B2B insights

Why B2B marketers should be making psychographics their latest, greatest BFF (Part 2)

Sue Mizera, Propolis Ambassador, follows up with more insights on psychographics and how to apply it to your business. Haven’t checked out Part 1? Check it out here. In Part 1, she explored what are psychographics, the 4Cs-style, and how does it works, as well as how to familiarise yourself with psychographics.

In Part 2/2,  she delves into the following topics:

III. Business cases: B2B applications with long-term, serious, strategic results

IV. Moving forward: How you can determine your psychographic market segments and start to communicate and message based on customer insights

V. Summary: Nothing short of transformative

 

III. Business cases: B2B applications with long-term, serious, strategic results

4Cs and psychographics are the “holy grail” of marketing — the framework is globally documented and time-honored; the segments are quantified and their goals, motivations and values are individually distinguished by segment-type. All information is in the public domain, free at your fingertips and ready for the taking. Be prepared to experience a deep immersion in customer-intimacy and customer-centricity. Typical B2B marketing applications and developments, that build out directly from 4Cs and psychographics, include all of the following:

1. Market segmentation, grounded in your customers’ goals, motivations, and values means you instantly know what drives your customers as people and as professionals.

  • Corporate culture, core values, brand personality, and hiring strategies should be developed and designed for compatibility with your key psychographic segments.

2. Portfolio management follows almost intuitively according to your customer profiles and their differentiated goals, motivations and values —you now know why they choose the products they do.

3. Messaging, communications and content strategies, grounded in layers of insights, allow you to target each of the profiles according to their wants and needs.

4. Alignment with sales, never easy, gains potential as you can help the salesforce refine and sharpen their approaches to current as well as new prospects.

5. New product and R&D developments can and should be integrated and aligned with your audiences’ clearly-identified wants and needs.

What other marketing tool or platform can promise, guarantee and deliver so much in such a seamless and integrated fashion? I can think of none.

Far from frivolous, the 4Cs and psychographics are clearly serious business. They’re empowerment on steroids – customer-intimacy and customer-centricity brought to life. Business growth, customer loyalty, market dominance, longevity and stock value are never far behind. 

Full disclosure: We have been using psychographics in our branding and positioning projects for 20+ years now. We have witnessed the blazing insights psychographics offers into how businesses work, how customers choose what they do, and what customers will demand in the future.  We have seen how psychographics can be amazingly empowering for the B2B marketer as it continues to play a vital role in virtually everything we do for our clients. 

Still not convinced?: Aren’t psychographics outdated? Can’t our tech tell me what I need? Won’t AI help us sort all of our data? We repeat: Dazzling insights, shockingly clear segmentations, globally proven and validated insights that will actually help you sort and frame your data collection — all are on offer from psychographics. Your choice, B2B marketer. What follows, based on our many cases over the years, is how and where to begin applying psychographics to your business and the benefits and values to expect. Hear me out. It is why should you care. 

1. Market segmentation of your customer base: a primary benefit of psychographics that keeps on giving

For any company, psychographics presents an immediate, high-level sorting or triaging mechanism, validated over cultures. If you’ll recall from Part 1/2, 4Cs recognizes seven types of people around the world – explorers, reformers, succeeders, mainstreamers, aspirers, struggling poor and resigned poor. In a B2B context, the first four of these groups are dominant and frankly, more important. It doesn’t mean the other segments aren’t present in B2B, it’s just not in anything resembling significant numbers or influence. 

By applying psychographics to your customer base, you should be able to identify from one to four of these psychographic types among your base: succeeders, mainstreamers, reformers, explorers. Identification will allow you to gain immediate insight into their unique goals, motivations and values — as people and as professionals. In IV. Moving Forward (below), we will discuss how you might eventually align your own customer data to your psychographic segments for even greater validation, prioritization and quantification. This first application of psychographics will, nonetheless, deliver a powerful first-cut – readily, thoroughly, and reliably – and offers you a tremendous start.

Of the four segments, two dominate: Succeeders and explorers

No matter your markets or your industry, based on our long experience with psychographics, you are likely to uncover two main psychographic segments among your customers: succeeders and explorers. Exactly why this split is the most prominent we can’t be sure, but it probably has to do with the fact that these segments are so well-represented in professional settings. 

Succeeders will be looking for control whereas explorers will be searching for adventure and individuality. Instantly, if you hadn’t identified this distinction already, you should see you have two, quite different segments among your customers. You will need to articulate and develop at all levels of products and marketing, how what you do satisfies their differing needs — for control on the one hand and individuality on the other. If you already do this, you now know why; if you were wondering about differing needs and differing messages to your customers, this opens the gateway to pursue your intuitions.  

