Using the Web to Find Local Business & Market Information handout


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Using the Web to Find Local Business & Market Information handout

  1. 1. Using the Web to Find Local Business & Market Information Marcy Phelps Phelps Research June 2011Note: Additional resources for local business and market information can be foundin the Links section at[].Even in our global economy, businesses need targeted, localized information aboutcustomers, companies, and industries. When researching places, youll needinformation on several topics, including:• Demographics• Economics• Companies• People• IssuesAdding the element of geography to any search topic—especially for counties,cities, census blocks, or any other sub-state areas—makes any project morechallenging.• Local business information is very specialized, and its costly to create.• Youll find fewer online resources covering small geographic areas – and its difficult to identify those that do.• Local level data is often the last to be released, so it is generally older.Youll make the best use of your local research time and dollars if you have astrategy—one that will help you quickly drill to the local level – and some keyresources or starting points for research.STRATEGY TIPS#1 Know your geographyBefore you get started, learn about your targeted location. Identify counties,boundaries, and nearby places using Google Maps [] or other tool. Phelps Research 355 S. Teller Street, Suite 200 Lakewood, CO 80226 303.239.0657 or 800.600.8041
  2. 2. Become familiar with basic geographic concepts, including terminology and thevarious ways geographic areas can be broken down (administrative, statistical). Forexample, resources for understanding Census geography can be found at theCensus Bureau website [].#2 Expand your horizonsPlaces dont live in isolation and should be looked at in context. Research/compareconditions, trends, and issues for:• Larger locations (state and national levels)• Nearby locations (in region)• Similar locations (other regions, but similar size, demographics, climate, other factors)#3 Take time for a reality checkWhen it comes to local business research, you need to consider that the informationyoure looking for may never have been gathered or posted on a website.Manage your and your clients expectations – Be realistic, and explore options.Search broadly - By not limiting yourself to just a specific set of hard-to-findinformation, youll expand your options and possibly uncover something else thatmight be useful.Be creative/flexible - While youre looking for and using local sources, keep an openmind, and always consider other possibilities.Know when to pay – Low-cost options save research time, saving money in thelong-run (See links from Chapter 9 of Research on Main Street[]).#4 Learn from the localsWhile many national sources drill to the local level, local resources offer things thattheir national counterparts cant:• Deeper coverage – Local news will stay on a story long after the national press moves on• Local "feel," local insights – Get an insiders view of a place#5 You wont find everything onlineWith local information, online coverage can be spotty – for several reasons:• Most current information not posted• It hasnt been collected• Different information collected or distributed by different locations Phelps Research 355 S. Teller Street, Suite 200 Lakewood, CO 80226 303.239.0657 or 800.600.8041
  3. 3. • You need soft information (opinions, sentiment, etc.)KEY RESOURCESLocal business and market research requires using a variety of sources. Dependingon your project, try turning to:• Local people – Journalists, government workers, librarians, economists, economic development specialists, and other local experts• Local organizations – Research websites for leads to area information, local experts• Government resources – Federal, state, and local governments websites and the people within relevant govt. agencies• Local news – In-depth information about places and local people/private companies• Social media – Gather insights from/about places, public opinion, key people• Specialized sites – Use databases and specialized search tools for searching by geography• Fee-based resources – Use for hard-to-find information, projects with short deadlinesAdditional tools for finding local resources can be found in the Links section of theResearch on Main Street website [].Local People“Only human sources can provide commentary, opinion, feelings, intuition,emotions, and commitment.” ---Ben GiladUse the web to look for the people to ask and to prepare for your conversations.Local Organizations• Chambers of commerce• Convention/visitors bureaus• Economic development orgs• Local chapters of national orgsASAE Gateway to Associations Directory []Federal government resourcesThe majority of local-level business/market information from the U.S. governmentcan be found through three agencies: Phelps Research 355 S. Teller Street, Suite 200 Lakewood, CO 80226 303.239.0657 or 800.600.8041
