Go Figure

Numbers Game

Innkeeper Uses Census To Help Fine-Tune Her Marketing Efforts.

In many ways, Sharon Tabor typifies the corporate refugee. The 39-year-old North Carolina resident left a retail management job two years ago to run her own business because she was "tired of the corporate rat race."

Tabor bought a bed-and-breakfast in Asheville, North Carolina. Although she had zero experience running an inn, when she found the Acorn Cottage Bed and Breakfast, with its 1920s-style architecture and prime location, she knew it was exactly what she'd been looking for.

Currently, Tabor does most of her marketing through guide books and via the Internet. When we asked her how she thought the Census Bureau could help her business, she confessed that she had been completely unaware of the service. "If I had known it was there," she says, "I would have looked at it."

After this revelation, Tabor decided to use the Bureau to help her pinpoint the regions where she should spend her future marketing dollars. "The visitors who typically come to a bed-and-breakfast are 40 to 45 years old, have an annual income over $40,000 and are college-educated. They're mostly couples on a weekend getaway," Tabor says. "Right now, I don't know where people who fit this profile are located."

Tabor researched Omaha, Nebraska. She chose income under Subjects A to Z, hit "1990 Census Lookup" and then "STF3C-part 1," then checked the information she needed. The data table she created included age, education, occupation and median household and per capita incomes for 1989. This helped Tabor discover exactly why she doesn't have many customers in Omaha. The largest population numbers were in the 25- to 44-year-old age group, and most people were not college graduates. While there were many professional specialty occupations, the largest industry by far was administrative support occupations (i.e., clerical jobs). The median household income of $30,000 was also below that of her typical customer.

Tabor's conclusion? "These statistics are a good guide for determining what region to advertise in," she says. And that's the beauty of using the Census Bureau--you get targeted market research at the best price in the world.

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