March 12, 2021

Psychographics for Better Farm Customer Personas

How well do you know your customer? 

No matter what your answer, it’s important to know that your customer expects you to know them very well – 76% of B2B customers say they expect the businesses they buy from to understand their needs. 

A vital step in outcome marketing planning is the development of customer personas. While we have a growing understanding of farmer demographics, collecting psychographic data is an even more important step in truly understanding your customer and building better customer personas. 

What Are Psychographics, Anyways?

Demographics tell you who, and psychographics tell you why. When applied to your marketing plans, demographics help with targeting (to some extent) and psychographics shape your messaging.

Age, gender, marital status, education, income, and employment type are among the most commonly tracked demographics, and are also the most commonly used information when customer personas are created. 

In the development of customer personas, demographics are useful, but their usefulness is limited. Purely quantitative data struggles to paint a full picture of the customer because it lacks the fine details that bring that picture to life. Employing only demographics in your targeting has limited value in differentiating your product and creating demand. If your plans are only built around targeting demographics, you are assuming that the presence of any product is good enough to drive purchase action. 

In the past, this was where most marketing intelligence stopped, opening the door for heavily stereotyped advertising that attempted to appeal to the broadest (and often lowest) common denominator within the identified demographic. 

Enter psychographics. 

Psychographics include the beliefs, values, opinions, interests, activities, and personality of your customer. This data is richer than demographics alone and provides insight into your customer’s motivations. Understanding what influences buying behaviour not only makes your marketing efforts better, but it can identify addressable gaps in your product line or available services. 

Demographics worked pretty well for Viagra in 1998, but few agrimarketers have the luxury of a product that solves a unique problem that exists for a distinct demographic cohort. In an increasingly commodified ag world, understanding that your customer is 55 years old, has 3000 acres of spring wheat and wild oats to control is not at all helpful in generating demand for your specific product  –  there might be a dozen graminicides that fit that technical requirement. However, if you understand that they are willing to pay a premium price for the most dependable weed control under any conditions, value purchasing from a brand that will stand behind their product, and have a guarantee (so that they don’t lose bragging rights at the coffee shop), you can see how to effectively position your product, and stand out from the competition.

Wanted: Psychographic Data 

Unlike demographic data, which is often attained by examining generalized or averaged data, psychographic data is specific to your actual audience (or, if your company or product is new, the audience you think is your target). We know that the average North American farmer is male, and in his mid-50s. But we also know that North American farmers are not a behemoth, sharing a singular set of values, beliefs, attitudes and buying behaviours. In other industries, you can often look at third party data about the customer segment you are trying to reach and apply them to your existing data set, but this kind of ag data can be hard to come by.

So, where should you start when it comes to collecting psychographic data?

The customer. 

4 Methods for Collecting Psychographic Data

Focus Groups. The individuals you invite to a focus group should represent a cross section of your audience or potential audience, addressing your identified demographic factors in a variety of combinations. Focus groups are a guided discussion, which can ensure that specific questions are addressed, but they also can limit free discussion of personal stories or experiences. 

Customer Surveys. When designing your survey, it’s important to ensure that you’re asking the right questions. A 1988 study that sought to create psychographic profiles of farmers outlined 23 key dimensions for developing questionnaires. While some of these dimensions are less relevant today to understanding buying behaviour than they were in 1988, these offer a good starting point for considering the types of information that will be most useful in your persona development. They include:

  • purchasing criteria
  • switching
  • sales people
  • independence
  • work
  • adoption
  • personal characteristics
  • knowledge
  • shopping activities
  • information sources
  • risk
  • education
  • safety
  • opinion leadership
  • leadership
  • management 
  • success 
  • farming philosophy
  • social activities 
  • family
  • recreation
  • political interest
  • status

A mixture of multiple-choice, Likert scale, and open-ended questions are best, and the shorter your survey, the better – it should take no more than 5 or 10 minutes to complete.

One-on-One Interviews. A more budget friendly method is to interview a selection of existing customers (or potential customers who are in your lead generation funnel). Have them explain their thoughts, feelings, and actions before, during and after a purchase. 

Ethnographic Research. Ethnographic research is a qualitative method where researchers observe and/or interact with a study’s participants in their real-life environment. The aim of an ethnographic study is to get ‘under the skin’ of a problem and understand its complexity in a way that the customer can’t always articulate.

Validating Psychographic Research

For a number of possible reasons, people do not always tell the truth when responding to questions in focus groups, on surveys, or in one-on-one interviews. It’s important to understand the types of questions that can lead to less truthful responses, as well as the reasons so you can adjust your questions or the way in which you tally results accordingly. 

To validate your psychographic data, you should look to other non-self-reported data sources. Examine the search terms customers are using to find your site in Google Analytics, examine how they react and respond to your digital ads on social media platforms or through programmatic and display advertising, and track their behaviour on landing pages. 

You should also compare the information you collect against actual sales data, either from within your company, or using industry figures. Are they making their purchases online, or through a sales rep? When are those purchase decisions made?

The next step in validating your psychographic data is to explore the findings with subject matter experts within your company. In particular, the individuals on your team who interact most closely with your customers can usually help you make sense of data. They’re able to fill in the gaps in interactions that your customer may not notice or realize are happening 

Bringing the Data Together

Now that you have your demographic, psychographic and behavioural data compiled, you’ll begin to see a clearer picture of who your customer really is. Beliefs, values, and attitudes can give hints to the specific pain points and influences that motivate their decision making. 

One way to better illuminate personas is to use Carl Jung’s archetypes. As explained here (by our VP of Business Intelligence Maurice Allin), Jung posited that archetypes guide behaviour subconsciously towards self-actualization. There are 12 distinct archetypes, each with unique motivations for what they seek. 

A fully realized persona has clues for every step of your marketing mix. Demographic and geographic data can help you define  platforms and channels. Psychographics support the creation of effective key messages, content pillars, and creative decisions. Behavioural data outlines specific times and actions that will yield results. 

Personas Are Living Documents

No persona, no matter how well crafted, is static. You must continuously evaluate the persona against your actual results, A/B test to validate your assumptions and ask your customers if you’re getting it right. Be flexible and adjust as needed. 

Not sure where to start with customer personas or want to evaluate your existing personas? We can help. Click here to explore our Business Intelligence services.