Why Mentors Matter: Interview with Andrea Learned

My readers know I love to do interviews with interesting, strong entrepreneurs for my teen writers and interns to look up to and connect with.  Today, I was lucky enough to interview Andrea Learned of Learnedonwomen.com:

1. Mini-bio:

I’ve been writing, speaking and consulting on marketing to women since 2000.  The book I co-authored, Don’t Think Pink, published in 2004 and that same year I launched my blog – learnedonwomen.com I specialize in teaching male-dominated industries about the women’s market and am now deep into research about gender, consumer behavior and sustainable business practices.  I contribute to HuffingtonPost.com http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrea-learned on broader gender/marketing issues and have recently started doing commentary for VPR http://www.vpr.net/episode/46720/) .  My marketing to women beginnings have led me to fascinating cultural insights and amazing networks of interesting people doing work in a wide variety of areas, including: design, urban planning, retail, nonprofit and corporate social responsibility realms.

2. What made you so interested in gender and following women’s trends?

It began  as a curiosity or puzzle that wasn’t so much gender-related as business opportunity related …as in: “how can such a large market of tough customers exist with so few businesses paying any attention?”  Once I started to dig in, the business opportunity side became even more interesting.  But still, plenty of businesses are not really taking on the womens’ market (they don’t see it as core to their business, for instance).  So, I’m stepping back into the psychology of how men or traditionally operated businesses do finally get motivated to pursue the women’s market.  Today, we have a much more holistic consumer in general and more men are buying the way we have long been saying that women do – which makes it all the more interesting to me!

3. What do you think is the key to reaching women in today’s marketplace?

Focusing on them as individuals not “women,” and learning to serve them transparently (a key concept in my book) rather than visibly.  So – marketers in many cases should be inspired and guided by how women buy.  That doesn’t mean they have to put a “for women” label or have a pink web site. This is even more crucial today, because, as I mentioned above, more men are in the mix of consumers buying products that used to be “women-specific” realms.  Marketers should now be extremely wary of scaring these guys away with overly gendered approaches.  Marketing to women does not need to be an extreme or polarizing process.

4. We have mostly mom readers, is there something you keep in mind when talking to companies about reaching moms?

From my above answers, you might be able to guess – my bottomline on the topic of moms is to avoid the cutesy/mommy approach but pursue an approach that reflects your awareness that your market is a powerful group of multi-faceted humans who are women who happen to be moms.  Just appealing to “mom-ness” alone is very superficial.  There’s more to it than that, as there is when marketing to any particular segment.

5. We have about 70 teen writers who write for us, what inspires you to write and what advice would you give to them as young writers?

I had to get comfortable with the fact that I had something to say and it was worth taking a stand.  That took me a long while.  Not all people who read your work will agree with you, but your point of view adds much to the fabric of what’s out there and it’s really important.  I’d say to write often (that’s an obvious one, I know) and make sure there is one passionate point to your piece- one that you might get into a heated conversation over with a fellow smart writer friend.  Without that “bite,” your work might not get the notice it deserves and you won’t begin to build your “writing brand” as it were.  And, more tactically: find someone to swap final edit/reviews with.  To this day, my mom – who happens to have been a college English teacher – does a quick edit of a lot of my work.  I get an extra ounce of confidence from having her “yay” or “nay,” and that might be a helpful thing for younger writers too.  No one needs to know.

Thank you Andrea, be sure to check out her site! learnedonwomen.com

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