Differing communication styles between genders suggest we need more targeted strategies for selling skincare products to men.


John Gray’s iconic relationship book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, caused quite a stir when it was published in 1992, and its message is just as valid two decades later. In his book, Gray examined the differences in male and female communication styles and why it can be so difficult for women to reach men with their message. And, as it turns out, understanding these differences might be just as crucial in business dealings as it is in personal relationships. For instance, understanding how men communicate can serve as a starting point for developing better ways to retail to male clients. We’ve examined Gray’s basic premises and combined them with the best advice from industry marketing professionals to come up with three high-powered strategies for selling skincare products to men.

STRATEGY #1: Put Him in Charge

According to Gray, men like to feel self-sufficient; when they feel uncertain or out of their element, they bolt. They respond best when shown trust, approval and admiration.

“There are two distinct male markets,” begins Trish Green, director of sales and marketing for Eve Taylor North America. “We have young executives intent on climbing the corporate ladder, who will spend money to look the part. And we have businessmen in their 40s and 50s who realize that while looking mature may be an advantage, looking old is deadly in today’s competitive job market—they want solutions for those bags under their eyes and other signs of aging.”

But for both groups, you will need a system in place to help them make their own product purchasing decisions once you get them in the door.

“The esthetician has the opportunity to introduce the male client to appropriate retail products,” says Melissa Morris, Pevonia International’s corporate educator. “If his treatment experience delivers favorable results, he is actually easier to motivate to purchase and less skeptical than a female client—as long as he has a clear understanding of the product and its ease of use.”

Green agrees. “When an esthetician is doing a skin analysis on a male client, she needs to look for specific problems she can address,” she says. “She can then make a sale simply by saying something like: ‘Those blackheads around your nose detract from your good skin. Use this scrub once a day and they will go away.’”

Unlike women, men are not looking for the hottest new skincare product formulations. “Men do not take the time to read advertisements and articles about skin care; therefore, they don’t come to you with a lot of questions and product preferences,” says Karen Asquith, national director of education, G.M. Collin Skincare.

“They are also less impulsive,” contends Tony Cuccio, CEO of Cuccio Naturalé. “Therefore, they’re not quick to deviate from what they’re accustomed to using.”

The formula for leading male clients to the purchase decision point can be summed up thusly:
Make him comfortable by talking about things he knows—his profession, his hobby, sports. Use clues from these discussions to delve into possible skincare concerns: Outdoorsmen need lots of sunscreen, for instance. Men who spend a lot of time on airplanes need a good moisturizer. “Men enjoy target marketing tactics and care ideas for their life roles, such as golfer (sunscreen), ladies’ man (skin smoother) and party animal (detoxifying products),” says spa consultant Leslie Lyon (spas2b.com).

Ask what products he is currently using, advises Lisa Heinemann, director of marketing & sales, Sothys USA. “Based on his answers you will know how skin-care savvy he is,” she says. “Ask him about his skin concerns and give him information on one or two products that will address them. Men see their skin as an extension of their health and longevity. They are motivated when people in their life comment on their age using physical evidence like lines and wrinkles. Survival of the fittest kicks in.”

Lead him to a decision; don’t tell him what to do. “A great way to sell skincare products is to compliment the client,” says Cuccio, “and then suggest a product that will accentuate or highlight that feature. For instance, a therapist might compliment the client’s great skin tone and then offer a moisturizer with an SPF to help him maintain his even coloration. Spa personnel need to approach male clients with a problem/solution model.”

“Men prefer basic, to-the-point information. Tell him what it does, why he needs it and how to use it.”

STRATEGY #2: Get to the Point

Women use conversation as a way to relate; men use it to relay information. They value results and are not interested in your opinion or how great you think the product smells. Don’t try to sell him by touting new exotic ingredients or by using terms he’s unlikely to know.

“Men are less concerned about an educational approach,” says Michael Bruggeman, CEO and founder of Organic Male OM4. “Just solve his problem and give him something to read with the product that will help him use it effectively when he gets home.”

