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How to Use Psychographics to Better Target Your Marketing

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Read Time: 10 mins

Do you ever get the feeling that you don’t understand your customers? Sure, you might know some details about your group of target customers, such as whether they live in urban or rural areas, their age range, or their profession. But sometimes this isn’t enough when it comes to making marketing decisions.

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With psychographics you’ll be better equipped to create a marketing plan that truly reflects your customers' needs. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Almost every small business owner has encountered problems like:

  • creating quality products tailored according to customer tastes, only for these same customers to ignore the offer
  • not knowing why one customer segment buys one product, while another segment is more attracted to another product
  • not being able to replicate sales successes

This is where psychographics comes in. Psychographic data allows you to dive deep into the mind of your potential customer. You’ll understand their needs, preferences, the reasoning behind their decisions, and how to address all these in your marketing. 

In this post, we'll explore psychographics. You'll discover what it is and how to collect psychographic information. We'll also discuss psychographic marketing.

What Are Psychographics?

When it comes to market research, business owners tend to be more familiar with using demographics to define a target market. Demographic information could include the age range, income level, education, profession, or location of their target audience. If you need to review how to define your target market using demographics, you can brush up on the process with these tutorials:

To understand the difference it's important to define psychographics. Let’s start with the dictionary psychographics definition: It's the “study and classification of people according to their attitudes, aspirations, and other psychological criteria, especially in market research.” 

This means that while demographics describe our audience based on facts, psychographic information describes them based on their motivations. Demographics is about who they are and what they do. Psychographics explains why they act or decide the way they do.

Take a look at this case study of a marketing campaign for Canon Hong Kong. Their goal was to carve out a new target market for a new camera model. Going through the case study, you can identify the following demographics:

  • parents with kids
  • kids who are five to nine years old and their parents
  • middle income families

On the other hand, here are some identifiable psychographic criteria:

  • parents who are willing to buy digital cameras for their kids instead of smartphones, because digital cameras only have the function to do photography
  • parents who like to share photos of their children on social media
  • kids who are interested in photography

As a result of their approach, Canon was able to increase their market share.

Even if your business is of a different size or industry than the example above, you can clearly see the advantage of knowing the motivations behind your target market. By knowing how your potential customers think, you’ll do a better job of compelling them to use your products and services. 

Psychographics: How to Collect the Data

From the previous section, you now have some understanding of what psychographic criteria are and how they can contribute to marketing your business. It’s time to identify what types of information you should be looking for and how they can help you with your marketing. 

Data Needed for a Psychographic Profile

Here's the data you’d need to collect when building psychographic profiles of your target customers:

  1. Interests. These are the people, objects, topics, genres, and other things that attract the attention of your target market.
  2. Activities. This is similar to interests, except these are the things your target market actually does. Think of it this way: “Activities” are verbs, while interests are nouns. For example, if you list “football” as an interest, you can make it more specific by considering activities relevant to it. Does your target customer watch football, play it, play football video games, or all of the above? Each of these activities are very different, so we can assume that not all people interested in football will do all these activities.
  3. Attitudes/Opinions. These are the beliefs or ideas that people have about the world and themselves. These opinions could range from hot button topics like politics and culture, or could be as simple as their preferences such as what they believe a good breakfast looks like.
  4. Behaviors. These are the ways people react to or respond to themselves or the world around them, including other people, objects, organizations, or their environment. For example, a consumer who believes in using eco-friendly products might boycott products that are known to be harmful to the environment. This action would be part of their behavior, while being eco-friendly is merely their attitude or opinion.

You don’t need to find out all the above four types of data for every market you’re defining. Even using one or two of the above categories will give you a deeper understanding of the motivations of the potential customers you’re trying to reach. 

Where to Find Psychographic Information

Finding the right psychographic data to match your audience might be a bit of a challenge, but these four resources can help:

1. Surveys and Studies

If you already have a list of demographic characteristics, you can look up surveys and studies about that demographic and see if any psychographic findings show up. You can simply use a search engine like Google, and type in the demographic group you're targeting, along with the words "statistics" or "survey."

Psychographic characteristics from studiesPsychographic characteristics from studiesPsychographic characteristics from studies
A simple Google search can turn up many surveys and studies on your target market.

