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Six Tips for Marketing to Parents

Using the Internet and promoting 'word of mouth' should be key components in your strategy.

In 2004, Andrew Erlichson and Mark Heinrich launched afterbeing disappointed with the photography Web sites they came, a fee-based site, would focus on sharing rather thanselling prints and also video sharing.

The businessgrew, but expanded beyond the originally intended audience: families. Soin 2007, retooled itself. It not only became free, but again became family-centric.

"We wanted to draw a bigger canvas and have a bigger impact," explainsCEO Erlichson. "Social networking is a lot more collaborative andprivate. Based on that, we restructured and changed it to be a socialnetwork for families. But unlike MySpace, it's attuned to the privacy ofparents and families."

But how does Phanfare, or any company, reach that audience? Here are somethings to keep in mind when marketing to parents:

Make Use of the Internet

Today's parents grew up with computers and are more likely to get theirinformation online than through a book or magazine. Says Amy Stevens,CEO of Marketing Edge Ventures (, "Gen X isvery different. Technology is completely a part of their lives. If youdon't have a Web site, they won't buy from you."

So devote some start-up costs to developing a Web site that is usefuland informational. Also consider making the site interactive, saysauthor of

Street-Smart Advertising

Margo Berman. Perhaps ask customersto submit their own commercials, like Dove did. Or start a blog or anewsletter. Berman says that companies like helpowners keep in contact with customers by email and e-survey for just $15a month.

Don't Discount Word of Mouth

Nothing is stronger than getting the seal of approval from a parent. Ablogging parent would be ideal. "A link on five blogs can give you morevisibility than money spent on advertising," says Florence Rolando,co-founder and managing partner of

Bubble Kids Trade Show


TheStreet Recommends

Publicize your product or company with friendson social networking sites like or "I gotseveral clients when I did it," says Laura Betterly, founder of

YadaYada Marketing

. "These social networks extendthat word of mouth. And it's free."

E-Retailing Is Your Friend

Between the kids and the career, parents simply don't have weekendsdevoted to shopping. Many open their wallets late at night online. So ifyou can afford it, add an e-retailing component to your Web site.

Include Dads

Unlike dads of the past, today's men take an active part in parentingdecisions. So don't talk down to them or portray them as inattentive. "Iremember reading that dads will especially do a ton of research on thegear end of things," says Associate Editor Brooke Showell.

Give Them What They Want

So what's important to parents nowadays? Lifestyle issues like productsmade with natural and sustainable materials, being organic and beinghealthy, says Showell. Betterly says helping parents save time is amust. Phanfare learned, after surveying its core audience, thatsecurity, long-term storage and giving customers the ability to addcomments and have friends add to the albums were paramount.

"We alsocreated a group feature which allows you to be connected withindividuals in a way that doesn't give them access to all of yourcontent," says Matthew Solomon, vice president of marketing. "It couldbe with parents at the day care center or a kid's softball team. Butthey wouldn't see your kids in the Bahamas."

Form and Function

How a product looks is just as important as what it is and how it canhelp, say the experts. When popular parenting Web site Urbanbaby.comscouts out new companies to feature, it is especially interested indesign. "Our readers are smart and sophisticated in terms of theirtaste," says Showell.

"Design is always a key factor for us. It also hasto serve a purpose and be of high quality. Our readers want top qualitybut don't want to be taken advantage of on price."

Rolando agrees, adding, "The boundaries between a kid's world and theparent's world is blurring. Today you find the same music in a father'siPod as in his teenager's. So parents are interested in things for theirkids that appeal to them. They want a stroller or a high chair that willmatch their car or living room."

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Lan Nguyen is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has written for the New York Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, Worth magazine and Star magazine.