Researching an Industry or Specific Company- Part 2

Market Research, Industry Research,
Business Research

How to Learn About an Industry
or a Specific Company



A Polson Enterprises Market Research Web Site



  1. Identify the Industry
  2. Seek General Industry Information
  3. Identify Trade Organizations, Publications & Trade Shows
  4. Learn About the Consumers of the Product or Service
  5. Examine the Patent and Trademark Situation in the Industry
  6. Determine the Legal Issues in the Industry
  7. Examine the Regulatory Issues of the Industry
  8. Find Information About Specific Companies
  9. Market Data on Specific Brands or Models
  10. Product and Service Reviews
  11. Define the Type of Competition in the Industry
  12. Examine the Geography of the Industry
  13. Search the History of the Industry
  14. Determine the Importance of Weather and Climate
  15. Government and/or Military Implications
  16. The International Market
  17. Miscellaneous
  18. Interview People from the Industry
  19. Use Information Providers to Fill in the Gaps
  20. Office Tools
  21. Search Engine Tips (key words)
  22. Links for Researchers and Librarians

For items not available on-line, library call numbers are provided for the libraries we normally use. Search your library's catalog using the title and author information we provide to find your library's call numbers. Note, many library catalogs are now online.

OSU# = Oklahoma State Univ. Main Library (Edmond Low Library) call numbers
OU# = University of Oklahoma Main Library (Bizzell Library) call numbers
Oklahoma Department of Libraries allows one stop search of major OK libraries

Please let us hear from you. Is this page meeting your needs? What would you like to add or remove? Do you have any problems using the page? Please talk to us so we can make it better. Drop us an E-mail at If you need to hire a professional researcher, please visit our Polson Enterprises site.

Polson Enterprises Research Services We Supply the Market Research and Technical Information Needed to Make Great, Informed Business Decisions Surrounding the Development and Commercialization of New Products and Services.

  1. Find Information About Specific Companies in the Industry

    1. Tools to identify firms in a specific industry and their location

      1. State manufacturing directories
      2. MNI (Manufacturer's News, Inc.) is a source for state manufacturing directories.
        (Tulsa Public Library has a 50 state set on Microfiche)

      3. MANUFACTURING & Distribution USA 2000
        OSU# 338.4767097 M294 (2nd Floor Reference Area)
        Similar directories also exist for Service Industries and the Transportation Industry
        Note: this reference book is available from our bookstore.

      4. International Directory of Company Histories. (30 plus volume set by Gale Group)   OSU# 338.7409 I61
      5. Encyclopedia of Company Histories access to Gale's great histories via - search for the major companies in the industry to develop an industry history

      6. Corporate Affiliations Lexis Nexis - provides some free info on who owns who, with more data for a fee

      7. Amazon's new Search Inside feature allows searching text inside of a zillion books for a company's name. Then go find the book locally or purchase a copy if the reference looks helpful.

      8. Mailing Lists
        Many firms supply mailing lists for hundreds of industries. Most are developed by SIC code classifications. Some firms specialize in supplying lists for a specific industry. Many supply data on CDroms, mail labels, online, and in other formats in addition to traditional mail labels. Trade organizations (see trade organization section) and trade magazines also often offer mailing lists. Lists of customers of specific companies or products are sometimes available (usually from warranty registration data)

    2. If you need very basic information (true company name, location, address) try:

      • Online phone indexes - see our RBBI Tools Page
      • Most Libraries have CD-ROM Phone Indexes
      • Oklahoma Manufacturers Directory is available on the ORIGINS database
      • State Manufacturer Directories (Tulsa Public Library has a 50 state set on Microfiche)

    3. Some web sites are offering some brief company profiles. Many of them are predominately investment oriented.

    4. If the stock is publicly traded identify the stock symbol at Quote.Com

    5. Franchises - some companies are or are in industries that are heavily franchised (fast food, home repair, etc). The links below are especially helpful with franchised industries.
      • FRANDATA supplies data on franchises (fee based, but identifies franchises by industry for free)
      • American Franchisee Association info on franchises
      • International Franchise Organization franchise info

    6. Thomas Net (formerly Thomas Register)
      After countless years of being the "big green books", they have moved to an only presence and continue to supply manufacturer and product information.

    7. IQS Directory sort of an abbreviated Thomas Register for industrial products that ALSO contains technical, explanatory information.

    8. Compact Disclosure database contains public filings by companies and is available at many public libraries.

    9. SEC EDGAR provides SEC (Security Exchange Commission) Filings for many large public firms.

    10. Dun and Bradstreet credit reports can be requested on companies through our financial department. They can also be requested through Dun and Bradstreet.

