If you’ve been reading our articles (thanks!), you know that customer segmentation is essential for discovering, learning about and reaching out to not only your customers, but also potential customers in your target market.
In addition to our overview on customer segmentation, you may have seen our deep dive into behavioral segmentation, as well. In that article, we discussed the importance of learning about your customers in terms of who they are as consumers.
Today, we’re going to talk about the importance of learning about your customers as people.
In this article, we’ll talk about what psychographic segmentation uncovers, as well as the reasoning behind segmenting your customers in this way. We’ll then look at some information regarding best practices for obtaining this data and what you can do with the data once you’ve collected it.
Sound good? Great, let’s get started…
What is Psychographic Segmentation, and Why Is It Important?
As mentioned, psychographic segmentation requires that you look past who your customers are as it pertains to your company and see them as individual people living in the real world.
To do this, you’ll need to learn about and understand their:
- Social Class(es)
While the purpose of behavioral segmentation is more geared toward understanding how you can press a customer’s “buying button,” the purpose of psychographic segmentation is to understand how your product or service – and your brand – fit into your customers’ lives.
By collecting psychographic segmentation data, you’ll gain an understanding of:
- What your customers value in life
- Pain points your customers face throughout their lives
- Misgivings and hesitations your customers have regarding the service you provide
- How you can help your customers in a way that they will find valuable
By gaining an understanding of these aspects of your customers’ lives, you’ll be able to tweak the products or services you offer in order to provide maximum value to your target audience. In turn, your customers will truly feel as if your services were created just for them and will be much more likely to do business with you far into the future.
3 Categories of Psychographic Information
As mentioned earlier, psychographic information falls into one of three categories: personality, lifestyle or social class.
As we work through each of these categories, you’ll begin to see that they often play off one another, in that individuals who can be described as a certain personality type will tend to fall into a specific category of lifestyle and/or social class.
However, it’s important to note that such over-generalization is what you should be trying to avoid in the first place.
In other words, though you may notice certain patterns while segmenting your audience based on psychographics, it’s essential to notice the anomalies you’ll undoubtedly come across, too. In fact, this seemingly-inconsistent data could end up uncovering an entire segment of your audience that you had previously overlooked.
That being said, let’s take a look at each category of psychographics, as well as some of the most common subcategories of each.
In psychographics, an individual’s personality consists of…well…who they are as a person.
While segmenting your customers based on personality, you’ll consider factors such as their beliefs, their morals, their motivations, and their overall outlook on life.
The following subcategories are based on personality types as defined by Joseph Chris Partners.
However, before we list these subcategories, note that these are merely suggestions based on a typical customer base of a typical company within a typical industry. In other words, the data you uncover might warrant that you create your own personality subcategories to better define your individual customers.
- Belongers: As the name suggests, individuals in this group are more “mainstream” than those in the categories to follow. They constantly seek to fit a common mold, and don’t really like to stand out in a crowd.
- Achievers: People in this group are incredibly ambitious, always busy, and aim to be upwardly mobile. They feel the need to constantly be productive and are always working to better their lives. They also tend to be materialistic, in that they will make large purchases to symbolize their success in life.
- Emulators: Emulators would love to reap the benefits of being Achievers, but they’re missing either the skillset or work ethic to actually get there. To make up for what they consider to be shortcomings, Emulators make large purchases they can’t afford in order to appear successful.
- Saviors: Saviors work to achieve greatness not for themselves, but for the world as a whole. They’re socially-conscious individuals who give and give of themselves, and rarely (if ever) ask for anything in return.
- Doomsdayers: These individuals are the polar opposite of both Belongers and Saviors. They march to the beat of their own drum, and tend to not rely on anyone else for much of anything. But they also will be incredibly loyal to any person or organization they do trust.
- Integrators: Think Achiever plus Savior. Integrators are hard-working individuals who have amassed vast amounts of wealth and who have begun giving back to their community and the world.
- Survivalists: These individuals are those who work paycheck to paycheck and don’t have much to show for themselves. Because they live in constant fear of losing everything due to a downturn, they’re often incredibly frugal and only spend money when it’s absolutely necessary.
Now, the point of separating consumers into these categories isn’t to determine how you can market to each category. That simply won’t happen (e.g., no Survivalist is going to purchase a Rolex under any circumstances).
Instead, it’s to determine the subcategories that consist of individuals who are most likely to get value out of your product or service – and to begin to understand even more about them in the process.
