“Mumpreneurs” are here to stay and big business knows it

“Mumpreneurs” come in all shapes and sizes, and all of them deserve respect for what they are doing. Whether it’s a hobby-turned-business or a full-scale international company, it’s a sign of the progress women have made in the past few decades that we are seeing more and more women with the confidence and know-how to start their own venture.

Another aspect of the rise of the “mumpreneur” is the incredible marketing clout these female business owners are beginning to wield. Of course the media has been quick to pick up on this, as have big companies, which are now investing serious sums of money to get a slice of the action.

An article last week in the Sydney Morning Herald highlighted this growing power of these entrepreneurs, especially when it comes to big companies being able to target local networks.

Neighbourhood Facebook groups, including those run by female entrepreneurs, are fast replacing the old local newspaper model as a place for people to get news and information about what’s going on in their local patch.

As the article points out, companies like Kimberly-Clark see these venues as the perfect place to push their marketing message for a brand like Huggies:

“Less than two years later, with 5000 members, the mother of two had personal care multinational Kimberly-Clark proposing a campaign partnership and offering $225 for three posts about its Huggies brand.”

The marketing partnerships mentioned in this article are just the tip of the iceberg, with big companies like banks and other financial institutions dropping thousands of dollars on strategic campaigns to align themselves with this emerging segment of the market.

The advocacy programs run by my firm Bendalls (as well as other marketing firms) have access to about 1.4 million mums and about 1.3 million young people nationally, with most of this reach coming through engagement on social media platforms like Facebook.

These networks deliver results that far exceed traditional media/marketing because they communicate directly with their target market – in this case small business owners who also happen to be mums. They make use of strong word of mouth and viral recommendations to strengthen brand positioning.

The companies partnering with these networks have identified this market segment as not only valuable as potential short-term customers for their products, but also as lucrative long-term customers.

My clients have told me as much, and while many of these big companies are still in the rhetoric phase, talking about their ‘support’ for small businesses and female entrepreneurs in particular, they are definitely trying harder to tailor their products to this market as well. There’s a recognition that small businesses are indeed the “engine room of the Australian economy” and that “mumpreneurs” are set to play a big part in keeping that engine humming.

The “mumpreneur” boom, much like the tech and startup booms we’ve seen over the past decade or so, is about an economy that is shifting from its industrial age base to something new, and big companies are positioning themselves to profit.

Whereas traditionally women have been marketed to mainly as housewives and mothers, they are now being courted as serious small business owners with the potential to become big business owners over the next decade.

Of course not all of these businesses will grow up to become the next Whole Kids, an organic kids food company that was founded in 2005 and now has its range stocked in Coles, Woolworths and provides children’s meals on Jetstar flights. Some will stay small, other wills grow big, and still others will disappear.

And some women have been forced to become de facto small business owners, taking on contracted jobs that skirt dangerously close sometimes to the territory of sham contracting.

The bigger story, though, and why big companies are taking such an active interest in “mumpreneurs”, is that the sector is only set to grow.

However, unlike pushing out a message through traditional marketing means, working with these businesses means building a relationship, not shoving or sprucing marketing messages through them. Their engagement is more meaningful and, consequently, if brands want to work with them they need to recognise the relationship and value they offer, as well as respect the relationship they have with their networks.

Big companies have a lot to gain from these marketing partnerships, and they are paying increasingly bigger sums of money to grow and consolidate these relationships.

Fi Bendall is CEO of The Bendalls Group, a business that leads STRATEGY : ADVOCACY : MOBILE delivering the business acumen to drive effective positive results in a disruptive economy for the C-suite. Fi has recently won a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence award. 

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