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MaRS Market Intelligence is regularly asked to help entrepreneurs determine how many potential customers they might have for their product or service. These customers might be:

I. Individual Consumers (e.g., the number of males aged 18 to 35)

II. Professions, Occupations and Groups (e.g., the number of physical therapists or university students)

III. Enterprises (e.g., the number of restaurants or businesses with a specific employee count or range)

The following advice and links should be generic enough to get most entrepreneurs started on their own research.

This guide looks at the US consumer and enterprise market. For guidance on how to size a Canadian consumer market, visit: How do I find Canadian market data?

Most of the links below are derived from the major US statistical agencies, namely:

Where appropriate, we have included links to other sources, including commercial market research firms, but typically, these providers only provide snippets or highlights for free.

I. Individual consumers

Online users

Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2013 (US Census Bureau): This report outlines Internet use by US households and individuals.

Topics: Demographics (Pew Internet and American Life Project): This project offers access to both reports and data on online access and behaviour by gender, age, race and family composition, as well as online activities and behaviour, and technology use and adoption. It also includes research on the digital divide.

2015 U.S. Digital Future in Focus (comScore): This report (and supplementary videos) details prevailing trends of 2012 and their implications for the future. The report highlights the industry’s leading stories of the year.

General population & demographics

The US Census Bureau will be your main source for population and basic demographic statistics. They produce hundreds of tables for variables ranging from age and sex to family status and place of birth.

The best starting point for this research is the yearly Statistical Abstract of the United States (US Census Bureau). While this summary is no longer being maintained as of October 2011, the source provided for each table will point you to the appropriate survey for more recent data.

Another excellent resource for US population counts and demographics is American FactFinder (US Census Bureau), a search tool that allows you to search across many (but not all) surveys conducted by the US Census Bureau. The tool allows you to search by topic, geography, population groups and more.

Here are some sample links to tables or reports that address age, sex and/or family composition:

Profile of General Population and Housing Estimates (US Census Bureau): This profile outlines the most current population estimates as well as historical data.

2014 National Population Projections (US Census Bureau): These are the most current population projections available.

Households and Families: 2010 (US Census Bureau): Here you’ll find counts of household type, size, households with children and family type by age of children.

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II. Professions, occupations and groups

Counts for groups within certain occupations can be sourced from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and from other non-profit sources. Good starting points include:

Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), (US Bureau of Labor Statistics): This is the best resource for US employment counts and projections. Hundreds of occupations are covered in this yearly publication. It also links to additional sources of information, licensing and professional bodies.

Occupational Employment Statistics (US Bureau of Labor Statistics): If the OOH doesn’t provide the information you need, the datasets should help. If you’re looking for the most current occupational counts, occupational counts for a specific industry or occupational counts within the private vs. public sectors, the answers should be here.

Industries at a Glance (US Bureau of Labor Statistics): This guide provides counts and projections for occupations within dozens of industries.

If you are looking for US elementary, secondary or postsecondary student counts, your best starting point is the National Center for Educational Statistics.

See the annual Digest of Education Statistics; and Projections of Education Statistics to 2024; (available in the Publications & Products section of the NCES website) for enrolment statistics for all levels of education and enrolment forecasts respectively.

If the profession or occupation you’re targeting is regulated or requires a license to practice, the regulatory or licensing body might be able to provide counts. However, many professions and occupations are regulated at the state level, so counts may only be collected at that level and then will have to be added up. Many occupations and professions, however, will have a national umbrella organization that might aggregate data.

The website of the Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR) can be used to identify regulatory or licensing bodies:

CLEAR Regulatory Directory: An international association of professional regulatory bodies, CLEAR offers a topical directory of associations, colleges and boards that are involved in the regulation or licensure of various professions.

III. Enterprises

The US Census Bureau is your best source for business counts. Here are some good starting points:

Statistics of US Businesses: This database is updated annually, with 2014 data being the most currently available. It includes firm and establishment counts by industry, geography and employment size. Even more detailed data is available for download in comma-delimited format—look for the link.


TIP

DATA USA is a comprehensive data tool developed by Deloitte, Datawheel, and Cesar Hidalgo providing visual representations of US Government Data.

NAICS or Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes are useful tools for sizing your enterprise market as lots of data is aggregated using these codes.


If you want to know what enterprise data—beyond business counts—is available for the industry or industries you are targeting, the best resource is the Industry Statistics Portal.

Statistics about small businesses can be derived from Statistics of U.S. Businesses (SUSB).

If a sector is regulated, there may be business count data available from the regulator or department that oversees this sector. Here are some sample industry links:

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Key Statistics: This site provides counts for all FDIC-insured banks and savings institutions. A link from this website also leads you to a database that can generate a list of the top institutions ranked by assets.

TransStats Data Library: Aviation (Bureau of Transportation Statistics): This site provides data for all US-certificated air carriers or airlines; a count would have to be manually generated from all the companies listed in the various reports.

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