Over the past few decades many women entrepreneurs have established in Sri Lanka and their growth has accelerated. The marketing management techniques and strategies of women entrepreneurs are often different to that of men and therefore, it is important to identify the special marketing techniques adopted by Sri Lankan women entrepreneurs.
According to many dictionaries a woman entrepreneur is ‘a female who organises and manages a business venture, bearing the risk for the sake of the profit’. The concept of ‘marketing’ is a key element forany firm but, has not been given due importance in the studies done of women entrepreneurs.
Thus,the marketing techniques implemented by women entrepreneurs such as creating novelty in their products, launching their products in distinctive places and promoting products using novel ways would provide a competitive advantage that can be adopted by all.
Marketing techniques are essential for doing business today. Many firms allocate huge sums of money for this. Identifying the customer’s expectation of the marketing techniques is a must before you cater to it.A gap can be seen between some women owned firms and customer’s expectations when it comes to marketing.
Effective marketing management techniques need to be identified in order to address this gap which can be used by women entrepreneurs to meet customer expectations without compromising their profits.
The successful women entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka has different marketing management techniques they follow and, they increase profit of their respective firms by adopting these techniques.
The identified market needs of customers are in fact, the women entrepreneur’s purpose for survival.
The women entrepreneur’s strategies are made as per the requirements of the customers in the target market group and they often consult their customers before setting up their goals and objectives.
Most women entrepreneurs acquire their customers through informal networks of family and friends and they use different marketing techniques due to limited resources while constantly using innovative marketing techniques that cater to individual needs. Similarly,women entrepreneurs enjoy going against conventional methods in marketing and are more opportunity-oriented.
It is important to identify the obstacles women entrepreneurs face when making marketing management decisions in order to differentiate between the suitable branding strategies which could help their entrepreneurial ventures succeed. For strategic business development efforts to fulfil it is ideal to recognise the full potential of the profitability, financial performance, and business performance of the respective ventures.
Many women entrepreneurs state that having financial restrictions is an obstacle to them, when making marketing decisions. Possessing a variety of resources is an advantage for marketing activities and, women entrepreneurs believe that they should be able to allocate more funds for marketing techniques in order to achieve better profits. The cost for mainstream advertising is one of the main disadvantages women entrepreneurs face.
Advertising in a television channel or even a radio station is unimaginable for many women entrepreneurs. Therefore, many smaller organisations use print media and email as marketing and advertising tools.
Many women entrepreneurs feel that doing marketing activities with a restricted marketing budget while satisfying customers is hard as customers look for deals anddiscounts. Therefore, women entrepreneurs should develop new approaches to marketing, for effective customer engagement and sales.
Social Media Marketing
It is important to identify the various marketing techniques women adopt in order to retain existing customers as well as gain new customers. Most women entrepreneurs recognise the importance of using social media marketing. They feel it is a useful marketing method to maintain their customer base while creating awareness to obtain new customers.
With the use of social networks in the likes of Instagram, Facebook, Viber, Linkedin, Whatsapp and Twitter, women entrepreneurs can start many marketing tactics to gain and retain customers.Social Media Marketing is a good way for women entrepreneurs to strengthen their brand image, improve loyalty of the customer, and obtain new customers.
Women entrepreneurs use the Guerilla marketing technique to gain maximum exposure through unusual ways of marketing. These women create an event or interaction that would attract attention to their brand or product which would help them to stand out from their competitors. The approach is to interest the customers by showing the uniqueness as oppose to the other generic marketing messages.
Women entrepreneurs stand out from the others with their ability to create customer loyalty through personal interactions and long-term engagement strategies. Knowing the customers by their names, frequent emailing, regular calling and keeping customers up to date through recurrent newsletters can be seen as the methods used in relationship marketing.
Women entrepreneurs use the sales data collected from social media, websites and point-of-sale systems into actionable and timely strategies as per the consumer requirements and trends followed. These real time marketing activities are useful to stand out from the competitors when the customers choose as per their lifestyles, behaviour and purchase frequency. Real time Marketing enables women entrepreneurs to directly communicate with the customer without any time constraints.
A known marketing technique adopted by women entrepreneurs is viral marketing where they share certain content with the customers hoping it will be shared on their personal and social media networks. If successful, these contents go viral creating exponential exposure to the venture and product.
The quality of the content must be such so the customer would want to share it which includes true facts, unbelievable results or memorable visuals. As much as it is challenging to find such content it is a low or no cost marketing effect with massive benefits.
Many women entrepreneurs believe that employee involvement helped their company with increasing profits. In any organisation sales can be increased via launching of new products and with the use of positioning strategies.
Women entrepreneurs who actively involve their employees in marketing tend to understand customer preferences and as a result obtain higher sales and profits. Empowering employees using various techniques and appreciating initiatives taken by staff would be a starting point. Encouraging younger staff members with novel ideas and new marketing tacticsto practice them would as a result attract more customers.
Alternative Marketing Tactics
Many women entrepreneurs face budget restraints and as a result marketing activities become a challenge. There are some alternative methods they can adopt to attract and maintain customer base.
