Q&A: Jody DeVere, CEO of AskPatty.com

Dec 5, 2012

Jody DeVere is the CEO of AskPatty.com, a website, blog and market-to-women agency that provides automotive information to women consumers, as well as training and ongoing support to car dealerships, service shops and automotive accessory retailers and installers. Recently named Aftermarket Woman of the year by the Car Care Council Women’s Board, DeVere is a marketing-to-women expert and a champion for women in the automotive industry. She became active in the aftermarket nine years ago after a 25-year career focused on sales and marketing leadership.

In an exclusive interview with Restyling magazineDeVere talks about the launch of the Women’s Automotive Speaker’s Bureau and other AskPatty.com resources accessory dealers can utilize to better reach the growing base of female customers.

Restyling magazine (RE): Restyling reaches approximately 18,000 restylers and automotive accessory dealers. Can you tell us how AskPatty’s marketing-to-women resources, such as the Women’s Speaker’s Bureau, might be beneficial to our audience of professionals?

Jody DeVere (JD): The reason that I’m so passionate about this is because I really see that women are the primary purchasers of vehicles and should be the primary purchaser of aftermarket [products]. I don’t think the aftermarket industry in general is seeing women as their customers, so they’re not positioning their products that way. -¦ I think there’s a greater interest in women [from restylers] regarding their vehicles and choices, so [restylers] have to add aftermarket accessories.

RE: You say there is a gap between women consumers and the automotive industry. Why do you think that is?

JD: There is a gap there that needs to close; but it is on both sides. In defense of the automotive industry, I do see that women spend a lot on women’s sites talking about diet, exercise, relationships, fashion and movie stars, and very little time educating themselves about their vehicles…So I promote education heavily on both sides. Women need to become more savvy about their vehicles and the options that they have – what they can do to restyle because it is not in plain view. And the role of the restyler is to educate women on what the possibilities could be and aim them at her.

RE: When it does come to aftermarket products on newly purchased or late model vehicles, what do women want?

JD: Anything that makes her driving experience more comfortable [running boards, hand holds, etc.]…One of the areas that women are very interested in purchasing is any product made of sustainable material, because they love “green” stuff…Things that make seating more comfortable ergonomically, especially in older vehicles. Women are ball-and-chained to their mobile devices, so they want accessory products that help her be hands free but maintain her connectivity, because she uses her vehicle as an office and spends many hours of the day there whether she’s a mom or a businesswoman – and a lot of older vehicles don’t have these conveniences.

RE: What can accessory dealers do to better market their products to women buyers?

JD: You need to depict your products with women using them and how women would use them. Don’t assume that all women are soccer moms; women drive sports cars. Sixty percent of sports cars are purchased by women. For some reason, the industry often portrays women in sports cars as the sexy babe but not as the driver.

RE: What else?

JD: It’s not about how to depict that product and market it, but you have to create a community of women to buy your aftermarket products just as you create a community of men to buy your aftermarket products. Many restylers develop relationships with local car clubs and restyling clubs to develop that audience. There’s no simple answer, but I think they need to educate themselves on how to go to market with women, and they need to have resources if they don’t know how.

RE: You have a program aimed at retailers- AskPatty.com’s Certified-Female Friendly. What is that?

JD: We have a program for automotive retail locations – which includes independent shops, tire dealers, collisions centers, parts stores, new- and used-car dealers – to certify and train their staffs to communicate more effectively with women and also to market and advertise more affectively to women. We’ve certified thousands of automotive retail employees and have a little over 1,600 locations across the U.S. and Canada.

RE: You recently put together a Women’s Automotive Speakers Bureau. How did that come about?

JD: The Women’s Speaker’s Bureau is the result of a couple of factors. First, I had spent seven weeks speaking, sometimes multiple days a week, so there seems to be more of a demand in the industry for a woman’s point of view. And because I have always been an automotive women “collector,” I know of a lot of women who have tremendous credentials and skills to speak at conferences and trade shows, and can do workshops and training that can really benefit the automotive industry.

RE: And why did you think there is an increased demand in the automobile industry for women speakers?

JD: Typically when you go to an automotive conference, all of the speakers are men. So it’s men talking to men, when their primary customers might be women. So I think this group of women has a lot to share about helping the automotive industry at large get more perspective on the women’s market. And women are a big category. We have women who are experts in the fields of women of color, the Latino/Hispanic market, the LGBT market – different areas of the business that can really provide insight to companies and the industry at large on how to improve results with women.

Recent news broadcasts have punctuated the need for this. I think that these women are hard to find for the automotive industry because [the industry] is not looking. [I wanted] to create a resource for the auto industry with a lot of choices. I am adding a few more women [to the speaker’s bureau] that have different skills. Not only is it a resource, but it makes a big statement to the automotive industry that there’s a lot of talented speakers out there.

RE: What are the main groups of people in the industry who are looking for women speakers?

JD: Brands looking for insight into the women’s market: industry conferences, companies, trade shows, workshop events, industry associations. -¦ They’re looking to fill those speaker slots with something interesting, new and fresh.

RE: What’s the best advice you give at a conference?

JD: Look at how successful marketers are gaining market share with women, their methodology, calls to action and how they position themselves, not just at other [competing] brands. Twice a month, go see what’s relevant to women: What are they talking about? What’s on their minds? That might give you a clue as to how to position yourself in your local market.