Micro-targeting a marketing strategy to attract female candidates

by | Dec 11, 2018

How to use micro-targeting to recruit top female candidates

 HR should follow marketing's lead to micro target female consumers and use micro-targeting to bring women into companies.

If you were talking to any brand manager or marketer, they would say that when a company is promoting a brand they have specific micro-targeting tactics to attract women consumers. Let’s not forget that women influence 85% of consumer decisions, so it’s important to get it right. It's also one of the many business reasons why you need women on your teams.


Micro-targeting in action

In traditional consumer marketing campaigns there was an adage that if you sold to men, women would follow. But that didn't work. Take some recent campaigns from male-coded brands, such as Coors Light and Jim Bean, using well-known celebrities to promote them. It's rejecting a one size fits all marketing approach and understanding that women need to be targeted differently. It's also about understanding the value that women bring to these very specific markets. One advertising agency 72andSunny, the shop behind the female-focused campaigns of Adidas and Coors Light, said that they don't talk to women as women, but as beer drinkers and athletes. So it makes sense that employers talk to women as professionals who will add value to their business.

Encouraging pro-activity

In 2016, H&M launched a social media stereotype-smashing campaign: She’s A Lady. This initiative appealed to women to throw away stereotyped ideas of being lady-like. They called on women to be become independent, fierce and fearless with their fashion choices and to express who they really are.

In award-winning campaigns, Dove and Always focus on encouraging women to overcome negative self-image, as well as body image shaming. They urge women to see themselves as unique, authentic and beautiful, whatever their shape or size. Once again the message is about being pro-active. Little Mix take assertiveness one step further and in the ad campaign for their latest release they cover their naked bodies with all the negative comments and slurs they have all been called over the years.

De-bunking stereotypes

If consumer marketing applies micro-targeting, to get beyond what they call “shrink it and pink it,” to avoid the traps of gender stereotyping to attract women consumers - why can’t HR? Instead of packing women into pink skill silos, they should take a broader view. Businesses work on identifying the basic concerns of their potential women consumers, not just to motivate them to make a purchase, but so they feel good about their choices. What marketeers are doing is highlighting the positives and reducing the negatives by allaying women’s concerns. They then encourage women to view the experience through a new and “better” lens.

We need to see that more frequently in our recruitment efforts. This sort of powerful message can be translated into the hiring process in the way that DSM encourages candidates to “push their limits” with a female action hero.

3Plus can help you with some simple ways to make your hiring process appeal more to women with our FREE ebook on 12 key steps to attract, recruit and retain female talent.

Cultural shifts

The reality is that HR is several beats behind shifts in the wider market and culture; we need to up our game to stay credible. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, many recruiters whether in-house or agency fail to micro-target female talent. They then go on to bleat about there being no women candidates.

There is a tendency to mix “influence effort” with broader employer branding initiatives. They are interconnected but different. Organisations can have a positive employer brand but still not have enough women employees in their pipelines. This is in most cases a fact.

Challenges to micro-targeting female talent

There are three challenges to micro-targeting:

  • Passive candidates: Women who haven’t thought of applying for an opening who need to be sourced and brought into a recruitment process.
  • Active candidates: Women who could be potentially interested and need to be micro-targeted to influence their decision to apply.
  • No or few female candidates: There will be some roles where there are limited female candidates because of cultural issues. Here HR needs a long-term view and more visionary look at workforce management and succession planning. It means thinking differently.

In my eBook “The way men and women look for jobs” I have pulled together research from a number of sources that outline the different pieces of micro-targeting that have the greatest impact on influencing decision.

You can download the full report HERE.

It’s important to understand how men and women approach careers differently and what their expectations are. There are also generational differences, so you may need more than one micro-targeting strategy depending on the role and the type of experience you are looking for. You probably won’t find entry-level candidates in the same place as potential returners or seasoned professionals.

Monitor your metrics

Build up data on your process and assess which pieces of your micro-targeting are most effected. This is going to vary from one opening to another and even between geographies. Once you have the data you can highlight it in any future initiatives, including requests for referrals. A good way to test your data is to run two processes in parallel to evaluate outcomes.

There is no doubt that applying a generic recruitment approach will not work if a specific demographic is needed. This applies to any group. An organisation wanting to hire more female drivers had no results by advertising in Auto World or other similar platforms.  Not many women are petrol heads. But when they micro-targeted and placed ads where women actually go (what I call fishing where there are fish) buses, doctor's surgeries, emergency rooms, day care centres, hairdressers and shopping malls they produced much better results.

It should be common sense - but to many it isn't

3Plus offers specialist services in Executive Search and Diversity Recruitment to hire the best female talent. Find out more HERE.

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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