Sunday, April 08, 2001

Custom support


Internet offers data tailored to your industry

By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service

        Everyone in business needs information and exposure to new ideas.

        Furthermore, there are times you need specific, detailed data about your industry.

        While that kind of information can be hard to locate, a lot more exists than you'd imagine, and much of it exists on the Internet.

        Let's say you're thinking about starting a dog grooming business. You're going to want information about training, suppliers, costs and as much other information as you can get your paws on.

        The first place I'd start is to see if there's a trade association serving my industry or other related industries, such as those for my suppliers and distributors.

        No matter what industry or trade you're in, I'm betting there's at least one association covering yours. Why? Because there are more than 37,000 industry and professional associations!

        On the Web, I'd start with the “Gateway to Associations” at: http://info.asaenet.org/gateway/OnlineAssocSlist.html.

        A warning, however: You might need to be patient because the technology at this site is often glitchy. Nevertheless, it's probably a better jumping-off point than a general search engine, which could result in thousands of unrelated results.

        The difficulty is that trade associations often use names that aren't always obvious. For instance, if you typed in the words “dog groomer” here, you'll come up empty. But if you search by category under “Veterinary” or type in the word “dog,” you'll eventually find the only group that seems related - the “Worldwide Pet Supply Association.”

        If you take the time to explore that site, you can eventually find links to a number of other resources, including the magazine, Groom & Board, an industry publication.

        When you search for associations, you may find you come up with a dozen or more, so start with groups that contain the name “National,” “International,” or “American,” rather than local organizations. Don't be afraid to look at national trade organizations that aren't from your country as they often have information such as standards, glossaries, other site listings, etc.
       

General hunt option

        But you still haven't found what you needed. So now it's time to try a general search engine.

        I like “google.com” where I type in the words “dog groomer,” and voila! I get the “National Dog Groomers Association of America.”

        Didn't I tell you there was an association for every industry? That site leads me to “petgroomer.com,” which is jam-packed with information, including detailed information and costs for starting a pet grooming business. Exactly what you need!

        The key to finding industry-specific information is to be patient and diligent. You'll have to go to many sites and look around. Pursue different links on sites, especially those that say “related links.”

        Also visit the sites of industries to which you're going to market. You can often buy lists of their association members (including mailing labels or email addresses), giving you a built-in database of sales targets.
       

Check competition
        Don't forget to go to potential competitors' and suppliers' Web sites and thoroughly look around. Read all of their news releases and the section “About the company.” They often mention who their strategic partners or major customers are, quote market research studies, or provide other interesting information.

        Many industry-specific Web sites are also starting to emerge. One good place to check is www.verticalnet.com to see if they have a site serving your industry. Also on the Web, you can go to industry market research companies, such as Forrester, Jupiter, or Dataquest in the technology industries.

        A good way to find some of these is by doing searches on general search engines by using the name of the industry plus terms like “market research” and also by looking for news stories about topics in your industry.

        You'll find a great deal of information online, but I'm also a big believer in the real world.

        Follow your online information hunt with real-world activities, particularly attending trade shows, and getting out there and just talking to people, including suppliers, customers, even competitors. Who knows? Perhaps other dog groomers will give you a leg up on your research, and you'll find that business isn't such a dog-eat-dog world after all.

        Rhonda Abrams is the author of The Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies, and Wear Clean Underwear: Business Wisdom from Mom. For free business tips from Rhonda, register at www.RhondaOnline.com or write her at 555 Bryant St, number 180, Palo Alto, CA 94301.

       

       



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