Friday, December 13, 2013

A Cheat Sheet on How To Market To Moms: Advice From a Mommy Blogger and {Former} PR Exec

When I worked in PR, I participated in many a brainstorm about ideas for reaching moms. We would come up with the most off-the-wall ideas to engage moms, grab their attention, and make them want to check out/purchase our product or service. Then a funny thing happened... I became a Mom. And I realized those ideas - though very creative! - were about as effective in reaching Moms as brushing your teeth while eating an Oreo. And every day I am pitched by PR and marketing execs that remind me a lot of myself back in the day - very well intentioned, super creative, hard-working and passionate about the brands they represent - but pretty much clueless when it comes to the things that REALLY reach their target audience of Moms. So here's a cheat sheet for my former colleagues on how to (and how to not) reach Moms in an effective way.

1. Not All Moms Are Alike: When you think of Moms, think of us as you would a child moving through the stages of development: Baby > Toddler > Pre-School > Elementary School > Tween > Teenager. Except the transition of a mom from one stage to another can shift quickly, and may even regress at times (like when a second baby comes along). Consider what "type" of Mom you are trying to reach - because your activation may need to change accordingly. Here's a few examples of Mom subgroups, and our thinking/behaviors (in general) during these phases.

  • First Time Mom-to-Be: Everything is new and exciting. These moms have 9 long months to plan, anticipate and activate. They want everything to be perfect, special and idyllic for themselves and their new babies. The key word is "customized": Not necessarily talking about monogramming here - but just the sense that these moms want to create a "custom" or one-of-a-kind look, feel, experience for their baby-to-be. Babies are on the brain 24-7, and so these moms are Googling like crazy. Everything from nursery d├ęcor, to advice on childbirth, to "is this normal?" type of queries. There is a yearning for information and education to make sure they are doing things the "right" way, checking to see how/what other moms are doing, and - most importantly - that they aren't "missing" anything. These Moms are open to new brands and products related to their baby - but opinions re: their brand of preference is solidified quickly (i.e. Pampers vs. Luvs Diapers). Stock them up with samples early - if you wait until after the baby is born, they've likely already found a product that works (and when it comes to baby, you don't switch around products much!).

  • New Moms (First 6 Months): Reality has set in, and things aren't really as perfect as they imagined (except for the nursery - that still looks perfect : ) ). These Moms are at their babies' beck-and-call. While it's a joyful and exciting time, it can also be lonely and isolating. It's also a time filled with doubts - Am I doing this right? Is my baby normal? What am I supposed to be doing to help the baby grow/learn/propser? And so the incessant Googling continues. They don't realize it at the time, but these Moms actually have a lot of "free" time. Not "free time" as in laying around eating Bon Bons, but time while the baby is napping or feeding to go online, watch TV or read a magazine (while multi-tasking and trying to keep up with day-to-day life). These Moms are often up in the middle of the night and early morning hours - I watched more infomercials during those first 6 months after Paige was born than ever before in my life. Moms in this phase want to feel supported, appreciated, loved, understood, and reassured they are doing a good job.

  • New Moms (6-12 Months): The baby is now moving around, and so Moms in this phase of mommyhood are trying to keep up... literally. These 6 months go by FAST as the baby starts crawling, pulling up, and often walking. With the baby now climbing around, pulling things down, and exploring everything and anything they can get their hands on, Moms are trying to think 3 steps ahead by baby-proofing and preparing daily activities. It's easier to leave the house in this phase because most babies will be on some sort of routine, and Moms can better predict feeding times, nap times, and even diaper changes. They are much more confident in their Mom-skills and want to share all that they've learned and experienced. Many consider themselves mini-experts in all things baby. The Googling has slowed down - and now it's more about sharing all they've learned and now know/understand about being a Mom. Playdates and Mommy-and-Me type outings are regular occurrences where moms can interact with each other, and share. Naps times give these Moms a chance to catch up on their favorite DVR shows, watch a talk show, or have some "me" time with an activity they like to do, such as crafts, writing, cooking or exercising.

