An estimated 14,000 women gathered at the nonprofit, nonpartisan conference WeEmpower Women's Conference held in the Long Beach Arena in Southern California yesterday along with myself. The event, which began 22 years ago as a government initiative for female small business owners and working professionals, has grown into the largest woman's forum of its kind in the United States.
California First Lady Maria Shriver shaped this year's conference theme, "Be who you are. Feel it. Live it. Pass it on," with the goal of encouraging women to discover their purpose, passion and power. This year's highlights included seminars on starting a small business and financial well-being, and panel discussions on topics such as "Alzheimer's, cancer and aging parents" and "how to be a confident leader."
This year's line-up of speakers and participants was be led by Governor Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver and included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Christiane Amanpour, Bono, Warren Buffet, Sister Joan Chittister, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Matthews, Indra Nooyi and Gloria Steinem.
I was the guest of GM and Chevrolet at the event and visited their display of fuel-efficient Chevy vehicles in the vendor area wading through hundreds of women-friendly products and services offered to attendees. Many green products were featured and women flooded the aisles shopping, tasting, and testing new products.
This was one of the most inspiring events I have attended all year. Kudos and thank you to General Motors and Chevrolet for supporting women at events like this as a sponsor.
Each woman I met for the first time during the conference, as soon as she found out what I do for a living, launched into sharing her car buying horror story with me or alternately her anxiety about visiting a car dealership. One young twenty-five year old women said she took her boyfriend with her for protection the last time she bought a car to "shield her" from all the "sleazy men" working at the dealerships, ( Her words). Sometimes I hate to say what I do as I have heard the same stories from women so many times over and over with the same theme and honestly it gets me all rilled up that things are not changing fast enough for women car buyers at car dealerships.
Not so surprisingly, a number of car dealers still believe negotiating and buying a vehicle is a man’s job even when the facts are clear and published often: Women have the power of the purse and make 85% of car buying decisions and in fact buy 65% of all cars sold in the US today.
In these very difficult market conditions can car dealerships afford to continue to propagate these same terrible attitudes women have about the car buying experience? I think not! Yet investing in training for a "niche" marketing plan aimed at women is just NOT IN THE BUDGET or worse believe they are doing JUST FINE with women car buyers and need no help. I don't believe it for a minute. I speak to far too many women in my role as CEO and President of AskPatty.com and guess what ...women do not tell me great stories about car dealerships, like almost never.
Women by the way are not a "niche" market, Women are the majority of customers for dealerships both in sales and service. Why do I feel like a broken record saying over and over again.." WOMEN ARE THE MAJORITY CAR BUYER, WOMEN ARE THE MAJORITY CAR BUYER, WOMEN ARE THE MAJORITY CAR BUYER" to only hear my own voice echoing back at me from the auto industry ...seriously, car dealerships are losing sales and/or good women customers and I am really just trying to help them make more money and gain a better reputation with women car buyers.
Sometimes I feel like a minority political party in the auto industry that cannot be heard above the old boy rederic that keeps our industry stuck in "rut-i-tus" in regards to women, doing the same things over and over year after year expecting different results. This entirely backward thinking by car dealerships astounds me and makes no good business sense to me at all. When will the majority of car dealerships wake up and smell the green dollars women are willing to spend IF they give an all around great experience with their dealership?
Car dealerships do not do better with women because they are not trained better! Affordable training to communicate more effectively with women, marketing and advertising help is readily available at AskPatty.com, and yet although they think it is a very good idea, they hesitate to invest and make a commitment to change.
I challenge the savvy, smart and hungry dealerships to take advantage of the largest untapped ,under-represented and under-served market share of available customers: Women Car Buyers. Car dealerships can gain market share during this down-turn while your old boy thinking competitors are asleep at the wheel stressing out over market conditions rather than going after the virtually untapped market of women car buyers.
"If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it."
— Margaret Fuller
CEO/President - Ask Patty, Inc.