What would you say if I told you there were an online tool that could provide detailed information about the size of your market including‭ ‬trends in your industry‭ ‬and‭ ‬other‭ ‬important information concerning the economy as a whole‭?

What if I told you that this tool could help take the hit-and-miss out of small business marketing‭?

And what if I told you it was free‭?

The US Census site‭—‬www.census.gov‭—‬is all that and more.‭ ‬That‭'‬s why‭ ‬it‭'‬s such an essential data destination for market researchers,‭ ‬entrepreneurs,‭ ‬government agencies and anyone who needs accurate information about social and economic trends in the‭ ‬US.‭ ‬The economic portion of the site offers a wide variety of reports‭—‬usually in the form of a downloadable‭ ‬.pdf document‭—‬covering topics ranging from basic economic indicators to‭ ‬employment statistics and more.‭

There is,‭ ‬of course,‭ ‬one major drawback to US census data,‭ ‬and that‭'‬s how often it‭'‬s collected.‭ ‬There are areas of the‭ ‬website‭'‬s economic data still based on the‭ ‬2002‭ ‬Economic Census,‭ ‬and even the economic indicators updated on a monthly basis do so based on information obtained‭ ‬two months previous.‭

Even so,‭ ‬there are numerous ways that US Census economic data can be‭ ‬essential to making informed small business marketing decisions,‭ ‬and having a sense of the scope of resources available‭ ‬will get you started in putting that data to work for you.

Does the number of households with children in your county,‭ ‬region or state‭ ‬make a difference in terms of the size of your potential market‭? ‬How about the number‭ ‬of retirees,‭ ‬or‭ ‬individuals representing‭ ‬a certain minority group‭? ‬If so,‭ ‬you‭'‬ll want to check out the People‭ & ‬Households section of the website‭ ‬which also contains important information concerning household incomes.‭

These numbers could‭ ‬help to‭ ‬influence how much of your marketing‭ ‬budget‭ ‬you‭ ‬dedicate to reaching certain sectors of your target demographic,‭ ‬and‭ ‬where,‭ ‬geographically,‭ ‬you choose to concentrate your advertising dollars.‭ ‬It may also help you determine baselines for products and‭ ‬pricing.

If your target market is tied to a certain business or industry‭—‬the housing market,‭ ‬for example,‭ ‬or the entertainment industry‭—‬you‭'‬ll want to explore the Business‭ & ‬Industry‭ ‬section of the US Census website.‭ ‬This is where you‭'‬ll find general economic indicators for‭ ‬major areas of the economy,‭ ‬as well as more‭ ‬specific information through the North American Industry Classification System‭ (‬NAICS.‭)‬ This type of industry-specific info is also good for surveying exactly how your own business is doing relative to your industry as whole.‭

There are a number of different ways‭ ‬to use the‭ ‬information available through the Business‭ ‬& Industry section.‭ ‬If you‭'‬re wondering,‭ ‬for example,‭ ‬what types of online businesses and e-commerce websites are making the most money‭—‬and what areas of online sales appear to be growing the quickest‭—‬you might go to the E-Stats section.‭ ‬If your market includes small business owners,‭ ‬you might gain some useful information from the Survey of Business Owners.‭ ‬And,‭ ‬if the local economy is important to the growth and development of your business,‭ ‬the section marked County Business Patterns,‭ ‬under the heading of Economic Indicators,‭ ‬is a great‭ ‬place to start.

By taking US Census information into account,‭ ‬you‭'‬ll be able to‭ ‬"look before you leap‭"‬ when it comes to major business decisions,‭ ‬and develop key strategies to keep pace in a changing world.‭

For more‭ ‬information‭ ‬about how to put US Census data to work for your business,‭ ‬visit‭ ‬http://www.census.gov/epcd/ec02/uses.htm .

Author's Bio: 

Michele DeKinder-Smith is the founder of Jane Out of the Box, an online resource dedicated to the women entrepreneur community. Discover more incredibly useful information for running a women-owned small business by joining Jane Out of the Box, available as a free membership. Jane Out of the Box offers networking and marketing opportunities, key resources and mentorship from successful women in business, and also consults with corporations and government agencies, helping them better understand the needs of an ever-growing number of women entrepreneurs. Find out more at www.janeoutofthebox.com.