To get a good picture of an individual customer’s lifestyle, you’ll need to analyze three “dimensions” of their life:
Though commonly referred to as “AIO Variables” (Activities-Interests-Opinions), I’ve decided to list these factors in a different order, which we’ll discuss momentarily.
First, we’ll take a look at each of these aspects in isolation, then wrap up the section by explaining how each relates to one another.
We’ve talked about the importance of understanding a customer’s attitude toward a specific notion or idea before.
An individual’s attitude toward or opinion of something (anything) is created by a confluence of:
- The degree to which that “something” is important to their life
- Deep-seated beliefs held by said individual
As such, opinions may be based on a person’s logical understanding of an idea…or they may be based on a preconceived notion that person holds within them. No matter the case, though, you’d be hard-pressed to change a person’s opinion once it is fully formed.
A person’s level of interest toward a given something is the degree of excitement they get from engaging with – or even thinking about engaging with – said something.
When researching a customer’s interests, you might choose to first use a broad scope, narrowing your focus as you begin to understand more about them.
For example, you might first determine that a customer enjoys competitive sports. You then might be able to determine that their sport of preference is baseball. At this point, you’d know you have a good chance of creating a sale if you were to market certain baseball-related equipment to this individual.
Does this mean that you don’t have a chance of selling other sports equipment (or something else entirely) to this same person? Absolutely not. But, if you were to skip the broad categorization and hone right in on their intense love of baseball, you might unintentionally miss the fact that they’re also a huge hockey fan, as well.
Understanding your customers’ interests is essential – even if these interests have seemingly little to do with the product or service you offer. This brings us to…
When we talk about activities here, we’re talking about a few different things:
- The activities a person enjoys (and will spend money to engage in)
- The depth to which they “dive into” said activity
- The way in which they go about making purchases for said activity
Obviously, a person interested in playing baseball is going to need to purchase a variety of equipment, such as a glove, a bat, balls, etc. Depending on their level of interest, they might also purchase cleats, shinguards, and a helmet. They might also invest in hitting or throwing lessons, or put money toward a membership in a local league.
Two separate individuals with the same level of interest might also vary in how they decide on which product to purchase. While one might do their own research on which type of (and quality of) equipment to buy, another might consult a peer or a specialist.
As mentioned in the introduction, we’ve covered this behavioral aspect of making purchases in our past article on behavioral segmentation. Check it out if you haven’t already.
The reason I listed Opinions/Attitudes, Interests, and Activities in the order I did is because each one precedes the next:
- A person forms an opinion about a certain something
- They then learn more about that something (or ignore it completely)
- They then take action with regard to that something (or, again, don’t)
In other words, opinions are the motivation for a person becoming interested in something, and their interest in that something is the motivation behind them taking action. Without an opinion or an interest in something, a person has no reason to engage with it.
It is, however, possible to have an opinion on something and be interested by it, but not take action on it. In fact, it can be said that a marketer’s job is to bridge the gap that allows a customer to take this initial action without feeling like they’re risking a major setback or loss in life.
Of all the categories of psychographics, social class is the most straightforward. That being said, let’s quickly go through classes which the population is usually divided into.
Note: The following list isn’t “official” in any sense; it’s just meant to describe the “typical” circumstances and mindsets of a person in a given class.
- Top-Upper Class: Members of this class are the richest of the rich. These individuals have, for the most part, inherited their wealth from generations past, and – again, for the most part – have never experienced circumstances in which money was an issue. As such, they tend to spend lavishly and without much consideration for price.
- Bottom-Upper Class: Members of this class did not inherit their wealth as much as they have earned it themselves. While not necessarily considered “rags to riches,” they know how much effort, knowledge, and even luck it takes to reach the level they’ve reached. While they don’t spend money with reckless disregard, they also aren’t afraid to go out and buy what they want, either.
- Top-Middle Class: Members of the top-middle class are in a comfortable enough financial situation that they are able to focus on growing their career or business. Similar to bottom-upper class individuals, they don’t spend money without careful consideration – but they can afford to provide themselves and their families with a certain amount of the “finer things in life.”
- Bottom-Middle Class: In this class, you have the white- or grey-collar workers. These individuals live conventional lives and are able to provide the basics for their families (along with some extras here and there). Their large purchases are made with careful consideration in terms of finances and logistics.
- Top-Lower Class: This class typically consists of blue-collar workers who make enough money to get buy, but don’t have much left over after supplying the basics to themselves and their families. Because of this, they are always in “defense” mode, looking to work as much as possible to save up what little money they can.
- Bottom-Lower Class: These individuals are either under- or unemployed, and live well below what most would consider a decent standard of living. They spend what little money they do make on the bare essentials – but sometimes opt to forego these essentials in favor of extraneous distractions.
