Psychographic Positioning

As our world gets more complex more rapidly, is it time to deepen our “demographic” positioning with psychographics?

Back when I was in the old world – last week – I touched on sizing and segmenting markets (plural) for your products and services using psychographics((“Understanding the people in your market by assessing long-term emotional realities, values, opinions, mindset, interests, and lifestyles”, which sets itself apart from the standard segmentation approach: demographics. 

Demographics groups people by external, easily quantifiable characteristics, such as age, race, sex, employment status, education level, income, relationship status, and more. But more than that, it looks for averages and medians within groups – what’s the average income of Californians? Or the average lifespan of dog owners. 

B2B marketing takes that approach and applies it to companies, usually by employee headcount and estimated annual revenue: is the CRM for enterprise and SME sales forces” [meaning really big]

Note: Salesforce is so huge and established, its positioning is really just, “CRM software”. But the rest of us have to be more demographically specialized.

Demographic Positioning

Vertical. The classic (and hardest yet most effective) approach to demographic positioning is to position by “vertical”: Arete provides “Mission-critical custom software for higher education”

Horizontal. By “horizontal” (skill) specialty: Fair Winds, provides, “Kubernetes Container and Cluster Infrastructure, built and managed by a team of experts.” (Kubernetes is a type of cloud infrastructure tech)

Platform/technology. By platform: North Peak is “Your Trusted Partner for Salesforce® Nonprofit Solutions” (that’s sort of a combined platform-vertical positioning)

Audience. And by audience: Optimize my Airbnb provides: “Danny, the best in the world at Airbnb.”

The last one, audience, you might call miscellaneous. It’s positioned to a demographic group of people (AirBNB hosts) that doesn’t fit neatly into a vertical. And it’s not really a platform. It’s a group of people who do something or have something in common.

These are all valuable ways to think about positioning. There might be other ways to slice and dice demographic positioning, too. And other categories you could invent, such as Productized Service (example: Case Study Buddy), which would be a close cousin of horizontal positioning, just as audience is a close cousin of vertical positioning.


What about psychographic positioning?

But the point is none of the examples above are psychographic. “Audience” gets the closest, but it’s about what happens on the outside (becomes an Airbnb host), not what happens on the inside over the long-term.

We tend to think of psychographics as the foundation for effective marketing techniques, for better copy, better UX design, color patterns, etcetera. Millennials are this. Boomers are that. Lifestyle. Values. 

And we adjust the customer experience design accordingly.

But if we take the time, psychographics becomes – or can become – the basis for our de facto positioning.

A common positioning technique is: take your 10 favorite clients of all time and determine what they have in common.

Sidebar: this is yet another exercise that works equally well for product and services firms. Again – products and services are the same exact thing; they are just two different labels you put on the value you deliver. (Reply if you disagree, I could be wrong. Or at least I have been many times in the past.).

Anyway, this exercise usually takes place using demographic thinking. You list your 10 best clients, then start documenting their externally visible characteristics – headcount, location, industry, thing you do.

Psychographic positioning deepens this approach by asking you to look internally. What are the opinions, mindsets, values, and interests of the owners and other buying decision-makers at your favorite firms?

The commonalities you find there might give you much more nuanced positioning ideas than you get from plain old demographics.

Speaking of psychography, it’s nice to be back in the Pacific time zone. The nearby ocean seems to have a calming effect and I feel relaxed. Hope you do too.

My best,