“Your mission Mr. Phelps, should you decide to accept it, is to explore the US Census Bureau depths of economic data related to your area, and to learn more about how to use the information for the betterment of your business.”
Dramatic though this point might seem, I find that people interested in starting or expanding their business often overlook one of the richest sources for information useful to businesses, the Census Bureau. The bureau traces its roots back to the earliest period of our government as mandated by the US Constitution requiring a decennial census of the population in the country be carried out beginning with 1790. As time went on, those in government realized the importance of the information beyond its use for determining the apportionment of votes, They soon realized that the information could be used in numerous ways to benefit the citizenry and business decisions both in and outside of government.
Once the Census department was permanently defined as the statistical clearinghouse for information beginning in 1902, that is when businesses began to use the information in new and creative ways. It became aligned with and ultimately a part of the Department of Commerce when its value was acknowledge related to business. In fact, it could also be said that the concepts of modern marketing are based upon understanding the demographic information and the harnessing of its power to expand business.
As many businesses know, marketing is both an art and a science relying upon information to drive decisions for investments to convert prospective customers into buyers. The ever-present challenge for businesses today is to find the most appropriate ways to do that. Knowing that high quality information exists covering virtually any aspect of business conduct today, and that it is freely available, offers great potential to any business to harness the available data and convert it to information to make informed decisions.
The Census Bureau is the largest information source provider in the US. So much so, that it took them several years to figure out how to provide the data in meaningful ways to the general public. So your mission is to go to the Census Bureau website [www.census.gov], explore all that the site has to offer, and make use of it.
Once you get there, navigation using their new interface is far more useful and productive than previous versions. For example, start with the splash page sections looking for Quick Facts, and the Interactive Map. Quick Facts is useful for obtaining demographic reports at national and state levels. For example, under the North Carolina Quick Facts reports is a listing showing North Carolina grew from 2012-2011 by 1.3% versus the national per state growth of 0.9%. That information clearly shows business potential in the state. Under the Interactive map link when you go to the page, are a small list of subjects including the American FactFinder. Go there to drill down into data that may be useful to your business. In most instances, reports are available for your specific geographical area and you can select specific information to produce ad hoc reports if needed.
As an entrepreneur or small business owner, the amount of time you invest in exploring the census data may prove valuable to you if you can uncover information that you can use. Since the cost of the information is relatively free, the return on your investment will likely be quite high. Few tools such as the Census Bureau, exist for businesses, so to learn them and to derive value from them is well worth the effort. Measure your results against what you learn.
I could give you hundreds of examples specific to your business area or interests, but you need to explore the Census Bureau for yourself. After all, you did pay a small amount for the department in your taxes, so you owe it yourself to explore the resource and get your money’s worth.