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Free Data Supports Better Business Plans

May 25, 2016 | By Mike Raimondi

  • You can use publicly available data to support headcount planning
  • Some industries depend on sales and marketing employees more than others
  • Compare your business or department with industry averages

When you are doing your planning, it’s nice to know how you compare to other companies in your industry. Whether you are focusing on financial characteristics such as revenue growth, profitability and R&D expenditures, or operating characteristics such as headcount and productivity, company financial data exists for many companies and is easy to access. But if you are in sales or marketing, have you ever tried to get data on the number of employees devoted to sales and marketing activities in your industry? It’s not widely available.

There is another source of detailed occupation data. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a detailed database of the number of employees within hundreds of occupation groups in hundreds of industries. In the accompanying table, employee numbers have been aggregated by broad sectors using all sales and marketing occupations included in the database. Sales and marketing employment is displayed as a percent of total employment for each sector. In most cases, sales employment as a percent of total employment is much higher than marketing employment as a percent of total employment. This is especially true of wholesale trade, retail trade and real estate. Of course, these sectors depend on sales for survival; other industries have lower percentages. 

As you delve into more of the details, you’ll find that the broad sectors are delineated into much more detailed industries. For example:

  • Some of the detailed industries in the information sector include software, wired telecommunications, wireless telecommunications and data-processing services.
  • Some of the detailed industries in the professional services sector include accounting services, engineering services, computer system design and advertising.

As a percent of total employment, sales and marketing employment varies significantly across the detailed industries. The percentages do not vary as much as they do for the broad sectors in the table, but they do vary significantly. That variation makes a difference when you are doing your planning.

Most publicly available databases from government agencies are easy to access and use. In many cases, a simple application facilitates the selection of a few detailed data elements that are relevant to your analysis. In most cases, selected data elements can be downloaded directly into Excel to speed its use in your work. In all cases, large databases are available in text files (either comma-separated or tab-separated values) that can be downloaded.

Once you have the data on your computer, you can integrate it with your internal data and other external data to undertake comprehensive analyses. This can be done in many ways, and your choice depends on the size of the database and the number of sources that you need to integrate.

Many users default to Excel. Other users step up to one of the many available business intelligence tools. Still others prefer a SQL database to gain complete control over every aspect of the data.

The detailed occupation database from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is just one of the many useful databases that are available from government agencies in the United States, Canada, Western Europe and other countries. If you take the time to investigate the possibilities, you will find many useful inputs that provide valuable insights that improve your plans, support better decisionmaking and yield better business performance.

Mike Raimondi

Mike is a global business analytics leader. For more than 25 years, he has provided b-to-b consulting support to clients in a wide range of industries, analyzing markets, customers and costs. Using large-scale data integration and pertinent quantitative methods, he estimates total addressable market, segments markets, prioritizes and targets opportunities, and quantifies potential sales to new and existing customers.