Demographics, psychographics and the ideal customer fit

All articles | Strategy
Published Jul 02, 2019 | Written by Osian Barnes

Traditional marketing stresses the importance of detailed demographics in defining, targeting and attracting the right customers for your business.

They can help you identify and focus on what those customers have in common and help you create the marketing messages they’re most likely to respond to.

How demographics help define and target the 'right customers'

Metrics like gender, age, income, education and marital status will help you more accurately understand who your ideal customers are, what media they use and what their other consumption habits might be.

In a B2B context demographic data will include things like job title, company size and the sectors they operate in.

But no matter how detailed these metrics get, you’re never going to get to the emotional heart of your customers without digging deeper.

These are the deep-seated, underlying attitudes and motivations that drive buying behaviours and make some customers, truly, the right fit for you.

Pyschographics deliver real insights

And that’s where psychographics come in.

In the past few years ‘psychographics’ have won the dubious twin distinction of being hailed as a uniquely powerful, breakthrough marketing method and condemned as a propagandizing tool subverting democracies across the world. But in reality, they are just another data set.

Segmenting demographics by psychographics simply delivers greater insight. But those insights can be very helpful to a marketer. A focus on the values, attitudes and aspirations of potential customers can uncover the fundamental drives that make certain buyers in certain companies your perfect fit.

In a B2B context these might include their attitude towards innovation and automation, their focus on organisational culture, their anxieties about disruption and their long term goals.

If you’ve found the ideal customer at precisely the right moment in their business growth then, the argument goes, psychographics will help you understand the kind of prompts and products they are likely to respond to.

They can also suggest different ways to sell your products, new ideas for innovation and even whole new directions for your business to grow,

Why demographics and psychographics are not enough

But the truth is that your ideal customer may not be wholly identifiable within these traditional demographic or psychographic dimensions.

These traditional targeting tools can only get you so far in understanding your ideal customer fit. They can identify the types of products a particular customer might be interested in buying, confirm their organisational profile and some of the emotional drivers that might be propelling them towards you.

However, what you really need to discover are those prospects who have the pressing and unmet needs to which your offering is the perfect solution.

And looking at the demographic and psychographic profiles won’t necessarily give those prospects up.

Defining the jobs to be done

Research in Clayton Christenssen’s book ‘Competing Against Luck’ points to the missed opportunity of targeting techniques that focus only on traditional profiling techniques.

Instead, Christenssen shows that when we are looking to find people who could buy our products we should be focused on finding those customers who have specific jobs that need to be done - problems or challenges to which your product is the answer.

This means studying in detail the way existing or potential customers navigate the challenges of their daily or working lives. Looking at their whole activity across a buyers journey.

Only when we research those narratives in detail, uncovering the wants and needs that drive individual decision making can we begin to isolate and understand buying behaviour as well as new opportunities for the products we sell.

As Christenssen puts it:

“What causes us to buy products and services is the stuff that happens to us all day, every day. We all have jobs that we need to do that arise in our day-to-day lives and when we do, we hire products or services to get these jobs done.”

 As product owners - it is these stories you need to uncover, because only then will your marketers be able to tell the story of your solution to the right people in the right way.

In the inbound marketing mix a strong understanding of ‘these jobs to be done’ (the real reasons why your products might be bought or shunned by some customers) should be built into your ‘buyer personas’ and ‘buyer journeys’. They will strengthen your insights and boost your ability to target and tailor content that really converts.

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Published by Osian Barnes July 2, 2019
Osian Barnes