This was originally written for restaurants, however, it applies almost equally well to the broader business environment.
Doing research is part of the business plan process, since the more information you have that isn't just something from the top of your head, the more valid the plan appears to the bankers and investors.
For this reason, it is very important to get accurate information, and include the source where you obtained it so that they know you actually did do the research.
Researching the Location
There are many different statistics you can gather relating to the location of your business. The more you can find, the more complete and professional your plan will look. These are the numbers you should get, and where to find them:
What to get: the number of people who live in the area from where you draw your business. If you live in a smaller town, probably the whole town population is fine. If you live in a big city, then try to get the number just of the neighborhoods from which your customers will come- obviously if you live in Los Angeles, there won't be 8 million people stopping by your café!
Where to get it: Try online first, either the city chamber of commerce, local government website, or a general search with the town name and the word 'population' in the search field
What to get: This is information about what kinds of people live in your area. This includes such facts as income level breakdowns, ethic groupings, age group breakdowns, and other useful information that relates to who your customer base will be. If you want to open a fine dining style restaurant, you can use demographics to see how many people there are with incomes over a certain amount who will be most likely to be your core customers.
Where to get it: US Census data has demographic information, usually the local government has such information as well, such as the chamber of commerce or a city government office.
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