Competition isn’t the problem. That no one wants to talk about what you’re building is. Our February Toronto City Meetup speaker offers her advice.
By Chia Chia Sun (Founder, Damiva)
Have you ever wondered if you’re the only person on the planet starting a business that no one else seems to be in? Or have you had these thoughts: Is there any way I can make money when I seem to be the only one talking about my business? And no one – especially the media and anyone younger than 45 – wants to listen to me because what I talk about is a huge taboo?
As a female entrepreneur in menopausal health — and developing a natural, vaginal lubricant — I used to question myself every day. I would get frustrated because our PR agent would get great leads that wouldn’t materialize because what we focus on — vaginal dryness and sexual health after menopause — is not very sexy and downright awkward. It’s such a white space that when I went to set Facebook advertisements earlier this year, the word “menopause” isn’t even an interest (even though the male equivalent of menopause, which is andropause, is indeed listed.)
It turned out that it wasn’t all in my head. Menopausal health is indeed a huge opportunity. Our business model has been validated by our rapid sales launch across Canada and the United States within an 18 month period.
Does your business idea fall into the same category in terms of being a huge “white space?” Is it also focused on women and especially older women? Then here are some tips that may help you as you explore or grow your business.
1. Go Deep Into the Research
Dig very deep into the market research, and especially scientific research if your area is women’s health, to get a good grasp of the problem.
When I first researched the problem of vaginal dryness, I wasn’t aware so many women have the problem. I spoke to as many menopausal women as I could. Every woman would say something equivalent to, “Of course, didn’t you know?”
Articles I came across listed the number as low as 6 percent to around 35 percent of affected women. When I finally found a definitive, prospective epidemiological study that examined a cohort of over 1,000 women over a five year period, the true numbers were revealed: 85 percent of menopausal women suffer from vaginal dryness and 40 percent from painful intercourse.
I realized the earlier publications were flawed because of societal taboos (!) and cumulatively, thousands of women across many countries were under-reporting their symptoms.
2. If It’s Taboo, Call It Taboo
We took a calculated risk with our marketing, using phrases such as, “Drier than a British comedy,” or “Enough beating around the bush, let’s talk about your vagina.”
We agonized about it for months before launch. Would this be good or bad for business? We went back to our mission of empowered health and just decided that we had to call out the taboo, rather than suppressing it. It was the right decision and our campaign has sold many retail chains.
3. Find the Right Marketing Strategy
Conversion of an older, female audience is much more expensive than most marketing efforts targeting men or younger women.
This lesson took a long time – and a lot of money for a startup business – to learn. Women 45+ are sophisticated, savvy consumers who have very little time to buy products for themselves, even though they make 80 percent of health care decisions for their families.
There are no “marketing channel” equivalents for older women and as for men such as radio and sports. The best marketing advice we received was from Mark Shuster and Doug Frankel; Both told us to get our product on the retail pharmacy shelves first and try a series of small marketing experiments.
4. Embrace Education as a Marketing Tool
The most powerful marketing tool over the long-term is online education. While this is yet to be proven in my business, I believe that education of women 40+ is the most important marketing and social effort that our company can deploy.
To this end, we are developing a digital health platform focused on menopause. Women aren’t aware of the fact that perimenopause and the onset of menopausal symptoms typically begin at age 40. Many women think that their vaginal dryness is their own fault, not a normal aging process. We need both product solutions and education to advance the health of women as we age.
If you have a differentiated product, service or platform that no one is talking about, don’t worry. It’s not all in your head. It just needs a lot of high-quality, hard work and passion to get everyone else talking about it too.