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There are so many ways to segment an audience and target your messages – by job title, industry, seniority, behaviour... But there's an important dimension that's often ignored by B2B marketers: psychographics.

How different prospects feel about things can guide your segmentation, offers and creative. The trick is to find ways to get your psychographic targets to identify themselves so you can market to their specific biases.

Imagine you're trying to get people to switch from a popular software package to your own, cloud-based solution. You can run campaigns for specific industries -- and you probably should.

But there's a subset of your prospect universe that is particularly ripe for conversion: the people who HATE the popular software vendor. The ones who are sick of their price-gouging or restrictive terms or lousy customer support.

Designing a campaign around these people will lead you to some very different tactics than a more traditional segmentation strategy might:

  • Generate content that plays to the sore points – ("Ten Steps to Escape From [Insert name of enemy]").
  • Get the anger in the headlines – to tap into the pent-up resentment. ("Overthrow the oppressor.").
  • Use images of revolt – fists, sledgehammers, grimaces and grouches...
  • Play up the factors that cause the resentment – if price is what gets up their noses, play the price card (duh).
  • Create a sense of unity among switchers – 'come on over, it's so much better in the light...'

It seems obvious, but if you hadn't started with the psychology of the prospects, you wouldn't go down this route.

So how do you actually reach the grumpiest prospects most likely to switch? They don't subscribe to Fed Up Monthly. Instead, you need them to self-identify by responding to your signals.

Offer an eBook about the frustrations of, for example, on-premise software. Spray some venom into the social media groups. Give those tweets an extra edge to them.

The people who respond to this are telling you they belong to the psychographic you're targeting. Once you know that, you can design communications accordingly. You don't have to be crass about it.

Just recognise that someone who loathes your competitor is a different kind of prospect than a relatively satisfied customer who just doesn't know any better (for these guys, you might run a campaign that really sells the problems without presuming a reservoir of anger).

Anger is a simplistic example but you get the idea. Think about targeting by psychology instead of demographics and new tactics and styles emerge.

At Velocity, we realised that we do our best work -- and have the most fun – when we work with a certain kind of marketer: confident, ambitious marketers who like to be accountable for their company's revenue pipeline.

People who aim high and would rather ruffle feathers than bore people to death. It's not a huge portion of B2B marketers but it's the juicy one that we really want to address. So we produced the B2B Marketing Manifesto, a 48-page rant designed to attract our sweet-spot clients and actively repel the dullards who hate sticking their necks out.

It worked. The people who responded to the Manifesto have been our kind of marketers. Not because of the company they work for or the industry they're in. But because they think like we do.

Anyone who reads it and says, "I'd like some of this kind of attitude and energy for our own marketing," is a thousand times more likely to be a successful Velocity client than someone who reads it and thinks we're just being childishly provocative.

I know how obvious this all sounds. But I also know it's practiced a lot less often than it ought to be. (Our own previous campaign – around our Content Marketing Workbook – attracted marketers across the psychographic spectrum.

They were interested in our core offer but they weren't all up for our kind of marketing). The experience from the Manifesto made us much more aware of the power of psychographic targeting.

Anyone out there have examples of successful (or unsuccessful) psychographic campaigns?

Doug Kessler

Published 8 July, 2011 by Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler is a founder and Creative Director of B2B marketing agency Velocity and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

19 more posts from this author

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Stephen Whittle, Online Sales Manager at Three

Good stuff Doug. As you say its obvious and you need an article like yours to step outside the box every so often. We have a belief and drive in our business that we probably don't get across to our customers in terms of what motivates us. As our primary audience are businesses we have an opportunity to get real with our customers and inspire them with messages that get them to address the bottom line - Do you want more Sales or Do you want more Profit?

over 5 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

You just have to be careful that you don't go too far when it comes to lampooning the competition. You don't want to anger their supporters (which might be a very large group) and face retaliation. You can still shine a light on their short comings without resorting to name-calling.

over 5 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

Yeah, you do need to strike a balance.
Going overtly head-to-head can backfire if it makes you look like a petty or ruthless company.

A spot of humour never hurts.

Of course, you can tap into anger without naming the brand behind the anger – just hit the issues that frustrate...

over 5 years ago

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Karla Morales

Check out Wavemetrics. They're experts in psychographic profiling

over 5 years ago

Paul Fennemore

Paul Fennemore, Managing Partner at Viapoint

I am working on a study that suggests that traditional segmentation strategies are not relevant in some online sectors - specifically social media networks. Even more granular than the long tail. It's all to with persona and how individuals are behaving now and might behave in a minute.

You can now tell with 97% accuracy the sex, age and other characteristics purely from how someone is using a mouse on a web page.

over 5 years ago

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Michael Brenner

Doug, Excellent post! I am hanging this on my cube wall for all to see.

Psychographic targeting and the need to get people to self-identify with valuable content is so important!

You know I loved the Manifesto. Keep up the great work!

Best, Michael
@brennermichael

over 5 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

Thanks Michael. Much appreciated.

over 5 years ago

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Adele Revella

You're targeting a very exclusive (and fun) segment with this post Doug. But there's a broader interpretation of this point -- that all buyers have an emotional relationship to their buying decision. And identifying and tapping into this emotion is one of the most interesting opportunities available to all B2B marketers.

The trick for B2B marketers is finding an accurate way to identify the emotions. Climb that mountain and you've got to persuade management that the information is reliable.

I'm working on this problem and have recently published an ebook -- The Buyer Persona Manifesto -- to identify the scope of the work required. I'd love to get your feedback on it if you have a chance.

over 5 years ago

Paul Fennemore

Paul Fennemore, Managing Partner at Viapoint

It doesn't stop at psychographic segmentation in the online world.

If you really want to get clever you can start using Attitudional Segmentation, Life cycle segmentation, Webographics, Technographics, Social Netnographics and more. Segmentation is moving into the new era of real-time monitoring and engagement. And what about mobile smartphone consumers. Do they give rise to a new strain of segmentation?

Social media networks are changing traditional segmentation strategies or even making them redundant.

Perhaps some fellow bloggers would like to participate in the research I am doing with Henley Business School around how social media is changing segmentation strategy. To find out more http://paul-fennemore.blogspot.com/p/home.html.

over 5 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

Excellent eBook on Persona Marketing, Adele:

http://www.buyerpersona.com/persona-marketing-ebook

Bravo!

Paul: wow -- I never heard of some of those segmentation methods. Interesting stuff. I look forward to your research.

Tim Roe wrote an excellent post here on segmentation for email marketing:

http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/7713-using-targeting-and-segmentation-for-email-marketing-whats-the-point

over 5 years ago

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