“Men are more practical. When they purchase skin care, they want results,” affirms Gül C. Zone, biochemist and founder of DermAware. “Reducing sensitivity, reducing sun damage, helping with ingrown hairs—solutions seem to motivate men more than just looking good.”

“As a rule, men do not shop, they buy,” says Asquith. “Women like a story surrounding a product but men prefer basic, to-the-point information. Tell him what it does, why he needs it and how to use it.”

Make direct connections. “Men seek skincare products for specific conditions, such as sensitivity,” says Elizabeth Murchison, Guinot’s director of education. “Say things like, ‘This ingredient works to provide protection against a specific aggressor such irritation from shaving, pollution or harsh weather,” says Lenette Casper, president and CEO of The Phytomer Group USA.

Packaging can be key. “Men will not respond to elaborate packaging highlighted by foreign terms and exotic ingredients,” cautions Cuccio. Adds Zone, “The look and the details on the package need to tell the man very quickly what the product will do for him. And the product needs to live up to the promise. If it does, men will use it regularly and buy more.”

Martian Retailing Rules

Do make product recommendations. Men rely on information from professionals. “Getting a man to look at you as the expert will influence his decision to buy,” says Sothys’ Lisa Heinemann.

Do offer men sample products. “Provide a ready-to-go package with easy-use instructions,” says Pevonia’s Melissa Morris.

Do have a retail focus area just for men. “Display apparel, sports items and gadgets that fit his lifestyle among your skincare SKUs,” suggests Organic Male’s Michael Bruggeman.

Don’t crowd shelves with myriad options. “Too many products can be overwhelming. Men are likely to give up if they get confused about what they need or how to use it,” says Phytomer’s Lenette Casper.

Do provide shelf-talkers. “Men like to read on their own what a product does. They feel awkward asking questions,” says Guinot’s Elizabeth Murchison.

STRATEGY #3: Keep it Simple

Any skincare program you recommend needs to fit easily into a man’s daily routine.

“Stick with the basics,” suggests Heinemann. “A simple regimen—a good cleanser, shave product, moisturizer and eye cream—works best and won’t confuse him when he gets the products home.”

“Men are not going to walk out with the whole line,” says Green. “Start by recommending only one or two products that will offer the client direct benefits and that will fit into his regular routine. If it’s a cleanser or scrub, make sure he understands that using it doesn’t require another step. For example, if it’s a cleanser, let him know he can use it in the shower.”

Men are not going to spend a lot of time on a skincare routine—which is why they’re attracted to products that do multiple things. “For example, Phytomer created a shaving mask that acts as a home use treatment mask and a shaving cream simultaneously,” says Casper. “Men may not want to take the time to do a mask at home, but they will love getting the benefits when it is coupled with their shaving routine and they can shave it off.”

In addition to product type, men may also be influenced by how a product looks and smells. “Innovations in packaging, such as pump bottles, sprays and flip-top tubes as opposed to jars or tubes with screw caps have had a significant impact,” says Asquith. “Fresh scents and light textures also make products easier to sell as most men do not like heavy-feeling products. A barely-there feel and a scent with masculine appeal in a product that offers results seem to fit the bill.”

Linda W. Lewis is an editorial consultant and a regular contributor to DAYSPA.

Extra-Terrestrial Resources
The following companies have dedicated men’s skincare lines to inspire Martian clients to reach for their wallets:
Alchimie Forever (from Universal Companies), 800.533.6276
Aveda, 800.644.4831
Christina USA,888.604.6268
Cuccio Naturalé, 800.762.6245
DermAware Bio Targeted Skin Care, 888.292.3376
Equibal, 800.247.2405
Eve Taylor, 800.461.3745
G.M. Collin Skin Care, 800.341.1531
GlyMed Plus Advanced Aesthetics, 800.676.9667
Guinot, 212.532.1030
Menscience Androceuticals, 800.608.6367
Methode Physiodermie, 800.263.8888
Murad, 888.996.8723
Organic Male OM4, 877.898.6253
Pevonia International, 800.351.3516
Phytomer Corp. USA, 800.227.8051
Rhonda Allison, 866.313.7546
Skin Again, 877.754.6769
Skin Authority, 866.325.SKIN
Sothys, 800.325.0503

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