Marketing Minute: Having women leaders benefits the flooring industry in more ways than one – March 2022

By Paul Friederichsen

In February, the International Surface Event, known more commonly to the flooring industry as Surfaces, came back on the scene like its old self. Emerging from the Covid world, many top flooring brands took to the stage again in grand fashion. The aisles were reasonably filled with attendees. And new flooring styles, sizes, and finishes seemed to be around every corner. But one unique and new pre-event that should not be overlooked in its significance to the industry was The Women’s Leadership Conference of 2022.

In an industry that prides itself on pushing the envelope in terms of sustainable products and manufacturing practices as well as with product innovation and design, one could argue that it’s been a little slower than most when it comes to elevating the role and leadership of women within its management ranks. Ironic, when one considers the industry is driven by the female consumer. Fifteen years ago, Patricia Flavin shocked the good-old-boy carpet world by taking over the reins of marketing for Beaulieu America-at that time the number three mill-and it’s taken 15 years more to hold a Leadership Conference. Over the ensuing decade-and-a-half, highly talented, career-driven and keenly intelligent women, many with graduate degrees in marketing and business, have begun filling the executive and ownership ranks across the mills, factories, distributorships, contractors, and retail chains in this approximately $21 billion residential flooring business. It’s about time.

This transformation isn’t about gender equality. Nor is it about hiring based on sex. It’s about smart business. The simple fact is that, while half of the population is female, women direct a staggering 83% of all consumption in the U.S. and head about 40% of all households and companies. According to Catalyst, this gap is widening.

The Brookings Institution reveals one reason for this growing gap; women are now graduating high school and college at higher rates than men and in less time. That gap is widening each year as well. Better education, as a rule, translates to more influence and purchasing power.

Also noteworthy is that more women than men were nominated and chosen as up-and-coming leaders in this year’s Emerging Leaders Award, announced at Surfaces and in the February issue of Floor Focus.

And another milestone announced at this year’s Surfaces was that one of the top ten installers in the National Floor Covering Installer Award competition held by Certified Flooring Installers was a woman, Crystal Sims from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Floorcovering marketers who do not fully understand and appreciate that women are the defining driver of their industry are operating at a disadvantage for the brands they promote. Of course, there is always a danger in over-simplifying and stereotyping based on gender because no two people are alike. However, female representation on the marketing and sales teams for any flooring manufacturer or retailer has definite advantages.

In “5 Definitive Advantages Women Have in Sales,” Elaine Rau singles out “collaborative problem solving” as a strength, particularly in the all-too-common rivalry between marketing and sales departments. Women are known to be more flexible and inclusive and can improve ‘sealing the deal’ as much as 38% more compared to disconnected teams of rivals. Other advantageous traits female team members contribute include overcoming stereotypes, exemplary work ethic, innate listening skills, and high emotional intelligence to reach solutions.

Most marketers are familiar with a groundbreaking book published in 2004, Don’t Think Pink by Andrea Learned and Lisa Johnson, which cautioned against marketing to women via “pink” stereotypical notions. This publication was good advice to the CMOs, marketing directors, creative directors, and brand managers who were still primarily male 20 years ago. A lot has changed since then.

Kearney Consumer Institute, a leading global management consulting company, places home décor/furniture in the top five product categories where a female-focused approach is essential, meaning having products designed to meet the needs of women but not necessarily to the exclusion of men.

It’s worth noting that flooring has long been known as a “considered purchase” for most homes and wrapped up with all the financial, emotional, and time investment to do it right. As a rule, it’s a major decision, calling on both heads of household (when there are two, of course) to shoulder the responsibility. Traditionally, the wife will drive the purchase need and preference and consult with the husband for consensus on the financial side.

Flooring design aesthetic, engineering for durability, performance, ease of maintenance and safety in the home (low to no VOCs, absence of phthalates, etc.) are universal concerns but have a decided resonance with women, who are often tasked with multiple roles, like family provider, money manager, caregiver, parent and guardian.

Successfully marketing to women requires all the basics of good brand marketing, with brand empathy being at the top of the list. A mystical, magical force exists between consumer and brand. That bond can only be established and maintained by understanding the consumer’s desires and needs. In that way, brands empathize with their consumer and seek to validate those feelings through the delivery of the brand in messaging, marketing, co-branding, special offers, added enhancements and brand extensions.

As a flooring retailer interested in building your business, all of your marketing decisions should be based on this fundamental precept of empathy and come from a genuine perspective of respect, relationship building and customer care. Your approach and delivery of these characteristics and your product will differentiate you from your competition, good or bad.

How you steward your brand identity and your messaging will also say a lot about who you are to her, as well. Women are better communicators as a rule, and so will form judgments about your brand based on not just what you say but also how and where you say it. Is your website current and easy to navigate? Are you staying on top of your social media? Are you engaging and sharing with real satisfied customer experiences? Are you giving back to the community and supporting causes she is interested in? And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do you have a feminine point-of-view, if not yours, contributed by someone on your marketing staff?

No doubt, you know your customer well since your location and marketing area has an enormous influence on your customer’s needs and expectations. “9 Tips for Marketing to a Female Demographic in the Digital Age” from Social Toaster advises, “Narrow your marketing demographic to be as specific as you can get, then think through the needs, desires, and triggers of that further defined target. Develop content and messages that speak to this more refined audience.”

It’s often said that great advertising (or marketing communication) reaches people on a personal level. It’s one-on-one. “It speaks to me.”

The “me” in the floorcovering industry is a woman. And she is in the driver’s seat.

Copyright 2022 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Beaulieu International Group