Step 1. Identify the company you are researching.
Example, Tubby & Coo's Mid-City Book Shop.
Step 2. Use ReferenceUSA to learn more about the company and any local competitors; note the NAICS code.
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. You can find location information, the industry profile (which includes the NAICS Code), the business demographics, business expenditures, business history, nearby businesses, and a list of competitors in the area.
NAICS is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying businesses. It stands for North American Industry Classification System. Noting the NAICS code for your company can help you do broader research on the industry later in the process.
Example, searching for Tubby & Coo's Mid-City Book Shop by name does not turn up any results. This is not surprising, since they haven't been open for very long. My next step is to search for a similar company, Octavia Books. By clicking on the record for Octavia Books, I can see the location information and the industry profile (and that the NAICS Code is 451211 - Book Stores). I also see a list of competitors in the area, including five Barnes & Noble stores.
Step 3. Search for the NAICS code (and a location) in ReferenceUSA.
You can get a full list of the competitors in the area by searching the industry with your city, metro area, or zip code. Click on Custom Search, then click on Business Type, and select Keyword/SIC/NAICS. Select Search All NAICS and enter the NAICS code for your company. Then click on Geography and select from the list to limit your results to your area.
Example, 451211 is the NAICS code for books stores. I searched for that NAICS code with over 52,000 results. I then added the limit of the city of New Orleans, LA, bringing my result list to 84. Then I clicked on View Results to see the entire list of those local companies.
Step 4. Use ReferenceUSA to look at consumer and lifestyle information for residents in the area of your business.
ReferenceUSA also provides information on residents. To access this information, click on Home, then click on U.S. Consumers/Lifestyles. Here, you can search for specific residents by name (like the White Pages). The information we are interested in, however, requires us to click on Custom Search. Here, we can search based on geography, lifestyles, and consumer snapshot.
Example, Tubby & Coo's Mid-City Book Shop is located at 631 N Carrollton Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119. I searched for that zip code, then selected Lifestyles. I chose Book Buyers, Books & Magazines, Comic Book Readers, and Science Fiction Books (all listed under Books/Magazines). This gave me over 3,000 results. By clicking on View Results, I can get a list of addresses for flyers. I can also click on Heat Map and see where most of these residents live within that zip code.
Step 5. Research your location thoroughly with PolicyMap.
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 search for the zip code of my bookstore, 70119. Now I can click on Demographics to see data such as population density, age, gender, etc. I can also click on Incomes & Spending to learn more about the income in that area. I can also click on Quality of Life to see about crime in the area or where the nearest libraries are. Clicking on Education can give me an idea of the level of education in the area, as well as the cost of college nearby.
Step 6. Use your NAICS Code to search for the bigger companies in Mergent Online; note the ticker symbols.
Using your NAICS Code helps you find comparable companies on a larger scale. Mergent Online also has detailed information about these companies. This is a great place to see a list of competitors and build your own reports.
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. This information can be found at the top of the company profile in Mergent. You can also use Google Finance or Yahoo! Finance to find the ticker symbol.
Example, Tubby & Coo's Mid-City Book Shop’s NAICS code is 451211. When I search by NAICS Code, I get a list of companies that include Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, and Borders. Here I can get detailed financial information on these companies, as well as identify their ticker symbols. I note the ticker symbols for Barnes & Noble (BKS) and Books-a-Million (BAMM). I see that Borders is inactive, so ignore the ticker symbol and move on with my other two companies.
Step 7. Use your ticker symbols to search Standard & Poor’s NetAdvantage to look at the bigger picture
You can find information on national competitors in your industry. Searching by ticker symbol tends to work better than searching by company name. Don't know the ticker symbol? Use Google Finance or Yahoo! Finance to find that information. 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, I identified Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million as the biggest companies in the industry of books. I go to the Simple Search and select Ticker under Search by. I then search for each ticker symbol, BKS and then BAMM. This is the quickest and easiest way to access the Industry Survey, since Books aren't listed in the S&P Publication Search. Going through the Barnes & Noble profile shows me that Specialty Retail is what I'm looking for.
Step 8. Search Business Source Complete for articles or even a SWOT Analysis of your bigger companies.
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). In some cases, the SWOT of a large competitor can mirror that of smaller companies. You can also use Business Source Complete to find articles about your company or industry.
Example, I entered my NAICS code 451211 and selected IC NAICS Code or Description in the dropdown menu Select a Field (optional). In the next field, I entered New Orleans, La. I retrieved 12 results. Once I had viewed and/or saved the items I wanted, I deleted New Orleans, La and typed in SWOT Analysis. I retrieved 36 results. Once I had viewed and/or saved the items I wanted, I deleted SWOT Analysis and typed in industry profile, retrieving almost 200 results. Many of these results were for different countries. To limit it, I typed United States in the third search box, retrieving 23 results.
Step 9. Find local news articles on your business or industry.
Step 10. Make an appointment with your librarian for assistance tailored to your research project.