Here’s an example: Thinking metaphorically, if your company produced building blocks, you might well be offering Lego-like products as well as erector-set products in your portfolio. So, you’d likely have two audience segments, succeeders, who would have gravitated to your Lego-like offerings and explorers, who would be drawn to your erector-sets. You’d have to market your Lego-like products as predictable, safe and steady, supporting your succeeders’ need for control; and you’d have to market the erector-sets to your explorer audiences, supporting their desires for customizing, personalizing and individualizing products to suit their needs. 

Overly simplified, perhaps, but this example illustrates how – and why — different psychographic segments seek different products and different messages – from the same company, in the same sector. We have seen this behavior so often we are tempted to call it universal. Identifying these two segments among your audiences might also explain why some customers continue to want your older, legacy products, manifesting a certain “stickiness” or a resistance to change; or a preference for a steady-state that they don’t want to let go of; while others are full-tilt behind your innovative, new products that offer them challenges and demand new and growing skills for mastery. Differing, contemporaneous desires among your audiences can take your business in two legitimate, but necessary, directions.

Can you have more than two audience segments?

Irrespective of your markets or industries, if you are a fully-established company over many years, you are likely to have attracted all four psychographic profiles over time. In addition to succeeders and explorers, your audiences will number mainstreamers — looking for simplicity, ease, and user-friendliness in your offering, and reformers, looking for authenticity, integrity and purpose — from your company and for themselves. Thinking metaphorically again, if your building blocks company expanded its portfolio, you’d likely be offering and marketing additional products like Tinker Toys as ”plug and play” blocks to one segment, mainstreamers, and environmentally-friendly Lincoln Logs with solar panels to the other, reformers. Each profile is very different again – different audience segments naturally, almost intuitively seeking, different products that suit them.

Can you have just one audience segment?

No matter your markets or industries, if you are a young company, a startup or if your founding CEO is still in the corner office, you may (still) skew to just one psychographic audience. So, if you are a mainstreamer company, you’re hugely different from an explorer company; if you are a succeeder company, you’re hugely different from a reformer company. Understand, this is already the impression you’ve made in the marketplace based on your product offering, your messaging, your branding. 

In other words, your psychographic profile is already your company’s personality from the point of view of your audiences. This has probably occurred naturally, from inside the company to out, while your audiences have found you and sought you out for your shared and common goals, motivations and values. Beyond your products and price, you appeal to the vibe, tone, mindset, world-view and benefits that they’re looking for. Be mindful of this— and reward these customers for being loyal with relevant, insight-based communications reflecting your deep understanding of their needs and wants. This is nothing short of customer-intimacy and customer-centricity in action. Mind as well, as the company grows, to track your growing appeal to include, in all likelihood, additional psychographic segments. 

Why is this so important? It marks nothing less than the beginning and foundations of your corporate culture; it emphasises the significance of your core values and your brand personality – both equally important elements in your company’s culture and brand, and big topics for another paper. Everything builds out from your core psychographic segments, including the people you want to bring on as you hire. While this is the start, there is no finish line. 

2. Portfolio management according to psychographic needs

Living entities, businesses must grow. This is normal. But growth is not always linear or predictable and can resul in companies having too many products in their portfolios that eventually compete with one another; or over time, through completely logical R&D developments, experiencing growth in wildly differing directions. Managing a company’s growth — in terms of communicating its essential benefits and maintaining its consistent brand promises — classically falls to the B2B marketer, but this can present exceptional difficulties: What are you selling? To whom? How do you prioritize your offerings? Are your customers clear or confused? What does the company need to develop further? What perhaps needs to be excised? 

Let’s look at a common business growth trajectory, through M&As, and see how 4Cs and psychographics can come to the rescue.

Company growth by M&A:

Growth through M&As classically expands a company’s footprint in a market, but it can be the case that the company now has multiple products in its portfolio performing roughly the same functions. This is exactly the situation in the business case we detail in “Primp My Brand: How to Prepare Your Company for an M&A or IPO”. Through a series of M&As over three years, in quite a tumultuous period in its growth, a small tech company dedicated to SME enterprise management, wound up becoming part of a major division in a Fortune 15 tech company. But the series of M&As came not without serious market challenges from competitors; serious internal soul-searchings (Are we doing the right thing?) and most critically, push-backs from the financial community: “What is the value of the M&As for the stock market? ” they asked, effectively challenging, “What is the value of your company? ” 

Four products, all with equivalent outputs: what could possibly differentiate them?

