Secondary data consist of outside information assembled by government agencies, industry and trade associations, labor unions, media sources, Chambers of Commerce, and so on. These data are found in pamphlets, newsletters, trade and other magazines, and newspapers. The benefits are obvious: time and money are saved because you don't have to develop survey methods or conduct the interviews.
Secondary data consist of outside information assembled by government agencies, industry and trade associations, labor unions, media sources, Chambers of Commerce, and so on. These data are found in pamphlets, newsletters, trade and other magazines, and newspapers. The information has been gathered by another, or secondary, source. The benefits are obvious: time and money are saved because you don't have to develop survey methods or conduct the interviews.
Secondary sources are divided into three main categories: public, commercial, and educational.
Public sources are the most economical because they're usually free and can offer a wealth of useful information. These sources are most typically government departments and the business departments of public libraries.
Government statistics are among the most plentiful and wide-ranging public sources. They cover virtually every aspect of American life, from census tracts to business trends from a variety of perspectives - commerce, agriculture, investment, and so on. Among other things, government data can help you:
- Track existing and emerging attacks
- Analyze your company's market share using updated, industry-wide revenue data
- Compare regional trends
- Estimate the size and characteristics of a certain market, including customers' spending habits
- Monitor distribution channels
- Track changing retail, wholesale, and agricultural prices
- Track stock movement and retail sales in preparing short- and long-term industry/economic forecasts
- Assess foreign competition in domestic markets
- Analyze word markets
- Use regional statistics to establish quotas for sales reps.
- Track labor costs in a variety of industries
One indispensable public source is the business section of most public libraries. The services provided vary from city to city, but libraries usually offer a wide range of government and market statistics, a large collection of directories with information on domestic and foreign businesses, and a wide selection of magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and journals.
Almost every county government publishes population density and distribution figures in widely available census tracts. These will show you the number of people living in specific areas: precincts, water districts, or even 10-block neighborhoods. Some counties publish reports that indicate population trends by showing the population 10 years ago, 5 years ago, and currently.
Declining, static, or extremely small populations typically do not support a wealth of commerce in a given area. (If any business is capable of flourishing in an uncertain area, however, it would be a low-overhead home-based operation.) The ideal is an expanding population in which you can stimulate a desire for your products or services. To judge whether they are potential customers, you must study the lifestyle of the community.
Maps of major trading areas in counties and states are also available from Chambers of Commerce, industrial development boards, trade development commissions, and city newspaper offices. These maps show the major areas of commerce, and reflect the population's spending habits.
Look at road maps of any area for information on the ease of access to specific sites. Access is an important consideration in determining market area limits.
Major cities have Chambers of Commerce or business development departments that encourage new businesses in their communities. They will supply you with information (usually free of charge) such as:
- Demographic reports on the local, regional, and state level
- Seminars on networking, managing, financing, or developing a marketing plan
- Directories that can help entrepreneurs get in touch with the decision makers within large local corporations (for distribution opportunities).
This information will help you to develop your market survey so you can partially gauge your likelihood of success. The bottom line you'll run your business better.
Commercial sources are equally valuable, but usually impose subscription and association fees. The money spent, however, is far less than if a research team collects the data firsthand. Commercial sources typically consist of research and trade associations and banks.
Ask the sales departments of local newspapers and magazines for copies of the business profiles used in their sales efforts. They will help determine the financial situation of potential customers/clients in your target market(s). Advertising managers are another source of information regarding a community's spending patterns.
Check with managers of local broadcasting stations as well. The research they routinely conduct can help you determine whether there is a valid market for your product or service.
Study local Yellow Pages directories to see how many potential competitors are currently in operation and where they work. (Also count how many of them are home-based and how many have commercial facilities.)
Educational institutions are frequently overlooked as viable information sources, yet more research is conducted in colleges, universities, and polytechnic institutes than in virtually any sector of the business community.
Local colleges and universities are also valuable sources of information. Over 650 colleges and universities have branches of the Small Business Administration's Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). SBDCs offer a variety of information about the marketing, legal, financial, and accounting aspects of home-based business ownership, as well as state and federal business assistance programs. The centers will also help you prepare business plans and financial statements.
Help from a local college may be available if there is no SBDC near you. Many college business departments are eager to have their students work in the "real world" gathering information and doing research for a nominal salary or for college credit.