Psychographics in marketing

For the uninitiated, psychographics is the study of the personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles of a designated group. Commonly referred to as ‘IAO variables’ (for Interests, Activities and Opinions), they sit at the subjective end of the consumer attribute spectrum. At the objective end sits demographics. Demographics can give us important data like the age of a target group, what profession they’re in, and where they’re based. Meanwhile, psychographics in marketing make up the shades of grey between the black and white of your demographics. 

Understanding the psychographics of your target audience is vital to the marketing process, but too often these insights are undervalued or overlooked. That’s because it’s easier to see your consumer as a collection of incontrovertible stats, rather than the complicated mass of neuroses, emotional responses and contradictory belief systems we know we are. Psychographics in marketing helps you understand how to direct and shape your content. It includes how to market using custom-targeted channels, a vital aspect of the modern marketers .

So how can you discover the psychographics for your audience, and, just as importantly, how do you incorporate these into your own campaigns? So check out the top five tips on tapping into those all important personal interests, and discover how they can guide your digital strategy.

Talk to your current clients

It sounds too simple to work, but talking to your clients can give you insights unattainable through any other means. In practice, every interaction with a client should be seen as an opportunity to learn more about your audience as a whole. Make their interests your interests. Try to empathise with their approach to life as much as their approach to business.

In doing so, you can simultaneously gain audience insights while solidifying your business relationships by showing you really care about aspects outside of their professional lives. Talking to clients can lead to all kinds of revelations, not least in how you interact with them and what they (and other clients) expect from your business.

For instance, you could learn from talking to clients that they spend a significant amount of time on the road attending business meetings. This, particularly when referenced against their typical email reply hours, could tell you that ads targeted at mobile are more likely to yield a good ROI than Desktop, as well as reiterating the need for a mobile-optimised website.

Psychographics in marketing

Utilise data, both large and small

As a marketer, if you aren’t using big data to study your audience, you’re not only in the minority, you’re putting yourself at a serious disadvantage. Data is essential to gaining customer insights, but data alone can only have so much influence on how you structure your output. Look at your existing site content and previous special offers. What has moved people to click, call, or buy in the past? The data gained from studying these interactions goes a long way to telling you what your consumer has done, but psychographics reveals why they did it.

Because psychographics involves the study of personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles, it is essential you trace the lead’s journey to your content, and how they interact with it once they arrive. By studying where else they have browsed, where and what time they accessed your content, you can begin to unravel their interests and build your digital strategy around how these interests dictate they will respond.

Likewise, small data is an invaluable tool to the marketing process, particularly in B2B scenarios. Whereas the broad-scatter metrics provided by large-scale analytics (or big data) give a comprehensive overview of how your audience interact with your content, small data focuses in on just individuals. In B2B interactions, where the decision of an individual user can affect a project, company or even an entire industry, understanding their interests gives you a significant advantage over the competition. 

Psychographics in marketing

Measure social success

Share relevant content through different channels – which channels work best, at what time and using what language? Understanding these variables can go a long way to helping you understand the people behind the accounts, and how best to engage with them. Of course, there are so many channels to now reach your audience through, gauging the best media for you will take time and patience.

Narrow your channels down using your demographics. Study the networking sites and the reasons people use them before whittling down your choices to only the relevant channels. For instance, LinkedIn generated 80.33% of B2B leads in 2014, compared to just 12.73% by Twitter and 6.73% by Facebook, making LinkedIn the obvious choice if you’re running a B2B campaign. Check engagement rates on all your posts, across your chosen channels, and audience behaviour patterns will begin to emerge which can then be integrated into campaigns.


Study audience output

Social media is particularly effective because audiences give you an insight into their personality through their own social output. Take a look at the kind of posts they Like/share/Tweet/post and create a profile map of their tastes. Include in this features like their active hours, their choice of language and their response to different images.

Your study of client output doesn’t have to be limited to their social accounts, however. If you’ve been interacting with them directly, there are a wealth of hidden inferences to help you compose a fuller picture of their interests. Study their language, when they reply, how they structure their emails and other aspects of their interactions. Studying the organic social conversations of your audience can also give you an edge on the competition, allowing you to identify emerging trends as and when they happen.

Psychographics in marketing

Don’t forget the classic data-gathering tools

With the rapid evolution of data-harvesting tools and audience profiling technology, it’s easy to forget other, more traditional means of gathering client information. For instance, customer surveys may seem like an outdated concept, but they can still add to your understanding of client behaviour.

The real challenges in conducting consumer surveys lie in deciding what questions you need to ask, and how to introduce the survey. For the latter, the point at which you introduce the survey request can have a major impact on the resulting information. The responses resulting from an on-site pop up following a purchase will vary dramatically in comparison to a survey embedded in an email. Consider carefully the means by which you reach out to your audience. The Hawthorne effect will also play a part in influencing your answers, so remember to take this into account.

For the former, it’s vital to develop criteria that help inform your future digital strategies. The difference between a personal question and a professionally relevant question may seem slight, but the gulf in the value of the results can be huge. Asking about your prospective consumer’s hobbies gives you some background to who they are but. But asking their favourite weekend activity gives you an extra level of insight that can inform an actionable strategy. Asking which social media channels your consumer uses gives you a good understanding of how they gather information. Asking them to rank their social media channels in terms of their value in gathering business opportunities, however, will result in more focused and actionable insights.

Person holding tablet browsing products online psychographics in marketing


Just as demographics alone won’t give you the full picture of your audience, psychographics only tells half the story. By combining the two schools of thought, you can build up a huge bank of quantified and qualified information that can be used to leverage important insights. While demographics provides objective classification, psychographics recognises the need for subjective information regarding your audience.

These seemingly innocuous elements contribute to the psychographic maps of your audience and enable you to make more informed marketing decisions, something every marketer could benefit from.

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