Step 1. Identify the company you want to research.
Step 2. Use Google Finance or Yahoo! Finance to find the ticker symbol.
The ticker symbol (or stock symbol) is an abbreviation used to uniquely identify publicly traded shares of a particular stock on a particular stock market. It may consist of letters, numbers or a combination of both. Both Google Finance and Yahoo! Finance have a lot of information on companies. This can be a great place to get a snapshot of the company you are researching.
Example, GOOGL is the ticker symbol for Google.
Step 3. Search Business Source Complete for a SWOT Analysis of your company.
A SWOT analysis is a study undertaken by an organization to identify its internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as its external opportunities and threats. In fact, that’s how it gets the name SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). You can also use Business Source Complete to find articles about your company or industry.
Example, search Google and SWOT Analysis. You can also search Google and Datamonitor.
Step 4. Use your ticker symbol to search for your company in Mergent Online and find its NAICS code, among other things.
NAICS is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying businesses. It stands for North American Industry Classification System. Mergent Online also has detailed information about the company. This is also a great place to see a list of competitors and build your own reports.
Example, Google’s NAICS code is 518111. It also lists Google’s competitors, including Time Warner, Yahoo!, and Vonage.
Step 5. Use your ticker symbol to search Standard & Poor’s NetAdvantage.
You can also view industry surveys by topic. Here you can see Industry Surveys, Stock Reports, Mutual Fund Reports, and more. You can also see the Economic Outlook for a company. There is even a section that guides you in analyzing the company.
Example, NetAdvantage recommends that I hold on to my stock in Google. It also provides the Industry Survey for Google's field, Internet Software and Services.
Step 6. Use your NAICS code to search Industry Statistics Portal.
Industry Statistics Portal is a database that shows you where you can find information on different industries from the U.S. Census Bureau. This site directs you to all sorts of free government data, such as Statistics of U.S. Businesses, Business Expenses, and County Business Patterns. You can search by NAICS to find the sources that have information on your industry, or you can browse the NAICS options on the left side of the screen.
Example, to browse sources that might have info on Google’s industry, I can use the NAICS code 518111. I can click on 51—Information, then 518-Data processing, hosting, and related services. That’s where my number ends, telling me that this site can only find resources that get as specific as 518-Data processing, hosting, and related services.
Step 7. If you are looking at locations, search PolicyMap by address, zip code, city.
PolicyMap can give you data about where you business is or could be. It can also help you with marketing services to certain locations. Using this database, you can find a lot of information on a particular location, including: population density, race, age, gender, language, voter turnout, income, home values, homeowners vs. renters, crime, commuters, transit access, employment, education, health, etc.
Example, I can look for industry information by clicking on Economy and then clicking on Sector. Since I know that Google falls under Information, I can click on Information jobs and search across the country or in my area, 70122.
Step 8. Search for local businesses by NAICS code with ReferenceUSA.
Unlike public companies, private companies do not have to share any data. However, some do share some information. ReferenceUSA is a good place to find that data. Search by company name, address, or NAICS code.
Example, searching for Google’s NAICS code 518111 does not turn up any results. This is not surprising, but good to verify. I can also browse related companies by searching for 51 (Information) or 518 (Data processing, hosting, and related services). Even better, if you know a local business that falls under that industry, you can search by the name of that business.