U.S. Census Funding Cuts Considered, But Marketers May Have Other Research Options

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Congress may do some cutting into the budget for the U.S. Census Bureau. Some small business leaders are concerned about the data that may be lost, but how much does your small business really rely on these numbers to survive?

Census for Small Business

Congress may make American Community Survey voluntary. The US Senate may support the House of Representatives in a move to gut the rolling “long form” American Community Survey. Legislators may simply do this by making the survey voluntary, but defenders of the effort say it provides needed data for businesses and researchers. Huffington Post

Cutting Census Bureau funding could hurt small business. Elimination or cutting of the American Community Survey could disproportionately affect small businesses which often can’t afford private research to produce the same information available free in the survey, says Scott Shane, Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University. Will the disappearance or weakening of the survey hurt your business? Bloomberg Businessweek

How important is the ACS? While observers think legislative elimination of the ACS is unlikely…at least this time around, how important is this data really to businesses who use it for marketing research? There are some mixed messages. While Dick O’Brien, head of the Washington office of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, insisted killing the ACS would eliminate a vital resource, he admitted the Internet is making the survey less important to marketers than it once was. Advertising Age

Alternatives for Business Data

Use Google for your marketing research. If you want to get some usable business data via the Web, your first stop should be Google. Options for obtaining valuable market data valuable for business use include keyword searches, Google crowdsourcing (via Google+), online surveys, and Google consumer surveys. Do you use Google for marketing research? Small Business Trends

Use Facebook to measure your marketing campaign. An added function now includes viral shares in Facebook’s “People Talking About This” counts, meaning “likes”, comments, and re-shares after your fans have already shared your post will also be counted. The new feature gives a better measure of your message’s impact beyond your network. Inside Facebook

Use Quora to research trends and topics. If you want to figure out what’s on the minds of your audience, why not use Quora and Q&A sites to find out? You can pose questions yourself or better yet, mine Q&A sites for those that are frequently asked. Targeting popular questions is a way of identifying topics and ideas that are already in demand, says blogger Ken Lyons. Search Engine Watch

Pay attention to your customers. Kare Anderson, co-founder of the Say it Better Center and author of two books, Getting What You Want and Resolving Conflict Sooner, suggests that paying attention to others won’t only give you a better idea of what they’re trying to say to you but also makes you more open to new ideas and better able to resonate with others. Harvard Business Review

Learn from your clients and potential clients. To land larger clients, even as a small startup, it’s important to research the problems in the market and how you might be better positioned to handle them than competitors. One way to do this is by developing good relationships with a wide range of companies in your industry. It will let you better understand and be able to meet all of their needs when the time is right. StartupSmart

Create your own survey research. Secondary data on your market, like information from federal agencies, is no substitute for primary data you gather yourself, says Bob Dahms, a SCORE business counselor based in Bellingham, WA. This primary research can be conducted by taking a customer survey or creating a focus group, but getting this kind of direct customer feedback has never been easier, especially with the Internet. The Bellingham Herald

Find some MBA students to help you out. Small businesses unable to pay for big time consulting firms are increasingly turning to MBA students and specifically MBA student consulting programs to help them out. See the example of one Canadian company who got a group of students from a local business school to review its survey methodology and statistical analysis to help design a better method of doing effective marketing research. The Globe and Mail

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  1. “This primary research can be conducted by taking a customer survey or creating a focus group, but getting this kind of direct customer feedback has never been easier, especially with the Internet.” I still think nothing beats having an actual focus group discussion.

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