Market Focus: More than Nine Months to Reach Them

Why lose your customer when they have a baby - grow with their family

Many companies are decent at targeting the new parent demographic yet not necessarily through the years which follow. So how do you not just get them but keep them? Rufus Griscom, CEO of online magazine, which has six million visiting moms a month, says it's important to understand the changing role and mindset of the mother. "There's a lot of confusion going on," Griscom says. "Years ago, you had many more stay-at-home mothers. Now you have moms going off to work and maybe feeling guilty. Some who stay home are feeling guilty. If you can help them with this transition and growing through it, there's a lot of loyalty there. It's now about 50-50 in terms of mothers working and staying at home."

But that doesn't mean that you completely ignore fathers either. "There's no question that we're seeing a shift of fathers getting much more involved than 30 years ago and we're adjusting to that," he says. Nonetheless, it's not surprising that's readership is 90% female, with moms continuing to dominate in terms of soaking up information.

Still, one feeling that's prevalent in both parents is fear. "Everything is controversial now," Griscom says. "Is it a glass baby bottle or plastic that's safe? Should your child sleep in your bed, near your bed or down the hall? It's a much more complex phase of life than it used to be and there's an opportunity for companies that can help alleviate the anxiety. Acknowledge the complexity of parenting today and make it less stressful."

The Internet just adds an extra wrinkle. Katie Harlow, content editor for Parenting OC, says marketers have to put out the fires from negativity about their family-related products faster than ever before in

the age of the message board. "Parents today have so many ways to stay in touch with each other," she says. "If one doesn't like a product, it quickly spreads."

Now every parent is a potential blogger, a consumer advocate, a friend or foe of your message. But this easy stream of information also provides the opportunity for a grassroots movement, Harlow says. When something works, everyone finds out about it; early feedback allows for quick adjustments.

But what image are parents looking for from those who wish to engage their demographic? "Establish some common ground," Harlow says. "Show examples of parents in similar situations and how your product solves that problem. They want to know you understand their needs, that you're 'one of them.'"

Another way to do that is through showcasing how a product continues to help as the child gets older or if it comes with a special rate for continuing to buy from the company. One of the larger stresses for parents is the constant replacement of children's products, either from a little one breaking it, or doing something a little less within their control: growing. For example, the adjustable crib, which becomes a bed with added pieces, is a popular item because it takes away a later headache.

Get Them Where They Live

There has to be an understanding of the transitioning of where a parent's time is spent. Take the Life Stage study from 2010, co-commissioned by the Hallmark Channel, focusing on media consumerism. Those who were defined as "New Nesters," with a median age child of six, were found to have the highest subscription to a DVD service of the seven demographics featured, underscoring how young children can keep parents at home. But social networking numbers stayed steady, possibly for the same reason.

According to the study, "Time-deprived New Nesters continue the usage as a way of networking and staying connected with friends but as children age, adults in established families decrease their use." Notably, they were also found to be "over indexed on console and cell phone/Smartphone gaming."

Nonetheless, parenting continues to be a difficult marketing barrier because wisdom is so often passed down from one generation to the next, says Harlow, and, with it, products. It isn't just the Gerber baby but the Gerber grandma and grandpa extolling how they once used the product, which keeps parents in the same fold brand-wise.

"It can definitely be hard to get parents to switch to another product," Harlow says. "But once you do, you may have them for a lifetime."

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