Pretend you have two prospects sitting in front of you. On paper, these prospects seem identical in nearly every way. Both are young professionals between the ages of 25 and 30 who live and work in the same city. Both prospects identify as female, work in the same profession, earn a similar salary and have visited your business website a handful of times.
But one of these women regularly interacts with your marketing content and purchases your products while the other prospect seems to go out of her way to avoid your brand. She’s unsubscribed from your emails, unfollowed your company across all social media platforms and hasn’t made a single purchase from your website.
So, what gives? What did you miss when bucketing these sales prospects into the same marketing campaigns? Enter psychographic data.
What is Psychographic Data?
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, psychographic data is similar to demographic data. But demographic data tells you who your prospect is whereas psychographic data tells you why a prospect decides to make a purchase. Psychographic data points include less quantifiable traits like interests, personality traits, value systems, critical motivators, hobbies, likes, dislikes and more.
Let’s return to our two hypothetical prospects. Although they appear similar on paper, a quick look at psychographic factors tells us the two women are incredibly different from one another. One prospect characterizes herself as active and focused on healthy living but also shy, introverted and extremely private. The other prospect tends to be more outgoing, likes socializing and is motivated by the status that comes from purchasing luxury items – often broadcasting new purchases, personal details and career changes across social media that seem to indicate a certain financial status.
Had you known this information ahead of time, chances are, you would market your products and services to these prospects in two very different ways.
Now, it may seem like psychographic data points are more subjective and therefore more difficult to nail down. But those who’ve studied the use of psychographic data in marketing have pared psychographics down into three digestible categories. These are as follows:
- Social class.
In this next section, we break down each of these categories a little further and dig into the various classifications and data points that come together to form a person’s personality, lifestyle or social class.
Although human beings are wildly unpredictable and unique, Joseph Chris Partners recognized seven common “types” of personalities among the average consumer or customer. These are as follows:
- Belongers: Belongers seek acceptance. Those with this personality type like to go with the crowd and don’t like to stand out from the group.
- Achievers: Achievers are characterized by their ambition. This group is often made up of busy, upwardly mobile individuals who sometimes make large, materialistic purchases to symbolize their success.
- Emulators: Those classified as emulators often wish to be or see themselves as achievers but, in reality, they lack the critical skills they need to become a true achiever. The emulator often makes large purchases similar to the achiever, but it’s only a facade, as they often can’t afford such luxuries.
- Saviors: Saviors are similar to achievers in that they strive to be productive, but different in that the hard work they’re known for is done in an effort to improve the world around them rather than for their own gain. Saviors are typically socially conscious individuals who give without asking for anything in return.
- Doomsdayers: This personality type is described as marching to the beat of their own drum. Doomsdayers don’t like to rely on others. But, they’ll be incredibly loyal to a brand or company who has earned their trust.
- Integrators: Integrators are somewhat of a combination of Achievers and Saviors. A person in this group works like an achiever but gives like a savior.
- Survivalists: Survivalists are just what the name suggests – they are merely surviving. A typical survivalist is living paycheck to paycheck and hasn’t amassed many material items or assets to show for themselves. They’re often very strict with the money they spend out of fear they won’t have enough.
Now, we know not every single one of your prospects or customers can neatly be filed away into one of these categories, but it’s a good place to start. And, as you encounter certain behavior patterns, you may find it relatively easy to come up with your own personality types that apply to your customer base in particular.
A customer’s lifestyle can be summed up using something referred to as AIO variables – activities, interests and opinions. Here’s a quick look at each of these variables:
- Activities: This might seem self-explanatory, but a person’s lifestyle is often dictated by the activities they enjoy. The activity itself, though important, isn’t the only data point to consider. Other aspects to dive into include the depth at which the person explores each activity – i.e. are they a beginner or are they more advanced – and the amount of money they’re willing to spend to pursue each activity.
- Interests: Activities and interests, although similar, are characterized by one main difference. An activity is something you do or participate in whereas an interest is something you engage with. To take it one step further, an interest is something a person derives joy from engaging with.
Let’s look at an example that clearly illustrates the difference between the two. A person might be interested in sports, so they watch their favorite football team every week and they keep up with certain college teams. This interest might dictate their willingness to spend more money on their cable package, whereas a person who participates in high school football (i.e. an activity) might be more inclined to purchase certain gear or equipment.
