Photo courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

This is the second in a two-part series on email marketing for libraries. Read part one here.

At the Library Advocacy and Funding Conference in September, a new buzzword seemed to be on the lips of many of the presenters. They were all talking about psychographic segmentation of library audiences for email marketing.

I thought I knew most of the marketing buzzwords, but I confess this was the first time I’d ever heard the term. So, it was time to do some research.

What is psychographics?

Psychographics is the study and classification of people according to their attitudes, aspirations, and other psychological criteria, especially in market research (Oxford Dictionary).

Psychographics go beyond basic demographics: location, age, gender identity, and library card usage. To segment by psychographics is to divide your library audience into groups according to their beliefs, values, and reasons for being. It delves deeper into your cardholder’s values, dreams, desires, and outlook on life.

Psychographics identify motivation. Why does your library community take certain actions? Why do they feel the way they do about the library? How do they see the role of the library in their life? And what activities do they participate in, both inside and outside of the library?

Psychographics lead to compelling email marketing messages because they focus on your community’s unarticulated needs and motivations.

Understanding psychographics

The term is new to me but it’s not new to marketing. In 1964, Harvard graduate and social scientist Daniel Yankelovich wrote that traditional demographic traits—sex, age, and education level—lacked the insights marketers needed to target their audiences.

Around the same time, market researcher Emanuel Demby began using the term ‘psychographics’ to reference variations in attitudes, values, and behaviors within a specific demographic segment.

In the 1980s, the Stanford Research Institute developed the Values Attitudes and Lifestyles (VALS) psychographic methodology. It was hailed as a breakthrough in marketing.

One way to understand this concept is to find your own VALS type by taking this survey. My results show that I like to have historical context, that I buy proven products, and that I’m not influenced by what’s “hot.” I also like to experiment. Share your results in the comments.

The travel industry uses psychographics. Email marketing by hotels, cruise lines, and cities, states, and countries often focuses on why a person wants to travel: adventure, romance, curiosity, and relaxation.

Libraries can do the same thing.

Imagine if we started focusing our library email marketing messages not on what are cardholders want to do… but WHY they want to do it.

Uncover the psychographics of your library audience

How do you figure out what makes your library audience do the things they do? You must ask them! A survey is the best way to drill down on the psychographics of your library audience.

Most library surveys focus solely on demographics like age, location, and income. They generally ask people how they use the library now. They may ask people to predict how they’ll use the library in the future.

By adding psychographic questions, you’ll get a look at your audience’s true motivations. That may include questions like, “The last time you checked out a book, what was the reason?” “How do you feel about the library’s work with people experiencing homelessness?”

You can also use matrix-rated questions to gauge psychographics. For instance, you could include a statement like “The library helps people find a new job” and ask respondents to select an answer from a range of “not important” to “extremely important.”

How to Create an Effective Library Survey to Pinpoint the Needs of Your Community

You can also use outside data sources to get at the psychographics of your library audience. Take a closer look at the comments on your social media posts. Can you uncover any reasons why your followers are interacting with your library on social media? Do they share or comment on a particular type of post?

Check Google analytics on your library’s website. Are visitors taking the same steps to move from one landing page to another on your site? Do they spend a longer amount of time on one type of page?

Your circulation stats are a source of psychographics. Are you seeing a surge in the checkouts or interest of one genre of book, or one format? What language do your cardholders use when they ask for recommendations using your form-based readers’ advisory service?

If your library answers reference questions, what type of problems and language are your cardholders using when they ask for help?

Try to look at any interaction your library has with your cardholders, in any arena, as an opportunity to unlock their motivations and psychology. Then use those new insights to craft compelling email marketing messages.

Using psychographics in library email segmentation

Libraries can segment their email audience without violating CAN-SPAM laws. If your cardholders gave you permission to send them email, you can segment them into psychographic segments. As long as your email includes opt-out language (i.e. “If you no longer wish to receive emails about job services at the library, click here”), you are complying with the law.

Combine your demographic knowledge of your cardholders with the research you’ve done on the psychographics of your cardholders. Then divide your email recipients into new segments and try sending them psychographic messages.

For example, let’s say you are already sending a monthly email to parents about storytime at the library. Now let’s say your library decides to offer a new program, like a virtual family literacy night, to help families whose children are not attending in-person classes during the pandemic.

Without psychographics, your email message may have looked like this:

But, thanks to your survey results, you know that many parents are worried about the effect that virtual learning is having on their child’s education. They believe their child will need extra tutoring and classroom attention to succeed in life because of the impact of virtual learning.

Now you can combine your audience’s motivations for attending with your message about the new program.

This marketing message pivoted from a simple invitation to a message that strikes at the heart of the caregiver’s concern for their child.

Psychographics activate the motivations and aspirations of your cardholders. When you get to know your community better, you’ll do a better job of getting your community to know your library!

You may also find these posts helpful

Are My Library Email Metrics Good…. or Bad?! Here Are the Latest Stats to Help You Figure It Out.

The Emoji Experiment: The Pros and Cons of Adding Emojis to Your Library Marketing Email Subject Lines

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