Thanks to the Internet, the resources available to help you gather information about your market and customers are virtually without limit. Following are a few ways to focus your research efforts.
Go Web surfing
When you hit the Web, start with these recommendations and then let your imagination and your search engine take over:
^ Visit the Web sites of your competitors. Check out how they present themselves, the brand attributes they highlight, and the new moves they're announcing to see what you're up against.
^ Go to government Web sites. Start with www.census.gov for information on the population and resident characteristics in practically any U.S. community. Then move on to the Web sites of the business development departments that serve your target market areas, from your state's economic development department to the business resource center at your local chamber of commerce.
^ Search for organizations that serve the interests of your industry.
Enter your industry into a search engine and check out some of the top results in order to access facts and figures about the business arena in which you operate. For instance, when we enter "golf industry statistics" in our favorite search engine, one of the first results is the Golf Research Group, "the world's leading consultant and publisher of business information to the golfing industry." As another example, we enter "cellular phone industry statistics" into the search engine and one of the first results is for the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, "the international association for the wireless telecommunication industry." Similar industry groups probably serve your business arena.
Hit the library reference shelves
In addition to reference materials specific to your industry, check out these two marketing sourcebooks:
i ESRI Community Sourcebooks: These volumes contain population, demographic, and income data as well as other consumer information for every U.S. zip code, Direct Marketing Area (DMA), and Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The information is valuable as you work to forecast demand for your products, note population trends, and analyze the composition of your target market area.
i The Lifestyle Market Analyst: Published by Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS) and Equifax, this guide provides demographic and lifestyle data organized by geographic market area, lifestyle interests, and consumer profiles.
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