National Women’s Enterprise Day on Wednesday 17 November reminds us that women in business is no longer the exception. A more feminine business model has been vividly handed on as a legacy by Anita Roddick and Laura Ashley to every woman dreaming at the kitchen table. The number of inspiring examples of women doing business that really matters has expanded exponentially.
Having a great business is the aim but not at the expense of lonliness, of missing bathtime, the late night teenage conversation, or the quality time with husband, partner, friends and family.
Modern marketing which plays to women’s natural strengths has made the goal more achievable.
The increasing importance of networking face to face suits women’s natural way of doing business. Dr Ivan Misner has spearheaded this change through BNI over the last 10 years internationally followed by many networking groups for women only including Athena. BNI’s motto: ” Givers Gain” (if I give you business you will want to give me business in return) has made a big change in the way men do business, but is part of how most women operate.
When we meet up for one to one meetings we ask about each other. We want to find links between us, and help each other. We are just as likely to give a compliment about shoes or a jacket as a laptop presentation, and we are just as likely to choose to work with somebody based on their past or their personal style. After all, it is the so-called non-critical variables that often end up being the most important.
The shoe or handbag compliment is not fundamentally about shoes or handbags but about values, about style, and the way of seeing the world. When we respond positively to something about somebody else, we are more receptive to developing a business relationship, to working together, recommending each other and investing our hard-earned money.
As women we have many many ways of demonstrating our brand values, and helping others to know like and trust us. Face to face networking where we are our own brochure, direct mail letter and exhibition provides a powerful marketing tool. Many businesses find all their clients through face to face networking.
The internet marketing explosion of recent times also suits women. Women in their late thirties are the most frequent users of facebook. which only a few years ago was simply the place for university students. To be trusted these days, and have an authentic brand, you have to reveal something about yourself. This comes naturally to women – even online – but in my experience men find it much harder.
Women are still responsible for more of the domestic tasks in the home, so working at home reduces the hassle-factor. No more travelling out to work which involves military-precision organisation for childcare. The washing machine can be filled, or the family meal prepared without having to replace yourself at the heart of the home. Setting up a sequence of emails for an autoresponder for your information product can be more satisfying than coping with lengthy meetings and office politics.
Even better – blogging about your day and the ups and downs of home life can be turned into a business. The office becomes redundant in every sense. Heather Armstrong of Dooce in the US was one of the first examples of mommy blogging. She genuinely and naturally wrote about her day – which was of interest to women in a similar situation – leading to massive traffic on her site. Advertisers lured by the size and responsiveness of her audience appeared bearing gifts with monetary value.
As women we enjoy relationships and getting to know people and it is refreshing that we can now build a business from this place. Perhaps it will be the unsung heroines who will be the real contributors to the economy in the coming year.
Old business is dead. Long live new business and national women’s enterprise day!
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