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5 costly mistakes to avoid when marketing to mums

In all sorts of research over many years, mothers have repeatedly made it very clear they are unhappy with the way brands are communicating with them. It’s been almost four years since our Marketing to Mums research found that 63% of Australian mothers felt brands and advertisers don’t understand them.

So, little has changed in that time – and there lies the huge opportunity for your business right now. If you can avoid the common mistakes that so many businesses make when trying to reach mums, you’ll be able to separate yourself from your competitors and start to make inroads into this often misunderstood market. 

At Marketing to Mums we have found that mothers in Australia feel very strongly that advertisers fail to engage them appropriately. And the level of dissatisfaction varies significantly based on the age of the mother, with Generation X being the most dissatisfied with brand communications. Despite being such a lucrative market, they remain unhappy with the way they are being communicated with. So, what mistakes are brands making over and over again? I’ve been researching where businesses are going wrong for many years, undertaking extensive quantitative and qualitative research.  I have identified five key mistakes being made by companies trying to reach this highly profitable market:  

Mistake #1: They target too broadly

Perhaps the greatest mistake I see is businesses targeting too broadly, and they treat mothers as one homogenous group. In a 2019 Marketing to Mums study of 656 Australian mums, 55% of them felt that businesses treat mums like they are all the same. As the chief shopper in most families, mothers have become far more sophisticated, and they expect more tailored offerings. Different segments of the market require a different approach and have different communication preferences. Businesses that are prepared to micro-niche and introduce a greater level of segmentation are yielding superior results. They are gaining a competitive advantage. Why? Because they are laser-focused on who they are communicating with. They understand their ‘core mum’ at a much deeper level than their competitors. 

“Advertisers need to recognise that not all mums are one homogeneous group. We don’t suddenly lose our identify once we have children, but it does change. They have to take the time to understand the market segments that exist under the ‘mum’ umbrella and tailor their products and services accordingly.”

Marketing to Mums Survey (2019)

Micro-niching also results in a reduction of marketing wastage, as the selection of channels and tactics implemented better matches their most profitable core mother segment. Consequently, return on investment (ROI) increases. 

The correct identification of your most profitable segment of the mum market is a critical factor in your success. It remains a foundation that I frequently see businesses overlook.

Mistake #2: They think they know the mum market – and they are wrong

There exists an attitude of ‘we know mums’ among many businesses. In my work I see this often. But these businesses fail to acknowledge how quickly mums’ behaviours are changing. They don’t realise their thinking is outdated, and – without realising – they start relying on stereotyping. In our recent Marketing to Mums research, Australian mothers identified that stereotyping about mums was the number one mistake businesses make. 

It’s essential that you and your team remain well informed about trends and key changes within the mum market, and bring in a mum specialist who can share the latest research and the latest thinking and learnings about what’s working in other industries. Mums are changing rapidly, and businesses must stay informed and connected to their customers to stay relevant and to capitalise on this opportunity.

‘Try to interact with me and get to know a little bit more about me first before you advertise all this nonsense that is not even relevant to me. You can also stop pigeonholing mothers and making it seem like we’re all the same. We are unique individual women, and treating mothers like they are idiotic and incompetent at making their own decisions is not right.’

Marketing to Mums survey (2019)

Mistake #3: They don’t invest in mum research

In recent years I’ve noticed some resistance to undertaking market research by business owners, citing lack of funds or pressure on their marketing budget. They launch new products and services into the market based on assumptions and previous learnings, and to ‘just get on with things’. This approach is short-sighted and dangerous for the business. Staying relevant by staying connected with your core mum customer is one of the most important factors in a business’s success in this market. Once relevance is lost it’s unlikely to return as mothers have very long memories. Regular research, both formal and informal, is something which should be high on the list of priorities.

I worked with a business who were wanting to drive their ecommerce sales. They were adamant they knew exactly who their customer was, however my ongoing research into mothers told me otherwise. After weeks of discussion they agreed to allow me to run market research to identify the most profitable segment of the mum market for them. To their surprise, their most profitable segment was the opposite of what they thought it was. Rather than a young mother in her mid-20s who was highly aspirational and ‘on-trend’, our Marketing to Mums researched revealed she was actually a mother aged 45 years who was repelled by aspirational efforts to reach her. The research findings led me to create a new  marketing strategy to attract more mothers aged over 45 years. After eight months it had yielded more than a 500% increase in their online sales compared with the same time period the previous year. 

I always recommend that even if you think you know your market, invest in a research project to identify the most profitable niche for your brand. It’s likely to provide a significant ROI as your marketing team will then be able to select more tailored and better suited channels, influencers and tactics. I strongly believe you need accurate, up-to-date data points to underpin and guide your mum marketing strategy.

Mistake #4: They fail to stay connected with the customer

As businesses grow their teams, without realising it they become isolated, disconnected from their customers. They rely only on their team members to deliver information about consumer changes, marketing techniques and relevant strategies. In doing so, they lose touch with their customer: mums. This causes them to: 

  • quickly lose relevance
  • diminish customer loyalty 
  • lose market share
  • have trust issues with customers
  • miss significant opportunities. 

Once relevance is lost, these businesses experience a very long, slow climb back. Mums don’t forget quickly.

Brands are missing the mark by portraying mothers as beautiful, confident and fit, and failing to understand how busy, emotional and anxious they feel, thereby repelling the very audience they wish to attract. Kate Torgersen, founder of Milk Stork in the US – the first breast milk shipping service for business travelling, breastfeeding mothers – sums it well, saying:

‘I see a lot of marketing that simplifies the mom experience to quiet, cuddly moments. In reality, being a mom is an adventure that requires immense amounts of grit, physical and emotional endurance, and smarts. It’s a big “miss” when marketing fails to acknowledge the strength and acumen that it takes to be a mom.’

Mistake #5: They don’t involve mums in their new product development

Many brands have a core group of highly engaged customers who consistently advocate for their brand. This represents an opportunity to seek feedback and get your target customers involved in creating new products. In our Marketing to Mums research, mums have strongly voiced that they want to be actively involved in product and service development for the brands they love. It makes them feel appreciated, they’ll get better products, and they can guide the brand to greater success. Everybody wins. 

The first opportunity for your business to boost profits in 2020 is to ensure you’re avoiding these five costly mistakes. Improve your business’s performance by undertaking an audit of your current marketing activities and assess how many of these mistakes your business is making, and make a plan immediately for how you are going to address these problems.

If you seek assistance in identifying your most profitable segment of the mum market and developing marketing strategies to attract these mothers to your business, reach out and commit to making 2020 your best year in business. 

This post was written by Katrina McCarter, founder of Marketing to Mums. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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