To the uninitiated, the field of psychographics may sound a little like a debunked “scientific” principle such as phrenology, but actually, it’s one of the most exciting developments in psychological analysis that marketers can leverage in their campaigns.
But what is psychographics? Why should you care? How can you use it? These are all questions we’ll be answering in this post. We’ll explore what psychographics is, what makes it so valuable to digital marketers, and nine amazing ways you can apply it to your campaigns.
Before we begin in earnest, though, let’s run through a quick primer on psychographics as a scientific discipline.
Psychographics is the study of people’s attitudes and interests, often studied in conjunction with typical demographic data to build more complete profiles of target markets and audiences.
Although psychographics is used in a variety of applications, its primary use is in market research. We can tell a great deal about a person simply by examining the demographic data about their life – their age, income level, education, occupation – but by itself, this data is only of limited use. It tells us nothing about their aspirations, their beliefs, their attitudes, or any other subjective psychological measure.
That’s what makes psychographics so powerful; by combining demographic data with psychographic data, we can build much more complete, sophisticated profiles of consumers based on a much richer picture of who they really are.
Now that we know a little more about what psychographics is, how do you go about gathering this invaluable data?
Although many of the metrics favored by digital marketers are quantitative, psychographics is more qualitative. Yes, psychographic data can and should be appropriately categorized, but psychographic data can be significantly more subjective and nuanced in comparison to traditional quantitative research methodologies.
If you’ve ever conducted market research, you probably already know what a tremendous pain in the ass it can be, particularly if you’re a freelance marketer or working as part of a smaller team with limited resources. That’s why many companies turn to dedicated market research firms to do the legwork for them. This offers several benefits, such as scientifically rigorous data collection methods and proper vetting to ensure integrity of the data.
It also presents a further budgetary consideration, as market research data – even generic white papers and reports – rarely comes cheap.
Conducting focus groups can be an excellent method of gathering psychographic data. It allows you to create testing audiences that adhere to your specifications (including your business’ ideal customers and established buyer personas).
The major drawback of focus groups is actually assembling them and gathering the data. Putting together a focus group can be a significant time-sink, and that’s before you even ask your first question. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that the information you gather will be actionable or even reliable.
Another method of psychographic data collection at your disposal is customer surveys and questionnaires.
This approach has many benefits, including the fact that surveys and questionnaires are relatively inexpensive to produce, can be distributed electronically for ease of completion by participants, and general consumer familiarity with this method of market research.
Image via Help Scout
Surveys and questionnaires do have their drawbacks, though, including few solid ways to overcome low respondent participation, and the potential unreliability or inaccuracy of the data itself – many people answer questionnaires in an aspirational way, meaning they may not respond completely truthfully to certain questions, especially questions on more contentious topics.
Perhaps the most time-efficient means of gathering psychographics data is using detailed analytics data.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are arguably better suited to the gathering of psychographic data by virtue of the wealth of personal information these services possess about their users. In particular, an individual’s personal interests can be immensely valuable psychographic data points, as can data that some individuals may not be as truthful about in a real-world setting like a focus group, such as their political beliefs.
As we mentioned above, psychographics is most commonly applied in the field of market research, specifically in the creation and development of detailed buyer personas. However, this is far from the only potential application of this fascinating data.
Let’s take a look at nine applications of psychographics you can use in your next campaign.
If you’ve ever run a Facebook Ads campaign, you’ll know how granularly you can target prospective customers. Targeting relevant audiences by interests is a viable strategy, but if you dig a little deeper into what really makes your audience tick, you’ll find a whole new world of possibilities opens up.
Once you’ve identified and refined your core audience, look for the psychographic commonalities that your target market shares. Are their political beliefs relevant? Does their affinity for certain brands or even specific products suggest wider underlying attitudes? (For example, mothers in their thirties who are also into yoga may be interested in broader health-related topics.) How do these consumers see themselves? These are all questions you can ask as the starting point for psychographic targeting research that could yield new opportunities you may not have considered previously.
We know that leveraging emotional triggers can be amazingly effective in online advertising. If we can write emotionally compelling ads using the bare minimum of information, imagine how much more effective your ads could be if you knew more about your target audience.
Using emotional triggers in ad campaigns is always a tentative balancing act, as what one person finds fascinating and enticing may be morally repugnant and utterly repellant to someone else.
However, psychographic data can reveal a great deal about your target market, allowing you to write emotionally powerful ads – negative or otherwise – that may improve your conversion rates considerably.
Hopefully, you’re already A/B testing most of your marketing collateral. However, incorporating psychographic data into A/B tests can result in even more revealing and accurate results.
Image via VWO
It’s important to note that when I say psychographics can be used to enhance A/B tests, I don’t necessarily mean the tests themselves. It’s very difficult to segment an A/B test by psychographic dimensions, simply because there’s no reliable way to determine or define a visitor’s psychographic profile at the moment they visit your site. I am, however, saying that psychographic analysis may yield valuable insights into why your visitors responded to the A/B test in the way they did.
For example, does a specific landing page you tested perform strongly because of something as simple as a design element or the wording of a call to action, or are there more complex underlying reasons that could have shaped visitors’ behavior? The main image on your landing page might resonate differently depending on your audience’s psychographic makeup.
Only you can decide whether this data is actionable, but the more you know about why visitors interacted with your site in the ways they did, the more accurately you can target your ideal prospects in the future.
