Market Focus: Expectant Mothers
Huge Market, Small Window
Just as many women feel the clock is ticking when it comes to getting pregnant, so should marketers feel
the time crunch when it comes to reaching expectant moms. The reality is: Women generally are in-term for just nine months. That’s less than one year for this emotionally charged group to make decisions about what types of products—from prenatal vitamins and maternity wear to family cars and baby gear—are worth buying.
For companies looking to sell to this market, this means targeting expectant mothers in a highly influential way, and by the quickest means possible.
The good news: The expectant mother market not only is large—the birth rate is 4 million—it’s recurring. “Essentially, there are that many women pregnant at any time,” says Chuck Hajj, managing director of American Baby Group, a New York multimedia company.
Hajj points out that while this number includes multiple births, he says companies can count on a close approximation of the 4 million births as the number of women who are pregnant at any time. “And that’s a new market every year,” he says.
Sampling Works Best
According to those interviewed, the No. 1 way to connect with this market is to send samples—a method placing products directly into the hands of the consumer.
Jennifer Kendra, group sales director for First Moments, The Parenting Group (TPG), New York, a Time Inc. group that handles expectant-mother media programs, says companies are more apt to build brand loyalty through sampling, since this may be the first time the consumer is thinking about products that support her and her baby.
“We assemble cooperative sampling kits to be handed out at childbirth education classes, which contain products that are first-time mom oriented,” says Kendra. “Having the kits distributed by class facilitators who are affiliated with hospitals or are RNs themselves, is also a plus.”
According to a survey conducted by The Mom Connection, TPG’s online consumer panel of moms, 52 percent of expectant moms said a free sample can be highly influential in getting them to try something new and different.
The same survey reveals that respondents’ purchase decisions are more influenced by receiving coupons through medical channels (46 percent), over those coming through the mail (38 percent).
Hajj confirms the success of sample kits. He says American Baby Group runs sampling programs through childbirth educators and also conducts a direct-to-home co-op that mails monthly. “These kits are filled with offers for new moms, including photo studio coupons and prenatal vitamin information,” he says.
Kendra adds that sample kits also offer the perfect opportunity for the sale of diaper ointment, pacifiers, skin care products, laundry-safe products and breast pumps.
What They Crave
When it comes to marketing products specifically for expectant moms—more so than the baby—Kate Lawler, editor of Parents Expecting magazine, New York, reports that more than ever women are interested in looking good and wearing hip apparel.
“Tent-like dresses and baggy overalls just don’t cut it these days,” she says. “These women are seeking cute, sophisticated and sassy maternity wear. They want to show off their pregnancy. They are healthy and they’re proud.”
Expectant mothers also are prime prospects for wellness and beauty products. Women undergo immense, changes during pregnancy, says Kendra.
“Their hair and skin is different and will react differently to their usual products,” she explains. “As such, expectant moms are often on the market for new deodorant, lotions and shampoos.”
Kendra adds that another significant marketing opportunity exists for those in the foods business. In fact, of the women participating in TPG’s The Mom Connection survey, 67 percent said they actively seek quick meal tips.
“Meal plans, special foods and other products and services related to the nutritional needs of pregnant women are in high demand, particularly since many women today are health conscious and well-educated on the side effects of improper eating habits,” says Kendra.
Timing is Everything
With such a short time span to connect with this market, marketers need to target certain goods and services according to the most appropriate trimester, advises Hajj.
“Prenatal vitamins are among the first products pregnant women buy,” he says. “In many cases, we obtain lists through vitamin companies so that we can begin marketing other products to this group.”
Kendra adds that the bulk of marketing activity is centered around the second and third trimester. “After the vitamins, a woman gets her clothes. Later on she registers for baby gear, since she’ll be given a baby shower,” says Kendra. “And in her third trimester, she’s planning and buying for the nursery.”
According to Hajj, there has been incredible growth in baby-product registration over the past five years, supporting companies like Target and Toys “R” Us—companies that readily market their programs.
“The third trimester is the best time for those marketing strollers, furnishings for the nursery, and safety products for the home,” says Hajj. “It’s also the prime period for people in the automobile business to market family cars, and those in the financial planning business to solicit services.”
A Sensitive Sell is Most Effective
Most agree that kit sampling through hospitals is one of the best ways to reach expectant mothers. Second to that, direct mail received at home is preferred over other media. “The goal is still to get a sample, or coupons and gift offers, into the hands of the soon-to-be mom who can better evaluate the product,” says Hajj. “We’ve even seen formula companies ship samples directly to women.”
While sending samples is key, the wording and visuals can be crucial. Kendra says companies that connect best will talk to the woman about what is important to her. “She’s eager to be the best mom, to be the best prepared, and that needs to be addressed in an informative, yet nurturing voice.”
Hajj says ad testing for American Baby Group indicates that large photos of babies draw attention as do free gift offers in direct mail packages.
“Gerber gives a free spoon to those who sign up for their products through direct mail,” he says. “As far as the tone that should be used, companies should be caring, comforting and reassuring as well as non-alarmist.”
Hajj reports that American Baby Group estimates the average couple in the United States spends $14,000 on baby products within the baby’s first year. “Companies need to start targeting before the baby arrives—when the expectant mother is making her decisions—if they want to get in on this lucrative market,” says Hajj.
Sharon Cole is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer serving the print media industry.