Whether you are planning a start-up, expanding into new markets, or
looking to tweak your business strategy, you need to understand your
market – where it’s been and where it’s going.
While analyzing your existing customer data is a great way to
identify consumer need, don’t ignore how valuable external market data
can be in helping you build a picture of how your customer base is
changing, where similar prospects exist in other geographies, as well as
what the competition is doing.
The good news for budget conscious small businesses is that the
federal government – currently the largest producer of data in the U.S. –
has agencies and offices dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and
reporting on business, industrial and economic activity.
Here are five bookmark-worthy government sources of market data and
1. Business Data and Statistics Portal from Business.gov
To get you started, I suggest you bookmark Business.gov’s Business Data and Statistics page.
Here you will find a collection of resources providing free access to
business and economic statistics collected by the U.S. Government.
Whether your market strategy is business-to-business or
business-to-consumer, you’ll find access to demographics from the U.S.
Census Bureau and Department of Labor, economic indicators, and
statistics on everything from income, employment, trade, manufacturing,
and more. You can also search for data by industry type.
2. The U.S. Census Bureau
As you might imagine, the U.S. Census Bureau is a vast source of
information. But in recent years the site has become much easier to
navigate thanks to a variety of Data Access Tools. For example, take a look at The American FactFinder, just enter a
city and state and the tool will generate a city fact sheet that
includes social, economic, household and demographic data for your town
or future location.
The Business & Industry section on the site also
provides essential data about all manner of trades from retail to
exporting, construction to manufacturing. If you need to know what the
current competitive and market landscape looks like for your business,
this section is for you.
If you like what you see but are not sure how to use and interpret
the data, the Census Bureau is hosting seminars across the country to
help business owners learn more about business and industry data on the
site. Find a seminar in your area.
is a no-frills data-driven Web site that provides access to the full
range of official statistical information produced by the Federal
Government without having to know in advance which Federal agency
produces which particular statistic. Data is available on topics such as
economic and population trends, crime, education, health care, aviation
safety, energy use, farm production and more.
4. SBA – Small Business Statistics
The Small Business Administration (SBA) does its own business
research through the SBA Office of Advocacy. This site
provides information and useful newsletters on small business conditions
within the U.S.
There are more than a dozen government sources that provide data
specific to the U.S. economy (links to all of these can be found on that
Business.gov page, Business Data and Statistics). There is, however, one
worth noting – Economicindicators.gov. This site,
provided by the Economics and Statistics Administration and the
Department of Commerce, provides access to daily releases of
key economic indicators from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the
Census Bureau. This is probably your best bet if you’re looking for one
site that says it all.