Industry research is a powerful, strategic weapon that entrepreneurs can use to position their companies in the marketplace and potentially crush the competition.
But industry research can only benefit your business if you have the time and ability to apply it to your business.
The predicament many small business owners find themselves in is that they lack both of those things–the time and expertise to perform the kind of industry research that results in actual competitive advantages. Despite their best intentions, these research-starved entrepreneurs are never quite able to access the information that is necessary for solid business planning.
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network is a nationwide, government-sponsored resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners. In addition to providing non-fee training and one-on-one consulting, the SBDC network provides a multitude of free resources that can be accessed online.
Industry profiles are among the most valuable resources offered by SBDCs. Instead of stumbling through the process of gathering current industry data on their own, business owners can access industry research for a cross-section of common small business industries. Each industry profile contains an assortment of data, typically broken down into the following categories:
- Quick Overview. In just a few paragraphs, the Quick Overview section gives you an idea about the current state of your industry. While other areas of the profile provide more detail, the Quick Overview tries to provide a big picture perspective of the industry.
- Industry Snapshot. The Industry Snapshot section is a more comprehensive analysis of the industry in PDF form. Here, the vast majority of entrepreneurs will find everything they need to create insightful business, marketing, and strategic plans. Industry sales volume, major players, demographic trends–you'll find it all in the Industry Snapshot.
- Links. Each industry profile includes links to major industry associations and articles for further research. Sometimes you'll even find links to message boards, news archives, or other resources that help you stay on top of what's happening in your industry.
- Demographics & Market Information. Many industry profiles also include separate sections for demographic trends and market statistics. Although this information may also be available in the Industry Snapshot, these sections sometimes include coverage that is more comprehensive and/or convenient access.