The first step to beginning your research is to compile background information about your company and product/service. Here are a few important places to search for that information:
1. Check these key company, industry and market research databases:
- Business Insights: Essentials
- Search Tip 1: Find a company profile.
- In the main search box, enter a company name or ticker to retrieve a company profile. The company profile will include information about the NAICS codes for the industry or industries that the company operates within. Use the links on the left side of the screen to also view related content and topics, including investment reports, SWOT reports, company chronologies, rankings, articles about the company/industry, etc.
- Search Tip 2: Find a SWOT report.
- Hover over [Companies] in the navigation bar, then click on SWOT Reports. Note, a SWOT report may be available for companies that don't have a company profile, and vice versa.
- Search Tip 3: Find competitors.
- Search by NAICS to retrieve a list of companies ranked by revenue. Hover over [Companies] in the navigation bar, then click on [Company Finder]. Set your search parameters using the options on the left side of the screen to generate a list of companies in that industry ranked by revenue.
- Investext from Mergent Online
- Search tip: Find a SWOT analysis for a company.
- Select the Investext tab
- Select COMPANY from the drop-down, enter the company name or ticker symbol, then click [add to criteria].
- Select KEYWORD from the drop-down, enter the word SWOT, then click [add to criteria].
- In the box that contains your search criteria, click [search]. In most cases, SWOT reports from GlobalData and MarketLine will be retrieved.
- MarketLine Company Profiles and Industry Profiles via Business Source Complete (EBSCO)
- Company Profiles Search Tip: Find a MarketLine Company Profile, which will include a SWOT Analysis.
- Get started by using the links on the right side of the page to search for [Company Profiles]. Enter the company name in the search box and click [Browse]. Locate your company in the list and click on [MarketLine Report].
- Industry Profiles Search Tip: Find a MarketLine Industry Profile, which will include a Five Forces Analysis.
- Use the Advanced Search screen to search for [your topic] AND marketline AND "industry profile".
For example: software AND marketline AND "industry profile"
- Alternatively, click on the [Industry Profiles] link. Select the "View By" [All Profiles] tab. In the search box, type the name of the industry (for example, software) and then select radio button [By Title, Subject and Description]. Click on [Browse].
- Mintel Reports
These reports explore companies, markets and consumers. Mintel reports typically discuss key market segments, analyze market drivers, identify market and product trends, provide brand analysis, and discuss consumer attitudes, lifestyles, and behaviors.
- IBISWorld Industry Market Research
IBISWorld provides reports for 700+ U.S. industries. Each report provides insight into the major companies in the industry, products and markets, current and forecasted industry performance, trends, operating conditions and supply chain linkages.
2. Use the company's web site: Most company web sites are structured to provide key pieces of valuable information. Check for:
- ABOUT US: Company history; corporation overview, fact sheets; FAQs
- MEDIA, PRESS ROOM, or PUBLIC RELATIONS: Current news and press releases can provide the most up-to-date information about what's happening with the company and its products.
- INVESTORS: Annual reports, financials, corporate governance information [Note: Financial information will only be available if it is a public company.]
- ENVIRONMENT/SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY/COMMUNITY RELATIONS: Some companies will include information about their social responsibility initiatives.
- CAREERS: Sometimes this section will contain information about a company's values or mission.
- PRODUCTS: Browse the web site to learn more about the company's products. Check the retail price. What products or services are they highlighting? What do you notice about how the product or service is presented or promoted?
3. Read the annual report: If a company is public it is required to file financial information with the SEC. Each year a public company will produce an annual report (also known as a 10-K) that is sent to its shareholders.* This report provides valuable information that goes beyond the balance sheet and income statements. Usually, the entire year is recapped and you will learn about the external and internal forces affecting the company.
Read this report closely, especially the "Letter to the Shareholders", Item 1 (Business) and Item 7 (Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - "MD&A") sections of the 10-K. Here are two places to get a company's 10-K:
*Please note that a foreign company (a "foreign private issuer") that trades in the United States files a Form 20-F annual report. A foreign company files a 20-F if 50% or less of its outstanding voting securities are held by U.S. investors; once a company crosses that threshold it must file the same SEC forms as a U.S. company.