Even for gender-neutral products, conduct some focus groups for “women only.” Why? In “Marketing to Women: Communication Keys” I explained that male and female communication styles are considerably different. Sociolinguists like Dr. Deborah Tannen have found that groups of mixed gender default to male patterns of conversation and interaction. Women become more reserved and less participatory. They don’t play the competitive “game” that prevails when men are expressing divergent opinions, and because they are less likely to interrupt, hold the floor, or insist on their opinions, they simply won’t offer as much information.
And you need that information. While men can give you the big picture, the broad brushstrokes about a product or marketing response, women can give you something different-and more helpful to your marketing research.
As we know, women are more likely to perceive detail and nuance and to think in the context of people and lifestyle. And the details that are important are the ones that related to people and lifestyle, not technical specs or performance stats. In these days where every marketer is trying to differentiate his brand from a host of very similar products and services, it’s the details that make the difference.
If you structure your research to let them, women can give you feedback and ideas to help you improve your product, merchandising, store environment, delivery, customer service and online presence. Talking to women-or rather, listening to them-is the best way to provide yourself with the points of difference that will make or break you versus the competition.
Because make is definitely preferable to break, in the next article, we’ll look at three nontraditional approaches to market research. These are designed to tap into women’s energy and honesty when they’re talking to each other.