There is a debate raging among my colleagues as to the value of focus groups. One camp says they are worthless – group bias, sterile settings, deceitful participants, ignorance, poor moderators, etc. make any information gathered too tainted to be of real use.
The other camp maintains that focus groups, with proper screening and a talented moderator, can produce useful, relevant insights.
I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other. But I will say this. If you’re a small to medium business or a marketer who wants to learn something about how your customers really think – there is value in gathering together a group, in a natural setting, and letting them loose, talking freely about a subject.
I know a writer who put together an article for Best Life (a division of Men’s Health). Her subject? “What do women really want from men.” The magazine sprang for a swanky hotel suite, lots of free flowing wine, and gathered seven women from very different backgrounds – from a rock singer, to a pregnant actress, to a high powered stock broker – for a frank discussion. My writer pal turned on the tape recorder, posed the questions and let the group go.
So what do women really want from men? Some of the answers you might expect – many were surprising.
What turns you on?
– "360 thread count sheets. Some guys still have the same bedding from college"
– "Good shoes are a turn on"
– "Good hygiene"
– "The way men treat people on the phone. I fell in love with a guy because of the way he spoke to the operator."
– "You know what’s a total turn on – when a man says ‘I want to spend time with you.’ Time is a valuable commodity these days and it’s sexy to know you’re a priority."
What’s the smartest thing a guy has ever said to you in bed?
– “You’re the thinnest woman I’ve ever been with”
– “You are my best friend”
– “Let’s talk about safe sex” – It’s easier to have sex than talk about it.
– “You look so sexy pregnant” – Don’t change your view of me sexually because I’m the mother of your child.
– "Calling me by the right name"
Have you ever cheated?
– "I’ve cheated on every man I’ve ever dated"
– "Only when I’m in a foreign country"
– "Only at the end of a relationship when I’m looking to make the switch"
– "Women are just as afraid of monogamy in marriage as men. But if you still want to date – you shouldn’t get married"
There’s a lot more juicy stuff – but much of it is a little too racy for this blog. My point here is – gathering some women together for some honest open dialogue can be really mind opening.
If you were selling a product that was related to what women want from men – would the above discussion spark some ideas?
This technique should be used for gathering qualitative information, not quantitative information. In other words – don’t use the information to decide on your product line. But you can use it for insight that could spark some interesting creative ideas, marketing discussion, etc. Just getting outside of your perspective and seeing your business/product/subject through someone else’s eyes can be a valuable learning experience.
Besides…..you just can’t make this stuff up.