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Marketing plays a crucial role in the success of any business venture. Whether you are in the start up or expansion phase of your small business, an effective marketing strategy will ensure that you reach the goals you have set for your enterprise. Marketing is an ongoing process that starts with a thorough understanding of your business environment. As your business grows, it needs to be continually refined and updated to accommodate changes in the marketplace.
The key to successful marketing is a solid understanding of the environment in which your business operates: your position in the market place, your products and services, your competition, and your customers. Here's where market research comes in.
In order to write your marketing plan and develop effective marketing strategies, you will need to gather facts about your business environment. Market research is the systematic process of collecting and analyzing data to find answers to questions you may have regarding your customers, your competitors, and your industry. The Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) has a wealth of resources-both print and electronic-that can assist you in understanding these aspects of your business environment.
In order to begin your market research, you need to consider three main questions:
This market research guide will point out some resources at SIBL that will help you research these questions. See the General Resources page for general marketing resources at SIBL. For a more in-depth overview of marketing concepts, please refer to the marketing section of the Business Owner's Manual on the New York Small Business Resource Center web site.
Who Are My Potential Customers?
Consumer information is a key element of the market research process. A solid understanding of your current or potential customers is essential if you want to direct your marketing efforts at the population segment that is most likely to buy your products or services. Here are some resources covering: demographic information, consumer behavior and lifestyle interests, buying power and spending habits, and specific target markets.
County edition - *R-Econ HF5415.3.D46
City edition - *R-Econ HF5415.3.D46
Zip code edition - *R-Econ HC110.C6.S84473
Community Sourcebook of Demographics
*R-SIBL HA203.S66 (latest edition at McGraw Desk)
U.S. Census Bureau Publications
(ask for assistance at the McGraw Desk)
also available at: http://www.census.gov
Statistical Abstract of the United States
*R-SIBL HA202 (latest edition at McGraw Desk)
also available at: http://www.census.gov/prod/www/statistical-abstract-us.html
Advertising Age's American Demographics, 2005-
Monthly report in Ad Age and section on AdAge.com analyzing trends and consumer insights.
The lifestyle characteristics of your target consumers influence their buying habits. Use the following resources to identify interests, beliefs, attitudes, and activities of your potential customers.
Lifestyle Market Analyst
American Attitudes: who thinks what about the issues that shape our lives
*R-SIBL HN90.P8 .M58
How much money does your target market have to spend on your product or service? What type of purchases does your target market make? Use the following resources to find the answers to these questions.
American Incomes : demographics of who has money
*R-SIBL HC110.I5 A447
American Marketplace : demographics and spending patterns
Best customers : demographics of consumer demand
*R-SIBL HC79 .C6 .R87
Consumer Expenditure Survey
*R-Econ HD6983 .C558 (latest edition at McGraw Desk)
also at: http://www.bls.gov/cex/
Household Spending : who spends how much on what
*R HC110.C6 T72 (latest edition at McGraw Desk)
Survey of Buying Power and Media Markets
SIBL has a number of publications covering particular market segments (e.g. teenagers, baby boomers, women, Hispanics). The following selection of books will help you learn more about the lifestyle, attitudes, and buying habits of your specific target market. Use the library catalogs to find additional publications dealing with a particular group.
American Generations: who they are, how they live, what they think
*R-SIBL HC110 .C6 .M584
Americans 55 & Older : a changing market
*R-SIBL HQ1064 .U5 .A447
The Baby Boom : Americans aged 35 to 54
*R-SIBL HN60 .R868
Generation X : the young adult market
*R-SIBL HC110 .C6 .M544
Racial and Ethnic Diversity: Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Whites
*R-SIBL E184 .A1 .R78
Who Are My Competitors?
Finding what your competition is up to is crucial to the survival of your business. You need to be able to identify your main competitors, review their business operations, analyze their weaknesses, strengths, pricing strategies, and so on. Who are their customers? What is their sales volume? This information will help you assess the position of your company in relation to your competitors.
In general, information on large public companies is relatively easier to find. At SIBL, you can search the following databases for company profiles and financial information, such as annual reports and filings.
- Mergent Online
- Thomson Research
- Standard & Poor's Net Advantage
The Internet also offers a wealth of free resources, from news clips and press releases to stock quotes and company profiles. You can also collect a lot of information just by visiting your competitor's web site. Some of the major web resources for company information include: Hoover's Online, and Corporate Information.
Information on small, private companies is much harder to find. Often the best (and sometimes only) way to find information on small businesses is to search for articles published about the company in magazines, trade journals and newspapers. Some of the major business periodical databases at SIBL include:
- Business & Company Resource Center (Gale)
- General Business File
Locating Your Competitors
The following directory databases will help you locate competitors in a specific geographic area (state, city, area code, zip code). They provide basic information such as address, key officers, lines of business, sales volume, and, when available, credit ratings and number of employees. You can also use these databases to locate potential business clients.
- Reference USA
- Dun's Million Dollar Directory
For more information on finding company information, visit SIBL's Company Information Guide.
What is the State of my Industry?
