having kids and what the introduction of kids into a woman’s life means; how it changes some of her priorities and the way she goes about her life. In our study, the respondents on average had 1.8 kids, and the majority of them are between 2 and 5 years old.

Gwynne Young

I always feel sorry for that point-eight kid.

Kevin Burke

I was a point-eight kid.



Gwynne Young

So, there are major differences between women without children and those with children, in terms of their focus and how they shop and their budget?

Kevin Burke

Yeah. With women with kids—moms—one of the primary motivators is: They want to be the best mom they can be. Because of that, they tend to put their needs secondary. They think of themselves after they think of their kids. Many of them are struggling with the work/life balance. The number of women in the market—moms working today—has grown exponentially over the past 20 years, as I’m sure we’re all aware of. As a result of this work/life balance and trying to be the best mom they can be with their kids, they’re extremely time-starved. And they’re looking for ways to be more efficient and more effective every day.

Gwynne Young

How important are mothers to marketers? Because I’m a mom, and sometimes, I get the impression I’m not all that important.

Kevin Burke

It’s kind of crazy. I mean, it’s crazy that it’s not more readily recognized by brands. But, when you look at the data—and there have been books written on this—mothers control 80 percent of household purchase decisions. I just look at my little microcosm and my family, and I never really thought how many of the purchase decisions my wife was really driving with our family. It’s probably very close to that 80 percent or maybe even higher.

Gwynne Young

You say, “driving,” so I have to ask, are these big-ticket items, like the car?

Kevin Burke

Oh, no, it’s everything. In fact, I think the proper word is really “control.” They really do control 75 percent or 80 percent of the household purchase decisions, and I believe the statistic is that they control 75 percent of the overall household finances.

Gwynne Young

Is this the United States, or are you looking globally?

Kevin Burke

The United States.

Gwynne Young

What types of businesses are targeting mothers? Part of that question is really what types of businesses should target mothers and perhaps aren’t?

Kevin Burke

The traditional ones out there, like the Fisher-Prices and Johnson & Johnsons and Nestles are certainly targeting moms, because their products are geared directly for young kids, where mom is the primary decision-maker. But there’s also brands like Home Depot and Lowe’s which are competing for that dollar. One of the reasons Lowe’s has had some of the success they’ve had, is their stores are much better lit, and there are wider aisles, and a lot of that is trying to appeal to women and moms making changes to their homes.

Gwynne Young

Are you saying men like things a little darker?

Kevin Burke

I don’t know if I’m saying that, but, yeah, maybe we do.

Gwynne Young

And so, tell me about the survey, specifically. What was its purpose? And, how did you get your survey base?

Kevin Burke

Lucid Marketing and BSM Media set out to learn more about how email marketing was having an impact with moms. BSM Media is the parent company to a web site called Blue Suit Mom. It’s a web site that is geared toward working women. It has all kinds of information that’s of interest to working women, particularly focusing on the work/life balance and how to manage it.

Gwynne Young

Is this a portal, or is it a shopping area?

Kevin Burke

It’s more classified as a publication. It’s not shopping-focused.

Gwynne Young

It’s something they go to to read.

Kevin Burke

Yeah, exactly. So, we reached out to them with our survey. Our findings are intended for consideration when evaluating the potential of marketing to women and reaching moms.

Gwynne Young

Do you know many members this web site has? I assume you know how many people responded to your survey.

Kevin Burke

Yeah, I do. I don’t know how many were reached, but we got 139 responses.

Gwynne Young

What was the most surprising finding?

Kevin Burke

Well, I guess there were two things for me. One was that checking email and being online with email is something that moms are doing all day long. A large number of them just responded to the survey question, “When do you check email?” by saying, “Constantly.” They’re doing it at all times of the day, from early morning, mid-day, when they might be working, through late at night. It’s just part of their regular habit.

The other thing that really just grabbed me was when we asked the question, “If you were stranded on a desert island and had the choice of a couple different communication mediums, phone, email, postal mail or chat, which one would you choose?” Nearly 50 percent of them chose email.

Gwynne Young

Of course, they would realize that if they were stranded on a desert island, there’d be no postal mail, right?

