You’re probably doing some planning for the New Year, and having the facts about trends and other market intelligence could mean the difference between a campaign that takes off and one that fizzles. You can pay big money for statistical information and other data mining tools that will help you discover what works for your small business and what doesn’t. Before you shell out a fortune for that direct mailing list, though, these sites and services may offer the same information free. Some have add-on packages that do cost, but only as an upgrade or after a productive introductory period.
Free Statistics and Other Useful Information
Business Data and Statistics (USA.gov) – The U.S. Government is the largest supplier of statistical information in the world, and Uncle Sam offers a staggering amount of data free for the asking. Some of these databases can be manipulated with third party software programs to customize searches and easily refine the results you’re after too. You can incorporate census information with mapping software to determine if that new retail location you have in mind contains the necessary demographic mix for success, for instance. This list of topics isn’t exhaustive, but it’ll give you an idea of the breadth of information you can access with some curiosity and a mouse click (or two):
- Business data and statistics
- Earnings data and labor statistics
- Regional information
- Economic analysis
- Banking statistics
- Trade statistics and tools
Market Research (Business.gov) – The official business link to federal and regional databases, statistics and data portals, business.gov also offers advice and mentoring. Before you start, expand, or change your business, visit this site.
Census Bureau Quick Facts – If you want information but don’t have time to dig, the Census Bureau has important state, county, and city information at a glance. Drill down by state to find useful details you can download in delimited format or to an Excel spreadsheet. If you’re preparing a presentation, you can’t beat this tool for accuracy and ease of use: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/index.html
SCORE (Counselors to America’s Small Business) – If you own a small business and haven’t taken advantage of the brain trust SCORE represents, you’re missing a big opportunity. Although you won’t find databases, the resource sections alone are worth a lengthy visit.
Center for Women’s Business Research – If you’re a woman run business, this is a useful resource for information, mentoring, and networking.
United States Patent and Trademark Office – Search online databases for registered trademarks and pending patent applications that may impact your future plans. Although not very user friendly, these sites are comprehensive and have lots of useful material.
Foursquare – This mobile application will promote your brick and mortar store, give your website a boost, and provide real-time statistics about your customers. It’s a neat little package that’ll help you plan your promotions and make your store or restaurant the go-to venue in your neighborhood. With tens of thousands of participating businesses and over five million worldwide users, Foursquare is an effective way to use the power of the internet to increase your brick and mortar business while getting timely information about what’s hot and what’s not.
If you own a small business and want to understand the market, your niche, or some options for future growth better, the sites above can help. Because they contain lots of information and some of the concepts may be new to you, expect a learning curve. A little dedicated research will net you an education, lots of topical information, a few useful new tools, and some great ideas.