Free Business Stats & Surveys
As a small business owner, you need every tool at your disposal to gain that competitive advantage, and what could be a better tool than a free one? Of course, not everything that is free is of any worthwhile quality. But fortunately, we at YoBiz wouldn’t waste your time with the low-quality free stuff.
Market research is one area that is notoriously expensive. If you are in a business where you are selling to a specific industry, say bakeries, or if you want to get information about how a particular industry is doing, usually you have to purchase expensive reports or commission studies and surveys that can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. Fortunately (at least for us United States tax payers) , some of that work has already been done and it’s available to anyone for free.
For those craving free market research, let me introduce you to your new best friend: NAICS and the various US Departments and organizations that publish research on markets and industry.
NAICS is your Friend!
The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) “is used by business and government to classify business establishments according to type of economic activity (process of production) in Canada, Mexico, and the United States”, according to the Wikipedia entry. But more importantly, every business in North America is identified by a two to six-digit code that corresponds to a specific industry or hierarchy of industries.
And this code is very specific. For example, the NAICS code 113210 corresponds to “Forest Nurseries and Gathering of Forest Products”, an industry that is comprised of only a few dozen total companies.
While this might seem esoteric, the key to making NAICS work for you is to realize that the code itself is the key to unlocking a treasure trove of information. Various US departments and agencies collect, organize, and disseminate information based on those NAICS codes and tell you everything from how much money was made in a particular industry in a given year to the average salaries paid to employees in that industry. With this information, you have the power to know just how many competitors are in your market or how many potential customers there are for your products. You can gauge your profitability, pay, and structure against others in your industry, and you can purchase names and leads of customers in the exact industry you target.
Free Stats and Info
- Censtats Database – One of the agencies that collects valuable data collated by NAICS code is the US Census Bureau. Instead of just counting people, the US Census Bureau also counts companies and related statistics. One of their most useful and free online databases is their Censtats Database. The Censtats Database provides information on on the total number of establishments, mid-March employment, first quarter and annual payroll, and number of establishments by nine employment-size classes by detailed industry for all counties in the United States and the District of Columbia, as well as down to the individual Zip Code. This is an amazing wealth of data, and it’s free.
Censtats also provides information on Building Permits for individual municipalties, demographic and economic data for states and counties, Detailed Occupation by Race, Hispanic Origin, and Sex, International Trade Data, Nonemployer Statistics, and population and housing data by race and origin.
- The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) also provides a treasure-trove of information classified by NAICS code. Their Industries at a Glance site provides over 100 detailed information pages that include workforce statistics, earnings and hours, fatalities, injuries, and illnesses, and workplace trends. For free!
- The US Small Business Association (SBA) also collects and collates a wealth of information by NAICS code. The online US SBA Office of Advocacy publishes a Firm Size Database that includes a wealth of information including number of employment, revenues and receipts, and payroll data organized by industry, state, and metropolitan area.
- Finally, there are online databases, some of which are run by for-profit companies, but still make valuable information available for free online. One such firm is Websters Online that offers a directory of company by SIC code (the predecessor to the NAICS code). If you’re looking for leads, this is a good place to start!
In addition to all this data is a huge repository of information collected by the US Government at the FedStats website. It might take a separate post just to cover what’s there!
At YoBiz, we’ll do our best to consolidate the most relevant and best of this data so that you can have it at your fingertips as you use our applications. But even if you don’t use any of our mini-apps, use the data available above — it’s free!