Question Number 1: What exactly are psychographics?

Psychographics are the holy grail when it comes to marketing and sales.  They are more than just the external characteristics of your customer.  They run deeper than past purchasing habits.  Psychographics are the why behind consumer behavior.

The reason a man chooses one brand of wrench over another has just as much to do with how he feels about the wrenches as their performance and associated marketing budgets.  Why a woman chooses one clothing line over another is more involved with how she perceives the brands' fit with her sense of style than the actual price tag.  Understand psychographics, and you understand your customer in ways you never thought of before.

As I mentioned last time, there are four stages in a customer-centric marketing plan:

1. Identification

Figure out who you are, what you are selling, and the story behind that endeavor.  Then figure out who your customer is.  Are you targeting the old man across the street, or the little girl across town.  Pick a direction - like the old adage says, "if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there."  So pick one road for now; it will make figuring out if you're on the right road a lot less costly.

2. Demographics

You know a little bit about your customer - now it's time to dig a bit deeper.  What kinds of movies does he like?  Where does she go with friends to unwind after work?  How much money does he make in a year?  How old is she?  These are important questions, because they help you segment your market.  You've picked a road, and now you have a detailed image of who you might find along the way.

3. Psychographics

The secret sauce.  Knowing who is standing along the grand road of marketing is less important than knowing why they might land in your path.  The man who buys the $250k sports car might be your perfect customer because he relates extravagant expenses with success (and values success).  Or he might really be a penny-pincher and only bought the car to prove a point to his father-in-law.  Both men might be demographically identical, but if you fail to understand their psychographics, you'll waste valuable marketing dollars on one over the other.

4. Communication

Now the action starts.  You know who your customer is, what they look and act like, and why they do.  You now have the power to craft a marketing message that resonates with the right customers and keeps your company in the black for a very long time.  It's easier to tell a customer about a product when the story you're selling sounds very much like their own.

Psychographics are the piece that make this entire puzzle come together.  Knowing who a customer is doesn't help you craft an emotional message specifically for them.  Knowing what they care about and why does.  Where demographics is the study of immutable external characteristics (age, sex, race, income, etc.), psychographics is the study of consistent emotional characteristics (such as brand preference).

But just knowing how to define psychographics doesn't explain why they're important.  On Wednesday, you can expect a basic case study explaining just how valuable this somewhat new science really is.