    11. Experian (the old TRW system) is a similar credit reporting system to Dun and Bradstreet.

    12. Identify specific individuals / executives at the Company and their concerns / driving factors.

      1. Assemble a list of the officers and members of the board of directors of the company. You probably have already acquired this information in your review of Disclosures, SEC, Dun & Bradstreet, other company profiles or the annual corporate report. If you have difficulties finding officers of smaller companies, try the state corporation commission. In addition to identifying the individuals, see if you can determine how long the major executives have been in office, their age, and their expected term of office. Also see if they are known for any special management techniques (re-engineering, major layoffs, cut throat competition, growth by acquisition, downsizing, etc.) This information will usually turn up in news clips and articles about the company or companies the execs worked for in the past. If the leaders are long term execs of the same company in a slow moving industry the inference is for more of the same in terms of management techniques and product introductions. If a new C.E.O. with very dynamic background has just been hired and the industry is in turmoil, a radical future might be anticipated.

      2. R.W. Stearns Org Charts supply current organization charts for competitors, etc

      3. ZoomInfo / formerly Eliyon provides a great database of employees by company (past and present) from data supplied by individuals and other sources. You should sign up for the business version when using it for non personal research. Many list their positions with the company.

      4. What is the compensation plan for the C.E.O. of the board of directors. Do they own significant amounts of company stock? These questions are usually answered in the annual report. The C.E.O.'s compensation package, age, and stock position may help predict his/her actions in certain situations.

      5. Does the board take an active part in management of the company? What kind of a relationship do they have with the C.E.O.? What percentage of the board members are insiders (work for the company)? Is the board composed of high quality people that can give proper guidance to the company? How many boards does each board member serve on? Are they spread to thin to be of value to this company? The annual report plus news clips on the company will usually answer these questions.

      6. Are there other individuals that significantly impact the operations of the company? Sometimes a single inventor may be responsible for a company's new products (check the patents), a great financial mind might be calling the investments for a brokerage house, a prize winning architect may be drawing business to the company. Would the company be significantly impacted by the death or departure of a few key individuals?

      7. What is the status of the work force? Age? Well trained? Union/ non-union? Major labor contract problems? Availability of more workers? Use of teaming and cross training? Employee turnover? Employee satisfaction? Many of these items can be answered from an annual report, others may require visiting with the company.

        Employee satisfaction is an important but tough variable. It might be inferred from employee turnover rates, number of employees working there for a long time, human resources dept that provides training and the latest programs, good pay relative to other similar companies, low warranty levels, no recent or anticipated layoffs, etc. But, it is difficult for an outsider without access to the company to make a real determination.

    13. Company employee newsletters are great tools for learning more about the culture of a company, identifying major executives, and identifying the current concerns of the company. Most sizeable companies print one. You may be able to find them in a local library. It is often a task just to find the name of the newsletter. Once you have that, the hunt is on. If you can physically visit the company, they can often be browsed in their lobby / waiting room.

    14. Review social media posts left by major executives at places like Facebook and LinkedIn

    15. Benchmark the company or specific activities within the company to other similar companies or similar activities in other non-related companies.

      1. Industry Week manufacturing industry benchmarking resources.

      2. BenchNet

      3. American Productivity and Quality Center

      4. Economic Ratios of Similar Businesses
        Note: In addition to using these figures to compare businesses, you can also use them to estimate figures you cannot obtain. If you know several variables about a business and they are in line with the norms for its industry and size, you can use the ratios to estimate the unknown variables.

          OSU# 658.15 a445 (2nd Floor Reference Area)
          Economic Ratios for various sizes of businesses by industry. You can compare specific companies to the industry averages.

        • Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios by Duns Analytical Services
          OSU# 658.1512 I42

        • RMA Annual Statement Studies
          OSU# 658.15 R642s

        • 101 Business Ratios by Gates
          OSU# 658.1511 G2590
          This book explains the various ratios

          The above items are all in the OSU Floor Reference Area. The reference below applies to SMALL business data.

        • Bizstats extensive financial, employment, and other census data for specific types of small businesses that can be used to calculate economic ratios.

    16. Check the Advertising Industry Literature for coverage of the business, especially for major consumer products companies. Some portals for that industry are:
      1. Advertising Age
      2. AdWeek
      3. MediaPost
      4. database of 30,000 commercials, also covers advertising industry

      SRDS provides directories of magazines and other media accepting advertising by interest. They also provide advertising costs in those media.

    17. Look for on-line information about the company:

      1. Hoovers Business Library Info
        Offer free "company capsules" and provide "company profiles" for a fee. They also have links to major corporate websites.

      2. Pathfinder Magazines Search allows searching Hoover Business Reports free via Money Magazine. Just use the search button.

      3. PR NEWSWIRE has recent company press releases.

      4. Use search engines to determine in the company has its own web site or if other information is available.

      5. See if they are hiring anybody by checking these job search sites:

      6. Many companies have been written up in Case Studies in strategic marketing books or journals. Those studies can be quite useful. Look for cases on the company you are looking for, their competitors, and their industry.

        • Colis the European Case Study Clearinghouse (ECCH) offers a search engine that also searches several other case databases.

        • Harvard Business School Case Studies abstracts and details on how to order the full case are provided.

