How Collecting Data Transforms Marketing

“You First Must Know What You Are Looking for Before You Can Search For It”
Herb Meyer, CIA

To find your target audience and market effectively, there are two types of data to collect—demographic and psychographic. The first type of data and the one most marketers are already familiar with is demographic data:

  • Location
  • Industry
  • Job Title
  • Income
  • Gender

Knowing the demographics of your target narrows down the entire population of the world into a more defined group with unique characteristics, and answers the question, “who are they?” Demographic data is fairly straightforward to collect and in many cases you can purchase it from data brokers. It helps segment your contacts to better understand who is a fit for your product or service. But rarely is it enough information to build the foundation of a breakthrough campaign.

The second kind of data is psychographic information. It is more valuable than demographic data and harder to gather. Psychographic data is internal to the person you are trying to reach and answers psychological questions like:

  • What are their values
  • What are they afraid of when it comes to doing business with you
  • What motivates them to make purchases
  • What do they most appreciate about your company’s offering
  • Is there something personal to them that should be taken into account

Psychographic Examples

A CEO might want to implement a new marketing automation system into his company, not just to scale marketing, but to show he is focused on innovation and has a vision to the future. To influence his purchasing decision, a marketing automation system company, like Hubspot, would focus on developing content (blogs, emails, white papers, etc.) that talks about how and why Hubspot is far ahead of the rest of the market and has a technical road map that is far-reaching and focused on the future. These are intangible elements of the sale that are important to the CEO when it comes to decision-making.

Psychographic data tends to be less concrete and more personal to individuals than demographic data, but can still be categorized across a niche group of individuals. For instance, people who played hockey as children are much more likely to love hockey as adults. “Hockey lover” is a psychographic attribute that applies to an individual or a group, and can be used to target them in a way that wouldn’t work for everyone.

Another example of a psychographic element can be found in the luxury market. How does a purchase make an individual feel? A $20,000 Rolex watch will in all likelihood keep good time, but that is not the reason people buy Rolex watches. The Rolex brand is a status symbol. It has cultural merit, and influences feelings of accomplishment, importance and even success.

The Value of Understanding Individuals

I have done a great deal of work in technology markets such as software as a service (SaaS), IT services and IT support. When trying to sell my services to these kinds of companies, I identified three different types of people that often play a role in purchasing decisions:

  • Office Managers
  • CFOs
  • In-house IT Managers

Their individual psychographic reasons for buying or not buying a product or service are vital to the sales process. For instance, the office manager is often worried about being assigned work that she doesn’t understand. She is usually non-technical and will quickly become frustrated with anything she doesn’t understand. When marketing to her, change the message to focus on how easy it would be to work with you, and avoiding any type of technical jargon will go a long way toward removing her resistance.

The second person, who will purchase products and service for an entirely different motive than the office manager, is the financial manager or CFO. They often get involved in IT decisions and don’t care much about how hard it will be to work with a solution. They are completely focused on ensuring the service is a good value and whether or not it will prepare them to pass an IT audit. Delivering an effective marketing message to them will weigh value and quality.  

The third person in this example is the IT manager, who is often concerned about whether or not they are going to lose his or her job or a portion of responsibilities to an outsourced IT company. IT personnel often ask questions to understand the underlying intent of the engagement. They are focusing on the advantages and threats of purchasing a new IT service or product. Offering a sense of security and deep technical understanding will be the greatest influence for these types of purchasers.

By gathering the data on the three “personas,” we are able to tailor marketing material for each of the them, addressing what is most important to them as individuals. It works wonders.

Developing Personas

Most B-B companies focus on surface level demographic data such as first name, last name, email, title, company, phone number, address, company size, and industry. These data points have value, but they will not help your team develop enough insight into the buyer’s personal lives. Only the understanding of psychographic information has the potential create extraordinarily interesting and engaging content that will truly influence decisions.

