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Market Research for your Small Business


The goal of market research is to equip you with the information you need to make informed decisions for your small business: start-up, innovation, growth and the 4 P’s (produce, price, placement, promotion).

Market Research can identify data that will be crucial to your business plan:

  • trends in the industry
  • determining the sales potential of your products and services
  • identifying the demographic characteristics of your customers
  • selecting the appropriate business location
  • setting the price for your products and services
  • attracting customers to your business
  • identifying your competition

why do market research

Market Research Resources – Overview:

Industry Profiles: Research & Statistics

Start by looking at Industry Sector Data to create a profile of the industry your business will be in.  Industry Sector Data will give you information on industry trends, finances and profitability, analysis and statistics.  You can use it to learn:

  • how does the industry work? What are trends in industry?
  • how do successful companies in your industry reach their customers?
  • who are the competitors?
  • are there any environmental factors that may impact your business?
  • what are the government/regulatory controls over your industry?

One place to start is the Business Source Ultimate database – available from the Vancouver Public Library. Business Source Ultimate provides market research and industry reports for major industries and includes hundreds of profiles for Canada.

Industry Sector Data Sources

NAICS (North American Industry Classification Codes)

NAICS codes are used in business and economic databases to classify specific types of products or services or companies that produce them. You can use a relevant code to quickly focus on your type of business.  If, for example, your business will be as a roofing contractor – your code is NAICS 23816.

Canada Business Network brings together a large collection of industry sector data.

A good starting point is Canadian Industry Statistics (CIS) . CIS analyses industry data on economic indicators using the most recent data from Statistics Canada. It looks at industry trends and financial information, such as GDP, Labour Productivity, Manufacturing and Trade data. You can browse through hundreds of industries.

NAICS: Roofing Contractors 23816

You can use the NAICS codes in the CIS databases to get information on the financial performance and profitability of your industry, for example using NAICS code 23816 for the roofing industry will provide the above.

You can also use the Canada Business Network to locate additional statistics sources — for example for a roofing business, you can look under Construction, and find links to ‘Housing Market Information’ and ‘Construction Forecasts.’

UBC Small Business Accelerator program (SBA)
The UBC SBA’s current market research guides feature over 100 industries in BC, covering everything from craft breweries to construction industry to hair & beauty salons and more. Look at an industry guide that is relevant to your business – for example look at these guides in the home improvement/construction industry.  When you select a specific guide, e.g.Electrical Contractor Guide, you can “Find Industry Info” (see example following) with links to relevant trade associations, websites and magazines.

Electrical Contractor Guide

Fastest growing industries in BC 

Look at these Industry Guides covering, Agrifoods, Aviation & Aerospace, Bio Technology & Life Sciences, Construction, Digital Entertainment / Interactive Media, Green Economy, Health Care,  Supply Chain, Tourism & Transportation


Find out who your competitors are, where they are located and what are their strengths and weaknesses.

Business Directories:

Online directories will give you contact information for similar businesses (competitors) in your area.

Try looking at directories such as Yellow Pages, Superpages), and Canadian Business Directory for lists of competitors and their contact information.  If you are looking to manufacture a product, you can also look for manufacturing competitors at:  Frasers or ThomasNet

Resources such as ‘Reference Canada’ provide additional valuable details including products/services, age of business, number of employees, website and email address.

  • Reference Canada
    Click on “Start Search” beside Canadian Businesses, then select the “Advanced Search” button.
    Select both “Keyword/SIC/NAICS” under Business Type and “City” under Geography.
    In the top search box enter “[relevant term]” and click SEARCH.
    Select the appropriate headings.  For example searching on ‘roofing’ will display the heading ‘roofing contractors’.
    Lower down, select the Province, choose the cities, and click the “View Results” button.
    NOTE: You can access this database from a Library computer. If you are using a computer from outside the Library, you will need a Vancouver Public Library card to login to this database. After clicking on the database name, you will be asked to enter your library card number and PIN (usually last four digits of your telephone number).
  • Business in Vancouver – Book of Lists
    Lists the biggest businesses in BC across 12 broad categories (e.g. real estate) and subcategories (e.g. biggest construction companies).
    Also available in print at the Vancouver Public Library

What Government Regulations control your business/industry? What permits/licenses are required? What must you comply with?

For a good summary of the types of industry regulations that are in force in BC, see Industry regulations, know which ones apply to your small business, (for example in the construction industry (e.g. roofing), you must comply with WorkSafe BC regulations).

For details on specific requirements for your business/industry, see the following:

  • Bizpal provides you with current information that will show you what permits / licenses your business is required to obtain for the city your business will operate it. For example for your roofing business, you can find out how to register your business and obtain a business license, and what permits are required for construction / renovation of a building.
  • Small Business BC provides details on how to register a business, export/import regulations that may impact your business, how to incorporate and more.
  • UBC Small Business Accelerator (SBA)
    Pick an industry/business relevant to yours and look under “Find Industry Info” for ‘Regulations & Guidelines’, For example in the ‘Electrical Contractor Guide’, you will find this information.

regulations & guidelines

  • Canada Business Network – allows you to search across Canada by city and the type of business/industry to identify local permits/licenses

Trends in your Industry

Try researching what current trends are in your industry and predictions for the future.  Some good sources:

  • Trendhunter
    for example, Trendhunter shows ‘roofing’ trends such as solar powered shingles, recycled rubber roofing.
  • Try a Google search for your business/industry and ‘consumer trends’ (e.g. ‘roofing consumer trends’)
  • trade magazines often cover the hot trends and forecast what changes are ahead – try a Google search for your business/industry and ‘magazines’ – then browse through a few issues available online. For example if you search for ‘electrical contractor’ and ‘magazine’, you will find this: Electrical Business
  • Look at trends across industries to see what consumers are demanding, for example the trends in BC’s small businesses.
  • Look at these news sources to see what is trending in BC businesses:

Trends in Vancouver area and across BC

Who are your customers? What is your target market?

Find out who would buy your product/service – what are their demographics (characteristics of age, income, gender, education and family structure)? What is your customer’s geographic area (where can you sell to get the best results)? What is your customer’s purchasing behaviour (readiness to buy, use frequency, loyalty, and purchase occasion).


Census Profile – Statistics Canada

Profiles of Canadian communities including family characteristics, primary language, mobility, education, marital status, labour force activity, earnings, and mode of transportation to work.

 BC Statistics

Each profile of a small BC region contains a map, demographic profile, economic hardship, labour market structure, education concerns, crime, health problems, children at risk, and youth at risk


Market area profiles for main business districts in Vancouver neighbourhoods

Local Municipalities

Check the municipality you want to do business in to see if they have demographic profiles for the city itself or neighbourhood profiles, e.g.

Spending Patterns

Survey of Household Spending (Statistics Canada)
Provides statistics up to 2015 for spending across BC – over 300 types of expenditures including food, housing, clothing, transportation.

For additional information, see:

Demographics (UBC Small Business Accelerator SBA)

3 Marketing Questions to Answer before You Launch Your New Business
Crash Course in Market Research – Uncovering your Best Customer

Business Plan Resources for your Small Business

A business plan can help you:

  • Turn your ideas and capital into a viable business
  • Secure financing from lenders and investors
  • Secure financing from lenders and investors
  • Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  • Develop accurate financial forecasts
  • Compare planned versus actual performance

Financial Performance Data

Look for financial performance data to include in your business plan – it can show you operating costs for businesses similar to yours, and can include rent, electricity, advertising, insurance, wages & benefits.  This data can provide insight on the operations of similar small and medium-sized businesses in your industry, from amounts spent in specific expense categories to the general health of the firms in operation.  Financial Performance Data also offers you the option of entering data from your business - annual revenue and expense data and assets/liabilities, which can be used to benchmark your small or medium sized business against relevant industry averages.
More information and sample reports of financial performance data for small or medium sized business are available at: Government of Canada: Research and Business Intelligence: Financial Performance Data

Sample Business Plans

Look at sample business plans for businesses similar to your own to gain inspiration.

Business Plan Table of Contents

Sample Business Plans

Look at sample business plans for businesses similar to your own to gain inspiration.

The Business Plans Handbook
Gale Virtual Reference Library
Search for sample business types, i.e. COFFEE SHOP
Also available in print at: Central Library Reference, call number 658.4012 B9291K

Also Available from Gale Virtual Reference Library:
How to Prepare a Business Plan, by Edward Blackwell

BPlans: the complete guide to business planning
hundreds of free samples

Canada Business Network: Business Planning
Sample business plans and templates
explains the sections of a business plan and what information you need to include; includes sample plans  and templates

UBC Library Small Business Accelerator: Create your business plan
identifies the seven things your business plan should do; includes sample plans and templates

Futurpreneur Canada: Business Plan Essentials: A quick overview of what’s needed

Futurpreneur’s Business Plan Writer

Vancouver Public Library: Small Business –Research Guide: Business Plans

Vancouver Public Library – Business Collection

Check the library catalogue for books on writing a business plan, for example:
How to Write A Business Plan by Mike P. McKeever