Distributing flyers is a cost effective marketing method. Whether by delivering at mailboxes or distributing via hand to passers by, this has known to bring positive results. These flyers need to have a summary of your venture along with the services or products offered as well as discounts or coupons to motivate the reader to become a customer.
Hanging posters in public places and billboard spaces is also effective. Having a visually attractive poster visible to target market group with offers could bring a significant value to the venture of the woman entrepreneur. Making statements on value additions such as guarantees, discounts for repeat customers, point cards, and referral rewards also add benefits which are great marketing tools.
Referral networks which includes from customer to customer as well as business to business can be identified as a valuable marketing technique. Following up with customers is also an important step to follow. This can be done with web based questionnaires or follow up calls and it is important to identify the after thoughts of the customers and obtain their feedback of the service provided.
Cold calling is another technique that can be cost effective yet useful. This can be done through door to door in person visiting, calling via phone or using emails and internet. Prioritizing digital marketing with the use of including traditional websites and social media can bring effective results to women entrepreneurs with limited finances.
When analyzing the various marketing management techniques adopted by successful Sri Lankan women entrepreneurs,it provesthat these techniques are indeed unique.These women entrepreneurs do not follow traditional marketing techniques. For example, women entrepreneurs involve in handloom and cotton apparel fashions come up with novel fashions and design lines.
This in return, contributes to brand creation and customer loyalty and retention.The Sri Lankan women entrepreneurs have maintained a strong loyal customer base. Their marketing network includes regular customers, friends and family, employees, suppliers and distributors.
These women entrepreneurs with their own firms are always customer focused and they are always up to date about the market and market opportunities.They are frequently involved in developing new products to cater to market needs and they maintain personal relationships in developing the customer base.They constantly learn about the product and market which helps them with building and maintaining their customer base.
There are certain management strategies followed by successful women entrepreneurs which can be described in detail.
Empowering the leader within the woman
It is evident that women entrepreneurs have a different style of leading their team compared to men. Women entrepreneurs are associated with characteristics such as being cooperative, inclusive, holistic, and consultative which are essential when empowering the leader within the woman. Including the ideas of all employees and involving their contribution will further empower the women leaders in making correct and democratic decisions. Listening to the others and consulting them in idea generation becomes a strategic planning process which contributes to the success of the women entrepreneurs.
Owning up to your fate
Most successful women entrepreneurs claim that they defined their own fate with their own hard work. Most of them have proudly stepped away from their comfort zones and reached further in their goals. Being passionate about evolving their venture and actively taking risks to innovate and owning up to one’s own destiny has brought them success.
Every successful woman entrepreneur boasts of having a public relations network which connects them with finances, markets, suppliers, customers and policy makers. As the famous saying goes ‘who you know does matter’. In order to speed up business development and avoid pitfalls it is important to have multiple networks. As women have an inborn talent with communication skills and collaborative abilities networking becomes natural to women entrepreneurs.
Organising conferences, trade shows and press briefing can assist with acquiring visibility for women entrepreneurs. By advocating for one’s own self as well as the business venture,women entrepreneurs could benefit immensely.
Interpret the stories behind the numbers
Every successful woman entrepreneur possesses a financial knowledge of her respective business. To run a successful company, you must understand the financial fundamentals of your company. It is important that they are aware of the fine details of the finances of the company and also has the ability to present them and discuss them. The understanding of the balance-sheet and the details would contribute in continuous success as it will allow identifying new opportunities and emerging innovations in the market.
Building brilliant teams
Women are naturally good with coordinating and building teams. The women entrepreneurs are respected by their employees for maintaining harmonious and effective teams. Respecting and empowering the subordinates is the key to building brilliant teams.
Looking after the inner-self
As much as women are multi taskers it is essential that they find ways to support themselves personally and professionally as well as mentally and physically. Most successful women entrepreneurs claim the secret for their happiness is that they delegate the duties to others and take care of their own well-being.
The following recommendations can be made with regards to the women entrepreneurs. Mainly it i recommended that women entrepreneurs should develop marketing management techniques along with employee involvement.
Women entrepreneurs must ensure continuous learning and training is available fortheir employees on various marketing techniques and theymust arrange salary and other increments and incentives to motivate the employees who are activelyinvolved in marketing activities. It can be recommended that women entrepreneurs create a teamof employees to act as brand ambassadors.
Another recommendation that can be made is that women entrepreneurs should spend more financial resourceson social media marketing if they wish to produce sales and increase profits. Women entrepreneurs must promote social media marketing activities and make them part of their vision and mission of the business.
Women entrepreneurs are also recommended to make use of internet to communicate with existing customers and possible new customers.Accordingly, they can use the customer feedback to improve and amend their brand strategies.
Women entrepreneurs must implement effective and unique marketing techniques even with limited financial resources which would contribute towards an increase in profit. Brand loyalty, brand awareness, perceived quality and brand associations and novel marketing activities could help women entrepreneurs increase profitability in their respective business ventures.
The writer is Dr. Thesara Jayawardane is Head – Department of Industrial Management, Director – Business Research Unit University of Moratuwa and Executive Committee member of CMI