We were called in to conduct a series of projects to sort out the difference and value of eventually four, similarly-performing tech products. In the beginning, we were genuinely uncertain what we would find: The only product differences we were given were “simplicity” vs. “scalability” and scary, impenetrable, technical specs like C/SIDE, SIFT, MS SQL and Oracle RDBMS. All essentially performed the same functions, and all depended on these same technologies. What could possibly differentiate these four products? Would there have to be rationalizations? Still amazing to us today is how we landed on psychographics to beautifully distinguish, first, the value for two M&As and then for two more. As noted, all four companies became part of a Fortune 15 tech company, where they still reside today, and whose services you may well be using in your company. (We still use no names to identify our clients, so strategic were our findings.)

Psychographics points to differences: A question of how, not what

It was, in fact, serendipity, the casual recommendation of a junior on our team to apply psychographics to the challenge, that yielded the dazzling moment of “aha!! mirabile dictu, mirabile visu,” We were there! As a group, we literally ‘saw the light’.  Psychographics, along with some confirming mood boards and illuminating metaphors, instantly provided the insights that there were, indeed, great differences in these four products— not in what end result they delivered, but in how they delivered that end result. Meaning: one of the products was dead easy to learn and apply (like “vanilla cream”); another offered simplicity and control of results (like a “good game of golf”); a third was all about personalizing and harnessing the technology to suit individual situations (“like a wild stallion”); the fourth, a bit bulky and quirky in all honesty, invited users to work with it to achieve final results (like an “older BMW that runs well but needs some TLC.”)

All four products not optional, but necessary:

You know by now which segments each appealed to: mainstreamers, succeeders, explorers, and reformers in this order. We were not only in the presence of a solution to the value of the M&As for the company, we were also incredibly lucky. We did have four different products that distinctly appealed to four different audiences in their very composition. There were no overlaps that would warrant any paring back the portfolio; rather, 4Cs and psychographics allowed us to show the value for each of the products in terms of the customer segments they appealed to and how, together, they would cover the entire market. Not least, stock markets and financial analysts were appeased: our findings clearly justified why and how having multiple products in the same portfolio, even if all do the same things, can provide market dominance. 

  • To reinforce the critical insight: Different audience segments are attracted to different processes and products, offering different ways of working, depending on their psychographic profiles. In our experience, the differences in product performance are very real to users, if not immediately apparent to providers, and now you know why; the explanation comes down to choices and preferences made by your audiences depending on the fit of your products and services to their psychographic needs and motivations. Unfortunately, we have so often seen this kind of insight missed or under-valued, needlessly compromising a company’s offerings and future trajectories. Be it resolved: No more. 

Deeper psychographic insights: a l’esprit de l’escalier moment

Post our projects for the four products, we realized that each of the different creators and developers of these products, all classic young founders of startups at the time, all of whom we met, were of different psychographic types themselves. And we realized, they had created their products in accordance with their own goals, motivations and values. 

  • The “vanilla ice cream” inventor was a mainline Mainstreamer from the middle US; the team behind the “golf game” product were golf-playing succeeders themselves; the “wild stallion” inventor is an explorer, now famous in his own country for this personality; the “BMW” is the product of reformers who named their company for their strongly held religious beliefs, and whose product requires purposeful tinkering to uncover its authenticity. 

In other words, at the heart of each of the products could be found the psychographic personality of the inventor who created them. And this psychographic personality became the fil rouge, the red thread embedded in the product, that eventually attracted customers and users of the same psychographic profiles. It is quite an insight to observe this — “now it all comes together; aha, that’s how it works.” This finding is not a one-off. It is the same with the inner workings of virtually all systems and products, irrespective of markets or industries. Beyond this, think artists or musicians or athletes whose creations and performances in the same fields, at the same times, also differ wildly. It is a by-product of our human nature. 

What about portfolio growth by R&D, you ask?

As a result of legitimate R&D, many companies develop in multiple, different directions. A classic, in-the-public-domain example, is Pirelli. Originally offering advanced rubber processing, they developed these capabilities into more and more advanced tires as well as into electrical and undersea cables. Two legitimate directions, both providing business growth, but of wildly different target audiences and user profiles. Another example is DuPont’s Tyvek, whose strength and impermeability as a fiber has been taken into industrial uses (house and car wraps), medical and PPE (sterile clothing,) and fashion and high-end aesthetic applications (wallets, envelopes.) Audiences differ accordingly. Similar examples abound.

Where growth by R&D differs from growth by M&A is typically not only in audience profile but in totally different end-uses. In these cases, sorting out and rationalizing the portfolio is equally necessary, but typically defaults to a classic corporate or brand positioning project; e.g., What does Pirelli stand for? What is Tyvek’s overall brand promise? Psychographics may play a part in these projects, but do not provide the same, blazing means of separation and clarification, as in cases of the same end-uses. 

