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Interview With Mary Lou Quinlan, of Just Ask A Woman

Published Dec 20th 2006, 4:05pm by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

Quinlan_marylou Ask Patty has done some very meaningful interviews with some exciting and very excellent women. We are a bit beside ourselves over this interview today! We chatted with Mary Lou Quinlan, Founder and CEO of Just Ask a Woman and author of Just Ask a Woman: Cracking the Code of What Women Want and How They Buy. You may also know her as one of the judges on ABC's American Inventor.

ASK PATTY: What is the focus or mission of Just Ask A Woman?
Mary Lou: To be the most compelling interpreters of women's voices in the marketplace today.

ASK PATTY:Why are you so passionate about educating your clients about marketing to women? 
Mary Lou: Because women are THE power consumers who drive businesses directly or through their high influence with short, marketing WITH (not to) women makes clients more successful and makes women happier, because they are listened to.

ASK PATTY:What, if any, are the challenges for you as a woman working in a fast-paced industry and leading a company? 
Mary Lou: Making sure I retain control of my personal time and priorities while giving to everyone else.

Just_ask_book_large ASK PATTY:What would you say is the main point of your book, “Just Ask A Woman: Cracking the Code of What Women Want and How They Buy”? 
Mary Lou: That listening deeply to women will build your bottom line whether you are in a product, service or relationship business.

ASK PATTY:Do women shop differently than men? What are the core differences? 
Mary Lou: Men tend to shop as a hunt...want the shirt, buy the shirt, go home with the shirt, while women tend to take in the entire experience, from store associate to environment to the multitude of product choices, even checking in with others and looking at alternatives for the best buy before pulling the trigger. She gathers (info, prices, content, advice), then she spends.

ASK PATTY:Do you think companies are doing enough to educate themselves on women consumers? 
Mary Lou: In the past few years, I have met more and more companies who have awakened to the power of women and who are driving their organizations to do the same. As with any business issue, commitment starts at the top. If the leader is convinced, I find others follow and expand on the vision. If the leader isn't (male or female, by the way), there are roadblocks, resistance and a kind of grinding in of heels to keep doing things as if it's still 1955.

Bio_quinlan ASK PATTY:As far as car manufacturers are concerned, do you think they are successful in marketing to women? 
Mary Lou: First of all, since 65% of new cars are bought by women and even more purchases are influenced by them, automotive manufacturers are successful despite their often male-oriented marketing efforts. Women buy with or without them. But some companies are even more successful marketing to women because they try. Often it's the luxury brands and their sales organizations, who've come to realize that her money is as green as his...and in fact, her questions and needs lead to better vehicles for him as well. Also, Toyota ought to be applauded for being ahead of the curve on women, as well as a specialty line like the Mini Cooper..and of course, Volvo has been there all along and deserves the lifetime achievement award.  The new VW Eos has 'woman' written all over it. 

ASK PATTY:What if any big changes are you seeing in how cars are being marketed to women?  Mary Lou: Developing product for women is about beautiful, imaginative design, incredible comfort and styling, smooth handling and naturally, superior safety. Sounds like what a man might like too!  Selling to women is where we see who wants women's dollars and who doesn't. I look for showrooms where the eye contact is equal between me and my husband, where questions are equally directed towards us, unless it's solely my car and then I expect full attention. Comfortable, clean environments and an open attitude toward the research that women do and bring to the showroom--those are giveaways of attention women appreciate. And the service department's approach to women from the moment of the sale may be the most important initiative in getting that repeat purchase since reliability and responsive service are critical (who else gets stuck bringing it in for maintenance?) 

ASK PATTY:Tell us about your most recent personal car purchase. What did you buy and how was your experience? 
Mary Lou: The most recent purchase was a new '05 Acura. And I have to admit that my husband did the deed. They were cordial to me and responsive to my questions when I stopped by for the second go round. My experience to date, honestly, is that while the car rides well and looks great--and it's safety ratings are fantastic, it has three features that are frustrating and useless to me. One is its GPS a boomer woman who wears reading glasses, the on-dash maps and instructions and the keys for typing in destinations are unreadable...since I can't drive with reading glasses on. Could they have a magnified surface on the map section? The second is the myth of Keyless Entry, an invention that's a disaster to a woman who's always carrying too much as it is. Rather than pocket a small key, I've got to carry a huge key fob that's not a key...what's the point? And the ignition turn-off, where you need to give a second click or else risk running down the battery (which has happened twice with valets who can't each get an instruction rundown in a parking lot) is a waste. Not to mention at least two service visits which had to be repeated due to incomplete work.

Wish I had my '94 Acura Legend back...or else the '00 Lexus that preceded this car...both dream cars in every way, especially the service department of Lexus, complete with courtesy, nice chairs, ontime service and cappucino. Rather than recount my own experiences, instead I prefer to relate stories from the hundreds of women I've interviewed...they are the acid test for value, service, product and experience.

Ask Patty wants to send a warm thank you to Mary Lou for taking the time to answer our questions! Keep up the great work you are doing!

Mary Lou Quinlan is the Founder and CEO of Just Ask a Woman and author of Just Ask a Woman: Cracking the Code of What Women Want and How They Buy.

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