  4. 4. • Census Bureau o American FactFinder []  American Community Survey (ACS)  Population Estimates  Economic Census  County Business Patterns o CenStats Databases []  County Business Patterns (includes zip-code and pre-2004 data)  Building Permits  USA Counties o – local resources in many places!  Business & Industry – Data by Geography  Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates  State and Metropolitan Area Data Book  County and City Data Book  State and County QuickFacts• Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) o Employment/unemployment statistics, mass layoffs, geographic profiles, and more o Access through: Overview of BLS Statistics by Geography []• Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) o Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State and Metropolitan Area, Local Area Personal Income and Employment, BEA Regional Fact Sheets (BEARFACTS) o Access through: Regional Economic Accounts []Local government resourcesThe people and the websites behind state, county, city, or town governmentsfrequently provide more detailed geographic-based information than federalsources.The data wont necessarily be uniform or consistent across locations – even forlocations within the same state. More likely than not, you will have to visit thewebsites for each jurisdiction separately. Phelps Research 355 S. Teller Street, Suite 200 Lakewood, CO 80226 303.239.0657 or 800.600.8041
  5. 5. At local government websites, look for relevant agencies, including planning, maps(or GIS), building permits, etc.To find official government sites, try entering government with the name of yourlocation in a general-purpose search engine. You can also link to official sitesthrough these directories:• State and Local Government on the Net []• Local Governments: []Also try this local and state government search engine: GovScan.comLocal newsNews reports, either from or about a particular location, are a rich source of localinformation about public and private companies, people, economics, and issues.Local news stories, from newspapers, television, and radio stations can be in anyformat – and it can be current news, or taking a look back in time.To find relevant news stories, you can visit the website of individual news outlets oruse a news aggregator or search engine.To find the websites for local news outlets, you can browse these directories:• NewsVoyager []• American City Business Journals []• ABYZ News Links []• Radio-Locator []Other tools for searching local news:• Google News advance search []••• Local – Yahoo! News []Social MediaBusinesses are participating in the social web in growing numbers, and businessresearchers have discovered that its a valuable source for information that wontbe found in any static document or site. You can use social media sources to: Phelps Research 355 S. Teller Street, Suite 200 Lakewood, CO 80226 303.239.0657 or 800.600.8041
  6. 6. • Tune into local issues and consumer opinion• Track local trends• Connect with local people• Find local images for an insiders viewHow to search social media by location:• Blogs – use specialized blog search engines/directories: o o o• Twitter – use Advanced Twitter Search [], or use these specialized search tools: o o• Social networking sites – search for experts, current/past employees, location- based groups o Facebook – after basic search, filter People results by location o LinkedIn – Advanced People Search []• Hyperlocal social sites - location-based sites for connecting people located or interested in a particular place, from the regional to the block level o o o• Content-sharing sites – Look for photos, videos, maps, presentations and other content o Most, like YouTube and Flickr, dont have geographic search, so search keywords/tags for location name. o Google Maps place pages often offer photos and other user-generated content – click "more info" link.Specialized sites• Company directories (e.g.,,• People search (• Non-text formats ( Phelps Research 355 S. Teller Street, Suite 200 Lakewood, CO 80226 303.239.0657 or 800.600.8041
  7. 7. Fee-based sources• Mailing lists• Maps• Data files• Packaged reports• Premium databases• Look for searching by geography; transactional pricing, low-cost subscriptionsGoing Local – Key points:• Use a variety of sources• Prepare a Plan B• Use hyperlocal sources for insiders view Marcy Phelps Phelps Research www.phelpsresearch.comFounder and president of Phelps Research, Marcy Phelps provides expert businessresearch that clients use to assess market and product potential, minimize risk andimprove long-term planning. She is a contributing editor for FUMSI magazine(, a publication for people who find, use, manage, and shareinformation. Marcy is the author of Research on Main Street: Using the Web to FindLocal Business and Market Information (CyberAge Books, April 2011, blogs about turning information into insights at Shealso publishes ResearchNOTES [], amonthly email bulletin with tips and sites for web searching.Contact Marcy:Email: LinkedIn:Twitter: @marcyphelps marcyphelps Phelps Research 355 S. Teller Street, Suite 200 Lakewood, CO 80226 303.239.0657 or 800.600.8041