Kevin Burke

Yeah, that’s true. They wouldn’t be stranded, anymore, you’re right. Hopefully, the postman can make a phone call on their behalf. I don’t know, though. I don’t have a lot of faith in the U.S. Postal system these days.

Gwynne Young

But more than 50 percent chose email?

Kevin Burke

Just under 50 percent. I believe it was 47 percent chose email. I would have loved to have asked that question on a longitudinal basis and found out two and five years ago what that number was and look two and five years into the future.

Gwynne Young

Why was that surprising?

Kevin Burke

It was just personally surprising for me because of how connected the phone is. As I’ve grown up in watching my sister and my mom and then, as an adult, how my wife likes talking to her friends and her family. There was a lot of skepticism toward online media, when it was starting to grow a few years ago in the sense of the world becoming less personalized, with people no longer talking to each other, holed up in their homes and surfing the web, instead of interacting with people. I felt like the phone provided more of a stronger social connection, but I think those are some Old World ideas.

What was really revealing for me was when I started seeing the statistic reveal itself. I started doing some one-on-one surveying with my wife and with friends and other moms, and I asked them a specific question. Immediately they would say, “phone,” but then, they would hesitate and say, “Well, wait a minute, wait a minute, let me think about this for a minute.” They started thinking, “Well, I can get pictures via email, and I can get sound bytes via email, too.” And then they would say, “You know what? I think I really like email better.”

Gwynne Young

I would have no question. I hate the phone, aside from this.

Kevin Burke

We’ll make this call quick.

Gwynne Young

What I hate about the phone is the intrusiveness. Email is completely on my time. No matter when the person emails me, I can pick up that email on my schedule.

Kevin Burke

That’s an excellent point.

Gwynne Young

So it’s the interruption factor that bothers me the most about the phone.

Kevin Burke

You’re saying that, not only from a personal interaction standpoint, but certainly, from a business telemarketing, as well, right?

Gwynne Young

Well, all the way through. We’re now getting birthday party invites, and I know that I get really frustrated when the RSVP has only a phone number, and not an email address. Then I’ve got to leave a long message on an answering machine, hope the person calls back and tells me what their kid wants for a present. When are they going to call back? Am I going to get a live person? If I have an email address, I can ask exactly what I want, RSVP and then wait for the reply.

Kevin Burke

There’s a wonderful case example.

Gwynne Young

That’s completely personal, and of course, you’re right, I email all day long at work.

Kevin Burke

Yeah.

Gwynne Young

You said in your survey write-up, that moms wanted and expected more messages that were relevant. Did they say what they meant by relevant? Can you give some examples? What sort of things would make a business message more relevant to moms?

Kevin Burke

Relevance is something of, obviously, a very personal nature.

Gwynne Young

Sure.



Kevin Burke

One of the driving characteristics of moms that was recently discovered was that moms tend to have behavior and experiences that are like other moms who have children of the same age. So said another way, two moms—maybe one in her 20s and one in her 40s—might be having similar life experiences if their kids are similar ages, even if they’re 20 years apart in age. They tend to hang out, as well, just because of the age of their children.

The kids are such a driving force. So, speaking to relevance, if you know the age of the children in the household, you should be able to try to customize and personalize your messaging, based on that. Certainly, a mom with a young baby is going through many different experiences than a mom with a teenage son.

Gwynne Young

I agree with that. I was getting the impression when I was reading the report that the women were frustrated by a lot of the emails they were getting from businesses. They said that they would respond much more if they were more relevant. So, I’m wondering what message goes back to the businesses. Is it to find out more about the women’s households to make the emails more relevant?

Kevin Burke

Yeah. I think one of the ways we asked the question was: if businesses would send you email messages that would help you with your day, or help you save time. And, there was a strong response to that. I want to try to answer your question in another way, as well. It is about understanding their needs and delivering a personalized message that is relevant to her, and I think this statement could be applied to all consumers. If it’s relevant to the experience with our brand and your relationship with that brand, it’s going to have a higher perceived value. A great one is Amazon. The book recommendations they send me are personalized and very relevant to my needs. They don’t get it right 100 percent of the time, but they certainly have my attention. And I appreciate their recommendations so much more than other businesses that are treating the email medium like it’s direct mail or like it’s broadcast.

