So many companies make the same mistake when marketing to women. They don't create a personal, emotional connection.

It's the biggest error a business can make, yet I see it happen over and over again.

Instead, companies market aspiration. They tell how their products will help achieve unattainable standards, when all women want is someone to talk to them like a normal person.

Unattainable is inauthentic. Today's women expect more. They want brands to talk to them like friends, to be inclusive and accepting, to provide content that creates an intelligent connection.

Since women control $20 trillion in consumer spending every year, companies need to understand what it takes to create that connection and market to women successfully.

What works for one company may not work for everyone, but you can't go wrong if you follow these four rules.

1. Offer a solution to a problem.

Marketing is all about presenting both a problem and a solution in a way that's truly compelling.

Just the other day, I was reviewing the creative assets we're rolling out next month at ThirdLove. I was looking at a direct mail piece, a mini catalog that's going out. And immediately, I noticed the text didn't look right.

The ad was talking about our product, not about how it solves a problem associated with the product.

We don't need to talk about the specific details of our products up front. We need to tell the customer what our product can do for them. Why will this bra be great for her? What problems does it solve?

Focus your marketing efforts on resolving an issue, because that's how you make a connection with your customers. You can even use customer testimonials to back up your claims and make your connection stronger.

2. Be consistent.

Your customers don't have the time or inclination to memorize 15 bullet points about what makes your products so different.

They can probably tell you a couple things about your brand--and that's it. So, you have to figure out what those two or three things are, and then consistently communicate them to your customers.

In the early days at ThirdLove, we were all over the place with our messaging. We didn't know what part of the business we wanted to focus on, so we ended up talking about a lot of different things. It was chaotic. If a woman visited our website, opened a promotional email, and listened to me speak at an event, she might have heard five or ten different messages.

Since then, we've created guidelines to ensure our brand is cohesive and our message is consistent. We work to make sure everything we do and every piece of content we create is on brand and delivers the right message.

Remember, don't overwhelm your customer. Find what resonates and stay consistent.

3. Know who--and where--your customers are.

It's vital that you know who your customers are and how to reach them. Your beautiful content and consistent messaging are worthless if your customers never see it.

I was talking to a CEO recently who told me that her company's average customer is over 45 years old, so she doesn't advertise much on Instagram. Instead, they leverage Facebook because that's where the 45+ demographic spends their time.

It's all about knowing your ideal customer. Who is this person? What is she doing? What is she reading? What's important to her?

Early on at my company, we decided to get into podcast advertising. We'd learned from quantitative and qualitative research that our core customer listened to podcasts regularly. But we didn't just reach out to every podcast at random. We only partnered with podcasts that have female hosts.

Why?

Because guys don't wear bras. A male host can't talk authentically about the bra, the experience, the problems it solves. He can't be a true advocate for it. He can't meet a listener where she is.

Know your customer, know how to reach her, and then build out a marketing plan that will help you do just that.

4. Stay diverse.

Know where your customers are, but don't pigeonhole your marketing.

We recently aired a commercial during The Bachelor finale. But we also market very successfully on MSNBC. We have customers who watch The Bachelor, we have customers who listen to MSNBC, and we have customers who do both.

If you just say, "We want to reach women. Let's advertise on Bravo," then you're missing out. There's no nuance to that strategy.

Maybe fewer women watch MSNBC than Bravo, but what price are you paying for each advertisement? What's the conversion rate of each platform? You should always be willing to test your hypothesis and let the data tell you if you're right or wrong.

It really comes down to understanding your customer. If you understand who she is, then you can solve her problems. You can reach her with your message and create a real connection between her and your company.

Published on: Mar 29, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.