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Psychographic Data and the Future of B2B Marketing

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Social media is not free. Most people think it is because you don’t pay a fee to post photos of your kids or connect with an old college friend.

But there is a transaction that takes place. You get to use a platform like Facebook all you want, but you allow them to gather data on your activities.   

This data is more than how much time you spend on Facebook or who you follow on Twitter.  Rather, it delves into psychographics, which centers on your activities, attitudes, personality, and values.

Social media platforms are a treasure trove of psychographic data that only 30 years ago was out of the reach of marketers. This data is changing the face of business marketing.

What’s the Difference Between Psychographic Data and Demographic Data?

Most business owners are familiar with demographics, which work with hard data such as age, gender, and location. Psychographics, on the other hand, deal with soft data such as personality, attitudes, and lifestyles.

Demographics are widely used in marketing with considerable accuracy. For example, you can target an advertising campaign for:

  • Men
  • Graduated with MBA
  • Single
  • Works in IT
  • Has sales experience
  • Lives in a Condo
  • Generation X

With psychographics, you target interests, behaviors, and attitudes:

  • People interested in personal finance.
  • Likes mob movies and TV programs.
  • Dates often but not interested in a long-term relationship.
  • Works out at Gym weekly.
  • Enjoys micro-brew beer.
  • Is a dog lover.
  • Does research on mobile but tends to buy on their laptop.

When you correlate demographics with psychographics, you can create highly targeted campaigns.  

Targeting Expected Needs

Charles Duhigg of The New York Times tells the story of Andrew Pole, a statistician who worked for Target.

Pole took data from the women who’d signed up for the baby registry to see if they could find any patterns. Clearly, if a woman started buying strollers or cribs, you knew they were pregnant.  But they also discovered behaviors that could not be assumed. For example, women in their second trimester started buying unscented lotion instead of scented lotion. At the beginning of their third trimester, they started buying cotton balls and washcloths.  

This allowed Target to subtly send coupons related to various stages of pregnancy.

Duhigg goes on to describe a case where a father came into a store, complaining about these coupons – addressed to his 18-year old daughter. He was angry, assuming Target was encouraging his daughter to get pregnant.  

The embarrassed manager – unaware of Target’s pregnancy prediction machine – apologized profusely.  In fact, he felt so bad he called a few days later to apologize again.

But the father had an apology of his own. He admitted that there were behaviors going in his household he was unaware of. His daughter was expecting that August.

The Cold Call’s Final Call

If cold calling is still a significant tactic in your B2B marketing, the rise of psychographic data and ad targeting should give you pause.

A department store knows a young woman is pregnant before her family does. Social media knows your dietary preferences and exercise routine. Your physiological state is being continuously streamed to the internet. You job hunt for a position as a data analyst, and ads for data analyst training programs start appearing in your News Feed.   

Then you get a cold call during lunch. Or email spam. How impressed are you going to be by a company that’s using this kind of untargeted, push advertising to reach you?

In the age of digital data gathering and psychographics, marketing has totally reversed. We’ve gone from pushing content out to people who have no interest to delivering content so targeted it predicts future needs.    

At first, like the women in the Target campaign, people are taken aback by the psychographically targeted ads. The breakdown in privacy is a bit spooky. But after a while, people will start to expect it.   

The Future of B2B Marketing Technology

Today, data analysts talk in terms of zettabytes. The amount of data recorded in the last few years is vastly more than everything that preceded it – in the history of humanity.

As an individual business, you may find yourself overwhelmed just trying to deal with data coming from your marketing and social media channels. Likewise, the tactics for social media marketing have gotten complicated very quickly. We are awash in too much of a good thing.

It’s hardly practical that every business will have a team of data analysts to interpret psychographic data in a way that’s actionable for a marketing campaign. Rather, this will be accomplished with advanced technology solutions for marketers, such as marketing automation software.

Up to now, marketing automation has been mainly task-focused. It automates updates on email lists, advertising follow-ups, and social media posts, eliminating repetitive tasks for people. But with today’s big data, some speculate that the internet is starting to develop into a digital nervous system, with each person and object acting like a sensory node.  

Marketing automation software will pull from the vast amounts of data to create an understandable psychographic profile. Marketers will look at that data to develop creatives and messaging that will connect with the people they want to reach. They’ll put this back into the software system, where the tactical distribution of the content will also be automated.  

The result will be incredibly personalized, targeted marketing that reaches audiences who will appreciate the message and need the product.
The time to start integrating marketing software with the rest of your business is now. And if you’re not sure what to buy, don’t worry. A solution better than you thought possible will soon show up in your News Feed.

Feel free to comment with successful tactics you have seen or implemented yourself below.

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About the Author

Scott Yoder

Scott Yoder is the Chief Content Strategist at Marketing 360, a small business marketing and software solution. His background is in SEO, content marketing, and online advertising. He lives in Colorado where snowboarding, mountain biking, and micro-brew beer make life pretty great.


Hi Scott,

You have an amazing talent…!!! Totally impressed with your style of writing. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful article.

Didn’t know how exactly psychographics is helping out for effective marketing. By your article, i understood it. Thank you

Great explanation! I would like to point out though that these capabilities are already being used. Maybe not as much in business yet but definitely in Politics by both campaigns and some news organizations.

Psychographic profiling is good but it needn’t result in creepy moments like the ones you described in blog (Target example).

Let’s say you are selling software to eCommerce companies that help in personalizing the shopping experience for the users of the eCommerce website, I’d like suggestions like “This CMO has used such and such software in his/her earlier organization”, “Most of her tweets are about asking for opinions”, “She has mentioned Taco in her social feed a dozen times”.

As a sales reps, I’d then use these insights to weave taco into the conversation. Psychographic insights have to be subtly inserted into conversations and not like how Target did.

We’ve been thinking about this every day at PipeCandy, where we help companies selling to the ecommerce vertical, identify industry nuances that they use for their sales calls.

Brilliant article, overall! Thanks for putting it out!

Ashwin Ramasamy

[…] Promote the video on channels ideal for your product and target a customer base based on chosen demographics and psychographics) […]

Very interesting blog about psychographic data in B2B Marketing…..Thanks for sharing

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