Typically, in fact, growth by R&D can result in re-branding, and re-naming elements of the portfolio, to avoid market and audience confusion. “Where the infobahn and autobahn meet,” however amusing, demonstrates the futility of trying to forge one meaningful corporate brand positioning in the case of Pirelli, which has long become two separate entities.    

3. Messaging and communications according to what audiences want and need to hear

When it comes to messaging, communications and content, 4Cs and psychographics continue to be the gift that keeps on giving. Messaging, as we all know, is never easy. Ideally you have an agency to provide guidance, but even the agency itself needs a proper briefing. Knowing your targets by psychographic segments, in-going, already provides you with their goals, motivations and values. You already know exactly what needs and benefits each is looking to hear about in your communications. You can be confident you are reaching them with globally validated, time-honored insights that literally, practically touch their souls; and that will further drive their interest in your offering by generating their embrace and loyalty. 

Developing a full communications program to each segment, that further articulates, nuances, and tailors your offering to their needs, is a specialized, demanding, and necessary task, Nonetheless, this program should build out from what you already know so well about your audiences’ fundamental, psychographic insights. In another capacity, we ask: What other scheme can so surely and immediately point you towards differentiated, relevant communications that speak meaningfully to each segment? I know of none.  

Let’s look at some examples of how psychographics can be applied to communications — for directing message development as well as solving some classic business and communications problems.

Psychographics and corporate communications:

Take the case of the 2023 B2B Cannes corporate advertizing winners that we reviewed above (Part 1/1): The Grand-Prix winner, “Earth,” from the Brazilian Stock Exchange and the UN Global Compact, is classic reformer. The Gold winner, Intel’s “Certified Human,” is mainline succeeder, while the second Gold winner, WorkDay’s “Rock Star,” is all mainstreamer. 

Although psychographics were unlikely in the briefs, nonetheless, the resulting campaigns very clearly draw on insights, motivations, and emotions specific to these three psychographic segments; the campaigns tap into the richness that psychographics just confirms. The purpose, focus, and single-mindedness of each of the campaigns, that go far to develop the advertisers’ brands, doubtless played a key role in their capturing Cannes gold. 

A further look, for example, into the websites of each organization demonstrates that they remain on fine, “psychographic point,” building out their tone, content, personality and message in alignment with their segment profiles. WorkDay’s light and easy graphics and simple messaging are particularly illustrative of their mainstreamer appeal. 

Psychographics and product, service, and portfolio communications: 

Just as in the case of corporate communications above, psychographics applies equally well for product and portfolio communications and should be just as rich, meaningful and straightforward. However, there are some classic scenarios where the connections between products, services and audiences aren’t clear or evident. Messaging can seem more like a “slippery slope” than an effective, efficient “well-oiled machine.”

  • Take the case of launching a totally new product in the market, whether an upgrade to one in your current line or something totally new and innovative. Or perhaps you’re moving toward product marketing for the first time. Exciting, but your market research wasn’t definitive, so you remain unclear who is the primary audience for your offering. Deadlines for launch are approaching: What do you say beyond featuring shiny, new product attributes to everyone? 

 

  • Take the case of having one, main product or service that is a success in the marketplace, but you’re not exactly sure why. Even within the company, people disagree. Do all your audiences appreciate this product for the same reasons? What benefits about this product or service do you feature in your communications to grow your market? What’s the compelling hook(s)? 

 

  • The same questions can be asked about multiple, complementary products or services from your company or division. Are all your audiences the same or different for the range? Why do some audiences prefer one product, others another? Are audience choices honestly random?

 

  • Or take the classic case of communicating about similar products in the same portfolio, such as we have alluded to above. What’s the difference? Whatever do you say when for all the world to see, your product lines all do the same things? Why do some of your targets prefer one product, why do some prefer others? 

Time to turn to psychographics: 

When we’re called in on issues of these sorts, where the benefits and values that customers derive from products and services remain unclear or unexploited, we instantly turn to psychographics. We work with our clients to determine their audiences’ psychographic profiles, if they’re not already known; see IV. Moving Forward, below. We welcome refinements from market research and/or customer data as essential supports. Then we advise our clients to move forward, taking their messaging and communications cues from the bounty of insights that psychographics so richly offers about each segment–- which, we repeat, are globally validated, publicly available and time-honoured. Should one or more of these psychographic segments be in your audience, this is what they need to hear in your communications:

  • To mainstreamers, taking your cues from their goals, motivations and values, you will need to stress belonging and community. Conformists, they need to feel “in good company;” to understand you offer them common, popular options that provide them direction and reassure them of their choice. Be sure to stress messages in simplicity, user-friendliness, security and safety; emphasise words like easy-to-use and learn, plug-and-play, training and support. 

