Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: March 27, 2019

Reliable marketing data is crucial for agencies looking to gain a more complete picture of consumers in a particular area. While marketing research can be quite expensive, there are free online resources that detail the characteristics of people living within a defined zip code, providing statistics on consumer spending, demographics, lifestyle and behavioral trends—all of which can help an agency better address their clients’ target audiences.

So, what are the best free online demographics sites for marketing research purposes? Below, nine members of Forbes Agency Council share the demographics resources that work best for them and why.

Free Research Tools

1. Alexa

Alexa is a free site that will tell you all of the demographics of others in your field. It is a great way to look at your competition and know what you can do to make an immediate change in your field. When you look at the sites you can tell what keywords are being utilized to help you to plan your intelligence and your counterintelligence against your competition. Alexa is a great tool. – Jon James, Ignited Results

2. Claritas

Similar to Esri’s ZIP Lookup, Claritas offers an easy-to-use zip code lookup tool. Claritas presents the ability to learn about a neighborhood in under five minutes. It provides a quick overview of household income, household composition, age and ethnicity at a glance. Digging deeper, Claritas provides behavioral attributes, demographic traits and media traits through simple User Personas. – Ahmad Kareh, Twistlab Marketing

3. Government Resources

In addition to Esri zip code searches, there are many free resources through government agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce, that have critical data on national trends that impact consumers’ everyday lives, habits and, thus, their interaction with brands. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, HAWTHORNE LLC

4. Facebook Audience Insights

Using zip codes, Facebook Audience Insights can provide an abundance of information that can be used to uncover demographic granularity, including lifestyle, behaviors, interests, etc. Granted, this tool is “only” going to show you publicly available information provided by Facebook users, but it is still wildly valuable. With billions of Facebook users, this tool is a great one to start with. – Bernard May, National Positions

5. Facebook And Google Analytics

Our marketing team is very serious about audience research. The more you know about your customer, the better you’ll be able to serve them. Luckily, it’s not a problem in the age that we live in now. We use Facebook Analytics and Google Analytics on a regular basis to get audience insights. These tools are free, and they give a lot of valuable information for us to use later. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

6. General Social Survey

The General Social Survey (GSS), from NORC at the University of Chicago, is the single most comprehensive study of Americans’ societal behavior available, free or paid. And it has been providing incredible trend data for almost 50 years. Marketers almost universally don’t even know about it, much less use it. It’s a gold mine and should be the first stop for every strategy, media plan and campaign. – Craig Greiwe, Rogers & Cowan

7. Clients’ CRM And Advertising Platforms

We must first understand what insight we’re looking to gain and how it will benefit us before conducting marketing research. Many times the client’s current CRM will provide extensive information, including demographics. You can then utilize the customer data at no cost within trusted advertisement platforms that provide the business-to-consumer data you may have otherwise paid high dollar to obtain. – Evangeline Sutton, Regenerative Marketing LLC

8. Social Media Analytics

Social media platforms have analytic tools that businesses can use for free. They provide a lot of basic, but useful, information. I use Facebook and Twitter Analytics often to see who is visiting the page and clicking to our company website. – John Hall, Calendar

9. KWFinder

We use KWFinder to measure the demand of the people living within a specific region for specific types of restaurants. For example, the number of people within an area searching online for Mexican restaurants directly reflects that market’s demand. This tool works best for us because the market research we do with it proves to be eerily accurate to actual campaign performance. – Adam Guild, Placepull