Flowers, Potpourri and … Deer Rifles?

By Beacon Staff

As winter settles into the Flathead and hunting season reaches its midpoint (OK, at least one of them has), almost every business is scanning the street for more customers.

It’s particularly the case in markets that serve people’s hobby, pastime or even luxury items.

Hunting, fishing and camping gear is one area that comes to mind, but there are plenty of others. If you sell the various types of gear used when hunting, fishing and camping, your business probably targets men. So where do you find these new customers who hunt, fish and camp?

Kids? That’s one place.

Every year, new hunters and campers are “created” when kids reach the age where they can hunt (usually 12 after taking the State of MT’s hunter safety course), or where their parents feel comfortable taking them camping – or allowing them to go with someone else. Fishing tends to take hold a bit more easily and at younger ages.

The problem is that those kids don’t drive or spend big bucks on hunting, fishing and camping gear. While they might add a fair number of people to your pool of prospective customers, at 12 or so, they aren’t often the ones who have a pile of money at your place of business.

In many cases, their parents might buy them some items or might “hand me down” a few items, but the serious financial impact from these new hunters and campers won’t be felt until they are employed and have some fun money – even if that is as soon as they get a job while in high school.

However, there is a sizable group out there waiting for a traditionally male-oriented business, a group that can have an immediate financial impact. Even though you’re probably surrounded by them, you might not even realize it.

I’m talking about adult women.

With all the election season commentary about VP candidate Sarah Palin fishing, hunting, field dressing a moose and such, it should be obvious – particularly here in the Flathead – where I suspect that we have a notably higher-than-normal per capita population of ladies who hunt, fish and camp.

Trouble is, your male-oriented business may not be doing or saying the right things to attract them. Like different species of fish, you can’t catch all customers with the same bait or technique.

This is particularly true of the female buyer.

Bottom line: There are plenty of ladies out there who like to fish, hunt and camp – and that’s just a start. Don’t forget archery, target shooting and fly fishing (and so on). Even so, that doesn’t mean that they wear camo jeans to the office, when going out with friends or when working in the yard.

Here’s one example of a business that figured out that women want gear just for them.

They’ve found or created outdoor clothing tailored for women. Pay careful attention to the models, the words used and the way that the site is designed. While it could use some work, the site is clearly aimed at women.

Men: Ask any woman about the differences between their clothes and yours – besides the obvious torso shape differences – and they’ll be able to reel off a list of differences that are major to them. They also might tell you that the lack of choice in some types of clothing annoys them, and that your clothes are uncomfortable, unflattering and possibly a little bit painful now and then.

Harley-Davidson figured this out a long time ago. They learned (or were told) that gear for women must be designed, tailored and described in ways that are going to attract a woman’s attention – and her money.

If your business is largely oriented toward men, you probably already do some business with women, but it might be simply because there isn’t a place in your market that is targeting them.

If your business – or a new part of it – is carefully designed, with products, marketing, merchandising and staffing focused solely on attracting female customers, you might just be able to open up a whole new market within your existing business.

Note my use of the words carefully designed. Women aren’t looking for flowers and potpourri sprinkled among the deer rifles.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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