 

  • Succeeders value control, above all. For any products you offer succeeders, legacy or new, singly or among multiples, be sure to stress control, continuity, confidence, and proven track records. Attributes should feature words like safe, highest quality, reliable and low-risk. Succeeders may also manifest a stubborn “stickiness” for legacy products; this has to do with their need for control, as legacy products fulfil the test of time: “Why fix it if it ain’t broke?”  

 

  • Explorers, by clear contrast, value individuality and personal expression. They are early-adopters, open to change, always looking for the next challenge, so bring on the innovations, even a little risk:; imagine them saying, “I’ll decide how I up my game.” To explorers, be sure to appeal to their need for individualizing, innovation, challenges, professional and personal creativity, and sui generis possibilities for applications. Attributes should feature words like responsive, efficient, precise, flexible and powerful. 

 

  • Reformers are, of course, very different again. They value authenticity and integrity — of the product and of your company — and they show a high tolerance for rolling up their sleeves, and getting involved with the product, so long as they believe in it— and in your company. As reformers find fulfilment in being purpose-driven, they are the segment most-likely to be aware of, and appreciate, your company’s CSR programmes, from diversity and sustainability to the environment and your eco-friendly practices. Perhaps it is even these programmes that attract them to your company in the first instance. They are also most likely to be the most suspicious of inauthentic messaging and to react strongly, negatively, to any whiff of greenwashing or “diversity theatre.” To reformers, be sure to appeal to their independence, social awareness, and tolerance as well as the harmony and freedom they appreciate in their personal and work-life.

Why is psychographics so critical to getting messaging and communications just right? The explanation is itself part of a rich chain of insights and inter-connections.

  • Psychographics provides B2B marketers, all marketers, with each segment’s essentials – the unique goals, motivations and values that drive them as people, as professionals. This is arguably the most significant of all “gifts” that psychographics offers to marketers – effectively, a mirror into the souls of their target audiences—for the taking: this is exactly what marketers need in order to communicate meaningfully, with personalization and resonance, to their customers. 

 

  • And this is nothing other than the “most holy grail” of marketing – customer-centricity and customer-intimacy. Honoring your audiences’ different goals and values means it is not about product focus, specs or shiny features. It is about acknowledging that your professional audiences, who want to feel empowered and enabled, have totally different approaches to achieve success and fulfillment. Leaning into this insight ensures your communications will forge rewarding, emotional, and rational connections between your customers and your company. 

 

  • But there is an even bigger dimension here, one that takes you to a whole new realm in B2B communications. When you can demonstrate that you know why your customers connect with specific products and how this is rooted deeply in their personal identities, you have affected, or ensured, a switch in your communications – from product-focus to customer-focus — and the customer-centric communications programs that follow. 

 

  • The customer-intimacy and customer-centricity at the heart of psychographics has generated this pivot and ensures its immanence and permanent place in your work and planning. It’s that simple, it’s that profound. Everything is linked. In our view, these are among the most important implications for B2B marketers that we have drawn from and about psychographics in this entire paper. Armed with this knowledge, B2B marketer, step forward with confidence!

Finally, you might ask: What if resources and/or segment head-counts cannot justify developing communications to more than one or two segments? 

Based on global market research, we have witnessed companies determine that they do, indeed, have customers in all four market segments. To maximize resources and communications, we have advised these clients to put their greatest efforts behind two segments, succeeders and explorers. The reason is, succeeder messages also have great appeal and resonance for mainstreamer audiences — both are middle-adopter segments, both appreciate simplicity, safety and minimum risk. At the same time, explorer messages also appeal to reformers — both are early-adopter segments, both appreciate challenge, independent thinking, and freedom to pursue their own paths. 

When our clients did opt to consolidate messaging and communications behind the two major groups, these compromises were made with eyes wide-open and with benefits and trade-offs acknowledged. But all decisions were conscious, grounded in solid understanding and insights behind their audience segments’ expectations. In other words, psychographics removed any randomness in these corporate decisions for streamlining and consolidating communications. 

4. Building out from segmentation: sales force alignment

This happens to be the focus of our most recent consultancy; (client name withheld for proprietary reasons.)  Building out from psychographic segmentation of audiences, to align with the sales force and their approach to the market, is admittedly new, and as such, can be tricky and difficult. Traditional issues between sales and marketing over turf, ego, human nature and customer “ownership” are well acknowledged and documented; now add to this seeming complications of their being required to sell with a “psychographic approach,” and you can understand, the sales force is likely to resist. At first. And they did. 

