Researching your market thoroughly is time well spent, and databases can open up a world of information.

The Florida Small Business Development Center at Indian River State College can provide a business owner and operator access to market research and demographic databases that can help the business grow, expand and potentially increase sales and revenues. These database and research tools will help the business mine trade data, industry financial data, government contract information and regional demographic data, allowing the business owner to make more informed decisions regarding growth strategy.

George “Duke” Evans

George “Duke” Evans, who holds a BS in engineering and an MBA in finance, has more than 10 years of manufacturing experience, owning one manufacturing company and serving as the VP of finance for two other organizations. In addition to Duke’s extensive manufacturing background, he also owned and operated five different retail stores over 15 years. Before Duke joined the Florida SBDC at Indian River State College in 2009, he consulted and conducted business workshops for a community college in Arizona. During this time Duke also owned an accounting and consulting business for more than 10 years.

The majority of the databases referenced in this article are available by subscription only. While costs of subscriptions can be cost prohibitive for a small business, the Florida SBDC at IRSC maintains access to these subscriptions in order to help entrepreneurs and small business operators with their strategic planning.

For example, IBISWorld is the largest provider of industry research in the U.S., and it isn’t just useful to big companies. The comprehensive collection of economic, demographic and government data reports help identify business operating risks and opportunities across 1,300-plus industries. Each industry report includes the most detailed performance data and analysis on the market, procurement analysis, supply chain information, forecasts, operating strengths and weaknesses, analysis of external drivers, major player market strategies, and industry profit and costs benchmarks.

Each report is in the same format, about 36 pages. What can a small business mine from this report? Plenty.

Florida SBDC at IRSC consultant George “Duke” Evans states the IBISWorld reports provide critical market information such as industry performance. Evans reads the trends and outlook section for potential business opportunities. There is also information on products and markets, where you can review the segmentation to understand the size and growth (or not) of each one, he says.

The IBISWorld report gives him insight into the competitive landscape for a company, as he can think about and know more about the key success factors as well as the SWOT analysis of the business and of their competitors. Evans can check out the information of similar industries too, and additional resources are suggested for more probing.

According to Evans, another smart source is ReferenceUSA, a market research database with detailed information on more than 14 million U.S. businesses, 262 million U.S. consumers and their lifestyles, and international companies. Map-based geography searches and neighborhood data make this a useful tool in researching target markets and the competition.

ReferenceUSA and databases like it can assist a business owner in developing a target customer list. How? Because most of the small businesses Evans works with are selling to other businesses rather than consumers. A list of companies that ReferenceUSA provides is an excellent starting point for a business to develop a target customer list, he says.

One of the search criteria used is the industry code. The classification of businesses by industry code can frequently be incorrect, so the list provided still requires sorting and filtering by the company to create the target customer list, but the starting point is a time-saver, Evans says. Many times a business doesn’t know the size of the market, i.e. how many businesses are in a geographic area, and so, in that regard, the list of companies is also useful, Evans adds.

BizMiner, another industry database available to Florida SBDC at IRSC clients, provides industry reports that track 9,000 lines of business at local and national levels. This tool also provides access to industry financial ratios and industry market statistics, offering industry financial analysis benchmarks for more than 5,000 lines of business and industry market trends on thousands more to help clients establish business goals and benchmarks.

Specific to government contracting, FSBDC at IRSC PTAC (government contracting) consultant Scotty Wilson can offer clients free access to Bid Match. This government contracting specific database assists clients who seek to identify business opportunities, access solicitations and win more contracts. Qualified clients receive e-mail notifications of bid opportunities for specific products and services from more than 800 federal, state and local bid-posting sites.

For those businesses seeking insight into the global marketplace, the FSBDC at IRSC has access to Euromonitor. This particular database provides global consumption data. While much of the data can be found publicly at no cost, the challenge of using those databases is they are generally more time-consuming, even for those who know what they are researching and generally know how to conduct research, Evans says.

On Euromonitor, the consumption data available is broken down into very informative niches for the U.S. market and for up to 200 other countries. Sometimes the overall market size for the product category in a country is large and would lead you to believe that the market would be attractive for your product, but the actual niche in which your product is positioned could be tiny and this market would not be within the top 10 in the world for your particular product within this category.

Depending on the positioning of your product and the product category, this insight can save significant time and money that would be required to learn these facts.

Access to all of these databases and others is available to small business clients of FSBDC at IRSC, which offers free consulting to small businesses located along the Treasure Coast.

“For all businesses, time is money,” says Evans. “Having access to these high-end databases through the Florida SBDC at IRSC can save a business time and money, which can have a direct impact on the bottom line.”

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