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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Forget Demographics, Focus on Verbographics

Written By: Carol Roth | Comments Off on Forget Demographics, Focus on Verbographics

Are you trying to figure out what your customer wants?  Well, some fancy marketing person may try to get you to segment your customers into all kinds of “graphics”.  Do you want to target customers of a certain income level?  How about gender?  Age?  Or perhaps you should turn to psychographics that separate individuals by their interests, attitudes and aspirations.

The issue is that sometimes, assumptions are made that go into creating or analyzing this data that don’t really capture customer behavior, because hey, we’re human and we tend to act out of emotion more often than rationality. Also, data is sometimes misleading.

I have been inundated with products for my new baby when I am not pregnant and not planning to become pregnant.  However, that same retailer is missing the opportunity to market cosmetics to me, which I buy practically in bulk (yes, I have a problem).  When I went to buy my car, I went in casual gym clothes.  I guess I didn’t look like a serious buyer, because 3 salespeople ignored my husband and me, probably because we didn’t fit into the “-graphics” profile.  However, salesman #4 got the commission when we drove out of the dealership an hour later with a new car.  Do you know why he got the sale?  He didn’t rely on demographics or psychographics.  No, he instead relied on verbographics- that is, he asked us.  We told him what we were there to do and then it was clear that we were real prospects.

All of the marketing psychology in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t ask questions and dialogue with your customers.  Customers are very complex and you can no longer assume that the guy with tattoos at Brooks Brothers won’t drop cash on a wardrobe or that the lady with the fur coat is going to be the most likely customer to by the Jaguar that day.   You should be talking to customers to understand their wants and needs.  They may not be able to articulate what exactly it is that they want, but if you ask the right questions, you should be able to get a good sense of where you stand with your customers.

Whether you are in a large or small business, technology gives you unparalleled access to your customers and potential customers. Stop relying on numbers, data and theories and talk to your customers.  That will give you more answers than any spreadsheet, survey or profile ever can.

And if you are having trouble focusing in on your target market, try going to where your product or service is sold and casually watching how they interact with what is in front of them. You can learn a lot without spending a dime on a consultant.


Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth