The following provides sources for reputable small business statistics on a variety of topics, help with understanding the dos and don’ts of statistics use in marketing, and resources you can access to learn more about putting statistics to work for your small business.

Statistics Resources for Small Business

If you’re trying to reinforce a point in your small business marketing, there is undoubtedly a stat for that; and you’re likely to find it in one or both of the following sources.

Statistic Brain

This site provides access to a large library of statistics grouped into 7 major categories: Business, Media, Finance, Geographic, Demographic, Technology and Sports. Within those categories you’ll find dozens of sets of statistics that might come in handy.

You won’t find graphs, interpretations, or comments—just raw numbers (with sources) that can help you make your cases. As the site’s About Page states, “Our goal is to bring you accurate and timely statistics. We will never become number analysts because we believe numbers should only be interpreted by the reader. We want to educate, assist, and sometimes entertain with numbers on every subject.

A few random, but interesting statistics pulled from Statistic Brain data:

  • 45% of small businesses with revenue between $100K and $500K have websites, while 67% of small businesses with revenue between $2.5M and $4.5M have websites. (source)
  • The average Food Truck start-up pays $150 for a fire extinguisher. (source)
  • 70% of Snapchat users are women, 71% are under 25 years old, and 77% of college students use Snapchat daily. (source)
    NOTE: Think about that one critically and your head spins trying to figure out where the male college students fit in, and whether little girls are grouped with “women.”
  • In 2015 there were 1.15 billion registered domains and 412 million live websites. In 1996 there were 1.56 million registered domains and 1.2 million live websites. (source)
  • In 2013 the Muzak industry had annual revenue of $248M. (source)

Statista

The site provides a searchable database of studies and statistics and claims to include “data on over 80.000 topics from over 18.000 sources onto a single professional platform.” In addition to straight statistics, Statista provides a large catalog of graphs and infographics based on the data it collects, as well as industry reports for markets such as e-commerce, services, technology and communication, and retail.

With a free account (you provide your name, email address, and phone) you can download any of the graphs or infographics as .png files to use in your presentations. You can also download ready-made Power Point slides, PDF files, or the raw data as an Excel file that you can manipulate as you wish. You can also use the provided embed code to put a Statista chart or graph into your blog or website. (Note that the free account does not provide access to all Statista data. If you see a search result with a “+” it is not available in the free account. A paid subscription is $49 per month.)

You can browse Statista by industry, company (such as Apple or Amazon), topic (such as the coffee market or Android use), or infographic library; or you can enter a keyword into the search to see a list of matching reports, statistics, and infographics.

As an example, here are two graphs pulled from Statista:

Statistic: Most successfully completed Kickstarter projects as of May 2016, based on amount of total funds raised (in 1,000 U.S. dollars) | Statista

Infographic: The Age of Tech | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

Using Statistics Responsibly

In 1954 Darrell Huff published How To Lie With Statistics, and all at once the Emperor was revealed to have no clothes while at the same time being taught how to perpetuate the illusion of his garments.

If you are going to play with statistics, it is definitely worth a read of the original book (or at least the reprint). For a cliff-notes version, try the Fast Company 3-minute read, 7 Ways To Lie With Statistics And Get Away With It. The post highlights Huff’s 7 key ways to manipulate a statistic to your advantage, including games with sample composition and sample size, creative use of averages, tactical omissions of sampling error, illusions in graphing, implications of (nonexistent) authority, and correlation fallacies (back to that Shaw quote again).

These (made-up) examples show you how it’s done, and how you shouldn’t do it:

  • 75% of people prefer to read email on iPads.

    • Sample Problem: The survey sample was completely made up of iPad owners.
    • Disclosure Problem: The statistic did not disclose the sample make-up.
    • The Responsible Way: 75% of iPad owners surveyed report preferring to read email on their iPads.
  • College Students hate email more than Graduate Students do.
    • Sampling Error Problem: The survey error was +/- 7%
    • Disclosure Problem: The actual results were that 50% of College students reported hating email, while 47% of Graduate students reported hating email. The sampling error negates these results, which might actually be the complete opposite of what was claimed.
    • The Responsible Way: 50% of College Students surveyed reported hating email, while 47% of Graduate Students reported hating email. The study error was +/- 7%, so no statistical difference between the two groups can be posited based on this survey.
  • Email Users have larger houses than non-email Users. Read more email and your living space will grow!
    • Correlation /Causation Problem: While the study may have identified a correlation between email reading and house square feet, it cannot claim to have identified a cause and effect relationship. One would be foolish to conclude that reading more email will magically cause your rooms to expand, or increase your income to the point that you can afford a larger residence.
    • The Responsible Way: New study finds that on average the number of email messages read per day is correlated to the square footage of the subject’s primary residence. No causal relationship can be determined, but the correlation is interesting and deserves further study.

Utilizing Statistics for Strategic Business Decisions

Using statistics for (hopefully ethical) marketing is just the beginning. When you take a deep dive into what your business data tells you, and what market data tells you, you can gain a real advantage over your competition.

If you’re interested in putting statistics to work for your small business, start by reading Marketing Analysis: Unlocking The Power Of Descriptive Statistics. The post discusses Variance & Standard Deviation, Standard Deviation & Expectations, and Statistical Significance. It includes basic calculations you can use to start performing your own statistical analyses.

You might also try an online course covering using statistics in business. For a self-directed course, try the comprehensive Statistics Tutorial from Stat Trek.

Also consider enrolling for the upcoming Coursera course Inferential and Predictive Statistics for Business. From the faculty of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, this course aims, “to cover statistical ideas that apply to managers. We will consider two basic themes: first, is recognizing and describing variations present in everything around us, and then modeling and making decisions in the presence of these variations… While you will be introduced to some of the science of what is being taught, the focus will be on applying the methodologies.” The course begins on August 15, and you can enroll here.

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Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I’m the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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