Have you ever had a fantastic business idea that you’re absolutely certain will make loads of profit with hardly any effort? Maybe you’re considering opening up a shop or offering a service in your part of the world. One of the more difficult aspects of starting a new business is putting together an accurate analysis of the local market and trying to determine if there’s a demand for your service. Even better, if you can analyze the industry and uncover a unique “niche” that is either unserved or underserved, you could create a wildly successful business.
Many companies spend a fortune for a complete niche industry analysis. I should know – I used to conduct the research and write up niche industry reports for a company that sold those reports to big businesses. Today, I’d like to share some inside secrets with MakeUseOf readers and reveal the naked truth – you don’t need memberships to special databases or statistics firms to uncover those industry niches, all you need to know is where to look for the information yourself and you can create your own free industry analysis.
Always Start With Your Government
The truth is, almost every government in every nation devotes a great deal of effort and resources to measuring the just about every aspect of society – from how many pounds of potatoes your country produces to the number of people born with specific diseases. Regardless of the industry you’re looking into, the odds are pretty good that there’s a government agency that produced a report on the topic. For example, when I was digging into Real Estate markets, I discovered a report on Mortgage Loans produced by the special “Office of Thrift Supervision” within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Seriously, there’s such an office. The mortgage loan data they provided (for free, I might add) was exactly what I needed.
The best place to start when you’re creating your free industry analysis is at an online government office listing directory such as my favorite, USA.gov for the U.S. or Direct.gov for the UK. The individual agencies that you’ll find offer their own library chock-full of statistics, charts and detailed demographics that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. For an international listing of government agencies around the world, the FDA (of all places) offers a fairly comprehensive list.
Schools and University Studies and Research
It’s almost comical that companies spend so much money for a private corporation to produce a niche analysis on an industry when there’s so much free information available on the Internet. Aside from government agencies, Universities and Colleges from around the world constantly conduct studies and collect data and then publish the results online for free. These are typically published in the form of “white papers.” One of the best way to find these studies is by using Google Scholar, a white paper search engine that will turn up those results for you.
The quality of data that you will find from these results and from the various University research projects are amazing. For example, while researching the real estate market, I uncovered a detailed Harvard study on rental housing.
If you’re looking for data, graphs and charts that uncover industry trends, social demographics and reveal the sort of niche opportunities for your business – you’ve got it all right here. Don’t only search for the larger schools, if you’re interested in your local market, make sure to check on any local studies your local community college or University might have completed – you may be very surprised what you find.
The Pew Research Center
In almost every niche analysis report I’ve ever written, I usually always come back to the Pew Research Center for research. The motto of this organization is, “Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World.” This is no exaggeration, Pew publishes some of the most obscure and eye opening social trends of any research organization I’ve seen.
It’s from Pew that I learned that middle-age women make up the largest demographic of users for online games, or that more teen girls use social networks than boys do. If you want to uncover any niche opportunities for a potential business, this site should be at the top of your bookmarks.
Using Google Trends to Reveal Global Demographics
Now, this article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the single tool that I’ve used above all others to uncover unique niche opportunities. It goes without saying that the Internet has become an important gauge of public sentiment, and of course since Google Trends reveals “the big picture” for particular keyword searches, then it makes sense that you should be able to use Google Trends to identify industry trends. In a simple example, if you’re thinking of investing in rental properties and becoming a landlord, it stands to reason that you would want the trend of people searching for “apartments for rent” to be rising.
Well, look at that. Google trends reveals that while interest in apartments held pretty steady (aside from the annual fluctuations) from 2004 through 2008, there’s been a sudden upswing in public interest in apartments in 2009 – interesting! With Google trends, you can dig even deeper than this. By copying each annual graph and overlaying them together (using your favorite image editing software), you can also reveal seasonal patterns. In this case doing so would reveal what part of the year more people usually hunt for apartments.
As you can see here, most people are looking for apartments during midsummer, and then that interest tanks as the school year approaches, recovering only at the end of the year. While this particular trend isn’t very shocking, you would be very surprised to see some of the fascinating seasonal trends that Google Trends sometimes reveals within certain industries.
So, whether you’re just curious about the current market for your small business idea, or you’re thinking about opening an enterprise on a much larger scale, just remember that the tools and resources are available on the web so that you can identify those awesome niche opportunities yourself.
Have you ever started your own business? What online tools and resources did you use to research your market? Share your insight in the comments section below.