One of my favorite content marketing concepts is what Larry calls “land and expand,” the process of broadening the breadth of your content topics to include tangentially relevant topics that are beyond your immediate business interest but are still relevant – and interesting – to your primary audience. This is an application of psychographic data that can really shine.
For example, here at WordStream, we know that many of our readers work in digital marketing – gasp! – but we also know that many are interested in broader trends in the technology industry, as we determined by analyzing analytics data from our social media accounts as well as our website.
Affinity categories in Google Analytics let you explore your site visitors’ interests
If we were to dig a little deeper into psychographic research, we could then ask more detailed questions when devising our wider content marketing strategies based on those interests. For example, we could investigate whether our readers’ interest in technology stems from an aspirational view of the world and how technology can solve urgent social problems, or whether this interest in tech is from a purely consumptive or entrepreneurial standpoint.
Twitter Analytics is an excellent source of psychographic data such as
Once you start to learn who your audience really is, you can “land and expand” much more effectively – a real boon for established blogs that may be experiencing difficulty in finding new topics to cover.
If you’ve set up custom conversion pathways in Google Analytics to measure the success of specific goals and objectives, incorporating psychographic data can be remarkably effective at identifying why people fail to convert and explaining more fully why people drop off at the point in the funnel that they do.
Let’s say you have a custom conversion pathway established in Google Analytics, and that this conversion pathway is tied to a specific business objective (which it should be, by the way). You may know that many prospects fail to convert on a specific landing page – but don’t know why.
A visualization of conversion pathways within Google Analytics
By applying the psychographic data you’ve gathered to a specific problem (i.e. why you’re losing people at a specific point in your funnel), you can examine the problem with a great deal more focus. Is the language of your landing pages turning off prospects because they perceive your business differently than you do? Does your brand messaging reinforce beliefs your audience already holds, or does it stand directly at odds with their perceptions of themselves as consumers?
The more you know about your target market, the more confidently you can hypothesize why the most vulnerable points of your sales funnel are failing – then shore them up.
We’ve talked about the importance of cultivating brand advocacy in the past, and for good reason. Brand evangelists are your most hardcore fans, and one of the best ways to encourage people to become loyal brand ambassadors for your company is to put your brand values on full display in everything you do. An easy way to do this is to compare the psychographic profiles of your most fiercely loyal followers and ensure that your wider messaging reflects these brand values.
Illustrated examples taken from Baileys’ brand value daybook. Original art by Serge Seidlitz.
The Lush cosmetics company is an excellent example of this principle in action. Obviously I don’t have actual psychographic data for Lush’s target market to hand, but the company makes sure that its commitment to ethically produced, environmentally friendly products made without the use of animal testing is front-and-center in its messaging. I’d bet my last dollar that this messaging strongly reinforces the personal values of Lush’s ideal customer.
How can you reinforce your brand values as part of your wider marketing messaging?
One of the great things about psychographics is that it gives you so much clearer an idea of not only who your target market is, but also what they want and how they feel. This, in turn, allows you to tap into your audience’s doubts, fears, and questions to create highly relevant and targeted email blasts.
We know that creating highly personalized email blasts is a great way to improve your open rates. Tapping into psychographic data allows you to do precisely this. You can also cross-reference existing analytics data from your email marketing campaigns to gain greater insight into why your most popular email blasts resonated so strongly with your readers – then replicate it.
Email marketing allows for certain concessions that other marketing campaigns may not, such as the use of using hypothetical questions as enticing subject lines, tying your company’s brand values to current events, and other creative techniques, all of which can be deepened by a greater understanding of your audiences’ psychographic profile.
One of the most revealing things you can learn about your prospects through the application of psychographics is not only who they are, but who they want to be. Aspirational messaging can be extraordinarily effective, and the more you know about your market, the more effectively you can leverage these aspirational desires in your campaigns.
At WordStream, we frequently remind our readers that people don’t buy products for its own sake; they buy things to solve their problems. As such, aspirational messaging can be amazingly powerful. It allows prospective customers to envision how your business can not only improve their lives in an immediate, problem-solving sense, but also how your business can help them become the people they want to be – a powerfully persuasive technique.
Our last tip might not be as exciting as the preceding tips, but it’s no less important.
Once you’ve gone through the trouble of gathering psychographic data about your target market, it’s vital that you either update existing buyer personas and message matrices to include this new information, or create new ones entirely.
Many companies use multiple buyer personas for each stage of the conversion funnel, and incorporating psychographic data into your existing personas is crucial to ensure your campaigns hit the mark. This also offers a range of other benefits, including the potential for more personalized messaging, a clearer and more comprehensive profile of your ideal customers for new hires, and ultimately, more effective marketing campaigns overall.
Psychographics is an exciting and fascinating field of study that can be immensely beneficial to marketers hoping to gain greater insight into what makes their target markets tick. Combining more subjective psychographic data with traditionally empirical marketing metrics can be tricky, but the potential gains make it well worth exploring.
If you’re using psychographics in your campaigns, I’d love to hear your experiences – get at me in the comments with ideas or suggestions!
Originally from the U.K., Dan Shewan is a journalist and web content specialist who now lives and writes in New England. Dan’s work has appeared in a wide range of publications in print and online, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Pacific Standard magazine, The Independent, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other outlets.
See other posts by Dan Shewan
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