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Different Types of Secondary Sources for Market Research
When you want to learn about your industry, competition, or markets, secondary research may be your best option. Some of these methods are:
Online searches: By using search engines—such as Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Dogpile, Ask.com, info.com, and Excite—you can find stories, historical records, biographical information, and statistics. Be wary of sources when using Internet data, such as Wikipedia, that has been contributed by users and may be unreliable.
Database searches: Public databases such as the U.S. Census (http://www.census.gov) are available to you via the Internet. Such sources can provide extensive consumer and business information and some industry reports. You can visit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR database to find publicly traded companies in your industry. Proprietary databases at universities and public libraries are searchable for articles and books about potential markets. Interestingly, much of the information available on businesses, populations, markets, and the like are not available through free, public search engines. Libraries sign up for databases that are available only through (relatively costly) paid subscriptions. They also have services to provide certain journal and magazine articles for downloading or printing.
Industry associations, chambers of commerce, and public agencies: These types of organizations frequently collect demographic and statistical data on and for their members. They issue publications that contain valuable data in such areas as pricing trends, productivity, cost structures, legal matters, economic and environmental topics, and statistics. This kind of information is sometimes extremely expensive to gather, but can be of great value to a start-up enterprise.
Review of books and records: Although you may not get access to other companies’ records or those of a company you are thinking of buying, if you can examine records (or even journals or research notes) that are pertinent to your business, you may gain valuable insights. This is particularly true if you are practicing due diligence with a view to buying a business.
Competitor Web sites: Look for annual reports for public companies, which are required by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to be available and which reveal marketing and other information about a company. Annual reports provide information for benchmarking and include industry insights. In addition, check out company blogs and newsletters. It is amazing what you can find if you just look.
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