        • CasePlace about 400 cases on social and environmental issues.

        • Darden has over 1500 cases.

        • The Academic Case Study Workshop in the UK offers case studies on several major US corporations. It was at:   but seems lost right now. Some of these sites come and go.

        • Melbourne Business School Case Study Services provides several cases and links to some other collections of case studies.

        • Small Business School a PBS Television show has profiled hundreds of small businesses.

      7. Sanborn Maps over 600,000 digitized building maps of major cities and towns from 1867-1970. They were used primarily by fired insurance companies. Access is difficult. These include actual historical maps of the interior of company buildings.

      8. Some help in learning about Oklahoma Businesses is available the state web site Oklahoma State Government Web Site

      9. Some Oklahoma Business Data is available on-line in the ORIGINS Database

      10. Search the periodicals index, newspaper index, and ABII using the OSU Pete system.

      11. Search the Business Dateline CD-ROM index at OSU Library.

      12. Search Ingenta Connect (the old CARL system) Scientific Periodical Index on the web if the company has scientific or engineering ties.

      13. The High Beam Research is another excellent resource for information about companies in the news. It requires a subscription

      14. Use the annual corporate reports gathered in the "Seek General Industry Information" section.

      15. Use the Special Media section in the "Seek General Industry Information" section to search for special news coverage sources.

      16. Use the consumer and trade magazine search information gathered in the "Identify and Search the Industry's Trade & Consumer Magazines" section.

    18. Examine and Test Products or Services Offered by the Company
      Use the methods on our How to Learn More About a Company by Examining its Products page.

    19. Much can be learned from a company's internet presence
      • Review the company's website. If they have an Intranet or Extranet review them also if possible.
        Use the methods on our How to Review, Evaluate, Critique a Web Site Page.

      • Google has some excellent tools for finding the full extent of a company's presence and which sites link to them in its Advanced search. Companies often have pages posted they are not aware of.

        The extent a firm links with the net and the net with it is an indicator of their net savy, plus you may also find some interesting connections and arrangements you would otherwise not find.

      • Quest Software used to provide a program called Funnel Web Profiler that can be used to crawl a site and determine its extent. It is still available from some download sites.

      • Corporate websites
        • Study their website closely

        • Study older versions on

        • Study any social media sites they may have in places like Facebook and LinkedIn

    20. Private Companies Researching privately owned companies presents additional challenges. Annual reports, stock reports, independent reports for investors and many other sources available for public firms do not exist for private companies. Researchers must increasingly rely on news reports, coverage in local media, trade magazines and very thorough application of the normal tools of the trade. A few tools that are sometimes especially helpful with private companies are:

      • Central Contractor Registration (CCR) database of information on government contractors
      • Wards Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public and Companies. Printed by Gale Group.
      • International Directory of Company Histories. (30 plus volume set)   OSU# 338.7409 I61
      • D&B Small Business Solutions company reports

    21. Use the information gathered in this section to get a good current "picture" of the company and also to write a brief history of the company listing its major events, leaders, acquisitions, layoffs, products, new product introductions, and any anticipated major future events (C.E.O. retirement, expiring major patents, etc.)

    22. If you are using this outline only to learn about a specific company, you can take the industries the company is in and use the some of the other sections of the outline to develop a wider picture of where the company operates. Select the sections you think will be most relevant and be sure to use the Seek General Industry Information and Define the Type of Competition in the Industry sections.

  2. Market Data on Specific Brands or Models

    Specific brand data may be available in trade publications, market research reports or from other sources referenced earlier. Many consumer products are tracked by Point of Sale data which is often aggregated and compiled by third party sources. This may be the only access to brand data for some products.

    1. Point of Sale information providers include:

  3. Product and Service Reviews

    You can learn a great deal about a company by examining and testing its products Additionally, product reviews of competitive products may give insight into upcoming moves by the company being studied.

    1. Use the methods on our How Learn More About a Company by Examining its Products page.

    2. Breadth & Depth of Product Line. Are they a one product company or do they have many different product Lines? Is each product available in several sizes and variations? How does their Breadth & Depth compare to their competitors?

    3. Vertical Integration? Do they own suppliers of their major raw materials? Do they own their distribution chain? How does their level of vertical integration compare to their competitors?

  4. Define the Type of Competition in the Industry

    1. During the "Seek General Industry Information" and the "Find Information About Specific Companies in the Industry" steps you should have developed a list of industry competitors and have some concepts of their market shares. You can now use that information to Define the Type of Competition in the Industry by classifying it as one of the types below.

      • MONOPOLY
        Only one firm selling a particular product. Usually the result of patent, trade secret, or government protection. Examples are newly developed and patented drugs, coca-cola, and local utility companies.

        A few firms, generally large, comprise most of the industry's sales. They try to get consumers to perceive their brand as distinctive. The market is usually large and broken into segments. Examples are the auto industry, breakfast cereals, cigarettes, and outboard engines.