Gwynne Young

Throw it all out, and see where it sticks.

Kevin Burke

Exactly. You know, it’s not like any other medium. It’s certainly not a one-way, “let’s target a group of consumers” medium. It’s not the best medium for customer acquisitions, but it’s a great medium for trying to have a dialogue with a consumer. It’s a great medium for trying to build relationships.

Gwynne Young

And, of course, Amazon does what it does by having recommendations and asking you to update those and looking at your buying habits.

Kevin Burke

Yeah.

Gwynne Young

Putting those all together, if I’m understand you right, what you’re saying is: Relevance really means knowing more about the individual woman so that the emails can be much more personalized and targeted.

Kevin Burke

Exactly. And a key data point, which I probably jumped into a little too quickly in our discussion, was the age of the children in the household.

Gwynne Young

That goes back to your talking about two women of different ages, themselves, how they would have a lot more in common if their kids were the same age.

Kevin Burke

Exactly

Gwynne Young

So, they’re going through something in their house, completely based on the kids’ point in life.

Kevin Burke

Right on.

Gwynne Young

One of the interesting things I pulled out of your survey responses was that more than half of those surveyed said they would follow up on an email offer by buying offline.

Kevin Burke

Right.

Gwynne Young

Was that surprising to you? That they’d go offline and would not do the purchase online? That surprised me.

Kevin Burke

That’s what surprised me, and then, I saw it supported in another study recently. It was encouraging, because I think there’s the expectation of a lot of brands that every sale you’re generating for the business through communicating with a customer is happening online. It’s very challenging for a lot of businesses to measure that offline activity and the sell-through that’s occurring, and to start establishing benchmarks like that is, I think, critical in evaluating success.

Gwynne Young

My experience prior to my being with CRMGuru was being with retail web sites, and in both cases, the retail web sites were completely web-based. There was no brick-and-mortar representation. At that time, the sense was that the brick and mortar companies really saw online as a completely different channel—more so as a completely different business. It sounds as though, based on your survey results, that a lot of the businesses are still in that mode. They’re trying to figure out how to bring people into the brick-and-mortar store, because they still departmentalize everything. Is that the case?

Kevin Burke

Yeah, it is. That’s the way I’ve seen it: “This online channel? We have a group that takes care of that.” They do that, but it’s not integrated throughout the business. The reality is we’re in a multi-channel world.

Gwynne Young

Right. Regarding the finding that more than half said they’d follow up on an email by buying offline—and you mentioned that there’s another survey that supported that—do you think that’s completely the women’s choice? That they had to digest the purchase a bit? That they had to see or feel the product? Or do you think it may be because of the way it’s marketed by the business, that the business is sort of pushing you in that direction?

Kevin Burke

I think there are probably a number of different factors involved, one of them being convenience. You know, maybe it’s a product you know you can just pick up on your next trip to the supermarket.

Gwynne Young

Right.

Kevin Burke

Another, it might be just timeliness: I want this now.

Gwynne Young

Right. Do you think there’s a fear—that’s not the right word—but do you think the extra fees, shipping and handling are something that the thriftier mom wants to avoid?

Kevin Burke

Yeah, price is certainly a driving factor, and it goes back to trying to be the best mom she can be and bringing the most value to her home. If she’s spending an extra couple bucks on shipping when she knows she doesn’t have to, I think that’s going to have an impact on her decision process.

Gwynne Young

When you did your survey, was there any thought to how this stacks up against moms and direct mail?

Kevin Burke

Yeah.

Gwynne Young

Have there been direct mail surveys that are similar, that you could compare those to?

Kevin Burke

We didn’t approach it that way, so I don’t have any data to compare the two.

Gwynne Young

I was just wondering if the women you targeted had a different reaction completely or whether this is just the way we shop, the way we respond. Where do you take your survey from here? What action items are there for companies that want to respond to it, and what are you proposing to do with it?

Kevin Burke

Good question. What we think is that it’s incredibly powerful directional information on starting to recognize that the medium of email cannot be used just to push product and put product message in front of customers. It has to be done in a much more customer-centric manner, meaning that in order to have the permission to put your products and your sales messages into mom’s email box at home, you have to be doing three things.

