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As a small business owner, it is critical that you stay up-to-date on the trends of your industry and the needs of your customers.

Unfortunately, it's hard to find time to both run your business and do independent research on your field. A small business demands a lot of attention to grow and develop — it will likely cut into the time you would have used to learn about growing your local business.

Here are five easy steps to help you gather useful information and effectively consume the insight they provide.

Find online resources designed to help small businesses succeed

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Your list of resources should be a mix of small business-themed sites, blogs and podcasts. They should also include resources regarding your target market(s) and your specific industry.

Some examples of small business resources include:

Bookmark your favorite small business websites

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Once you have a few resources that you want to visit again in the future, it's important to bookmark them. But you don't have to just add them to your browser's Favorites list!

If you're always on the move, a mobile-friendly tool like 43marks may be closer to what you're looking for.

Digg, along with Delicious, are excellent bookmarking tools that can help you find new websites. These are good if you're just starting to find small business websites, and need help finding more.

Use a reading app to organize your favorite small business blogs

books library organized alphabetized

Create a Google Reader account (you need to have a Google account in order to sign up) and assign the blogs you are interested in to the Reader. Every time a new entry of your favorite small business blog is published, it will show up in this feed.

Google Reader is one of the best free tools for organizing blogs, but you can still download other tools like Newzcrawler, Omea Reader, and FeedDemon for a price. It all depends on how you would like to manage the blogs influencing your small business.

Subscribe to small business and industry-specific podcasts

woman gardening headphones listening

Listening to podcasts is a great way to take in some extra small business tips during your time off.  The 100 Best Small Business Podcasts series at Small Business Trends Radio has some fantastic recommendations!

If it doesn't work for your small business, don’t follow it

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Some resources will prove more valuable than others. Don't be afraid to delete resources that prove less helpful or insightful. Your time is too valuable to waste!

Do you own a small business? Where do you find advice on running your small business? Let us know in the comments?

About the Author: Andrew Yeung is president of CompAndSave, a leading online provider of premium printer ink cartridges, including remanufactured and compatible printer ink cartridges. With deals every month and a 1-year guarantee of quality, CompandSave provides an easy way for people and businesses to purchase printer ink and accessories.

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