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Candace Kennedy speaks about Ethnic Technologies,LLC. to Crain’s New York Business about its Multicultural Marketing Analysis abilities.

March 12, 2010 10:49 AM

Dollars and Census
The federal survey forms start arriving in Americans’ mailboxes Monday. Here’s why a small business should care.

By Elaine Pofeldt

Next week, census forms begin arriving in 130 million mailboxes across the country. You’ll fill yours out as a dutiful citizen, and then most likely forget about it.

Not so fast. The census is a treasure trove of data that many small businesses overlook. Even a few hours spent looking at the data in your company’s geographic footprint can help you hone your sales and marketing strategy; delve a little deeper, and you may come up with a niche in the market that you can successfully exploit—or a new hiring strategy.

“One-size-fits-all just doesn’t work anymore in today’s marketplace,” says Candace Kennedy, sales and marketing director at Ethnic Technologies, a multicultural marketing, research and data enhancement firm that does business in and around New York City.

The most obvious use of census data is to get a closer read on your customers. State-level data, used for the reapportionment of federal money, come out in December 2010. The bulk of the information—on smaller areas and on topics such as housing and race—will be released in April 2011. The information available from the census is astonishing in its breadth and scope. The census’ American Community Survey, http://www.census.gov/acs/www/, collects data in dozens of categories, including everything from household income to such granular data as commuting times, household health insurance status and the age of a neighborhood’s housing stock.

Even though the census data are not yet available, some companies have developed projections. Crain’s has published a white paper that includes New York City-level forecasts and ideas for how businesses can capitalize on census data, available for download for $199.

“Don’t wait until 2011 to try to use those numbers to grow your business,” says Manuel Wernicky, managing partner of Adrenalina, a multicultural advertising agency in New York City. “Step back today and ask yourself who is the real shopper at your business. It may be time to recalibrate your product mix.” Once the census data arrive, you can fine-tune your approach.

Small businesses can get ideas for new products and services by being aware of demographic trends, suggests George San Jose, president of The San Jose Group, a marketing communications agency in Chicago specializing in the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American markets.

When you hit a wall with your analysis, there are a number of multicultural marketing firms in New York City that can help. Ethnic Technologies, for example, recently worked with a small Latino bank to analyze the market penetration of its branches in the city by using existing census numbers and other data. The institution learned that it wasn’t reaching as many potential customers as it could in its marketing—and quickly ramped up its efforts. “It was able to build those clients back up,” Ms. Kennedy says.

The key is to build on what you learn from census data when developing your outreach campaigns. “If you’re going to send out general market creative, you’re not going to have as great a response,” Ms. Kennedy says. Say, for instance, you’d like to market a product to Asian grandparents in New York City. You’ll generally get better results by sending out a mailer that shows an Asian grandparent holding a child than one depicting, for example, a white family, says Kennedy. “The companies that are going to survive are going to spend their advertising dollars wisely,” she says.

One parting thought: Many small companies miss out on profitable ideas that build on census data because they lack employees from the demographic groups they are trying to reach, says Mr. Wernicky. If you match your hiring to your customer base, you’ll have a leg up.

About Crain’s New York Business:

Crain’s New York Business and Crain’s New York.com were founded by Crain Communications Inc, publisher of more than 25 special interest publications (see links below).

Each week, Crain’s provides the fast-breaking stories and in-depth reports of local business news that have made Crain’s the most trusted name in New York business. With award winning content that cannot be found in any other publication, Crain’s continually scoops other publications.

For more information visit crainsnewyorkbusiness.com

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