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Marketing to Women Article Hits the Nail on the Head: Auto Dealers Just Don't Get It

Published Mar 17th 2008, 3:30pm by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

060616_womansportscar We’ve all been there, us gals. We walk into a dealership and start looking around at the cars or trucks and we get approached by the salesperson. Let the pandering begin! I remember when I first started taking my Acura RSX in for service. My husband was with me and they spoke directly to him. Because why would I won that car? It has a manual transmission after all. I stopped taking my husband with me. I also stopped going to that dealership.

Marketing to Women has recently written an article called “Taking The Marketing To Women Message To The Sales Floor.” It’s all about this exact thing I’m talking about. Patti Minglin of M2W says “Imagine my surprise when I walked into a local dealership to purchase a new car just to have the salesman talk to me about the color and the nice, large resting place for my diet soda. He reserved the details for my husband— the person who would not be driving the car nor paying for it.”

She is especially bothered because of the huge hype of the “empathy-belly era” from last year. All the top manufacturers were touting more awareness of women and women’s buying power. One of them even wore empathy bellies while engineering the new interiors. So what gives? How could the industry create such a huge spark of change only to have it fizzle out? Perhaps because it isn’t truly change. Is the automotive industry stuck in the same rut as always?

According to M2W, Rebecca Maddox, president, CEO and a founding principal of Maddox Smye LLC, a consulting company which is “unabashedly on the side of the sales professional”, I am not the only woman finding it difficult to succeed inside an automotive dealership. “When it comes to cars and trucks, women—educated or not—think they’re going to be taken advantage of by salespeople,” says Maddox. “For the most part, women don’t trust car salespeople and women do not buy from someone they don’t trust.”

And how! Why would we plunk down our own cash for something that is the second most expensive thing we will buy, when we can’t trust the person with whom we are talking? While women may be controlling more than 80% of all purchases in the US, the disconnect between marketing-to-women messages and what happens on the sales floor extends beyond the automotive industry and hits other non-traditional female categories as well.

“In categories such as automotive and finance, women often feel out of their element and are uncomfortable,” says Maddox. “Add to that the basic communication and buying differences and you will often find women feeling disrespected and frustrated.” And a frustrated female consumer is not something any business can afford. It’s something we say at Ask Patty day in and day out, because we hear it from you gals all the time and we know it ourselves to be true: If you develop a relationship with a woman customer, she will bring her business and the business of others to you because of it. If she doesn’t trust you, why should she ever come back or for that matter, refer anyone to you?

That is why is training car dealerships to communicate, advertise and market effectively to you!

According to the M2W article, “Some brands have forgotten that meeting the needs of a woman does not stop with product development or an innovative marketing campaign” says Nan McCann, president of PME® Enterprises, LLC, producers of M2W. “Women feel the experience of making a purchase is just as important—if not more important—than the product itself.”

Women just shop differently than men. It’s a proven fact. Men walk in and get what they want, and they walk out. Women have higher expectations. They don’t just buy the product, they “buy” the entire shopping experience.

Marketing and sales need to be integrated into each other. An automotive company can’t expect to market to a woman and say “shop here – we’re better” and then serve up a completely different experience at the point of sale; the dealership. All those Mercury ads with women drivers? Try going to a dealership. What about that Cadillac ad about “my favorite things”? All well and good but I think you’d be hard pressed to find most Cadillac dealers working with women in mind. I don’t think I’m wrong on this one. Dealers and manufacturers need to connect with the women buyers’ needs, at both levels.

Maddox goes on to say, “Once a sales professional understands the communication disconnect and learns to stay tuned in, he will discover he can sell more and different products.” While all women are different and unique, it is wise to have sales team members begin to understand the universal needs that link specific groups of women. Boomer women, moms, career women all have similar needs and buying styles for their particular groups.

Motorcycle In an effort to cater to their female customers—who represent nearly 12% of new Harley-Davidson purchases—The Harley-Davidson Motor Company created The Harley-Davidson Garage Party events. The events give local dealerships the opportunity to provide an inviting environment for women to learn more about motorcycling and to meet other women who are interested in riding. Discussion topics include everything from reviewing basic motorcycle controls to choosing proper riding gear. “Women ride for the same reasons as men—freedom, adventure and individuality, but many women approach the learning process in a different way,” says Leslie Prevish, product communications manager for Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

“Women tend to spend more time investigating the sport prior to getting involved, and many more enjoy learning in a group setting. Garage Party events give women an interactive way to gather information and have fun doing it.” In addition to the Garage Party events, Harley-Davidson has created an entire website for women riders—giving them the opportunity to connect with the brand and each other 24/7.

Carblabber_logo The M2W article goes on to talk about CarBlabber, Ask Patty‘s own social networking site!, a website for women to get advice on car purchases, maintenance and other automotive related topics, found that women wanted to hear the opinions of other women when it came to cars. So they created CarBlabber, a social network car community for women car buyers that gives women the opportunity to share their own experiences with certain vehicles, and, in turn, read other members stories.

Says Jody DeVere president of, Inc:"CarBlabber offers a unique opportunity for women to share car reviews and create a community of women expressing their passion about cars.” With the popularity of such sites seeking opinions from consumers, local companies need to make meeting the needs of their female customers a high priority. According to Ulman, more than 20% of women have shared a bad customer experience on a website designed for feedback.

Breanne Boyle
Contributing Editor

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