Ms. DeVere is CEO of AskPatty.com Inc. and purveyor of the "Certified Female Friendly Program," which offers training and certifies automotive retail and service centers on how to attract, sell, retain and increase loyalty with women customers.
"I'm not here to make you feel bad because you're guys," she said to her mostly male audience. "In fact, I am here to help you. You need to think of me as a spy that has a great understanding of the women's market — that I am bringing to you sort of like the inside scoop to give you an advantage in your marketplace."
Her first point: Women process information and make purchasing decisions differently than men and tire dealers need to recognize that when working with female customers.
For example, how many words a day do women speak on average? she asked. "All of them," one fellow in the audience yelled out, jokingly. The answer actually is 20,000 vs. an average of 4,000 to 6,000 for men, Ms. DeVere said.
Women are talkers, story tellers, while men are bullet pointers. Men want you to "get to the point. Get to the point. Get to the point," she explained.
"In fact, you do this to your women customers when they come in," she told her audience, "and they need to tell you the whole history of the vehicle, every tire, every service, everything that ever happened with that car before they get to the point of what they want. And you are rolling your eyes and you are frustrated. 'Just tell me so I can fix it.'
"And when your body language says that to a woman, right away she feels disrespected and the other thing—she does not trust you."
Today's women customers see themselves as super-empowered, Ms. DeVere said, noting that:
- In 20 percent of the homes of married couples, the woman earns more than the man.
- During the recent recession, more executive men lost their jobs than women, and these women became the primary bread winners in the family.
- Women are starting new businesses at five times the rate of guys and earning high-level degrees at three times the rate of men.
- 51 percent of women over the age of 18 are single and make their own purchasing decisions.
"What has happened is the dynamic of decision making has changed," Ms. DeVere said.
Just as significantly, social media and the blogosphere in the last 10 years have provided women with something they never had before — a voice that matters and that can make an impact.
Tire dealers who continue to push out marketing and advertising and testosterone-laden messaging are missing 50 percent of the marketplace, she said. "I'm not saying, paint the walls pink…. You don't have to go to the extreme, but you have to be savvy marketers to women to earn their respect and keep them that way."
What are most important to women are their life experiences, Ms. DeVere reiterated."That's why we're story tellers. Word of mouth with women is just how we operate."
Women also are loyal to those businesses where they spend money. Ms. DeVere said she has gone to the same dry cleaner for more than 20 years. Why? The owner remembers her name and their last conversation. He knows about her kids. He's nice to talk to.
"But the thing that really gets me is he always carries my clothes to the car, even if it is only two items," she said. He insists on it. "I have no idea what he is charging me for dry cleaning, and I don't care," she said. "I will always go to him. He has won my loyalty, no questions asked."
This need for a relationship is why Ms. DeVere believes social media is used more frequently by women — "because we want to connect."
Most importantly, she said, "women now know they can make a change in brands that they like or don't like by getting a big voice online. And not just through rating systems, but through Twitter. They can take a brand down."
So what can tire dealers do to better serve women seeking tire and automotive products and services?
Catering to the women's market is more than just having clean restrooms, she said.
"Sorry guys. Women are much more sophisticated shoppers and buyers than that. That's a prerequisite, for sure. But that's not OK."
For one, Ms. DeVere said, dealers need to understand the communication gap between men and women. Guys don't spend enough time studying the women's market and women do not do a good job of understanding what their vehicles need.
"So this creates a kind of clash of the titans," she said.
The woman shows up at the dealership with an "I'm an empowered woman" attitude but doesn't have the language to describe her vehicle's problem properly.
"So your challenge is really, I think, to become an educator of women to help them bridge the gap," she said.
Regarding coupons, Ms. DeVere suggested dealers make them mobile device friendly so women don't have to cut them out of the newspaper or flyers anymore.
Mobile couponing is "huge," she said, urging dealers to look around in their local markets to see how manicurists and hair dressers advertise.
Also keep in mind that dealers' coupons compete with coupons from other women-specific brands. "Have you ever gone over and looked at the kind of calls-to-action — creative couponing calls-to-action — women's brands do to get them to buy their products?" she asked. "Check it out. Your coupons suck!"
How boring, she said, is a coupon that states: Brake Job: $69.95.
"Tell me if you come into my shop and buy a set of tires, I will donate $100 to the charity of your choice. That means something to me."
Ms. DeVere also encouraged dealers to look at the rewards programs of retailers like Kohl's. "They have the greatest reward program," she said. "You keep going back there."
If Kohl's offers a $10 reward, "I've got to go spend it," she said. Then, when she spends another $50, she gets another $20 reward. "I keep going back to Kohl's because I can never spend all the Kohl's cash, and it expires."
Ms. DeVere also suggested dealers can appeal to women customers through an association with the "green"—that is, ecologically friendly—movement.
But, "you can't be fake green," she said. "You've got to do the real thing, and it has to be a sincere effort."
One idea for addressing the green market is to become a recycling center for items such as batteries, wiper blades and tires, she suggested. "It gives the consumer another reason to come to you throughout the year that they wouldn't (otherwise), where you would engage with them and continue the relationship."
Tire dealers also should not look at all women as the same. "It's about the women in your market, your local market — the makeup and mix of women, including the various colors and languages spoken in your community," Ms. DeVere said. "This could be a very untapped market for you, if you've never looked at it this way."
Latino and Hispanic women, for example, no longer have home telephones, she said. They use cell and smartphones. The highest purchasers of online goods from the age of 25 to 35 are Latino and Hispanic women, she said.
"So for Latino women, if you are going to reach them in your market, you had better have a mobile strategy, because that's how they communicate."
To reach this reporter: [email protected], or 330-865-6131.