Since you'll have many results to comb through, this approach can take some time— especially since you need to verify the trustworthiness of the data. If the data you uncover comes from government, reputable organizations, academic institutions, or well-known market research firms, it's likely you can trust the results. Be wary of statistics that have no citation of sources, or studies with small sample sizes (for example, if only 30 people were interviewed instead of 300.) The good news is that if you find reputable studies, you'll be saved the resources needed to conduct your own surveys and focus groups. 

2. Market Research Firms

Market research organizations tend to provide a lot of information for free. You just need to look through their websites to find it. Here are some of the websites that can give you a lot of information about specific demographic groups, giving a lot of psychographic insight along the way:

Instead of navigating through every page on each of these sites, you can use the search terms "site:[insert URL of site here]" and add the keywords of your demographics. For example, if you want to look for any studies Nielsen has conducted that's relevant to the "moms" demographic, type in "site:nielsen.com mothers" into your search engine. Here are some of the results:

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You can search for studies on your selected demographics within the websites of research firms.

3. Claritas MyBestSegments

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MyBestSegments has market groups that combine both demographic and psychographic traits.

Claritas MyBestSegments has a collection of dozens of different target market groups, both with psychographic and demographic characteristics. Though the information is based on the United States market, even if you're targeting audiences from other countries it would be helpful to look at comparable market groups on their list. Not only will you get demographic information such as age range, income, and employment, you'll also get psychographic characteristics like technology use and lifestyle preferences.

In the example below, we're looking at the market group "Upward Bound." These are described as "upscale families boasting dual incomes, college degrees, and new homes." The overview of this segment also lists their online shopping behaviors and brand preferences. This approach makes MyBestSegments a good starting point when brainstorming possible psychographic characteristics of your target audience. 

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Overviews from MyBestSegments shows brand preferences, technology use, and shopping habits.

4. Facebook Audience Insights

Facebook Audience Insights is a tool for finding data about Facebook users. If you already have the demographics of your target markets, it can come in handy when looking for psychographic criteria to match.

Let’s say you’re selling organic produce online, and you’ve chosen to serve millennials in British Columbia, Canada. Here’s some of the data you might enter into the tool:

  • Location. British Columbia
  • Age. 20 to 35
  • Interests. Organic food 

Just from these two demographic items and one psychographic item, you can use Audience Insights to extrapolate the other characteristics of your audience. For example, the results below show that this audience group is very engaged on Facebook. They're likely to "Like" posts, leave comments, and click on ads so much more frequently than the average user.

Psychographics from Facebook Audience InsightsPsychographics from Facebook Audience InsightsPsychographics from Facebook Audience Insights
Facebook Audience Insights can give you an idea how your target audience will behave around Facebook content.

You can also see the other pages that your market tends to like, giving you more insight into their interests and activities:

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You can also use Facebook Audience Insights to learn about the other interests of your audience.

Since you've got to enter some criteria into a form, Facebook Insights works best to supplement any existing demographics or psychographics rather than for brainstorming psychographic criteria from scratch.

Psychographic Marketing

Once you've used the above tools to learn more about your target customers' motivations, it's time to apply it to your marketing plan. Are there ways for you to address their interests, activities, attitudes, opinions, and behaviors in your approach? Are there marketing channels you can use that align with their interests? Given the previous examples we've listed throughout this guide, here's how we can apply that information:

  • Millennials in British Columbia who like organic food tend to be very engaged when it comes to liking or commenting on Facebook posts, as well as clicking on ads. As a result, having a robust Facebook campaign can contribute to spreading your messages to that market.
  • Since Canon Hong Kong decided to target parents who like sharing photos of their kids on social media, they created a contest that rode on those behaviors. They hosted a kids' photo competition where social media was the venue.

If you need more guidance in coming up with the marketing plan with psychographic criteria in mind, these tutorials could help:

The Importance of Psychographics

Now that you know what type of psychographic factors you need, how to look them up, and how to use them to market your business, you’ll be better equipped at creating a marketing plan that truly reflects your customers' needs. Also, as you go deeper into your psychographic market segmentation, you’ll be able to deliver more personalized, compelling marketing messages to your different customer groups. This will give you an advantage over competitors who are stuck in the demographic mindset. Why not get started with psychographic marketing today?

Editorial Note: This content was originally published in 2018. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.

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