Any fisherman will tell you that electronics have changed his sport by replacing guesswork with intelligence. Likewise, online resources have changed the game of landing high-net-worth clients. Once upon a time, it took weeks to get the kind of demographic information now available almost instantaneously. Though we can't guarantee you'll land the big one with them, the following spots are fine places to cast your line.
ACORN Lifestyle Lookup
Type a zip code, any zip code, and you'll get free, generalized information about that locale, including income averages, ethnic makeup and home values. But what makes this site most useful is the access it affords to a favorite tool of consumer-goods marketers: the demographic classification system called ACORN (A Classification of Residential Neighborhoods). Operated by ESRI Business Information Solutions of Redlands, Calif., ACORN sorts U.S. neighborhoods into 43 clusters based on demographic and resident spending patterns. It's a fun and useful tool, but you might want to take the site's summary narratives with a grain of salt: ACORN pegs the folks in Otis, Ore. as Senior Sun Seekers — a designation that may be more apt than intended, since it rains one day in three in my old hometown.
American FactFinder, a free online service of the U.S. Census Bureau, doesn't provide data at the neighborhood level (as a federal organization it must pay extra-close attention to privacy issues). But its Basic Facts box is very useful for those seeking a quick overview of a community's age, occupational mix, income distribution and even mean commuting time. More detailed nuggets are available on national demographic issues and on cities and metro areas with populations of more than 250,000. Such information could prove helpful in deciding whether a particular spot has a ready pool of potential customers.
Microsoft bCentral.com Customer Leads
A kind of Match.com for new customers, the online sales-lead service from Microsoft's small business site provides contact information for specific individuals. Searches can be issued on counties, cities or neighborhoods and refined to locate people matching more specific criteria, such as age, income and even mail-order buying habits. If more definition is needed, the search can be subdivided even further — for instance, the search form under “Mail Order Purchase” includes 18 checkboxes, including one for “Sweepstakes and Gambling” and one for “Investments and Finance.” Microsoft bCentral offers 50 leads as part of a free trial. Its database contains information on 250 million consumers.
The Internet might not have changed everything after all, but it did change how Americans invest their money. CyberAtlas, a unit of Jupitermedia of Darien, Conn., is one of the few sites that still follow “cyber” marketing statistics. It features polls regarding how people use the Internet in making and monitoring their investments. One sample tidbit: Even as many of the Web's highest profile ventures go the way of the Edsel, a recent CyberAtlas survey shows more high-income professionals than ever are using the Internet for investment research — 81 percent in 2002 compared with 73 percent in 2001.
Don't be put off by the title: American Demographics might sound as dry as the Santa Ana winds, but it's actually one of the more interesting magazines around. Each month, this award-winning magazine (a sister publication of Registered Rep.) looks at the latest developments in America's cultural, racial and economic composition and how marketers are trying to exploit those emerging trends. Whether you're on the lookout for a new market or just want to better understand the groups you already serve, this is a great place to cast your line.