How to (Actually) Connect with Your Customers Through Psychographics

Farouk (‘rouk)
Nov 15, 2019 · 6 min read
Photo by Max Andrey on Unsplash

The campaign failed miserably; we knew we were in deep trouble.

We knew we should have gone the extra mile.

Invested in what we needed, stayed late one more night, maybe even got a cheaper version of what we thought we needed. After a failed campaign, picking up the pieces and spinning the narrative of what happened to clients was never fun.

During my time working at advertising agencies in NYC, I had the pleasure of being a marketing analyst before becoming a digital strategist.

What always interested me about my role was how the framing of numbers and data could be formed to tell whatever story you want. In the case of failed campaigns, I’m sure you can imagine the twists and turns numbers can make when it comes to creating a story — creating your story.

After years of helping to strategize, execute, and measure marketing campaigns, I noticed one significant difference between a majority of the winners and losers. Although most campaigns began with the same process, the process they end with varied.


Trust the process

Within many traditional advertising agencies, the best practice is to start a campaign by looking at demographics.

Demographics are defined as “statistical data relating to the population and particular groups within it.” If someone wanted to understand your demographics, they might look at things like your:

This level of information is where many people start with making their marketing plans, and why wouldn’t they?

If you’re trying to sell someone the latest video game system, you probably want to target a lower age range than people who would be considered senior citizens. There are always exceptions to the rule, but younger people would be more into video games than senior citizens.

Demographic information can be beneficial because it gets you within the ballpark of people you are trying to reach, a clear group of people. Being inside the ballpark is still better than being outside.

However, this way of thinking can only get you so far.

Using the video game system example I mentioned, what happens when two months into an expensive advertising campaign for the video game system, you suddenly find that senior living centers have a brand new video game they happen to love?

It can happen. It has happened.

Yet, you overlooked it because your demographic information did a good job, which is a problem. Good is not enough in this case.

Good is the enemy of great

Many people still make the mistake of relying on demographic information, when we, as individual humans, are much more complicated than a set of demographics.

As humans, we have life experiences that continue to shape us in both small and large ways. No one has the same story, which is what makes demographic information a good starting point when you’re trying to connect with a specific audience.

But there is a problem with this.

When you think about most people, you can likely see parts of their personality that don’t fit within these lines set by demographics — parts of their nature that do not fit within a stereotype.

There’s a ton of demographic data available, but now we have much more important information at our disposal. Psychographics can unlock doors that you never knew existed.

Enter psychographics

The definition of psychographics is “the study and classification of people according to their attitudes, aspirations, and other psychological criteria, especially in market research.”

While demographics are focused on who you are at a basic level, psychographics explain how you feel about things.

I’m sure you can already imagine how having this type of information can change your marketing for the better. Nowadays, our marketing is becoming more targeted, and we can adapt our marketing to people with a specific belief system.

We now have many common interests that bring everyone together.

Music brings everyone together

One area of a person’s interests where psychographics tends to shine through is within musical genres. Regardless of your background, socio-economic status, or age, music transcends across demographics.

There is no way to accurately tell how certain people will respond to certain types of music. It’s deep within us, but some of us feel special when we hear the sound of a piano or guitar used right. These feelings open the space within musical genres for more fans, especially rap fans.

We know this is true when it comes to rap music

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge fan of rap music.

In the neighborhood I grew up in, it was just what you listen to. We would debate about who could rap better, write our own rhymes, and thoroughly admired the lifestyle of our favorite rappers:

Although a (small) part of me wishes I could forget about it, I remember these times vividly. What I never anticipated was that I would meet people from entirely different walks of life who I would connect with through rap music.

I don’t share these experiences because I secretly wish I could live some of these moments again, I’m sharing because they demonstrate the power that psychographics have those demographics don’t.

Psychographics reach down to the core of who we are.

People like us do things like this

In Seth Godin’s most recent book, This Is Marketing; he has a chapter titled “people like us do things like this.” He even wrote a short blog post about it.

Seth refers to thinking of marketing in a more psychographic way as creating a “tribal connection,” a clear connection between a group of people and how they do things.

“More than features, more than benefits, we are driven to become a member in good standing of the tribe. We want to be respected by those we aspire to connect with, we want to know what we ought to do to be part of that circle.” — Seth Godin

Most of us know what it feels like to belong to a social circle that has its norms. A social circle that has its philosophies about what is right, wrong, and how they choose to live life.

Sometimes this connection can be made through a small activity like running, but other times, it can be created through a more devoted activity like practicing a religion. Either way, thinking about how “people like us do things like this” should help you think about your marketing plans more strategically.


Feeling convinced? Here are two tips to get you started

If you Google search anything about marketing and psychographics, you will find that many resources can help you with implementation along the way. In the meantime, here are two big things you need to know.

1. There’s no shortcut for speaking with customers

If there is no reliable psychographic information available around your audience, you need to interview them. These interviews will help you learn about the ways they think, why they buy from you, what value they receive from you, and any other valuable information they will share around their preferences.

This type of interview process with customers goes by many names, but you can usually refer to them as customer research interviews or target profile interviews. The important part is that you understand that you are there to listen.

2. Listen, never assume.

It’s common for business owners and entrepreneurs to assume they completely understand their customers.

Without ever genuinely exploring their customer’s thoughts first-hand, they assume they understand all of their customer’s motivations.

That assumption is wrong.

In my experience, customers almost always say things that shock people who thought they knew their customers inside and out. Getting these different inputs from people can provide extremely valuable insight because you get to tap into the different ways people think of and approach your brand. You get to uncover useful psychographic information that neither you nor your competitors would have considered in a room alone.

This, my friend, is the power of psychographics. Take the extra step; it will be worth it in the long run.

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Farouk (‘rouk)

Written by

NYC based Marketer, Video Maker & Wellness Enthusiast. If you enjoy any of my writing, your feedback would really help me!→ www.byrouk.com/newsletter

The Startup

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