        Several firm, each trying to offer a unique marketing mix. Firms try to obtain advantage through a mix of marketing variables. Examples are Service Stations, Beauty Salons, and Shoe Retailers.

        Many firms, all selling identical products. Examples are commodities such as wheat and soybeans.

      The Census of Manufacturers provides information about the concentration of certain industries (what percentage of the total industry sales are due to the largest 5,10,25,50 companies).

      "Concentration Ratios" indicate what percentage of the total business in a four digit SIC code is being done by the largest firms in the industry. The Manufacturing Census report is called "Concentration Ratios in Manufacturing" and is numbered MC(yr)-S-6 (where yr is last two digits of the census year). It indicates the percentage of business done by the top 4, 8,20, and 50 companies in each four digit SIC code industry.

      Similarly the Retail Census has a report called 1997 Establishment & Firm Size Subject Series #RC97-S-1. This report provides information on the size of the companies, sales statistics, employment size, multi-unit info, payroll, and concentration of the largest firms.

      As you examine this data you need to remember it is dated and the situation may have changed since then. Anyway, concentration data provides an interesting view of the industry.

      The type of competition and the current and anticipated future growth rates of an industry are major factors in determining the approaches its companies take to new products, marketing, expansion, relocation, and other matters. It also determines their potential market share (and thus their potential size if the total industry is defined).

    2. Describe the overall industry as currently growing, stable, or shrinking.

    3. Describe the future prospects for the overall industry as growing, stable or shrinking.

    4. Look at the product line of the competitors in the industry (found in annual reports, marketing literature, advertisements). How do the competitors vary in terms of depth (different models or sizes of a product) and breadth (different products).

    5. How do the various competitors distribute their products (distributors, direct sales, mail order, online sales). Do they all use the same distribution channels, does one company employ channels not used by others?

    6. How do the companies in the industry try to differentiate themselves from their competitors (features, distribution, service, added value, resale value, durability, high performance, low initial cost, easy availability, prestige, identify stars or professionals with their product, affiliate with sports teams or events, etc) ?

  5. Examine the Geography of the Industry

    1. Are they a local player, regional player, national player, international company? Are they trying to move to the next rung?

    2. Where are their major competitors? Is their a cluster of major competitors here or somewhere else? Is their an element that limits the possible locations of the industry?

    3. What is the geographical distribution of their wholesalers, dealers, end users? Does it look like it might change in the future?

    4. Where are their suppliers and raw materials? How far away are they? Are they that far from their competitors?

    5. On a micro scale, note the amount of space they have, parking space, easy freeway access, rail access, waterway access, availability of (skilled / unskilled) employees, availability of utilities, local environmental issues, etc.

    6. Manufacturing & Distribution USA 2000. Older copies are titled, Manufacturing USA.
      OSU# 338.4767097 M294 2000 (2nd Floor Reference Area)
      Lists many of the top companies in manufacturing industries and provides their location.
      Note: this reference book is available from our bookstore.

    7. Expansion Management focus on business relocation information.

    8. Plant Sites & Parks magazine published Reeds / Cahner's was last published in 2004

    9. Google Maps Mania links to google maps of data
    10. GEOIDE Canadian geographical data (GPS, etc) center of excellence - they try to promote the concept of geographical insights into market research

    11. Woophy ground level mapping photos (images via a map)

    12. Google Earth great tool for looking at company sites and geographical relationships

    13. Flickr tags tens of thousands of photos by location
    14. on stop shop for United States GIS data, includes a viewer

    15. Tatuk GIS Editor we have been very happy with this program full GIS codes data overlays and mapping.

    16. Other resources and methods include:

      • Mailing Lists identify companies in specific industries
      • Many cities now have cad maps (for utilities and services)
      • Local phone books
      • OSU Library Map Room
      • Aerial Photos
      • Satellite Photos
      • SELECT PHONE Tiger Software can map industries by SIC codes
      • Univ. of Texas Electronic Maps
      • Tiger Map Service (US Government Maps) Allows entry of city name or zip and produces a map. Census data also available.
      • DeLorme we have had good success with their topographical and mapping software.
      • A road atlas and traditional folding road maps can often be helpful in understanding the geography of a company or industry.

  6. Search the History of the Industry

    A few sites are suggested below. The type of industry and its age will greatly determine the approach.

    • Google Trends identifies major news events for specific industries and companies over the last couple years. Google Trends also shows relative search frequency over time, great for identifying spikes in interest in the name of a specific company (usually indicates major news).

    • Internet Archive (previously Alexa) allows viewing old sites no longer on the web and earlier versions of current sites.

    • U.S. and International News Paper Archives on the Web maintained by the Special Libraries Association - much is free.

