How to Market to Local Moms

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Kerry Bowbliss & Sherry Lombardi are guest authors. If you would like to contribute a guest post, please contact us.

As publishers of websites for suburban moms and advocates for the main street merchants trying to woo them, we spend a lot of time thinking about what matters to the maternally minded. Throw in our own experiences in the ‘burbs with kids and insights from an August 2011 survey of our subscribers in New Jersey, and we can tell you a thing or two about marketing to the moms around town.

Since women are responsible for 85% of household purchases, reaching the “Chief Household Operator” is a key objective for most local merchants. While these tips are squarely directed at local business owners, many apply to hyperlocal news and blogs as well.  So whether you want to help your advertisers or pick up a few ideas yourself, here are a some insights from the front lines.

We don’t want to talk to you.  Well, not exactly.  But 72% of our subscribers say they would rather communicate via email, text or web form than talk to a local business on the phone or in person.  We’re online for two hours a day now.  So, with our hectic schedule and crying babies, it’s just a whole lot easier to type than talk.  Make it super easy for us to reach you online and we’ll really appreciate it.  And if you do want us to call, the number on your website should appear as a link on our smart phone (no graphic images), so we can dial you with single tap from the 3:00 pickup line at school.

Twitter and Foursquare are cool, but we’re still on Facebook — way more than we should be probably, and mostly talking to our neighbors.  79% of our subscribers use Facebook (61% for 30 minutes or more each day) vs. 34% on Twitter.  But remember to post wisely.  The novelty has worn off and we’ve lost our tolerance for posts that aren’t directly relevant to our lives.  If you don’t market to moms exclusively, consider setting up a separate Facebook page that does, with offers and info just for families.  Want to increase your chances of reaching us?  Post during our Facebook prime times: weekdays in the morning after school drop off and at night after dinner and tuck-ins.

We expect your website to be great.  This seems like a no-brainer.  Yet, most small business websites remain woefully sad.  Our moms say it is the single most important tool they use when considering a local business.  The top three things they care about (in order of importance) are 1. current content, 2. prominent display of prices, products and programs, and 3. a clean appealing design.  Note to the Facebook-saavy set:  we love that you’re there, but your posts do not replace your website as your online proxy.  If you hold an event or promotion, be sure to have it on your home page so we can find it next week when we need it.

We’re looking for activities to enrich and entertain our little ones.  We spend about $2,000 per year, per kid on things like cooking classes, language lessons, puppet shows and fall festivals.  And it doesn’t look like that will change any time soon.  54% of our moms said they will spend the same over the next twelve months and 35% plan to spend more.  Consider holding a unique event for our kids, and we’ll likely be there.

Yes, we do love online deals & coupons.  Despite daily deal overload, sending us a really good and relevant offer is still the best way to get us in the door.  Discounts are considered very important (67%) or somewhat important (31%) incentives to try a new local business.

It’s not about us — it’s about our kids.  This is important.  Once you’ve attracted us to your store, “make my kid(s) happy” is the number one route to a mom’s loyalty, besting “save me money” (#2), “offer flexible hours” (#3) and “save me time” (#4).  So roll out the red carpet for our little ones.  Or at least don’t give us the evil eye when they throw a tantrum on the floor.  If they love you, so will we.  If they don’t, or if we just feel unwelcome, we won’t be back.

It’s not about us — it’s about our community.  Moms are great for viral referral programs.  But forget about giving us a chance to win our own prize for telling friends about you.  Have something fabulous that our PTA or local moms group could win if we band together – and we’ll gladly pass that on.  At Hulafrog, our own community-focused referral contests have double the success rates of regular ones.

It’s not about us — period.  Alright, go get your tiny violin. But the fact is, being a mom usually means putting everyone else’s priorities first. So whether you’re a local news site or coffee shop, consider doing a little something special for us. Maybe email a gift card on Mother’s Day or invite us to a wine & cheese event while the party place next door entertains our kids. Some small, but sincere gesture, that says “we understand and appreciate you.” We’ll talk about it for days and be loyal for a long time.

Kerry Bowbliss & Sherry Lombardi are co-founders of Hulafrog, a growing network of websites for suburban moms.  Run by local mom publishers, each site serves as the go-to guide to life with kids around town and features events, classes, restaurants, shopping, schools and more for families.