An in-depth analysis of the industry in which your business operates is an essential part of marketing research. The following resources will help you find industry handbooks and market research reports that will assist you with questions such as: What is the size of the market for my product or service? Is this market shrinking or expanding? What is the market share of my competitors? What future trends are likely to affect my industry? Also, be sure to research relevant trade journals and trade associations. Sometimes overlooked, they are indispensible sources of industry information.
Use the following print publications and electronic databases to gain insight on the main industries in the United States:
Business and Company Resource Center
Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys
*Company/Industry Section at SIBL
also available in the database: Standard & Poor's Net Advantage
(Business Source Premier, Business Wire News, Newspaper Source)
The library subscribes to many electronic databases that provide market research reports, articles, and statistics on trends affecting your industry. Check SIBL's electronic resources list for descriptions of these and other databases available for free at the library.
- Business & Company Resource Center
- General BusinessFile
- Investext Plus
- Market Research.com Academic
- Market Research Monitor (Euromonitor)
- Standard & Poor's Net Advantage
- Statistical Universe
Market research reports are published by marketing firms for a wide range of industries, as well as for specific products or services. Although SIBL provides electronic access to many market research reports, a large number of reports must be purchased directly from the publisher or market research firm. Use Findex to see a comprehensive list of market research reports covering for your industry.
Findex: a worldwide directory of market research reports and surveys
also at: http://www.marketresearch.com
Trade journals are excellent sources of information on industry trends. They are also a great source of competitor information. Below are some of the directories that list trade magazines and journals for different industries.
Ulrich's Periodicals Directory
Directory of Business Information Resources
*R-SIBL HD2425.D46 (latest edition at McGraw Desk)
Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS)
*SRDS Shelf (left of the McGraw Desk):
Business Publications Advertising Source
Consumer Magazine Advertising Source
Direct Marketing List Source
Hispanic Media and Marketing Source
Interactive Advertising Source
Newspaper Advertising Source
Print Media Production Source
Radio Advertising Source
TV and Cable Advertising Source
Trade associations can also provide useful information such as industry reports, statistics, and market surveys. Keep in mind, however, that you may have to pay membership fees to get access to the information. Use these directories to find a list associations pertaining to your industry.
Encyclopedia of Associations
National Trade and Professional Associations
*R-SIBL HD2425 .D53 (latest edition at McGraw Desk)
Here are some additional print resources that may assist you in your market research. Search SIBL's catalogs in order to find resources such as marketing handbooks, market research directories, and a list of marketing associations. Also listed below is a selection of Internet resources which provide indepth coverage on a wide range of market research topics.
SIBL has a large collection of marketing and market research materials. For a list of available publications, search the catalog for reference and circulating materials. Subject headings relevant to marketing may include:
Speak with a librarian at the McGraw Desk for assistance and suggestions for other resources. Ask for Help Sheet #15: Information Sources for Market Research for a list of more marketing resources.
SIBL has a large collection of handbooks on marketing research. The following publications will help you get started:
AMA Complete Guide to Marketing Research for Small Business
*R-SIBL HF5415.2 .E34
Finding Market Research on the Web
*R-SIBL HF5415 .L477
The Marketing Research Guide
*R-SIBL HF5415.2 .M35585
State of the Art Marketing Research
*R HF5415.2 .B555
If your want to hire a market research firm to conduct market research on your behalf, SIBL has several directories that provide listings of local and international agencies. These firms can provide a wide range of research services, such as focus groups and telephone surveys:
Bradford's International Directory of Marketing Research Agencies
*R-SIBL HF5415.A2 .B66
The GreenBook, Worldwide Directory of Marketing Research Companies and Services
*R-SIBL HF5415.2 .G69
also available at: http:// www.greenbook.org
M Guide: AMA’s Essential Marketing Directory
MRA Blue Book, Research Services Directory
Marketing associations are valuable sources of information. Their web sites usually provide a wealth of information, including articles, research tips, and links to relevant web sites. In addition, most feature a "publications" section or an "online bookstore" which lists the best or most recent publications in the field of marketing research. Visit the following marketing associations’web sites for more information:
American Marketing Association
Direct Marketing Association
Marketing Research Association
To find other marketing associations, ask a librarian at the McGraw Information Desk for the Encyclopedia of Associations or National Directory of Trade and Professional Associations.
Marketing Virtual Library is one of the most comprehensive sources of marketing information on the Internet for those involved in marketing, advertising, selling, promotion and e-commerce.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a wealth of information for small business people on their web site. The Online Library has an extensive section on marketing.
The Marketing Resource Center provides more than a hundred articles on traditional and Internet marketing strategies, an online associations directory, and links to market research services.
Entrepreneurial Edge provides a series of self-paced how-to modules that walk you through the process of growing a business in areas such as finance, human resources, leadership and management.
The Small Business Resource Center (SBRC) is co-sponsored by SIBL and is comprised of the Programs and Services Locator and a Business Owner's Manual for small businesses in New York. See the Marketing section in the Business Owner's Manual for more information and tips on how to market your business.
U.S. Census Bureau