Q: I'm currently in the start-up phase of a company I'm launching with a business partner. It's a specialty travel company providing travel packages to unique urban destinations. We're starting with Chicago because of the urban and convention market, and we'll eventually move to other urban locations such as New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. We've done the initial research, but we'd like to know where we can get a marketing analysis or demographic study of our potential customers?
A: Acquiring customer data is an essential next step before launching your company. It will tell you what your prospects want to buy based on their current habits and which media will reach them. Since you plan to offer urban vacations in Chicago and branch out to New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, start by contacting each city and state's tourism organizations to gain information on the origins of their visitors. They should be able to identify the U.S. and foreign locales where the greatest number of visitors to your targeted cities originate as well as some basic demographic information concerning the travelers.
By learning where travelers to Chicago and the other destinations come from, you'll identify the geographic market areas for your advertising and public relations efforts. Next, you'll need additional qualitative research to identify the buying habits of your targeted demographic groups in each market and the media they use to make their travel-buying decisions. Scarborough Reports are your best source for this type of information. They're the product of Arbitron, whose principal business is to supply ratings and demographic data to subscribing media outlets such as newspapers and radio stations.
You can obtain Scarborough information either from the media as a prelude to advertising or purchase it directly from Arbitron on a market-by-market basis. Say, for example, you find a large percentage of visitors to Chicago come from Boston, and you're considering running an advertising campaign in the Travel section of the Boston Globe. Your account executive there could provide you with the Scarborough data that shows what percentage of their Travel section readers fits your demographic profile along with a host of other related information. You can also contact Arbitron directly at (212) 887-1300 and have them create custom Scarborough Reports with the specific information you request for $340 for each major market or purchase the complete data and software to manipulate it for $600 per market.