Women Know What They Want…Keep Asking

what_women_want1Most marketers targeting “women” know how challenging it can be. Let’s face it, when you are marketing to a group who’s prerogative is to change their minds, you’ve got your work cut out for you. And if you think you have it figured out, prepare to be schooled.

Former University of Pennsylvania frat boy, Ryan Harwood, thought he knew women. He had grown up with a sister and his mother’s best friend had four daughters. He knew they generally controlled much of the household budget and were primarily “chief purchasing officers” for their families. He also  did his research into existing studies and focus group data.

Harwood eventually convinced a company targeting women to hire him to manage its email newsletter, an offshoot of its website. He continued his research and hosted more focus groups of women of various ages. He asked them what they liked to read online, what they didn’t like–and says he got some intuition-defying answers.

1. Women of all ages are sick of parenting advice. Focus groups told me mommy-blog space is oversaturated, Harwood says. Even parents were sick of being pigeonholed as being only interested in reading about parenting.

2. Women don’t necessarily read what’s targeted at them. About 25% of the women at the focus groups said they were reading magazines and websites for much younger women. Women well into their 20s, for example, were picking up Seventeen. Why? Because nothing served them better. Younger publications are very fashion-forward.

3. Women don’t define themselves by their narrow interests. Women in Harwood’s focus groups told him it’s fine for publications to write specifically for women, but they didn’t like being categorized any further. Harwood says: “The message was, don’t silo me. Don’t say I’m a divorcée, a mom, an office worker. We are women at the core, and identify with that, regardless of stage of life.”

Another lesson Harwood learned was to expect the unexpected, and not to bank 100% on focus group data. While women said they wanted to read about wine, turned out they didn’t really. Yet, surprisingly to him, technology articles on his company’s website are often the most extensively shared. Neither of which he saw coming.

Three takeaways from Harwood’s lessons…don’t believe you have women figured out, keep asking, be willing to modify assumptions as needed, and admit it when you are wrong.



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