From the April 2000 issue of Startups

If your start-up sells high-tech products or services, how and what you market to customers could depend on where they live. A recent study by Forrester Research Inc. divided U.S. consumers into three "technology zones": the fast lane, middle of the road and the slow lane.

The study assessed five factors: PC use at work, home PC ownership, online adoption, online purchasing and "technology optimism." While geography didn't influence these factors, fast-lane states tended to include large metropolitan areas and to have younger residents with higher incomes and education levels than slow-lane or middle-of-the-road states.

How can knowing this put your business on the fast track? If you're targeting fast-lane states, Forrester recommends playing up your product's novelty and power. Fast-lane consumers enjoy new products for their own sake and can afford the latest gadgets. But don't ignore slow-lane states: Forrester says this is where the greatest potential for growth of Internet and PC use lies. Appeal to these consumers by emphasizing low prices and ease of use.