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 - 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:
- Who are my potential customers?
- Who are my competitors?
- What is the state of my industry?
This market research guide will point out some resources at SIBL that will help you research these questions. See Marketing: Easy Research Guide to Marketing Your Small Business for electronic market research resources at SIBL. For a more detailed list of market research print and electronic resources see another SIBL research guide the Effective Use of Market Research. Finally, visit The Library's Company/Industry Section and Company/Industry Section-Demographics print collections located in Small Business Central on The Library's Lower Level.
The Library's New York City Small Business Resource Center web site can provide additional information on a range of small business topics..
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.
- Baruch College's NYCData
- New Strategist Publications' Who We Are and American Generations series
- New York City Census Fact Finder
- Racial and Ethnic Diversity: Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Whites
- The Statistical Abstract of the United States is available at The Library in print format covering 1878-2012 and at the Census Bureau website also covering 1878-2012. With the 2013 print edition the tile became ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States . The Library also provides electronic access via the Statistical Abstracts of the United States database incorporating editions covering 1970-the present.
- U.S. Census Bureau Publications and Data
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.
- The Simply Map database includes thousands of demographic, business, and marketing variables.
- New Strategist Publications provide a range of demographic, consumer behavior, and lifestyle information.
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
- Best Customers: Demographics of Consumer Demand
- Consumer Expenditure Survey
- Household Spending: Who Spends How Much on What
- New Strategist Publications' Who's Buying series
- Reference USA's U.S. Consumer/Lifestyles Module
- Simply Map
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. Visit The Library's Small Business Central-Company/Industry Section-Demographics for additional print resources that focus on specific groups. You may also use the library catalogs to find additional publications dealing with a particular group or speak with a Librarian at the B. Altman Reference Desk..
- The Baby Boom : Americans Born 1946 to 1964: and Older Americans
- The Millennials: Americans Born 1977 to 1994
- New Strategist Publications' American Generations series
- New Strategist Publications' Who We Are series
- Racial and Ethnic Diversity: Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Whites
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. See a list of The Library's electronic resources for additional sources of public company information.
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:
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 locating company information visit SIBL's Company Information Research 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 information and market research reports that can help 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? Visit The Library's Small Business Central - Company/Industry Section ffor additional print industry and market resources. Also, be sure to review 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 Insights Essentials
- Business Source Premier EBSCO
- First Research
- Mergent Online
- S&P Capital IQ Industry Surveys [also available electronically in Standard & Poor's Net Advantage]
A separate research guide is available that provides a comprehensive list of industry specific directories available at The Library.
The library subscribes to many electronic databases that provide market research reports, articles, and statistics on trends affecting your industry. Visit The Library's electronic database list - marketing for descriptions of these resources.
- Business Insights Essentials
- Business Monitor Online
- Plunkett Research Online
Trade journals are excellent sources of information on industry trends. They are also a great source of competitor information.. Following are print and electronic resources that list trade magazines and journals for different industries.
- Ulrich's Periodicals Directory
- Directory of Business Information Resources
- Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS)
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.
- Associations Yellow Book
- Encyclopedia of Associations - available electronically as part of the Gale Directory Library
- National Trade and Professional Associations
Following are additional options that you may find useful.
- Search The Library's catalogue - by author, title, subject or keyword - to find additional circulating and reference materials on market research.
- Industry directories can be located using the Company Directories: Index to Industries Research Guide. Click on Marketing.
- Trade groups and associations can be found using the Gale Directory Library. This database provides electronic access to the Encyclopedia of Associations.
SIBL has a large collection of print marketing and market research materials. . Relevant subject headings in The Library's catalogue may include:
- Consumer Behavior
- Internet Marketing
- Marketing Research
- Market Surveys
- Market Segmentation
- Social Media Marketing
- Target Marketing
Speak with a Librarian at the B. Altman Reference Desk Desk for assistance and suggestions for other resources. Ask for Help Sheet #15: Information Sources for Market Research for a more detailed list of print marketing resources.
If your want to hire a market research firm to conduct market research on your behalf, several directories provide listings of local and international agencies. These firms can provide a wide range of research services, such as focus groups and telephone surveys:
- The GreenBook: Worldwide Directory of Marketing Research Companies and Services [Online]
- Greenbook: Worldwide Focus Group Companies and Services [Online]
- MRA Blue Book Marketing Services and Focus Group Facility Directory: Research Services Directory [Online]
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. Visit the following marketing associations’web sites for more information:
To find other marketing associations, ask a Librarian at the B. Altman Reference Desk for the National Directory of Trade and Professional Associations. You may also search the Encyclopedia of Associations in electronic format using the Gale Directory Library.
- The Edward Lowe Foundation provides access to approximately 1000 articles addressing the challenges faced by entrepreneurs running a business via their Entrepreneur's Resource Center.
- 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 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.
- The Small Business Administration's Learning Center provides a wealth of information about starting and running a business and on market research.