Back in November, my husband decided to participate in No Shave November, which has guys (and gals, too!) drop their razors to support cancer awareness. While he wasn't originally planning to,  he ended up keeping the beard he managed to grow. But this, of course, meant that he needed some new basic tools to keep his natural, protein-derived ski mask looking decent. I unleashed my naggy self, had him pick out a beard guide online, and placed an order for him.

All was well when the package arrived. The product looked great, it worked fine, and my hubby was pleased. But a day or two later, I checked my email. Sitting in the inbox was a message from the company I'd ordered the beard guide from. They courteously expressed the usual thanks for my buy.

Then they told me how much they hoped I would enjoy growing my beard.

I'm female, just to clarify.

Now, don't get me wrong, some women do have facial hair. Hirsutism in ladies is actually pretty common--5 to 10 percent of females have it--and is often associated with hormonal conditions. And if those ladies want to rock it, dye it, braid it, do whatever with it, I'm not going to judge a single ounce. We're not all cookie cutter, and if there's a woman out there who decides she needs a beard guide for herself, she can do what she wants. There's no need to feel ashamed about it. And let's not forget that there are millions of transsexual and transgender individuals out there, too.

But the problem I had with the email was that it paid zero attention to me as a customer. Because I know that only a small percentage of women have facial hair, I also knew that the message likely was alienating to at least 90 percent of potential female customers. Subsequently, I immediately got the impression that it had been automated. Automation is itself is fine, but I shouldn't have been able to tell it was automated, and it left me feeling like the company didn't care.

Why is that such a problem? What can you learn here?

Buyers aren't always product users. Just about everyone buys gifts for others at some point, for example, and I'm pretty sure I don't wear the boys' underwear I grab for my 9-year-old son at the department store. And broadly, statistically speaking, women are the primary buyers in most households. They represent a whopping 85 percent of all consumer purchasing decisions, and while you might tend to think of products like cars, tech gadgets and insurance as more masculine areas, it's women who actually buy more of those items.

If product buyers aren't always users, you have to acknowledge that in your correspondence and marketing, whether it is automated or not. And especially if you're going to automate, you have to find a way to see the big picture and be inclusive. You shouldn't be blinded by your target market so much that you forget how that market ultimately gets what you have to sell. Assumptions, particularly when based on gender stereotypes not supported by the numbers, are not your friend.

Then again, maybe I'm splitting hairs somewhere here.

Published on: Jan 22, 2019
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