That's especially true for businesses, because the ability to identify current customers and locate new prospects makes the difference between boom and bust.
So how do successful companies do it?Through targeted market research, which usually means arcane computer systems, large staffs, and six-figure budgets.
That situation is ripe for change, according to the CEO of Catenate, LLC, Wendy Cobrda.
"Solutions that used to sell for $100,000 plus are now available for less than $5,000.
And even better, these tools are web-enabled, which allow companies of all sizes to easily access the information they need instantaneously for a relatively small investment.
" Ironically, many of those companies rely on the U.
Census Bureau data, because of its low cost, but by the time Census data is compiled and formatted, it is two to three years out of date.
That data often doesn't reflect the reality of today's marketplace.
And what if you need a finer-grained solution than the 10,000 foot view that the Census Bureau offers? That's where Catenate's web application, Catopshere, enters the picture.
Catosphere leverages databases which include Census data, current year estimates and five-year Projections (ESRI), traffic counts, shopping centers, market potential, consumer expenditures, and lifestyle segmentation.
Site guests simply carve out a subset of that data that applies to a geographical region of their choice.
What results is a geodemographical study that captures the statistical "vital signs" of the target region.
Surprisingly, obtaining the survey runs less than five minutes from start to finish.
Once the target region and the type of study are chosen, Catosphere dynamically generates the study in either PDF or Excel format.
Although refreshingly usable (the "1-2-3" type instruction lists show up more than once), Catosphere also provides substantial flexibility.
Reports can selected from ten categories, including aerial photographs.
Target regions can be selected via Dbase databases, predefined geographic units, address intersections, a Mapquest-style map selector, or latitude and longitude.
Reports may also be automatically branded with a business logo.
In that way, Catosphere helps you convince the next level of management that you're on the ball.
The company provides two avenues to obtain geodemographic reports - a la carte reports or subscriptions.
Subscriptions range one to three years across two detail levels, Basic and Premium.
Per-report prices fall in the sub-$100 range; subscriptions range from $995 (Basic) to $2500 (Premium), but allow unlimited access to national data.
Subscriptions provide the most value to companies that need to keep abreast of volatile markets or require the ability to conduct speculative analyses.
"I use the reports and maps to make my business case," notes Keith Chamberlain, CEO of Live Arts Today.
In the age of micromarketing, businesses need tools to ensure that their marketing campaigns strike gold.
Catosphere provides an intriguing tool that may help small to medium-sized businesses do exactly that.