    • Vanderbilt TV News Archive huge archive of TV news reports
    • Encyclopedia of Company Histories access to Gale's great histories via - search for the major companies in the industry to develop an industry history
    • fee based service
    • Chronicling America historical newspaper access via Library of Congress

    • American Memory search Library of Congress site for US historical documents and photos
    • History Guide links to major history sites, excellent, part of network gateway series in Europe

    • Archive Grid historical archives, family histories, etc
    • American Philosophical Society Association Library history of science, technology, medicine
    • Locally you can search many historical news papers using Ancestry (online genealogy database) at the Stillwater Public Library. They can also be searched from
    • Cindi's List maintains a very extensive list of both U.S. and International historical news paper tools.
    • PERSI (Periodical Source Index) is an excellent historical news database. It is available at the Stillwater Public Library via Heritage Quest.
    • See links to databases of advertisements used in the past in the Advertising section.

  7. Determine the Importance of Weather and Climate on the Industry

    The climate may force some industries to be seasonal. Weather can effect availability of raw materials, the need for goods and services, and the rate at which products are consumed. The climate and weather at the producers site, their suppliers, the region the components and finished products are transported through, and the consumers site may all be important.

      OSU# ECP 232 EN17 C644 no.81 (Federal Documents)
      These small green booklets (one for each state) contain data for many of the towns within each state.

      OSU# 551.6973 C639 1985
      A "civilian version" of the government publication above. It includes a general climate description for each state followed by data for specific towns.

      OSU# 551.6973 W362 1992
      One page written description plus 3 pages of data for most large cities.

      OSU# ECP 232 EN 17 E615 CO 55 (Federal Documents)
      Covers weather conditions out on the ocean for the areas near the U.S. coasts. Has air temp, water temp, wind speed and direction, barometric readings, wave heights as percentile data read from off-shore buoys. Describes a "windrose" method of graphically reporting wind direction and speed data or sea swell data.

      OSU# 551.4902 V235w 1990
      Provides data on actual total hours of rainfall by different intensity levels in major cities (pgs 45-47).

      OSU# 551.69733 C6358

    7. Freese-Notis Commodities Weather

    8. Harris-Mann Climatology

    9. National Climactic Data Center (local historical weather data)

    10. UM Weather

  8. Government and/or Military Implications

    The Government and/or Military applications of products or services has major impact or potential impact on industries or specific companies. The Government and Military are huge consumers and potential users of many products and services. When evaluating and industry or a specific company, be sure to consider both current and potential applications in this area. Also be sure to monitor technologies being developed by them.

    1. Central Contractor Registration database of information on government contractors

    2. FedBizOpps Federal Business Opportunities, sort of a modern Commerce Business Daily

    3. Commerce Business Daily was the major source for government purchasing information up till a few years ago. Has since been replaced by FedBizOpps (above). In addition to listing what they want, you can see past contract awards and amounts by firm. Many versions both fee based and free were available online. Fee based versions had better search tools.The government even had an official free version. These older materials can still be searched and are often very helpful. Historical note - prior to the days of computers, this was a paper publication mailed every day to subscribers.

    4. search for government grants and awards

    5. Forecast International supplies military goods forecasts

    6. GSA Advantage catalog government agencies use to purchase equipment and supplies at government discount

    7. BINCS Business Identification Cross Reference Number System - awesome cage, upc, duns, sic, etc

    8. Universal Directory of Commercial Items is a Military UPC code index maintained by Defense Logistics Information Service (DLIS). It can identify military parts

    9. H2 Federal Supply Classification (FSC) Finder

    10. FPDS PSC Wizard finds Product or Service Codes

    11. LogTool great tool for Military Logistics information - links to major sites by branch

    12. USA Search (previously FirstGov) major search engine for U.S. government information

    13. Terrorism - Protecting Americans at home and abroad has become a major concern of our Government. Many companies are currently being formed to address some of the technical needs of fighting against terrorist acts (anti-terrorism). A Dept. of Homeland Security has been formed. Those working on technical projects in this area will find these sites especially helpful:
      • TSWG U.S. Government Terrorist Technology site, all the techie's hang out here.
      • U.S. Government Terrorist Invention Proposals
      • In-Q-Tel U.S. Government intelligence technology development group, they sometimes provide seed money to fund development of anti-terrorism technologies.

      • Navy Antiterrorism Technology Coordination Office was at and required a certificate to view

    14. DTIC an excellent military technology monitoring point.

    15. Janes provides indepth coverage of U.S. and foreign military technologies, weapons, vessels, equipment and many other areas.

    16. Early Bird the military's news daily clipping service, you must be on a military computer to access or get approved access.

    17. RAND Corporation, a think tank, publishes research on issues. Most of them present information on issues confronting the government and society for use in making policy decisions. Currently, terrorism and the military are hot topics.

  9. The International Market

    1. Online Translator sites are helpful in reading foreign web sites

      1. Babelfish has moved to Yahoo - translator
      2. Google Translate

    2. Import and Export Data

      1. U.S. Exports and Imports CD-ROM
        Available at OSU Federal Documents. Has import and export data by country by month for current year. Also includes specific port of entry and exit data.

        To find the data you will need to determine the export and import codes for the specific product. They can be determined on the CD. You may also be able to determine them on the web, but the sources frequently move.