But here was the situation. Through legacy and new business alignments in the company, our client’s sales force was being given the opportunity — read, requirement — to sell new lines of products. On the one hand, these were fully complementary to their traditional product offerings, but still quite different in critical specs, applications and nuances; additionally, sales was directed to target new and younger customers with their extended portfolios, as the company’s current client base was aging and retiring. A very critical time in the company’s growth trajectory, presenting powerful new opportunities all around, it came with concomitant pressures on the sales force to deliver in two, wholly new capacities: new products to new audiences. 

How would the sales force know whom to approach, with what product, and with what messaging? Who was on the other side of that door, and what would they want? Enter psychographics. 

We knew the psychographic composition of our clients’s market from previous consultancy projects with them. We knew that while the sales force was skilled at selling their classic, advanced products to explorer audiences, the new opportunities lay in selling more plug-and-play products to mainstreamers and somewhat more advanced, but still safe and reliable products to succeeders. Quite a difference — which psychographics telegraph so immediately. And yet, so much depended on everyone’s eyes being wide open to the subtleties, complexities and challenges ahead. The truth is, psychographics are relatively easy to grasp and learn, and in our experience, careful. a sensitive introduction of its concepts is usually well received. As in this case. Being sensitive to the wants and needs of new, younger customers, right off, made sales more confident in approaching them. A key incentive: the more successful their selling efforts, the greater revenues and successes would result. 

The project is in progress. Ingoing, as in all major projects of this sort, the leadership team set criteria for success, with alignment beginning at the top ranks. Common objectives for sales and marketing were set and agreed to at these levels first, including commitments to training across the organization and to creation of first rate, classic “marketing materials” to remind and refresh learnings. (This is especially important for global organizations where sales forces admittedly function at different speeds in different countries and regions.) Thereafter, the leadership team agreed to collaborate and communicate on common issues; to showcase successes and to celebrate wins across the organization.

5. Building out from segmentation: product development

Aligning a company’s R&D with psychographics by now should seem necessary, even essential, although admittedly this is more or less a new frontier. As with sales force alignment, bringing R&D on board to psychographics will require training and sensitivity to their talents and needs; but arguably, who more than R&D needs to be hand-in-glove with the company’s psychographic targets? How else can they authentically develop according to audience needs, motivations and values? What costly mistakes are created – that serve absolutely no one — when R&D is not fully aligned with these needs and motivations? 

We have surely all been there, in situations where marketing is required to sell what R&D has produced, never mind it is off-brand, off-audience, or off-strategy. Just because you can create and produce something doesn’t mean you should! 

How much smarter is it — from a business, corporate, brand, competitive or target perspective — to address, answer and fulfil the psychographic needs of your customers in your product and service developments! To provide more potential for safety and control in the offering for Succeeders; to create greater simplicity and ease-of-use for mainstreamers; or greater opportunities for individualization and self-determination for explorers.

This applies across industries, from pharma to tech, engineering to consulting, everything. Of course, psychographics is only one element in many that determine new R&D efforts, we don’t mean to over-claim. That being said, little else is better for providing high-level, directional, immediate and guaranteed paths to success.

IV. Moving forward

Now that you know all about psychographics and the range of benefits the scheme holds for B2B marketers, their businesses and their brands, how do you move forward? How do you begin to sort out and identify your audiences by psychographic profile? 

Basically, there are two ways to confirm the psychographic profiles of your audiences — A.) classic, traditional market research, on the one hand, and B.) a totally new, unexplored frontier, on the other: aligning your findings with your own company data and analytics. Even if you already have a pretty good idea, or can begin to imagine, which psychographic type(s) of audiences you have, for which of your product lines., we highly recommend that you consider conducting both kinds of research. 

Confirmation of profile types, quantifications of segment sizes, penetration by regions and markets – this knowledge, the more refined and justified the better, is especially important when you present your findings to your management team. They will inevitably, legitimately ask you for the water-tight rationales behind your new marketing plans and strategies for implementation — and this is the fire-power you will need to win them over. 

Classic qualitative and quantitative customer research

Marketers have turned to classic market research, both qualitative and quantitative, for years to identify and confirm their psychographic audience segments around the world. This is standard practice. Qualitative is useful to create and test your hypotheses about your target audience profiles, while quantitative puts numbers to segments and confirms your assumptions once for all. 

