Find Customers, Competitors, Trends with 3 (Free!) Databases to Help Your Business

Find Customers, Competitors, Trends with 3 (Free!) Databases to Help Your Business

By Guest Contributor Jack Harwell, Kansas SBDC adviser

Great business moves are backed by the same thing: solid numbers.

Want funding? You’ll have to prove to investors you have traction, sales and customers. Want customers? You’ll have to prove that your business is the right fit for the market. (You get the idea.)

Now, if the thought of using data to start, grow or prove the worth of your business makes you a little nervous, know that Kansas City has business-building resources that can help simplify the data-mining process (and some organizations even have professionals who can help you along the way).

For example, library systems here in the metro can help you get those figures and help you digest what those numbers actually mean for your business or business idea so you can put a well-informed strategy into action. And bonus: Libraries are free.

To get you started, here are three databases that can outline some great information to help you improve your business with better, more informed decisions about customers, location, trends and much, much more.

(Did we mention all this data is also great for writing a business plan?)


Census Business Builder

Anyone with an internet connection can access Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition. This database from the U.S. Census Bureau is location-based and provides per capita information on many demographic characteristics (like your customer persona) as well as consumer spending habits.

For example, you can see how much a person spends on beer consumed away from home for any area down to the tract level. Or if you plan to open a restaurant, you can use the data to see if people who spend more money on dining out are near the business location you want.


IBISWorld is an industry research database that’s rich with information on virtually every industry in the U.S. IBISWorld will show you if your industry is growing or declining, the factors that are key to the success of your business and the typical costs and challenges your industry faces. Your local library or academic institution will likely have access to this resource.

Reference USA

Reference USA is another great database. (There are actually two databases here: one on businesses and another on consumers.)

The business database lists over 44 million businesses you can filter by industry, location, size and other criteria. You can see company names, addresses, revenues, numbers of employees, key managers and other info. (Not to mention, this is a great way to build a direct mailing list to connect with potential customers.) Plus, you can download this data as an Excel spreadsheet, which can be a great list of leads for businesses that serve other businesses (aka, B to B), or identify and learn about your competitors.

On the flipside, the Reference USA consumer database has data for more than 191 million persons. One of the best features is the consumer lifestyles filter, which lets you to create a list of people in a certain area who have any number of interests, like the arts, hobbies, recreation activities and more. This data can help you identify how many people in your area might be interested in doing business with you.

There are a slew of other resources you can use to do your market research. One favorite with new business owners is the website. This site, which the Small Business Development Center network maintains, has information on many industries and markets, like sample business plans. The SBDC is a program the U.S. Small Business Administration provides to promote small business development.

The Kansas SBDC at Johnson County Community College provides free, one-on-one counseling to small business owners who want to either start a business or grow their existing business. The organization’s experienced advisers can help you with all aspects of business. Plus, there are a slew of low-cost courses that can teach you about everything, from starting a business, mastering finances, outlining a succession plan and much more.

And if all this sounds interesting but isn’t quite what you’re looking for, we here at KCSourceLink can connect you to the right help you need (that’s real people and organizations) to start or grow your business or nonprofit. Just give us a call at 816-235-6500 or tell us a bit about yourself, and we’ll craft your personal action plan that’ll outline your next steps (for free) and let you know which of the over 240 local organizations can help you get where you want to go.

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