Inside Track

Savvy ideas to boost sales
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the August 1996 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

It's not that demographics are passé-far from it. But a different kind of market research-the use of anthropologists and sociologists to analyze customer thoughts and behaviors-is making waves these days.

Nontraditional market research enlists anthropologists or sociologists to interview your customers, helping you hone future marketing campaigns. Why is the concept taking hold? Because business owners need to know why consumers buy what they do and how much they're willing to pay. "It provides deeper insights into the mind of the customer," explains Gerald Zaltman, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School in Boston who studies the whys of consumer behavior.

Zaltman knows whereof he speaks. Among other research for clients, he's discovered exactly how women feel about pantyhose. He asked respondents to bring him pictures that represented their feelings about pantyhose. (According to Zaltman, it turns out they have a "like-hate" relationship with the oft-slandered legwear.)

Intrigued? To find anthropologists or sociologists who specialize in nontraditional research, Zaltman recommends checking out the American Marketing Association Directory.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to use nontraditional market research instead of just gathering raw data is that it puts you smack-dab in the middle of your customers' thoughts. And if you want to sell more products to more clients, that's exactly where you need to be.

By The Book

The Yellow Pages may just be the most underrated advertising medium around. In fact, it's a golden opportunity to tell a primed readership what sets your company apart from the rest.

"Most Yellow Pages advertisers miss the mark by saying who they are instead of what they do," says Tom Frost, a 25-year advertising and marketing veteran who owns consulting firm Frost Yellow Pages Inc. in Madison, Wisconsin.

Frost recommends asking yourself some crucial questions before putting pen to paper for your Yellow Pages ad. For instance: Who's my typical customer? Who's my major competitor? Why should somebody call me instead of my competitor? What is the most important benefit my company provides? Is there a service I provide that my competitors aren't advertising?

Your headline should be short-no more than seven words-and impossible for readers to ignore. Customers want to know what you can do for them, not your company's history, so don't waste the space. If your business is well-known, feature its name prominently in the ad; otherwise, don't make a big deal out of it.

Most important, put yourself in the customer's shoes. That's not easy for entrepreneurs to do, but it's key to reaching buyers. Above all, consider this question: What would make me call this company?

Bright Ideas

Fashion Police

It's perhaps the most common crime known to mankind: the fashion crime. And in a moment of marketing brilliance, one company decided to punish the most heinous perpetrators-and promote itself in the process.

In March of last year, I. Spiewak & Sons Inc., a New York City clothing and industrial uniform manufacturer that makes police jackets, issued citations to fashion violators. Clad in police garb, company reps handed out tickets for violations ranging from "flagrant use of last year's style" to "repeated accessory mismanagement." The two-hour promotion took place before a Todd Oldham fashion show; even the celebrities in attendance weren't spared the rod. "Ivana Trump got a citation for hair," recalls Michael Spiewak, company president and co-owner.

Was Spiewak concerned the well-meaning stunt would generate negative publicity? You bet. "Initially, we were worried about the backlash," he admits. "But eventually we decided it was too silly not to do."

In addition to fashion faux pas citations, a number of commendations were handed out. The chosen few? Those clad in Spiewak's own designs, of course.

Contact Sources

Frost Yellow Pages Inc., 2701 Gregory St., Madison, WI 53711, (608) 238-2295;

I. Spiewak & Sons Inc., 505 Eighth Ave., 7th Fl., New York, NY 10018, (212) 695-1620, ext. 208.

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