- Opinions: An opinion is an attitude or belief held by a person about a specific concept, product, item or thing. Opinions dictate what activities a person participates in and what interests they tend to hold.
Again, this is not a comprehensive list of factors that determine what a person’s lifestyle looks like – but, it’s a good place to start when integrating psychographic data into a marketing strategy for the very first time.
Each prospect, customer or consumer falls into a particular social class determined by their income, buying power and spending habits. Let’s take a closer look at how the classifications of upper, middle and lower class come into play as psychographic data points.
- Upper Class: The upper class, though considered wealthy by most standards, can be split into two separate factions – the top upper class and the bottom upper class. The top upper class has inherited wealth, they tend to spend lavishly and have never truly experienced the struggle of not having enough. The bottom upper class tends to have earned their wealth themselves. This group tends to spend less lavishly but isn’t afraid to spend money on the things they want and need.
- Middle Class: The middle class is comfortable financially, with some wiggle room to spend on extras. Although, like the lower upper class, the middle class tends to spend money only after very careful consideration.
- Lower Class: For the most part, the upper lower class has enough money to cover the basic necessities of the average human but leave little money left for saving or extra expenses. Most of the lower class lives in a state of emergency or fear of not having enough.
Social class, more than personality and lifestyle, heavily influences how people spend their money. For this reason, social class is incredibly important to understand as a marketer.
Applications of psychographic data in content marketing
Now that you have a more thorough understanding of psychographic data and how it helps marketers develop deeper customer insights, let’s take a look at specific applications and use cases.
1. Evaluate your current branding through a psychographic lens
Branding is how you connect and communicate with customers. If you develop a branding strategy without putting much thought into the psychographics of your customer base, your messaging might not resonate as well as you initially thought.
Demographic data is a great place to start when it comes to developing branding, but it can leave out a lot of important considerations which ultimately alienates potential customers.
Pretend your target audience is made up of young professionals – on paper, there are a million ways to position products to this market. But your team decides to appeal to the millennial proclivity toward brand names. The goal is to create an elite must-have, difficult-to-obtain brand name.
Although there’s something to be said for brand exclusivity, this decision isn’t quite in line with the personality, social status and lifestyle of your existing customers.
But, with access to psychographic insight, you come to the following conclusion: As young professionals, your target audience doesn’t have a lot of expendable income to spend on flashy brand names. Instead, your audience is worried about sustainability, quality and getting the most bang for their buck.
Looking at branding through a psychographic lens, you decide it’s better to position your products as smart, high-quality investment pieces that will last a lifetime. This messaging resonates with your hypothetical audience and also demonstrates your commitment to shared values. As a result, young professionals feel more confident spending their money on your products.
2. Segment your campaigns using psychographic differentiators
Once you have access to psychographic insights, you can then use key psychographic differentiators to segment your campaigns. Just as you might segment campaigns for a clothing brand based on age or gender, you can also segment campaigns based on psychographic data points like values, personality traits, interests and so much more.
Often, psychographic data points tend to tell marketers much more than demographic data points like age, job title or location.
3. Create hyper-targeted advertising campaigns
Modern marketers use a variety of platforms to advertise their products and services. And, just as marketing tactics have evolved, so have the platforms we use to go to market. The point being – many advertising platforms now offer advanced psychographic targeting based on niche interests, values and more.
Therefore, if you’re not taking advantage of this functionality, you’re falling behind competitors who are in tune with the psychographic attributes of the same audience.
4. Refine your organic and paid keyword strategies
Although this next statement may seem a bit obvious, it’s important: Human qualities like social class, lifestyle and personality have a huge impact on the language a person uses. As a result, psychographic data influences the way your prospects are searching for your brand through both paid and organic avenues.
A brand selling cars to the top upper class will want to appear for searches using terms like luxury, expensive, high-class and more. On the flip-side, a more affordable car company will want to target terms like, cost-effective, fuel-economy, inexpensive and more.
For this reason, we recommend taking a look at the types of terms you’re bidding on and optimizing your website for.
5. Develop new content ideas
A large part of content marketing is determining which topics – whether directly or tangentially – are of interest to your audience. Psychographic data can dramatically expand the universe of topics you cover as a business.
