Industry and Market Research: A How-To Guide with Key Resources and Tips

Article excerpt

Recently, I've noticed an increasing number of requests in several discussion groups to which I belong for industry information, market data, and market research. Some of the requesters have asked for suggestions about particular sources for a specific market. Discussion group colleagues often prove abundantly helpful in sharing knowledge and ideas for Web sites and databases, or other leads on where to go for answers. Some requests, however, either imply or specifically ask for basic information on types of sources or research approaches or what an industry or market study should include.

To me, this recent activity just reflects another sign of the Internet's influence. More and more businesses perceive that to compete in a global marketplace, information is a must. At the same time, the Internet has fueled the view that information abounds. As a result, many new clients have begun asking librarians and information brokers for more integrated deliverables than in the past. Some professional searchers may face increased demand from institutional clients. Information brokers, consultants, or fee-based research services in libraries may proactively market industry and market research as a service or product.

More searchers must learn how to uncover information for appropriate market categories, how to shape that information to client needs, how to organize it into a final compilation or report. The process demands knowledge and skills that may differ from what many of us learned in library school. Back in library school during the early '70s, I took reference, advanced reference, and more reference. Although I learned many tools of the trade (from that era), no one taught me how to conduct in-depth market or industry research.

During the early '80s, after beginning my own business, I targeted a market of small and mid-sized advertising agencies and brainstormed with executives from that field. They knew that ad agency folks needed certain categories of information, for example, industry, company, and marketing strategy information. I knew what sources existed online that could meet that demand. Together, we created some information products that today I call Competitive Industry Profiles, Market Overviews, or Trend Backgrounders. Companies use these for competitive intelligence and strategic planning. As online databases grew in number and type, I found that I could piece together information from a range of databases to create what I informally call online market studies. Prior to "online," expensive primary market research - phone calls, interviews, focus groups, etc. - was the key approach to learning about a market. For major companies who can afford it, primary market research is still an important tool. Significantly, howeve r, both traditional and Internet online sources now supply all kinds of online information with detailed reports and statistics. This levels the playing field for businesses that must get information quickly and cost-effectively to make better decisions and compete in the global economy.

Online Market Studies

Online research offers a fast way to find information about potential new markets, innovative customer services, and competitors. Here are some of the categories for this type of secondary market or industry research:

* Broad macroeconomic trends that affect the industry or products in question.

* Industry and product trends with the most recent information or 5- to 10-year-old historical information.

* Industry statistics - including market size, market share, forecasts, business demographics, and any other hard data about an industry. Keep in mind that available information may differ from industry to industry or segment to segment.

* Company profiles for major players and direct or indirect competitors. For each company, the availability of different sources and content may depend on whether a company is public or private, or located in another country. …