  • Moms of School Age Children (Pre-K, Kindergarten): Driving, driving and more driving. These Moms are on the road a good portion of the day, taking kids to and from school, to and from activities and play dates, and just running errands in general. Because they are in the car, radio is a great way to reach them. Between the hours of 8 am and 1 pm = FREEDOM from the kiddoes (in most cases) as many children enter nursery school, Pre-K or Kindergarten during this time. Moms have more time (though limited) to pursue "me" time - which may be going to the gym, volunteering, shopping, catching up on household work, or even beginning to work a bit outside the home (or in the home via telecommuting). These moms are beginning to reimagine their lives and rethinking their role and how they want to fill their time.

2. Moms Have a Hard Time Attending Daytime Events: I received an invitation to attend a luncheon from a food brand that I happen to love. They would pick me up via car service, introduce me to awesome new holiday foods, and even give me a tour of their HQ. Super cool! Except there was two major flaws - 1. what would I do with the kids while attending this event?  And 2. If the kids WERE in school, an event from 12-2 PM overlaps school pick-up times. If you are inviting a Mom to a daytime event, you are assuming they are a stay-at-home-mom (since working moms would be at work and obvi not be able to attend : ) ) - but then that means these moms have their kids with them 24-7. Unless of course the kids are in school - but there is a very limited window of free time in-between drop-off and pick-up. 8 am - 1 pm. If you want to invite Moms to a daytime event, it shouldn't be outside the hours of 8 am and 1 pm - and including drive time to/from the event, the real hours can't be outside 9 am and Noon. 3 hours - that's all we've got (and this is only if the child is in school). Consider hosting a child-friendly event, or hire a few babysitters on-site at the event to watch after the kiddoes while the moms attend the luncheon, sneak preview, event. Your attendance and participation would triple - I promise!

3. Moms Aren't Influenced by Celebrities: Before babies, I cared what celebrities wore, used, talked about. Now? I couldn't care less. Endorsements from celebrities for baby and children's products come across as just what they are - fake and manufactured. The exception would be seeing celebrities "caught in the act" using certain products or child-related items. This would be via reality shows (i.e. Giuliani & Bill), magazine photos, or social media. If I get the impression a celebrity "chose" the particular product in an organic, natural way (vs. being paid to use it or talk about it) I take mental note of it as a good product for my own child.

4. Moms Are Most Influenced by 3 Main Groups of People: Other Moms (including Grandmas), Doctors/Nurses/Medical Professionals, and Teachers/Educational Professionals. There may be a few peripheral influencers, but the bottom line is that they have to have "been there, done that" when it comes to parenting or be going through it at the moment - OR have an expertise in what they are talking about. Otherwise, Moms will assume they know better and immediately discredit the info.

5. Moms are Online - But Not Where You Think: Social media is still Queen for Moms. Particularly Pinterest and Facebook. If you want a Mom to see something, Pin it. Viral Videos are HUGE - if another Mom recommends I watch something, I do. And then I share it. We're not searching through YouTube or other video sites seeking out this content. We find it via other Moms' Facebook feeds. Humor, sarcasm and anything that gets to the root of the common threads of mommyhood is of interest. Mommy Blogs can be lame and have gotten way too commercial. If you are paying to "sponsor" a post, I can guarantee you the majority of moms are not reading it. Moms read the blogs of other Moms to follow their personal stories. Until they trust the blogger as a person, sponsored product reviews are as fake and manufactured as celebrity endorsements. And even if they do trust a blogger, a blog filled with one sponsored post after another is not appealing or influencing. Pay-for-play is ok - but Moms are more likely to click a sidebar ad than click-thru to a link in a sponsored post. A sidebar or header ad equates to a particular blogger "liking" or "endorsing" a product/brand/or service - without all the nonsense of "this product is so great!" and "I loved using this product!". Blah, blah, blah. Moms are trained to smell BS a mile away. So stick to buying ads on relevant Mommy blogs, increasing SEO and offering free samples to every day Moms (who can share and influence other moms organically) vs. paying bloggers to write posts about your product - because I can tell you as a Mom and as a blogger (who can see the click-thru rates on my own blog), that this is not attracting your audience. On my own blog, I do not accept pay-for-play because I've seen that it doesn't work. I reject 90% of the pitches I receive because I don't care for (or care about) the brand that is being pitched. I allow brands I like to advertise on my Sweet Leigh Mama blog - but I don't get paid to post. If I do post about a brand or product, or offer a giveaway (like the PunkinWrap one!) I do it because I really like the product, brand or feel it's a great (and USEFUL) product for moms. If you are paying for posts, start to really monitor click-thrus that result from that post (assuming that it what you are looking for) - I think you'll see they aren't worth the $100, $200 or $1,000 you just paid that blogger.