One is delivering value, and value is going to differ from brand to brand. There’s some brands like Ann Taylor, that is such a strong brand and strong product line, that every week, if you’re including some kind of discount offer or coupon, that might work real well, and it’s going to drive on and offline purchases. But, in my opinion, there’s very few brands that can just rely on discounts and promotions to deliver enough value into the home. And, unfortunately, that’s a strategy that I see that most brands have taken, is they’ve become only one-trick ponies. You know: “We have our newsletter, and this week, we’re running our 15 percent off. And next week, there’s 20 percent off. ” And buy one, get one free.

Gwynne Young

Right.

Kevin Burke

And, that gets so old.

Gwynne Young

I delete them out of my in-box all the time.

Kevin Burke

There’s a point where they’re no longer relevant.

Gwynne Young

Right.

Kevin Burke

The second thing I recommend is: Look for ways you can provide convenience. How can you make mom’s life easier? Good example: free shipping on items that might be tough to load into the car or to get home. Period. But also think about the way you present products. There’s almost a silly example—well, maybe not a silly example—but the Container Store, ContainerStore.com, has an email message that goes out. And it’s very focused on a particular set of products that are for storage. They’re clear, and the email is big. And you can look at it, and you can instantly understand what kind of product they’re providing. And you can make a decision very quickly to go shop online or offline.

The strategy they have there is: “Look, we’re not going to try to jam 100 products or 50 products onto a newsletter page with teeny, tiny pictures in print. We’re going to give you a shot at looking at a product that might be able to help you in your home, that makes your life a little more convenient. And we’re going to continue with that theme of convenience by showing you one product very quickly and giving you the ability to decide whether you want it or delete it.”

Gwynne Young

It’s a single-product email, and they show you a large graphic and explain how it might be of use to you?

Kevin Burke

Bingo.

Gwynne Young

I see. You said there was a third action.



Kevin Burke

Yes, if you can make an emotional impact. Some of the work we’ve done with Disney is in trying to understand how we can create experience between Mom and her child. If you can do that with your brand like Disney does at the parks or at the theaters or we’re trying to do via email, you’ve really made a big impact with her in regards to your brand experience.

One of the programs that we do is: Thirty days prior to a child’s birthday, we send the mom an email message that says, “Hey, thanks for giving us your kid’s name and birthday. Here’s a product that’s age-appropriate and gender-appropriate for them.” It’s written in a marketing way, of course.

Gwynne Young

Right.

Kevin Burke

So, that message speaks of the convenience. But then, what we also do is follow up on that three days before the child’s birthday. We send a message to moms, but this time, it’s an ecard intended for the child—just a very soft and fun message—that says, “Happy Birthday, Johnny,” with the kid’s name. It may be from one of the Disney characters, depending on the age. If they’re younger, it might be from Winnie the Pooh. If they’re a little older, it might be from Buzz Lightyear. It has some catchy copy and a link to play an online game or a coloring book or whatever is appropriate.

So, there’s a combination of convenience, a reminder email message and this birthday ecard message. If the experience is right, Mom’s bringing him over to the computer and saying, “Hey, look what you got from Disney.” He gets all psyched, and then two days later, Mom’s giving him that product that’s all integrated with the characters.

Gwynne Young

Right. Right. Well, I could see that hooking me.

Kevin Burke

Yeah.

Gwynne Young

I try to keep the computer away from my kids.

Kevin Burke

Yeah, I feel the same way, but if you can make it done in a way that’s artful and respectful and you’re just trying to add a little bit of fun and a brand experience—not pushing it too hard—it can be very effective.

Gwynne Young

Interesting. Is there any message you think businesses—or even moms—should know that we didn’t really touch on or any other little nuggets in your survey?

Kevin Burke

I think the key point is to recognize that if you want to try to reach Mom, a really great way to do it is by trying to understand her and building a database around her preferences; her likes and dislikes; and how she feels about your brand. And then, if you started communicating with her via email—and you’re really truly interested in developing a relationship to garner some lifetime value out of this, as opposed to being an Old World marketer who’s just interested in reach and frequency, instead of having depth and duration of a conversation with a customer—it is a great opportunity.

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