Conversion rate optimization experts often prescribe psychographic segmentation to improve buyer personas. Unfortunately, any conversion rate increase is likely a placebo effect.

It’s not that psychographics actually weaken your buyer personas, but collecting psychographic data could mean you’ve confused their objective, which is to help you meet the needs and concerns of your customers.

What’s “Psychographic Segmentation?”

Psychographic segmentation targets customers according to lifestyle, behaviors and habits. While psychograpic information acquaints you to your buyer persona, psychographic segmentation makes the flawed assumption that your buyer’s actions conform to particular segments. Psychograpic information is a great asset to your buyer persona, but if this is how you segment, you’ll miss an opportunity to increase your conversion rate.

Don’t get trapped in the Psycho ward

You’ll know you’ve been trapped by psychographic segmentation when you stop seeing psychographic data as a proxy for the information you really want about your customers. Too often online marketers believe that if they just get a better picture of who their customers are, their business would be more successful. Unfortunately, knowing who your customer is doesn’t necessarily tell you what will make them convert.

Knowing your customer is a tightwad won’t induce them to act. While one tightwad demands a deal, another opens his wallet exclusively for essential products or services. Assuming that all tightwads want a 50% off deal is overinclusive. Without convincing the tightwads that stick to the essentials they need your product, they won’t act. This segmentation is also underinclusive, because even the customer that spends like money grows on trees might jump at a 50% off deal, if it makes them feel better about all the money they shelled out yesterday. Knowing your buyer persona wants a 50% off deal is more valuable than lifestyle information, but when you can’t get this information, knowing she or he is a tightwad might get you closer to what causes your customer to act.

Effective Segmentationunderstanding the job your buyer personas are hiring your product for

Clay Christensen, a Harvard business professor, makes the case that content should be marketed by the job it does, rather than the customer it serves. He argues that the only method for perfectly aligning your customers to your product or service is finding the job they need to get done. Before you provide content, you need to understand the job for which your buyer persona is hiring your product.

Christensen calls the approach that segments products and services based on jobs they accomplish, “jobs marketing.” He illustrates the concept with a food chain that sold milkshakes. The chain first segmented customers on what they liked in a milkshake. Unfortunately, knowing that customers liked chunks or chocolate, didn’t reveal why customers were buying milkshakes in the first place. The chain decided to target milkshakes based on the job they served. For morning customers who needed to spice up their communte, they created a thick milkshake that would last the entire trip. For the afternoon patrons who needed to appease their whiny kid, the chain served a thin milkshake that the kids could quickly suck through a straw without making a mess. 

Though jobs marketing hasn’t conquered online marketing, it has exploded in physical products. Kodak saw great success with its FunSaver brand of single-use cameras, which performed the job of preserving fun memories for people who forgot their camera or didn’t want to carry around the big one. IKEA, the Swedish do-it-yourself furniture store, has jumped on board too. Their products perform the job of furnishing an apartment right now, with a limited budget. Jobs marketing is also one of the primary segmentation mechanisms at Procter & Gamble.

Jobs marketing works online too. In fact it may be even easier online. Keywords reveal the jobs your customers have, and the data points you collect, like your top of the funnel traffic and conversion rate, are pretty good at telling you how well you’re getting the jobs done. Companies like Inside Intercom have used jobs marketing to more than triple top of funnel traffic, while still converting at the same rate. 

How to be smart about collecting psychographic data

Psychographics can help you get closer to finding out what job your customers want to accomplish with your products, as long as you realize this data is a proxy for the information you really want. So psychographics aren’t all bad news.

Here are the dos and don’ts for collecting psychograpics:

Do use:
  • Internal Info – Talking to your sales and customer service teams about your customers is always a great idea. Finding what they know about your customers’ lifestyle, behaviors and habits will likely help your marketing strategy, but don’t forget these teams have a pulse on your customers. They likely also have information about the jobs your customers want done. Ask them about that first.
  • Social Media – Go ahead and collect your psychographic stats from social media. It’s easy to collect info here , and it doesn’t require you to waste your customers’ valuable time and attention collecting information that doesn’t directly reveal jobs to be done.
  • Data – Feel free to take the marketing data you have and collect all the psychographic characteristics they provide. Don’t forget to look at the data from the perspective of what has moved people to click, call, or buy in the past? This may reveal customers true motivations and what jobs they want done.
Don’t use:
  • Surveys – I’ve talked about asking too many questions in the past, in my post on 10 Tips for Better Conversion Optimization. The point’s pretty much the same here. Your customers are more likely to convert (fill out your survey) when you stick to the essentials, so ask about jobs to be done, not psychographics.
  • Interviews –  This is really the same point as with surveys, except the stakes are even higher. One on one time with your customers is priceless. Don’t waste your time asking questions to create a psychographic horoscope. Ask your customers how your products are performing and what jobs you can do in the future.
The point is to know the jobs your buyer personas want accomplished, and when psychographic information helps you figure that out, it’s valuable.
How have you figured out what jobs your buyer personas want accomplished? Tell us in the comments!