Why using a valuegraphic, not demographic, lens is eight times more powerful

Asking 'why?' to learn people's values will help more accurately position your business

Why using a valuegraphic, not demographic, lens is eight times more powerful

David Allison wrapped up the FP Canada conference yesterday by talking to financial advisors and planners about the importance of using “valuegraphics” to more accurately position their business and deal with the mythical millennials and illusion of Gen Z.

Allison, who founded The Valuegraphics Database, is a consumer behaviour expert and leading advocate for discarding demographic stereotypes. He said looking at the world – and current and potential clients – through a demographic lens just divides the world further by promoting such binary thinking as male/female, black/white, gay/straight, educated/uneducated, and old/young.

“With demographics, we just end up using stereotypes and saying they’re okay,” he told the conference. “We’re saying looking at people with an age lens is cool. We’re saying it’s legitimate to look at people through a gender lens. It’s innocent, but it’s causing a lot of harm. It’s fuelling the fires of ageism, sexism, and homophobia, and the social problems that we’re grappling with are largely fuelled by looking at each other with those labels, which don’t tell us anything about people.

“Demographics are incredibly binary rather than bringing us together through what brings us together – values.”

Allison told the conference that the good news is that’s simple to fix since financial advisors and planners can start looking at the world – their customers, clients, prospects, employees, and family – with a values lens instead. His work has isolated 56 values, which are more powerful to use than a demographic model when people are applying them to their businesses. During the question and answer period, he noted that Canadians’ two top values are family and belonging, whereas those are inverted – belonging and family – in the United States.

“You can start looking at how you align and what’s different, so it becomes second nature to look at people through their values,” said Allison. “We will benefit individually and our work will get better since it’s eight times more powerful to use this lens than a demographic profile. If we can change how we look at each other, we can change the world and make it a better place.”

He encouraged the audience to do that by integrating valuegraphics with demographics and psychographics. But, he also encouraged them to start asking – and have their staff ask – everyone they work with three questions: 1) why do you go to work? 2) why (not where) would you give away half of your lottery winnings? 3) what would you say to your 10-years-ago self – and why would you say those things? He encouraged them to focus on the how people respond to each why.

Digging into people’s values like that would allow advisors and planners to move past the idea that they need to position their future business to appeal to the “mythical millennials and illusion of Gen Z”, since those are not cohesive groups. He said the members of those groups all differ, so the financial professionals would be better served to look at those clients’ values if they want to work with – and sell to – them.

This approach can provide more valuable information about their current clients, too. Allison said high-net worth clients, for instance, are driven by a sense of personal responsibility, so they tend to show up in the environmental movement because they want to make a difference. So, when working with them, he said advisors should do their homework and offer them investment opportunities, but then let them decide what they want to be responsible for. “Give them the keys to the car, and you’ll be surprised,” he said.

He also said 21% of those who are going to inherit $10 million from the boomers are environmental, social, and governance (ESG) champions. “They’re going to save us from ourselves,” he said, adding that they respond better to hearing about progress and wins rather climate crisis gloom and doom.  

“Values are the most powerful thing on earth. We live in a “values economy” and they’re driving everything that’s happening around us. So, you need to understand the values of your employees, clients, prospects, community, partners, and suppliers – and understand what people care about deep in their hearts,” said Allison. “There are only a few little things that make us different. We’re more united than we believe.”