Continuing with our hypothetical car companies – the luxury car brand could branch out into lifestyle content and imagery related to high-end vacations, restaurants and more. The more affordable car brand might want to branch out into topics related to cutting costs, saving money as a family and sustainability.
6. Prioritize marketing channels and budgeting
Psychographic data can also provide information about which content types, campaigns and channels your audience prefers. An audience interested in DIY, cooking or makeup tutorials will be far more active on platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and Etsy, whereas an audience interested in the latest sports news may spend more time on Twitter, news websites and email.
This information allows you to prioritize the different channels you spend the most time and budget on for a more cost-effective marketing program.
How to collect psychographic data
Now if you’ve made it this far in today’s article, you’re likely asking yourself, how can I collect, access and analyze psychographic data? Although there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, there are several tried and true methods marketers swear by. Let’s get into it!
1. Customer surveys
A relatively easy way to gather information about your customers is by conducting a survey – through a paid or free tool. Simply create the survey and encourage customers to complete it by including a link in visible locations across your website or in-product, through email or social media campaigns, or by reaching out to customers individually.
Include questions outside the realm of topics directly related to your products or services. Let’s look at some example customer survey questions that will help you uncover important information about the personality, lifestyle and social class of your customers:
- Do you prefer going along with a group or standing out of the crowd?
- If you have an idea at work, but know most of the group will disagree with it, would you rather keep quiet to fit in or speak up regardless of how you’ll be perceived?
- How often do you purchase non-essential items that cost more than $100, $1,000 or $5,000?
- What type of car do you drive? And, what’s your dream car?
- How often do you make non-essential purchases that you can’t necessarily afford at the time?
- How often do you regret making non-essential purchases?
- Would the people around you describe you as helpful, giving or selfless?
- When is the last time you donated to charity?
- Do you ever spend time volunteering?
- Do you consider yourself to be a team player?
- Do you often avoid relying on others for help if you don’t have to?
- Has anyone ever described you as someone who marches to the beat of their own drum?
- Do you consider yourself to be introverted or extroverted?
- Are you loyal to specific brands or companies? Or do you make purchases without paying much attention to the brand or company?
- Do you often find yourself living paycheck to paycheck?
- Which of the following items would you consider of interest to you?
- Which of the following items do you actively participate in?
- Which categories have you purchased from in the last six months?
- How would you describe your political beliefs?
- How would you describe your religious beliefs?
- How would you describe your own social status?
A good way to ensure honest answers is to make your survey 100% anonymous. It’s also important to explain exactly what the results will be used for – so your customers don’t feel as if their privacy is being invaded or fear discrimination or retribution for unfavorable answers.
2. Focus groups or interviews
Similar to our previous suggestion, focus groups or customer interviews are a great way to collect psychographic data points about your customer base. The benefit of choosing an in-person option over an online option is that you can often convince customers to be more candid with their responses, you can ask follow-up questions to clarify anything confusing and you have additional body language, tone and facial expressions to provide context to each person’s responses.
One drawback of in-person conversations is that they lack the anonymity of the internet, where online surveys can provoke more honest, critical answers.
3. Website analytics
Another readily available source of psychographic data resides within your website analytics platform. Whether you use Google Analytics or another analytics platform, most modern website tools provide information about visitor behavior, interests, purchases and more.
Within Google Analytics specifically, you’ll find a menu option for “Audience.” Once selected, users have the ability to choose between options like demographics, interests, behavior and more. Although this data may not be helpful for some companies, it’s a great place to start if you have yet to explore the world of psychographics.
If nothing else, your website analytics can help confirm insights you uncover through other data collection tactics.
4. Market research
If all else fails to return helpful psychographic insights surrounding your core customers, you may want to turn to a company or firm that specializes in market research.
Although this option is the most expensive on the list, the benefits of going this route are clear – companies who specialize in market research are equipped with the best technology, have access to data and information you can’t get your hands on, and they have experience collecting psychographic data.
Key considerations about psychographic data in marketing
Modern marketers know basic demographic data points no longer cut it when it comes to understanding and marketing to customers. Instead, marketers must leverage all the information available about their audience in order to offer personalized marketing content and buying experiences.
Because of this, psychographic data provides critical context to customer behavior and therefore, it has the power to completely transform your marketing efforts.