Before the Army shoots a missile at a target they gather as much intelligence as possible on the target and answer a series of key questions such as, “is the target above ground or below? What is the target made of? Does it need to be completely destroyed or just disabled?” The answers to the questions determine the ammunition, size and type of missile fired.

Marketers should deeply understand who their target markets are as people. They must develop a profile that includes personality traits, goals, fears, beliefs and more—anything of importance that separates them from the rest of the human race. Remember, companies, even giant fortune 1,000 companies, never buy anything. Individuals within these companies make the buying decisions. They are real-life human beings who have their own personal inclinations that may or may not be rational and are likely emotional. If you can garner a deep psychographic insight into their emotional make up or behavior it will change everything for your marketing campaigns.

Charles Duhigg, in his book, “The Power of Habit,” tells the story of how when Proctor and Gamble (P&G) first introduced Febreze into the market, it failed miserably. No one wanted another product to kill smells. People who are constantly exposed to bad smells adapt to the smell until they don’t notice it anymore. It wasn’t until they learned something special about their target market, housewives, that they were able to make a break through.       

After conducting intensive research, they noticed many of the mothers who were cleaning the rooms of their children would pause look at their work one last time and smile just before departing the room. P&G interviewed many of the women and learned that it was their way of taking a moment to celebrate a job well done. They had a psychographic urge to do a good job for their families and wanted to celebrate it. This seemingly tiny insight into the behavior of the women changed P&G’s entire approach to their marketing. They refocused their campaign on encouraging mothers to celebrate a job well done. P&G went on to sell more than $230 million of Febreze within one year after their relaunch.

In determining what data to collect start by creating a rough profile of the target persona. It is more important to focus on general psychographics of the profile than agonizing over every detail. For instance, if women are represented in disproportionate numbers but you don’t know the actual percent, just choose a number that will give the team the right idea. Saying 90% are women versus 75% has no real value. The majority of the demographic are still women and will be the first focus.

Below are two rough profiles as examples—a financial professional and an office manager. They were prepared for technology marketers who were applying the inbound methodology in their markets.

The first profile was created strictly from a couple of quick online searches and basic knowledge of financial professionals. The second profile on office managers was created after meeting with dozens of office managers in multiple industries, listening deeply and observing the behavior of office managers during the sales process. Neither persona profile is exact, but both contain important information to help guide the marketing department in developing the right editorial voice and content that will appeal to the target audience.

Financial Professional

  • Job Title: CFO or Director of Finance
  • 90% are college educated males
  • Average age is 53
  • Worried that they do not know enough to properly manage their IT systems and personnel
  • Learning IT management through self-study
  • Need to understand and focus on controlling costs to achieve compliance

Office Managers

  • Primarily female age 25-65
  • Most have a college degree, with 20% having only a high school diploma or some college
  • Tend to be information gatherers
  • Can say “no” to a provider but do not normally have the ability to make a hiring decision alone
  • Key influencers in deals but have a very different perspective than CEOs, CFOs or financial professionals
  • Question implementation details and the day-to-day relationship management of services
  • Normally non-technical
  • Often utilize passive aggressive tactics to influence the process
  • Many will resist change at all cost, especially if they already have established relationships
  • Fear embarrassment by not understanding technical jargon
  • Worried if a new service will increase work load

Collecting Data 

Companies tend to collect demographic data through their online forms and psychographic data through other means, such as surveys, interviews, and content tests. If you have demographic details of your contacts, but not psychographic data, spend some time brainstorming how you will collect it.

Website and landing page forms will be your first place to begin gathering demographic data. Visitors exchange information about themselves in exchange for something that will be helpful and valuable to them. Once a relationship is established, you can begin collecting psychographic data.

Collecting data is a vast topic, continue reading to learn more.


people planning a digital marketing strategy


Anthony Butler

Anthony Butler

Anthony Butler is the author of Primal Storytelling and the Founder of Can-Do Ideas

TOPICS: Inbound Marketing, Digital Marketing, Data, Strategy

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