      Harmonizations Codes are used in many reports to identify specific products moving between countries. Harmonizations codes for the specific industry you are studying can usually be found from the links below. Note - the import codes may be different from the export codes.

    3. Federation of International Trade Associations FITA, import export site

    4. globalEdge International Business & Economic Sources portal created by Michigan State University

    5. U.S. Dept of Commerce market research page for country reports by industry.

    6. NTDB (National Trade Data Bank) was available on Stat-USA at OSU. Full text of U.S. Dept. of Commerce reports on certain industries in foreign countries and related U.S. export opportunities. Stat-USA funding was cut late in 2012.

    7. TradePort information to help develop international trade to or from California - much of the information may be helpful to others as well, including free access to several international market studies

    8. Tulsa Public Library Business Library (4th Floor) has a number of International Business Directories.

    9. Statistical Yearbook 38th ISSUE
      OSU# TUN 746 ST25 S796 1990/91 (Federal Documents)
      Huge book of statistics by country printed by the United Nations.

    10. The U.S. International Trade Administration provides information online at its web site.

    11. Trade Stats Express charting access to basic stats worldwide by country, by product/commodity.

    12. U.S. International Trade Commission their Docket system (DataWeb) and Electronic Data Information System (EDIS) contain very detailed reports of companies and the products they manufacture that have been accused on price dumping products in the U.S. Those same studies include details on the entire industries involved. If your industry has been recently studied, their could be a lot of information in here. Requires you to establish a free login.

    13. JETRO Japan External Trade Organization

    14. Sometimes a U.S. embassy in a foreign country or a foreign embassy in the U.S. can be helpful in finding information.

    15. Asian Trade Leads and Manufacturers
    16. U.K. Dept for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) many excellent industry and manufacturing reports - see publications section

    17. Euromonitor International provides international consumer product market research data by country

    18. National Bureau of Statistics of China is in Chinese

    19. Mintel International International market reports
    20. NationMaster great source of mapped International stats
    21. EuroStat European statistics
    22. Kompass international company profiles and information, fee based database

    23. YesAsia source for Japan, Korea, China pop culture, books, magazines, food they also sell US items in Asia to expatriates.

  10. Miscellaneous

    1. Advertisements

      • Ad Flip great database of classic print ads
      • Ad Access great database of historical print ads maintained by Duke University
      • ClipLand large database of worldwide television commercials

    2. Ex-employees of the company or industry
      Be sure the interview is on the "up and up" and they are not violating some company information sharing agreement.

    3. Local newspapers of the towns the companies are in.

    4. Company Press Kits (like those provided to media at exhibitions)

    5. Industry and Company Photos and Plant Tours
      • Superfactory provides links to virtual plant tours.
      • "Watch in Made in The USA", provides details of hundreds of actual plant tours. Find one in a related industry and to take it.
      • Industry and company web sites may have them
      • Aerial Photos
      • Satellite photos may show a specific company's operation
        Several groups are beginning to offer photos to 1 meter resolution.
        See "The Propriety of Remote Sensing." Competitive Intelligence Review. Vol.10 No.1 First Quarter 1999 for a discussion of some of the privacy issues involved

    6. Other Company and Product Images

    7. Other miscellaneous web sites that may prove useful include:

  11. Interview People From the Industry

    AFTER becoming familiar with the industry by gathering data in the earlier steps, now we begin to try to interact, interview, or find prior conversations with distributors, end users, and others in the distribution chain.

    1. Internet News Groups, Usenet, Blogs, Mailing Lists, EZines RSS feeds and Forums
      These areas allow you to read the postings of end users of many consumer products, as well as professionals. Note, just because you see it in print here does not mean it is real. Several of the financial forums have been used by those attempting to modulate stock prices by making announcements or accusations. EZines are electronic versions of magazines. There are also thousands on forums and bulletin boards. Many are industry specific.

      RSS feeds news and other information by topic to viewers. RSSfeeds indexes over 80 thousand of them.

      • Google Groups (previously DejaNews) is an excellent resource for researching newsgroups. You can search for specific company names or products to locate recent postings using those words. In the early days of the internet, newsgroups were a tremendous resouce. Now many of them are overran by spam.

      • "Phoaks" Identifies those frequently participating in specific news groups and lists sources frequently identified in newgroups. Can search by newsgroup. Idea is to identify quality sources of information. There is a paper about how it works. Phoaks appears to no longer be operational. It was at

      • Yahoo Groups thousands of "groups" maintained by Yahoo

      • Internet FAQ Archives finds archives of FAQs in Usenet groups

      • Net Scan in depth analysis of newsgroups and those posting in groups. This is a great tool in many situations. The site seems to no longer be available, but I left the link because it was a very useful tool and may come back. Was at

      • Many Blogs (web logs) now provide a information about industries, companies, products, etc. You can search several of them by using the Blog Search Engines on our Search Engines Page on RBBI. We usually start with Technorati and Google Blog Search.