Creating discussion guides and surveys bespoke to your business will require skill and craft, art and science, and will need to be tailored to your products, markets, offerings and audiences. Based on our experience, however, we can offer you a few short-cuts that can be applied in both qualitative and quantitative phases, to help you do some early triaging with confidence. (Cf. something far afield but comparable: doctors use medical tests like grip strength and ability to balance on one foot to make quick, reliable, first-cut evaluations of patients’ health and fitness.) Best of all, psychographic short-cuts are fun.

Psychographic short-cuts: general

  • Asking what types of cars people drive typically directs you right away to different psychographic types. Electric cars, or even no cars, point to reformers, while sports cars or fancy motorcycles identify explorers; standard German cars like BMW and Mercedes signal mainline succeeders; VWs, and many Korean and Japanese cars are typically for mainstreamers. 

 

  • Asking what types of vacations people take is equally directive. High-energy, adventure and extreme sport vacations allow explorers to express their desire for self-expression, while annual beach vacations – even to the same beaches every year – point to succeeders’ desires for control and steady-state; vacations to visit family, even distant family, point to mainstreamers, while vacations to more exotic locations, art exhibits or yoga retreats skew to reformers. 

 

  • We also recommend a new question: Have they used AI personally or professionally? What are their expectations? We leave it to you to anticipate what kinds of responses each of the psychographic segments is likely to offer, from rejection to serious caution to full acceptance.

Psychographic short-cuts: business specific

You will also want to develop insight-driven questions specific to your business or industry. We offer here two real examples of quick-sorting techniques that we have used for totally different clients around the world. They were designed to begin drilling down into audience attitudes and behaviors vis à vis specific businesses — and were used in sales calls as well to help the reps quickly identify new customer types.

  • E.g., Among a global dentist audience, we’ve asked: 

“Say you have a Monday morning, 8am endodontic surgery scheduled — and it’s in the back of the patient’s mouth. How do you feel about this?”  

Some dread this, as it is a difficult, highly risky procedure. Others are trained to do exactly this type of dental procedure and love it. 

  • Predictably, dentists not keen about this morning appointment are mainstreamers and succeeders. Seeking to reduce their risk in the procedure, they will have chosen standard, streamlined products that give them more confidence and control. 
  • Those up for the procedure are the explorers and reformers, ready to put their own take on the process, willing to mix and match tools, procedures and components, to suit their mastery and experience. 

 

It’s the same dental procedure, it’s the same dental problem; it’s theoretically even the same patient — but the practitioners have wildly different approaches and wildly different needs for types of products to practice their trade effectively, and with professional satisfaction.

  • E.g., Among company owners/technology specifiers of SMEs, we’ve asked

“What is your preference for how you want your employees to use technology in your company? ” 

  • Everyone should use the same standard, simple applications in the same, standard way. 
  • Anyone can adapt the technology to suit their needs to do their best jobs. 
  • Everyone should be fully trained and in control to deal with daily applications, especially if tech-glitches occur. 
  • Employees should discern the myriad values of our technology for our company, our productivity, our contributions to our markets, through daily use.  

By now, you can clearly discern which profile is which.  

  • New territory: connecting psychographics to your company’s own data 

All along, you still may be wondering, don’t we have all the information about our customers that we could possibly need in our own databases?  Perhaps you do, and perhaps yours is among the fortunate minority of companies, 40% according to BoldSpace, that actually can access data in core areas of their remit. Or among the 15% of companies, according to Gartner, whose initiatives do not fail due to poor data quality. I could go on. 

But what if we imagined a totally different scenario, one that’s admittedly new and untried: 

  • What if you could connect your company’s psychographic segments to your company’s own data and CRM systems? 
  • What if we could close the loop between the two systems, and honestly strengthen, broaden and deepen the both of them in the process? 

How powerful a combination would that be! Theoretically, it could super-charge basically everything — precise segment sizes, proprietary insights, messaging, personalization, customer loyalty programs, all made even  more specific to your company. You could also begin to better anticipate and project future customer wants and needs. This is customer-intimacy, customer-centricity X10! 

Game-changing, you acknowledge; but there are surely barriers in the offing. 

Yes. Success would depend on the quality of the company’s data, always an issue. It would depend on the right technology and programming to align an a priori, fully developed scheme like 4Cs with existing CRM systems that were never designed to specifically capture this kind of information in the first place. Or it may be that some systems capture some data, others capture other data, but that getting the silos to integrate and deliver holistic results would not realistically be possible. However ideal an idea, practically speaking, connecting psychographics to company data, for the present, would have little chance of fully succeeding. To this I am in reluctant, but full agreement.

Enter AI, which seems to offer enormous potential. 

