If you want to know what kinds of people live in your market, you’ve got to look regularly at your market’s demographics.  Too often we all base our ideas about the people in our market on our own experience.   We generalize from a limited sample – our friends and neighbors.

A business school professor once described this tendency as “brother in law research.”   As he defined it, you’re doing brother-in-law research if you say to yourself, “My brother in law and my sister drive a minivan, so I bet most families with children drive one.”  That may or may not be true.   You’ve got to check it out.

Here are five misperceptions of demographics that generally aren’t true, no matter what an advertiser or marketer may think

Myth:  Most households around here have kids.

Not so. In most areas, just one in three households have children under 18.  And in most metro areas, it’s hard to find even a single ZIP code where families with children constitute half of all households.   Think of it this way: “Family Guy” may be a popular TV show, but it’s not a good representation of the majority of households in America.

Myth:  Most households with children under 18 are headed by married couples.

Not true. It’s true that, nationally, married couples with kids make up about two-thirds of all households with children. But if you’re trying reach parents and caregivers with products or services for kids, you may want to think beyond targeting married couples.

Myth: “Everyone in town knows about my business; I’ve been here for 30 years.

In most areas, more than 20% of all households have moved to their current residence in the past 5 years.   You may not be new in town, but they are.   And they may not know you’re there. If you’re not advertising.

Myth:   “Single-person households aren’t a very significant part of this area, because most people don’t like living alone.”

Wrong — more than 25% of all households in America are single-person households, whether they like living alone or not.   Those one-person households may not go through toasters and dishwashers at the same rate as multi-person households, but they’re part of most businesses’ customer base.

Myth:  “Everyone who shops here is a homeowner; you wouldn’t walk in here unless you owned your own home.”  

Again, that might not be true. As a general rule, about 2 out of 3 adults live in a residence they own. But not everyone does. And even at the bigger home improvement stores where you’d expect to find only homeowners – say, Home Depot and Lowe’s – a significant part of their customer base is people who rent.   Don’t ignore the third or so of the market that pays rent each month.

Having a strategic media partner like us, with access to proprietary and syndicated research, can help you better understand the people who live near your business and the people in your target group.   With tools like the Claritas demographics system, we can show you the demographics of the ZIP codes or towns or the trading area of your business.   And with the Scarborough consumer survey of our market, we can develop a demographic profile of the kinds of people who shop at your store or use your services.

Want to know more about the demographics of your area – or the kinds of people who shop for the things you sell ? Just contact us, and we’ll help you find the prospects who matter to your business, and show you the best ways to reach them.