      • AllTop provides links to top blogs in about 60 categories

      • Board Reader reads forums and message boards from about 3/4 of million sites.
        Note the advanced search capabilities section

      • PAML (Publicly Accessible Mailing List) Note- mailing lists, also known as listservs, are a very early form of newsgroups used by the internet. Each message sent is independently delivered to each subscriber. Web based archives of many of them are available. Those not familiar with mailing lists may need to study the procedure. PAML was a great resource at , but like many of the old tools, it is now gone.

      • Tile.Net formerly LISTZ indexes many ezines, mailing lists and related information.

      • LSoft official catalog of LISTSERVs

      • If you are researching an area involving teenagers or college students, the social networking sites MySpace and FaceBook and may be helpful.

      • Yahoo Finance and Google Finance both offer many online groups or forums of investors discussing specific companies.

    2. Personally interview people associated with the industry.
      This is an excellent source of information. Try to interview 3 or more at each distribution level. Make up a list of questions to try to fill in any gaps in the earlier research and to learn about the product and its competitors. If you ask the same questions each time it gives you a good cross section of responses. Larger companies often have some type of public or media relations person. That is an excellent place to start.

    3. ZoomInfo formerly Eliyon provides a great database of employees by company (past and present) from data supplied by individuals and other sources. You should sign up for the business version when using it for non personal research. Many list their positions with the company.

  12. Use Information Providers to Fill in the Gaps

    1. If needed pieces of information are still missing they can usually be obtained from information providers. These sources cost money and thus are usually relied on as a last resort. Some are fairly economical and if you already have some subscription type access to them, be sure and utilize them. The most commonly used ones are listed below.

      • Lexis Nexis is a major information provider. Some of their offerings are available at OSU
      • Manta summaries on millions of small businesses

      • Goliath by Gale competitive intelligence, for a fee, but 1st screen provides considerable amount of info for free
      • Highbeam Business, formerly Goliath. No longer allows ongoing free access to identify articles.
      • British Library fee based access to millions of research articles!!

      • Report Linker provides access to free government reports worldwide for a base access fee.

      • Dialog Dialog Select allows access with a credit card
      • Factavia a great database available at many major libraries including Oklahoma State University
      • Ebsco databases available at many public libraries including OSU and Stillwater Public Library
      • Hoovers Business Library Info
      • MEDLINE "the" major medical database, PubMed
      • PACER - Public Access to Court Electronic Records
      • Reuters
      • Proquest / UMI
      • Serials Solution lists many major information databases
      • GreyNet a compilation of locally printed materials (not normally widely distributed). It was previously at:

    2. One subset of this area, is providers of information about individuals. This may be work history, credit reports, driving records, education records, bankruptcy history, or other public records. On occasion this information may be of use in investigations of specific companies. It is also extensively used by some Human Resource Depts. in "checking out" new employees. A social security number, birth date, middle name or drivers license number is often helpful.

      • Know-x
        We have numerous other tools we use to locate people and learn about them.

    3. If you have an internet URL (web site address) and for a company or information and the site is no longer active, normally your browser returns a "404 error." If that happens you might try searching for the same site on Google. They provide cached versions of the sites that may still obtain the information you are seeking.

  13. Office Tools and Search Engines

    • You will find our Office Tools page and Search Engines List from RBBI (another Polson Enterprises web site) very helpful during your research.

    • We had a note here about using Gopher, the original search engine for the pre-web internet. Gopher is now very difficult to find and most information in that part of the internet is long out of date. But we could not resist leaving this reference and wishing our old friend well in retirement.

  14. Search Engine Tips (key words)

    When using search engines to find information about large industries or large companies, you may be overwhelmed with "hits", especially for consumer product industries because you will find a zillion sites trying to sell you the product. One way around this is to add one of the terms or groups of terms in the list below to your search. Search for "the company name" or "the industry name" plus one of these terms.

job, jobs
employee, employees
expansion, expanding
layoff, layoffs
insurance, pension, pension plan
acquisition, acquired
take over, took over
hostile take over
manufacturer, manufacturers, manufacturing
market share
market research, market study
feasibility study
feasibility analysis
business plan
forecast, outlook
case study
history, archives, timeline
industry (use "industry" with the name of the industry)
economic impact
press release
tour, field day, open house, celebration, celebrated
home town of the company

death, died, passed away
annual sales
annual report
guarantee, warranty
point of sale, purchase
president of the company's last name
plus terms specific to this industry or company

By using this method, you will find the business related content, vs. hundreds of sites trying to sell you products. The list of words above is certainly not complete, but it will give you a place to start. Test other words you think might be helpful.

You can also repeat this process on the Internet Archive to find historical postings, Google Groups (previously called DejaNews) to find relevant newsgroup postings and on the Blog Search Engines on our Search Engine Page to find relevant blog content. Don't overlook the newsgroups and blogs, you may not find great info there, but they will often lead you to excellent content.

