Adventures in Marketing Research: First Research
A little while ago, I gave a presentation at a session for FastTrac® GrowthVenture™. These sessions have to be held outside the Library, and they're very brief with lots of information to cover, so there's no chance to do a hands-on demonstration. This time I was told by one of the participants that she had been to visit us here at SIBL, but wasn't able to find current industry information in her business area, cleaning services.
While I thought that didn't seem right, there was no way to check until I got back to SIBL. The next day, I looked at one of our top market research resources, First Research (available in the Library only), and saw on the cover page in the Newest Profiles box on the home page that an entry for Security Guard Services had been added to the collection. And suddenly the memory revealed itself. Not so long before, I had been shocked to find that this industry, one that would seem to be a reasonable type of business for a budding entrepreneur, was not there. And here, at last, was the answer.
So, this is a good opportunity to post a bit of information about First Research, an industry and market research database that, perhaps prompted by its name, is the first or at least one of the first that we at SIBL recommend to our readers.
Perhaps the key plus about First Research is it covers many of the types of businesses a new entrepeneur might reasonably expect to open. While not limited to "small business" topics, it is one resource that has reports on things like car washes, day spas, apparel accessory manufacturing, and hair care services. In addition, these reports are updated quarterly, so you can access the most current information for your business. One other advantage of First Research is its reports tend to be relatively succinct and very focused — something we'll examine in a few samples below.
I know this image is a bit hard to read, so for closer examination, download the PDF.
On the left side, there is an overview of topics: Industry Overview (which includes subtopics, such as Competitive Landscape; Products, Operations & Technology; Sales & Marketing; Finance & Regulation; and Human Resources), Recent Developments (with links to news articles), Business Challenges, Trends and Opportunities, and Industry Forecast. The balance of this image gives an idea just how compact and focused the reports are, honing in on the key points and concepts that will quickly help you understand the nature and characteristics of an industry.
At the risk of seeming gratuitous, I note these reports are not intended to be masterpieces of prose. They're intended for Joe Friday. And let's face it, your business plan isn't supposed to win a literary prize. Statements like "The presence of guards is designed to provide a deterrent to theft, vandalism, or assault. Security guards may be armed or unarmed. Armed guards usually have more extensive training" (which is in the Products, Operations & Technology subsection) seem to state the obvious. But remember, it's all too easy to overlook the obvious when it comes time to talk about things you're extremely familiar with. In addition, statements like this come from a reliable source and give increased authority to the same statement when you use it to describe your business.
Last, but not least, are financial comparisons.
Download the PDF to review Benchmark Information and Financial Ratios from this report.
Industry financial benchmarks and ratios provide a means for comparison. Is my company competitive with its peers, or are there areas for improvement (the bottom line, always, being profitability)? Of course, for the new business they serve a somewhat different purpose, to predict what your business is likely to make at different revenue levels (since you'll be applying best practices). Here at SIBL we have other sources for financial ratios (I list them below), but what a convenience to have them in First Research!
I'll stop talking about the contents of First Research's reports here. I hope this has given you a flavor of what to expect so you'll think it worthwhile to visit us! They are only available here at SIBL (you can get them on your own laptop if you bring that in and use our wireless).
In case you're wondering what the bona fides for these reports are, the ultimate parent of First Research is Dun & Bradstreet, through their subsidiary Hoovers. I'll let you research Dun & Bradstreet. I also recommend the Business & Company Resource Center database (accessable outside of NYPL with a library card). Of note for us here at SIBL is that Dun & Bradstreet produce the "Million Dollar" database, which gives readers access to listings of about 14 million U.S. businesses, and Hoovers, from which you can obtain analytical information about a substantial universe of companies in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
Additional SIBL Resources for Financial Ratios:
- Industry Norms & Key Business Ratios — published by Dun & Bradstreet
- RMA Annual Statement Studies — published by The Risk Management Association
- Almanac of Business and Industrial Financial Ratios — published by CCH
- OneSource — part of the Reference USA suite of databases