No expert I, I list here some of the wide-ranging enhancements and capabilities that AI can bring to the work- and time-intensive phases of data management: collection, storing, processing, analyzing, and dissemination. 

  • At the collection stage, AI can collect and analyse data on customer behavior from e-commerce, social media, and news to improve content suggestions and enhance personalized feeds and recommendations. It can integrate third-party data that is streamed directly into a company’s applications, providing more insight, and can create new content that can be streamed back onto large data sets, e.g., published web pages.  

 

  • As for storage, because AI and ML (machine learning) draw and learn from multiple data sources across a business, AI automatically breaks down legacy silos, transforming them effectively into building blocks for future-state environments. As for processing data, AI is a game-changer as it allows real-time data integration, improved data quality and accuracy, and enhanced data transformation and analysis; AI-powered CDC (Change Data Capture) extracts insights that can be used to identify patterns, predict future trends and optimize business processes. 

 

  • As for data analysis, AI-driven predictive analytics can anticipate future data changes and take proactive measures in real time by enabling more developed and automated analysis of large and complex data sets. For example, AI can identify patterns in data that would be difficult for humans to find; it can predict future events based on historical data, yielding better decisions about, e.g., marketing campaigns, product development and risk-management. AI can personalize experiences, recommending products to customers or providing personalized customer support. It also has the potential to revolutionize anomaly detection by continuously analyzing data changes and identifying universal patterns or behaviors in real time. 

 

  • As for data dissemination, when insights gained from analyzing data are presented in a way that allows others to learn from them, the data has achieved full business value. 

Every company’s data collection and analysis will be at different levels of development, quality, and sophistication. Within this robust list of AI’s possible enhancements to and transformations of data collection and management, however, the possibility of building bridges between – indeed, fusing– psychographic profiles and existing data seems quite real. Surely there is something here for everybody! Integrating psychographics and data might even help to structure data collection and extraction according to key segment principles, motivations, and goals; it might make analysis comparable across segments and businesses, and help avoid GIGO. It doubtless applies equally well to ABM systems. Early days. I end with sound advice from Tony Lamb: “Start small, test and learn; the rate of change will be very fast, so stay flexible.” Needless to add, any errors in facts or judgements above are mine. 

V. Summary: Nothing short of transformative

If the holy grail of marketing is customer-intimacy and customer-centricity, 4Cs and psychographics deliver with delicious input and absolutely shimmering, sizzling insights. We do not over-claim.

As our review of the global business elite, from Gates to Zuckerberg to Buffett makes evident, we need never again wonder if B2B marketing comes with a personality or can be emotional and human. We do not drop off who we are, or what drives us as people and professionals, at the office door in the morning. Let’s put any more questions about this behind us. Nor need we ever ask again, Can B2B communications be other than rational, logical, fact-based? Cannes’ 2023 Grand Prix and Gold awards for B2B’s finest communications, all stellar examples of the power of values- and emotion-based work, move us, thrill us, amuse us; we are excited by their purpose and passion to make an impact—on markets, categories, people and society as a whole.

Long before tech was even on the radar scope, 4Cs and psychographics were packing a wallop and dazzling us with a series of insight-driven, sine quâ non business and marketing successes. The case of how psychographics powered a generic tech company through successive M&As into a division of a Fortune 15 — that you may even be using today in your company – is the primus inter pares. Simply, elegantly, powerfully but without fanfare, psychographics continues to have a long reach in company after company that we work with, up to and including our most recent consultancy. Reliably delivering genuine, time-honored insights that provide direction for the entire business, psychographics goes far to inform, structure and direct market segmentation, portfolio management, messaging and communications, and corporate culture, as well as aligning with sales and ideally with R&D. 

Clearly serious business, 4Cs and psychographics are empowerment on steroids. Business growth, customer loyalty, market dominance, longevity and stock value are never far behind. And the scheme is all to hand, yours for the taking, B2B marketer, ready to be applied and developed in a timely fashion this very day. Your choice, B2B marketer, for how you proceed. But ask yourself, What other marketing tool or platform can promise, guarantee and deliver so much in such an immediate, seamless and integrated fashion? I can think of none.

On the horizon, things get even more exciting, even sizzling. With AI and ML enhancements, matching your customer data to your psychographic segments seems imminently possible. This would mean nothing less than fusing the strengths of both to bolster your company’s mastery of customer insights and to deliver finely-tuned, focused communications and an almost natural personalization. Be prepared to speak to your audiences as if to “segments-of-one.” Exquisite understanding can always be relied upon to yield all kinds of scintillating possibilities, not least for helping you shape the markets and cultures you operate in and make a statement about the human potential you impact. 

As I said, hear me out. It is why you should care. 

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