Although this method is almost essential for using search engines to find business intelligence on consumer industries and well known companies, it is also often helpful for niche products and industries. It is also often of use when the industry or company name is the same as a name of something heavily represented on the net (like the company name is the same as the name of a popular musical band with many sites talking about the band and its music on the net- I have encountered that several times).

Several of the search engines now "cluster" results. Those clusters can be used to identify additional search terms that might be helpful.

  • Links for Researchers and Librarians

    Those who frequently research the internet, libraries and other resources may find these sites of interest.


    We suggest you print this page out and "mark it up" as you complete various steps. Typically we perform steps 1 through 4 and then select some of the other steps depending upon the particular situation.

    Often a considerable amount of information is gathered as the study is conducted.

    1. Separate it into folders by category (by step).
    2. Identify the major competitors in the industry and their market shares.
    3. Identify the current concerns of the industry.
    4. Identify government regulations effecting the industry (existing and proposed).
    5. Identify trends in the industry.
    6. Determine the life stage of the industry. (Technological Forecasting)

    7. Prepare the above information in a graphical format.

    8. Write a short overall report and a short summary of each category. Take a binder and put the overall report and the graphics at the front, follow it with the category summary and the background materials for each category. Prepare tabs to make the binder easier to use. Large reports may need to be split into two or more binders.

    9. Make copies of the final report if necessary.

      Investigating an industry by this procedure takes time. I have used this system dozens of times and it takes me about two weeks of half time work (40 to 60 hours spread out over a two week period to allow information requests to be responded to) to run an industry through the entire program. It will take longer for novices and for those without easy access to some of the printed publications.

    Industry Research Sites Similar to this One

    We have discovered a few other sites with similar pages to this one. You might wish to try a blend of their and our methods or sources. Some of them are a little more investment/financial information oriented than our site. They are listed below:

    FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

    1. I am researching a specific industry such as convenience stores and do not find anything on your site directly related to them. What am I supposed to do?

      1. You need to work the site! Just start with the first 3 steps. Identify the Industry, Seek General Industry Information, and Check Trade Magazines, Trade Organizations and Conferences for the industry. This is not a miracle site! It takes work to find the information. If you do not have time or have difficulties finding the online and printed resources to carry it out, we provide this service for hire at Polson Enterprises Research Services. We can speed up the process because we are very familiar with the tools. Also, we are aware of many additional resources that can be brought to bear on specific industries. Please visit our site to learn more about us.

    2. A specific link is not longer active, goes to the wrong site or the site now charges for information? The internet is still pretty dynamic. We try to keep up, but it is very difficult.

      If the site is down (URL seems good, just cannot bring it up):

      1. Use Google to search for the site then select to view their CACHE of the site. (This method is currently no longer easily available).
      2. Enter the URL into Internet Archive. You can often find a recent backup of popular sites there.
      3. If you still cannot find the site, give it a few hours if you can (sometimes only temporarily down), if it remains down, try the steps in the URL is bad section below.

      If the URL is bad:

      1. Search for the site using the Google search engine. This may find it if it moved.
      2. Use Google to search for the site and select to view their CACHE of the site. This stands a strong possibility of recovering the site if it recently went down. (This method not currently available since Google withdrew the cache).
      3. Try searching for the link using the Google search engine. You can also try "peeling back" the URL (remove the end the URL backwards to the next slash mark, try it, then repeat the process until you have tried the base URL).
      4. Enter the URL into Internet Archive. This can find long dead popular sites. This project was once known as Alexa.


    1. "OSU and Area Library Periodical and Book Listings" by Gary Polson, 24 May 1995.

    2. Some major providers of CD ROMs and Research Books are:

      SRDS (Standard Rate and Data Service)

      Thomson and Gale

      Plunkett Research

    Special Situations

    We are sometimes asked how to locate executives in specific industries by name. Many firms sell mailing lists by name. A few firms provide research services in this area:


    Please let us know if you like this site, if you have any suggestions or comments, please email us.


    Don't forget to hire us if you ever need any services in this area (market, technical, patent, legal research). You can read about our services, pricing and more information about us on the Polson Enterprises web site.


      11 August 2012

    • Major update and verified all links

      11 August 2011

    • Major update and verified all links

      12 August 2010

    • Major update and verified all links

      5 August 2009

    • Major update and verified all links
      Noticed the web site URLs now seem much more stable than in years past

      8 August 2008

    • Major update and verified all links

      8 August 2007

    • Major update. Quit listing specific changes.

    Archives of earlier updates

    Thanks to our many users: companies investigating expanding into new markets with new products or acquisitions, competitive intelligence professionals, information professionals, information specialists, librarians, technology development professionals, independent inventors, marketing professionals, investors, state and municipality economic development professionals researching industries and companies they are recruiting, college marketing classes and job hunters learning more about an industry, company or market before they file a job application or attend an interview.

    Our site was featured in the Vertical Portals article in the March/Apr 2001 issue of ONLINE magazine!!

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