As we mentioned earlier, all three of these categories tend to coexist with one another.
For example, an individual who could be considered an Integrator is almost certainly a member of the upper-class, as they would need vast amounts of wealth to be able to live the life of a philanthropist. On the other hand, a Survivalist is likely a member of the top-lower class: continuously fighting to stay afloat, with little time or money to actually enjoy their lives.
In terms of AIO variables, which of these two individuals would be a better target for a travel company selling all-inclusive trips to the Bahamas? Again, while the prospect of going on such a trip is likely to interest almost anyone, when it comes to taking action, only one of the two will actually be able to afford the ticket.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should pigeonhole your marketing initiatives and target only one specific segment of your audience. It means you need to figure out how to tweak your products, services, and offers in order to reach as much of your audience as possible – while still making a profit.
We’ll get more into that in a bit, but first let’s take a look at the ways in which you can collect psychographic information in the first place.
4 Ways to Collect Psychographic Data
Collecting psychographic data is a bit different than collecting more objective data.
Collecting demographic information, for example, requires you simply determine factual information about your customers, such as their gender and age group.
On the other hand, collecting psychographic data requires that you look into the “data behind the data,” so to speak. Your customers simply aren’t going to say, “I’m a ‘Belonger!’” or “I’ve never once thought about jetskiing, but I’d be interested in it if you show me what it’s all about!”
So, as we’ve alluded to throughout this article, your job as a marketer is to discover information about the whole person, and then tie the pertinent information back to how this helps you understand them as a consumer.
And you can do that by using the following strategies:
Both semantic differential scale questions and Likert scale surveys are useful for painting a full picture of an individual customer. While SDS questions focus on learning about a customer’s attitudes toward and level of interest in a given subject, Likert scale questions allow your customers to report on their actual experiences with a product or service (yours or a competitor’s).
You can also tweak your survey questions based on whether a customer is a first-time buyer, a casual user of your products, or a loyal fanatic of your brand. After using their responses to segment each customer, you can look at the data once more to determine which segment is most likely to become a loyal customer at some point in the future.
For a deeper dive into a customer’s thoughts, opinions, and way of life, you might consider conducting an interview.
In-person or telephone/video conferences work best, as it gives you a chance to go through a line of questions while also going off-script if more information is needed. In contrast, a typed or written response wouldn’t allow for subsequent conversation after a specific response is made.
By generating dialogue with your customers (both satisfied and unsatisfied), you’ll gain a much better picture of who your target customer actually is, and will be able to better market your product or service to them in the future.
As an added bonus, you might also be able to leverage an interview with a successful customer as social proof that your product or service does what you claim it does. In turn, this will make others who relate to your successful customer (in terms of pain points faced, etc.) likely to give your brand a chance.
Focus groups generally consist of individuals from a wide variety of demographics and walks of life and, as such, will likely represent many different psychographic segments, as well.
Like when sending out surveys, holding focus groups allows you to collect data from a large group of people based on specific questions you’d like them to answer. And, like when conducting interviews, you have the opportunity to ask respondents to expand upon their answer if the situation warrants.
However, because focus groups are somewhat public (in that a respondent’s answers can be heard by the rest of the group), some individuals may have a hard time voicing their true opinion or fully explaining themselves.
The bandwagon effect isn’t always a bad thing, though.
Social media is a treasure trove of information when it comes to psychographics. And you can obtain this information by being both proactive and reactive.
You can solicit information from your social media followers by posting quick surveys, tweets, or links to further reading (where you might generate conversation in the comment section). Though not all of your followers will respond, you can be sure the ones who do are active fans of your brand – and will provide you with valuable information regarding how they came to be such.
You can also use social media to find information on your own, without having to explicitly solicit it from your audience.
Analyze and assess your followers’ responses to certain posts (both yours and others in your industry):
- What have they “liked,” retweeted, or commented on?
- What did they have to say?
- How can you use this information to gain a better understanding of them as individuals?
As social media becomes more and more ubiquitous, the information you need to create psychographic segments is out there; you just need to know where, and how, to look for it.
As we’ve said throughout this article, collecting the psychographic data of your customers is essential in order to begin seeing them as individual people, who come from unique circumstances, and have unique opinions, interests, and motives.
By collecting and analyzing this data, you’ll supplement certain “on-paper” data you may have already collected, such as demographic and behavioral data. In turn, this will help you shift away from thinking of your customers as statistics – and help you tweak your marketing initiatives accordingly.