Market Research: Expensive Data, Free Data, and Getting Expensive Data for Free

Our April 22nd blog “Thinking of starting a small business? Don’t forget to do your research!” introduced the importance of conducting research in order to make good business decisions by using a combination of Primary and Secondary sources of data.

This week’s post provides some examples of great sources of secondary research and exposes the (not so revolutionary) secret to accessing otherwise expensive data for free.

Secondary research is made up of data collected by others. This could include a directory, a database, a trade journal, census information, building permit reports, Canada Post maps, newspaper articles, or any other published work.471710rjqcoumlt

Here is a quick list of some popular sources of business research data:

Super Demographics – If you have a clear idea of who your ideal consumer is, this tool will help you to pinpoint the number of those customers close to your location. Using an interactive map, you can pinpoint a spot on the map, draw a “trade area” around that point, and generate a detailed demographic report on the households in the area. You can even create multiple trade areas (perhaps available commercial real estate), and use the tool to compare the demographics of one area to another.Super Demographics is available through the public access workstations at the Halton Region Small Business Centre.
Scott’s Directory – This tool is perfect for creating detailed lists of manufactures and distributors. This data could be helpful to look up competitors, prospective Business to Business clients, or sources of your products or materials. The tool will allow you to create a sorted and filtered list based on any number of attributes, including products sold, industry codes, sales volumes, exports and number of employees. Scott’s Directory is available through the public access workstations at the Halton Region Small Business Centre.
Trade Data Online – If you are considering the launch of an importing or exporting business,take a look at Industry Canada’s website to search for the value of imports and exports between each of Canada’s foreign trading partners. You can even look into the value of goods moving between specific countries sorted by product type (using HS codes)
SME Benchmarking Tool – Have you ever wondered how a particular type of business should be performing financially? Are you paying too much in rent or labour costs compared to the other businesses offering the same services? Industry Canada publishes the average income statements of various types of businesses. You can view the data separated by size of business for that specific industry and you can identify what portion of the businesses are profitable compared to not profitable.

When it comes to secondary research there are free sources of data, expensive sources of data, and expensive sources of data that you can access for free. If you are conducting research for your business, it is always a good idea to visit the Small Business Centre or your local library.Small Business Centres and Libraries purchase subscriptions, licences and books in an effort to make data available to their entire group of clients.  Simply asking a Business Consultant or Research Librarian if they have a lead for great data to answer your question may allow you free access to information that at first glance appeared to only be available for a fee. 

Need help researching your business idea? The Halton Region Small Business Centre offers free one-on-one consultations to entrepreneurs, at all stages of business planning, including those or are thinking of, starting or growing a business. Call 905-825-6000 ext. 7900 to schedule your appointment. 

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