One founder discusses the adjustments his startup made after learning that the audience for his product was mostly women. 

By Phil Weiner (Co-Founder, Earth Starter)

I founded Earth Starter with the idea that I could get professionals, like myself, interested in the idea of growing their own food and flowers. My co-founder John and I saw a big demand for homegrown products that wasn’t being met and decided to create a unique solution. We created the Nourishmat as a market-based approach to growing healthy food with limited resources.

After a number of in-depth interviews and tester surveys the data emerged. We found that 70% of our testers provided regular weekly feedback and engaged with each other on the discussion boards. Of those testers, 88% were female. And when looking at the public data around food growing, the numbers were terribly skewed. More than half of the typical American vegetable gardeners are female. Almost 80% of them have college degrees and spend five hours a week gardening food. Similarly, our research found that many of our customers would end up being busy female professionals, or as a female entrepreneur judge at the Cupid’s Cup national business competition put it, “Busy Barbaras.”

Designing for Women

To accommodate the “busy Barbaras,” we had to think of lifestyle as well as design. We removed and added features with accordance to many gender design principals, and only kept features that had a purpose. Colors also played a role in the design process. When designing products for males, it is better to use more iconography because 8% of males are colorblind. For women, this doesn’t apply, so we were able to create a multi-sensory product with colors instead of iconography and that kept the design, as well as the layout, intuitive. When we look at marketing techniques toward women we found there to be two options – change your product or your image. Since we were still in the product-development stage we were able to work on both.

Women Lean Toward Moral Brands

Defining yourself as a moral brand is key. Moral Brands is a consumer trend that discuss how, despite their good intentions, customers don’t have the time or inclination to become activists. More women now look to manufacturers, retailers and brands to do work on their behalf—expecting them to be socially responsible and produce products in ethical ways—so that they can feel that they are agents of social change merely by giving “good” companies their patronage.

By simply paying the price of a Nourishmat, our customers know they are in some way contributing to a greater good directly and indirectly. For every Nourishmat you purchase, we give four meals to hungry children in the United States. Customers who aren’t otherwise able directly give back to the local community can still make an impact. In a sense customers are living vicariously through the efforts of larger actors. The first day we announced our new partnership with Two Degrees Foods to donate meals, we were able to see a 76.7% increase in female engagements on social media and a 4% increase in Kickstarter daily sales by marketing our moral efforts.

Women Lead Social Media Effort for Your Company

We also found that women are playing a huge role in sharing our Kickstarter campaign via social media. In fact, women are more likely to agree with almost every healthy eating statement when compared to men, which seemed to have an effect on sharing and retweeting. The center of our social efforts revolves around the quality of our posts.  In the fast moving social world, we had to make sure that our posts were useful and thoughtful.

We created a series of posts on twitter that were full of useful facts, recipes, and business tips, in addition to providing a ridiculous amount of customer service. Because we are a small business, we can provide the kind of service that a large company never could. Questions on Facebook should be answered right away, replies should be simple, direct and honest. While social media can be overwhelming, we saw a strong conversion from our female audience after 4-5 touches on social media.

Speaking anecdotally, we’ve seen that women left more thoughtful responses on social media, making it easier to speak conversationally across the web. This helped better understand customer pain and better convert followers into customers. When working women, who prioritize speed, efficiency and instant access to information, are your audience, it’s important to start a two-way conversation and keep it intact.

What other marketing tips do you use to appeal to an audience of women?

Phil Headshot Earth StarterPhil Weiner (@Rigadoohausis the Co-Founder and CEO of Earth Starter, maker of all-in-one gardens that help city dwellers grow food and flowers. Its first product is Nourishmat, a garden pad with seedballs and irrigation included to create easy, sustainable garden ecosystems. On July 1, Earth Starter launched a Kickstarter campaign.