It might just be Durangos best-kept business secret.
Businesses around the country pay hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars for marketing and mailing lists that aim to reach their target consumers.
That type of information can be very expensive to purchase in the marketplace, said Glenn Lathrop, owner of Durango-based wholesaler Desert Sun Coffee.
But access to a national consumer and business database, Reference USA, comes free with local businesses membership at the Durango Chamber of Commerce. And for some local companies, the service alone justifies their membership dues each year, said Jack Llewellyn, chamber director.
Lathrop, who uses the software to seek out potential out-of-state retailers to sell his products, said the service makes his Chamber of Commerce membership even more valuable.
The value is in the details, Llewellyn said. This software will give you more information than youd ever need.
The software narrows the information to match a business exact needs. In fact, the data are so detailed and accurate that some local business owners and employees said seeing the systems capabilities threw them aback and caused momentary privacy concerns.
Llewellyn called it the Big Brother effect and said its common among first-time users of the system.
The Omaha-based company behind Reference USA pulls data from phone books, Chamber of Commerce directories, product warranties and registrations, government databases and a host of other consumer-submitted and public information, Llewellyn said. Its information thats already out there, but often people and companies dont realize it, he said, and it can cause concern. But the sales leads often are better than some other databases because Reference USA tries to validate and update the data each year with phone calls to the people and businesses in their system, he said.
Its so useful that it will always be in our budget, Llewellyn said.
His organization isnt the only economic-development group that sees potential and utility in the service, for which organizations buy specified numbers of downloads.
Currently, the Durango Chamber of Commerce shares its 30,000 annual downloads with Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado and the Small Business Development Center at Fort Lewis College. The three organizations share the annual costs associated with accessing the database, officials said.
The Chamber of Commerces commitment to providing ongoing access to members is welcome news for companies like Durango Solar Works, which regularly uses the database to find its target customers for direct-mail marketing campaigns.
Weve had good luck with using that information; it definitely brought in business, said owner Derek Wadsworth.
His marketing manager, Adrienne Fuller, said results grew even more as the new customers captured through the database provided word-of-mouth advertising after the sale, bringing in still more customers long after the direct-mail campaign had ended.
There definitely has been an economic multiplier from the program, Fuller said.
In addition to making money for the company, the program has helped Durango Solar Works cut its marketing costs, she said.
Its super useful because we can pick and choose who to target with our marketing efforts, Fuller said. We dont want to waste money and paper reaching people who have no interest in or arent financially able to invest in solar technology.