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Demographics Provide the Outline, but Psychographics Paint in Full Color

Perspectives, Guides / by Ryan Baum on April 20, 2021

Demographics Provide the Outline, but Psychographics Paint in Full Color

5 minute read

If someone asked you to talk about your ideal customers, would you be limited to their basic attributes — or could you tell their stories?


In the current landscape of rapid change and cutthroat competition, the first option is no longer acceptable.


Psychographics uncover your audience’s motivations — not just to buy, but to get out of bed in the morning. Marketers win by having more of these insights and weaving them into better messaging to meet prospective customers where they are.


At Helixa, we are passionate about using technology to collect stronger psychographic data. We built this guide to help you bring psychographic segmentation to your business, so you can attract more customers and convert them more effectively.


Here’s what you can expect ahead:

Let’s dive in.


What is psychographic segmentation?


Psychographic segmentation goes many layers deeper than demographics to reveal the psychological traits influencing purchase behavior. This type of research uncovers what your customer is thinking and what they want to change about their lives, which can illuminate their motivations for buying your product.


If you have achieved product-market fit, psychographic segmentation is key for positioning your product as the bridge between where your prospects are now and where they want to be.


Adele Revella, of the Buyer Persona Institute, outlines five psychographic variables:


    • Personalities: “Describes the collection of traits that someone consistently exhibits over time, as commonly assessed through a 5-Factor Model”


    • Lifestyles: “The collection of someone’s day-to-day activities: their associations, where they live, where they spend their time, etc.”


    • Interests: “Include hobbies, pastimes, media consumption habits, and what occupies someone’s time” 


    • Opinions, attitudes, and beliefs: These are “distinct psychographic categories, but I’ve grouped them together because they tend to be strongly correlated”


    • Values: “Describe their sense of right and wrong”


All five categories inform the way your customers perceive your product, but not every insight will be relevant. If you sell paper towels, it’s much more helpful to know they cook often and care about sustainability than it is to discover their gambling habit.


While psychographics are powerful, they’re rarely discovered or used in a vacuum. The key is stacking them on top of demographics to get both the big picture and a closer look at what drives them. 


Here’s how that works in practice.


Advantages of psychographic segmentation


A robust audience segmentation strategy should utilize all three segmentation types: 


    • Demographic segmentation focuses on who your customers are
    • Psychographic segmentation focuses on how your customers think
    • Behavioral segmentation focuses on how your customers decide to buy


But, at the very least, you should have a solid grasp of the relevant demographics and psychographics. While demographics are often correlated with psychographics and purchase behaviors, a demographics-heavy approach leads to weaker findings that require interpretation and assumptions.


Here’s an example where demographics get you most of the way there: If you want to sell homeowners insurance to first-time home buyers, it’s important to get on their radar before they actually own the home.


There are demographic-driven life stages that can help predict the purchase, like getting to a certain age, securing a substantial raise, or expecting a child.


Helixa_New homeowners


In most situations, though, demographics and life stages simply aren’t enough to make sound marketing and product decisions. There is just too much range in the human experience, even within the intersection of several demographics.


Without psychographics, you don’t know:


    • What they currently think and feel
    • What they care about
    • The image they want to convey to others
    • How they spend their time
    • The problems they deal with


Most importantly, you don’t know how they want to improve their lives and grow, which means you don’t know how your product or solution could fit into those plans.


If you make professional clothing for women, you would surely want to know some demographic information, including age, gender, income, and occupation. But there is still a lot of range among VP-level, 40+ women making six figures, for example.


Before you could choose a niche and segment it further, you need to answer certain questions about your ideal customer:


    • Is she a budget shopper, despite being a high earner?
    • Is she more conservative with her fashion, or does she push boundaries?
    • Does she dress to be taken seriously or to feel more confident? 


It may even be helpful to know how she’s spending her time after work. Is she hitting a yoga class in Lululemon or hiking the trails outfitted in REI?


Helixa_Forest yogaOr is she a multitasker?


Now that technology has made it far easier for people to collect psychographics, there’s no excuse to move forward without them. Let’s explore the different ways you can gather this valuable data.


Collecting data for psychographic segmentation

Back when market researchers were relying more primarily on demographic data, they weren’t purposely ignoring psychographics — those findings were simply too time-consuming and cost-prohibitive to capture for most businesses.


While a simple survey could capture most of the relevant demographic attributes, psychographics required additional surveys, focus groups, and interviews.


These techniques are still in use today, but technology has made them each faster, cheaper, and easier to conduct. If you want to go this route, here are some resources to get you started:



But even with the most recent advancements, these approaches can still be a drain on resources — especially if you need to repeat them over and over again across a portfolio of products or clients.


Luckily, you can explore the psychographics of any given audience much faster using the datasets encompassed within observed online behavior. The actions we take online tell our stories, revealing interests, passions, and even motivations.


Computer kid


There are several reasons to use data from observed online behavior to uncover psychographic insights:


    • The data reflects actual actions taken by consumers, avoiding the potential response biases that can plague self-reported data


    • The sheer amount of available data dwarfs other research methods, leaving you with a wider range of potential insights


    • New, niche, and trending topics can be immediately explored, without the wait that comes with other research types


    • You can explore the audiences of competitors or potential partners more easily and at a greater level of detail


    • You can surface insights you would’ve never thought to search for, but only if your insights engine can form meaningful connections between all of the available items


Audience intelligence platforms like Helixa parse millions of observed online interactions to create an extremely detailed interest graph, connecting the dots through machine learning for actionable psychographic insights. 


Helixa also offers the option to fuse those social media interactions with survey responses from partners like MRI-Simmons to bring in consumption data and additional opinions, attitudes, and values. All of this data is then weighted using data from the U.S. Census, to ensure the findings are accurate and representative.


Whether you want to cast a wide net in discovery or go much deeper on a specific insight, Helixa provides the tools to capture psychographic insights that you simply wouldn’t surface with other approaches.


Combine demographics and psychographics to motivate your customers to action


To attract prospects and convert them into customers, you need targeted messaging that meets them where they are. But to accomplish this, you need to know where they are — and what they care about.


Demographics remain an important part of market research and audience segmentation, but psychographics provide the necessary context for richer and more actionable insights. Without them, you’re left with generic, ineffective marketing.


For smaller businesses, technological innovations have made it easier than ever to survey and interview your customers. But if you’re at an agency, media company, or larger brand, psychographic segmentation is literally a click away with tools like Helixa.


Use what you learn to paint a picture for your audience. Tell the story of how your product is the bridge between where they are and where they want to be. And be specific, because you finally have the insights to do so with confidence.


If you want to bring deeper psychographic insights to your business in minutes, contact us for a demo. We only need 15 minutes of your time — the product is that fast.


Your Telmar Helixa Marketing Team


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