Your Competitive Advantage May Surprise You!
What's your best advice for women in business?
It's a question I hear frequently as more and more women strike out on their own, whether it's to start their own company, write a book, turn their great idea into a product, or otherwise monetize their talents. The number of women-owned businesses in this country is growing 1.5 times faster than the national average. From 1997 to 2011, they increased by 50 percent.
I love seeing this surge of confidence! Putting yourself out there is risky, but it's better to try and fail then to spend a lifetime wondering, "What if?"
Yes, I do have a favorite piece of advice for women in business but first, a word about a project that gleans wisdom from dozens of us female entrepreneurs.
"One Red Lipstick" is a documentary, book and website being created to advise, encourage, inspire and empower the more than 200,000 women launching U.S. businesses each year.
Filmmaker Spenser Chapple (Tiny Elephant Films) has received great support for the project on KickStarter, where she has already met her minimum goal -- the amount necessary to finish the film and book -- and has until June 28 to raise an additional $5,000. That will cover expenses associated with editing and distribution.
I'm excited to be featured in "One Red Lipstick" (the title comes from the emboldening power of red lipstick). I believe, like Spenser, that women working together have tremendous strength, and that there's a lot we can do to help each other succeed as entrepreneurs.
And we do need to help each other.
Despite the fact that our businesses added 500,000 jobs over 10 years while other privately held firms lost jobs, we're also less likely than men to borrow money to expand, so our businesses are smaller. They're more likely to fail and, despite the huge number of sales receipts we ring up, the total is still disproportionately less than our male counterparts.
That information, by the way, comes from the U.S. Department of Commerce's "Women-Owned Businesses in the 21st Century" report.
It details the hurdles we still must overcome: the legacy of a long history of discrimination; our tendency to be risk-adverse; and even some of the ventures that we choose. The report says we can help ourselves by creating more supportive networks, having access to more information, and finding mentors.
That last point gave me pause. When I launched my first business, there were comparatively few female CEOs, and certainly no internet to foster communication among them. I learned how to run a business mostly through good old trial and error. That's also how I figured out how to balance that work with my roles as mother, wife and daughter, and how to fit in time volunteering for the community organizations I valued.
But women don't have to go it alone anymore, and nor should we. Which is why I welcome questions like, "What's your best advice for women in business?"
Here it is: Know your audience.
Because guess what? It's you!
Women account for 73 percent to 85 percent of all consumer decisions (according to Boston Consulting Group, Competitive Edge Magazine, and TrendSight Group founder Marti Barletta), From the grocery store to the automobile dealership, to the tech industry, women drive purchasing.
You need to communicate with that audience in mind. No, you don't want to exclude men, but you also need to be sure your message appeals to women.
As a woman, I'm a sucker for honesty and sincerity. I'm turned off by condescension. Unless the writer is somebody I already know and respect, I have little tolerance for preaching, judgment, or demands.
Any message that takes those things into account will work for men, too.
Whether you're writing marketing copy, posting on social media, or working on an article or newsletter, if your goal is to turn your readers into buyers, you need to write with your audience in mind.
That's not so hard – if you're a woman.
[Marsha Friedman is a 24-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to businesses, professional firms, entertainers and authors. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself and can be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, EMSI's PR Insider. Follow her on Twitter: @marshafriedman.]