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American FactFinder: Unlocking the Fort Knox of Marketing Data

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

stack of gold barsIn the kindest of terms, the US Census bureau website was, for many marketing planners, a bitter and frustrating joke. I’m relieved to report that American FactFinder now has a new look, new tools and (grand sigh) easier access.

Ask any experienced healthcare marketing professional. Extracting useful statistics from the US Census Bureau has been only slightly less difficult than, say, withdrawing a few gold bars from the US Bullion Depository at Fort Knox.

You know the data/gold is in there somewhere. By far, it’s the richest source in the nation. And it’s free and available for the taking. (Uhh…the data, that is. Technically it’s not “free,” just sort of “pre-paid” via tax dollars, but freely available.)

But for as thorough and detailed as the Census folks are at collecting and compiling data, until recently they were equally confounding in giving up data for marketing and business planning.

Fortunately that’s changed for the better. Some observers say it still an imperfect system, but it looks like our soon-to-be-paid tax dollars are destined to deliver more value, better service and a greatly improved customer experience. Your easier-and-pre-paid access is highly useful for many data and healthcare SEO marketing purposes, including:

  • Local data with granular views as fine as the street address level
  • Specific local areas, neighborhoods, regions – that you serve and/or want to reach
  • Planning for localized content, social media, audience engagement, community events
  • Website and Internet search engine optimization
  • Analysis for existing or planned/future location(s)
  • Optimal distribution of direct response advertising
  • Economic stats including availability of industries, products and services
  • Clarifying target audience demographics, including market shifts and updates

American FactFinder and the simpler path to census data…

Evidently the government’s data-centric folks recognized that the former FactFinder version wasn’t up to the task of manipulating the projected 250 billion data cells in more than 40,000 tables from the 2010 Census. Some of the top features of the new and improved incarnation of the American FactFinder include:

  • A more robust, powerful search engine, making searches for statistics simpler and more topic-driven. Users can select predefined topics, geographies, population groups or industry codes and then quickly obtain search results, including tables to view or download.
  • Enhanced table manipulation features, allowing users to quickly modify a table, permitting you to show or hide rows or columns, collapse or expand groups of data in the table, rearrange the rows and columns, sort rows in ascending and descending order, and filter rows of a table.
  • Advanced interactive mapping, permitting users to see geographic patterns in the data by viewing the data on a map, manipulating the map with a zoom tool and personalizing the map by changing colors, displaying boundaries and features, and adding points or text to the map.

What’s more, the Census Bureau says the American FactFinder will eventually be the primary means of accessing data from many other major data sets, such as the American Community Survey, the economic census and population estimates.

And…now there’s an app for that…

The United States government has—to the surprise of some taxpayers—been keeping up with efficient uses of technology. Their website observes: “Our users are not only changing how they want our statistics, they’re changing how they access them. To increase and improve access to our statistics, the Census Bureau is providing mobile apps that deliver information when and where you need it.”

Not everyone needs to access billions of data cells via their smartphone and/or tablet…but for those of us who are number driven, the America’s Economy app provides real-time updates for 16 key economic indicators released from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Bureau of Economic Analysis. It’s free for either mobile phone or tablet, and in either Apple or Android versions.

Sorry, but we didn’t find an open door to the content of Fort Knox. But perhaps just as valuable for healthcare marketing and advertising, please feel free to tap into the rich and revealing data of the American Factfinder. There’s virtual tour online. Click through to the video here. Related reading: How to define your target audience - a critical health care 
marketing success factor.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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