The caveat would be the idea of EXPOSURE and EDUCATION. I still don't think you should have to pay mommy bloggers (you don't pay journalists, do you?), but there is a significant place for blogs in the SEO algorithm. You definitely want your product/service/brand to be included in the top blogs for exposure purposes. If Moms hear about a product or brand from their Mom friends or via Social Media, and they go back and Google it, something needs to pop up for them to get more info. In this case, WHO writes about it doesn't matter as much as WHAT THEY WRITE. Moms don't keep track of who's "popular" among bloggers. They like what they like, and will believe what they read if it's written by a mom like them - not a diva Mom who demands $1,000+ per post. But - of course - there is another caveat : ) If the diva Mommy blogger is syndicated on national websites, included on daytime TV talk shows, picked up by the Huffington Post or BuzzFeed regularly, then they may be worth the $$. But consider what types of stories are being picked up in those wider-reach outlets - not the "I love this product" or "You have to try this" or even "I went on this awesome trip sponsored by X brand". It's the posts that are VISUAL, HUMOROUS and REAL-LIFE EXPERIENCES. Require your mommy bloggers to write real-life posts about your product or brand - something where your product/brand is woven in naturally. Just like traditional journalism - there should be a larger topic or story. "This is so great!" posts won't move the needle - for your brand, or for Moms.

6. Reach Moms Through Their Children: My kids aren't my ENTIRE world, but they are a good 98% of it : ) If you are trying to reach Moms, think of where they go on a daily basis - and it's as easy as thinking about where kids go. The Pediatrician's office, the park or playground (or Mokey Joe's-type place), school, daycare, etc. Being visible (via partnership, sponsorship, sampling, signage) in these places will help you connect with Moms. Also think outside of the box - Can your brand do something with children's birthday parties? With offering at-home activities for kids (i.e. printables, coloring sheets or games)? Involve the kids and you've got a good chance of grabbing the Moms attention. Or, even better, provide a SOLUTION or something to MAKE LIFE EASIER for the Mom, and you are golden. Another idea - be where Moms are looking for activities to do with their kids. Online event newletters and sites (like Macaroni Kid) or localized magazines (i.e. Atlanta Parent) are staples for any Mom looking to keep her kids busy.

7. Moms Rarely Have Alone Time - When They Do, They Aren't Going to Actively Seek Out Your Brand... You Need to be Where They Already Are: I don't do anything alone anymore. Pee, shower, you name it - there are always two little heads popping up, asking for something. Besides when they are in school for a few hours each day (which I use to work, write or exercise), I have exactly 30 minutes to an hour of TRUE alone time, when I can be alone with my own thoughts. And that time is once the kids have gone down to bed, I'm done cleaning up the house, spending time with my husband, and I've gone up to bed myself. I know this is the case for other Moms too - 30-60 minutes, sitting in bed, browsing through their smart phones, before falling asleep. That's your window - an opportunity for your brand or product to be the one or two things a Mom clicks on, reads about or adds to the to-do list. That's when I watch viral videos, check out BuzzFeed or Reddit, skim the news sites, and check to see if there is anything new on Facebook that my Mom friends have shared as "must reads".

**The above information is based on my personal opinions, experiences as a mom and a blogger, and conversations I've had with other moms. It isn't a catch-all or blanket for every single mom. But it's a good guide as to how an average, every day Mom thinks, feels and acts. Take this as a guide, not a Bible.**