The biggest question every startup needs to ask themselves is this: is my business idea going to work in the current market?

Who is your target audience, what exactly your product is, and where it will be targeted? The answer to all of these questions comes from crucial market research.

Big companies normally invest a lot of capital and other resources to conduct large-scale market research. However, most startup companies will be limited by available resources.

The good news is that there is an abundance of information available to you online. Even if you can’t conduct your own in-depth market research right now, the sources shared here will give you invaluable info.

Here is a list of 5 sources that you can trust to provide reliable consumer data for your business during your research.

United States Census Bureau

You can’t get more official than this federal agency! This site gives you access to current and historical data on education status, geographic information, racial demographics, and much more. The data will help you answer questions pertaining to the best location of a business based on population trends, as well as figuring out the profile of your ideal consumer.

Pew Research Center

The Pew Center is a think tank that provides extensive information for free to the public.

A highly credited source, the Pew Center is widely cited in all kind of research.

Learn about social media usage, tech habits and trends, and political attitudes that shape the consumer market and the day-to-day experience of your target market.

Google Scholar

This site is best for scholars who are in search of academic content. You will have access to a variety of abstracts, journals, theses, academic texts, papers, and other relevant, academic data. If you need some concrete research to back up some more formal writing, like white papers or case studies, this is the source for you.

Google Trends

Google Trends is easy to use and incredibly informative. It allows you to see what people across the country are searching for, and allows you to look at each state and county specifically. It’s also helpful for comparison tests; you’re able to set up terms against each other and track the searches for each. If you want to try track spending trends or anticipate local interest, check this resource out.

SurveyMonkey

If you’re ready to dip your toe into doing your own market research, SurveyMonkey is an excellent choice to get started. This “global leader in survey software” even has a free option to get started, and a pro-rate if you want more available features. What better way to learn about your customers than to hear from them directly?

This list is just a starting point! Your research needs will vary with the needs of your company, and they’ll change over time. “Quality and transparency are important when people make decisions whether to trust the information and content you post,” we’ve shared before. You need to start with factual, authentic sources if you’re going to eventually create good content.

You’re inevitably going to stumble across different research. How can you discover if it’s trustworthy? Here are some tips for deciding whether or not a site is trustworthy.

  • Always look at the motive of the site. You will notice that sites whose main focus is to sell you a product or service may only include data sets and information that are in favor of their business. Of course, their aim is to lure buyers to prefer their products.
  • Choose websites with expertise relevant to the kind of data you want. Look for reliable sources with industry experience. Getting specific can be valuable; if you’re writing a legal case study, don’t bother with general sources. Go directly to legal databases.
  • Check the date the site was lastly updated. Credible sources will have their sites updated on a regular basis. Avoid sites which are not regularly updated since their data may be outdated. If you can’t find a date at all, that’s a red flag! Most unreliable sources do not supply a date for when their content was updated.
  • Look at the URL of the site. Data obtained from government institutions (.gov) and that from educational institutions (.edu) are the most authentic. Some commercial sites (.com) may have biased data depending on their motive. If you’re unsure, do a little digging and make sure you’re not interacting with a shell site for another organization.
  • Prefer content whose author is named. Taking credit for content is always a good sign. If there’s no one credited for facts and data, then there’s no one responsible for misinformation. Make sure to find credited authors with links to other work and social media platforms.

Get Researching!

You have more options than ever for data collection with the Internet at your disposal. With a little bit of searching, you can learn more about your current and potential clients.

If you figure out what they want before while they’re still in a “discovery” stage, you can tailor your messaging and approach and become the solution to their problem.

Parker Davis
Parker Davis is the CEO of Nexa, a leader in the virtual receptionist and technology-enabled answering services industry. He believes that the application of data analytics, investment in technology, and fostering a positive company culture together create highly efficient and scalable growth companies. In 2016, Nexa achieved record revenues while also being awarded the Top Companies to Work For in Arizona award. Parker is also the Managing Partner of Annison Capital Partners, LLC, a private investment partnership. Follow him @callnexa and on Facebook and LinkedIn.