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Research Guides

Company Research

What to Look For

The following factors should be considered in a complete analysis of a given company:

  • Market Share / Competitive Position
  • Capitalization / Financial Strength
  • Leadership / People Strength
  • Litigation
  • Technology Environment / Utilization
  • Products / Product Innovation
  • Intellectual Property
  • Alliances / Joint Ventures
  • Supply Chain Strength / Complexity
  • Marketing Channels
  • Corporate Image / Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Global Positioning
  • Industry Factors

Company Research

This guide has been prepared to help you perform company research.

Starting Points

The resources below are starting points for company research.

NAICS Code - The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) uses six-digit codes to identify an industry. The NAICS system is gradually replacing the SIC system. Many resources use these codes to identify a company’s activities, index companies by activity, and to define industry data and information. For more information on the history and structure of the NAICS, as well as to search for codes, visit the NAICS Association website at http://www.naics.com/ and the Census at http://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/

Private Company – A private company is one that is owned by an individual, family, or group of partners. The amount of information that private companies must report is limited, and much of that is confidential. Thus, it is often difficult to find much information on a private company.

Public Company – A public company is a company that issues securities or shares of stock for the public. Those who purchase these securities or shares become investors in and owners of the company. This process is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and public companies must file numerous financial and other reports with the SEC. Because these reports are public information, much data and information can be found when researching public companies. For more information, visit the SEC website at http://www.sec.gov/index.htm.

SIC Code - Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes are four-digit codes used to identify an industry. Many resources use these codes to identify a company’s activities, index companies by activity, and to define industry data and information. For information on the history of the SIC codes and information about its replacement, the NAICS, visit the NAICS Association website at http://www.naics.com/info.htm. An excellent website for a list of SIC codes and to search for a code is the OSHA site from the U.S. Department of Labor at http://www.osha.gov/cgi-bin/sic/sicser5.

Subsidiary – A company which is owned in whole or in part by another company. When researching a subsidiary, it is often advantageous to also research the owning company or the parent company.

Additional Help

Definitions are taken from Rona Ostrow & Sweetman R. Smith's Dictionary of Marketing (New York: Fairchild Publications, 1988) and Scott G. Dacko's Advanced Marketing Dictionary (New York: Oxford University, 2008).


Demographics - vital statistics of a population, including the size of the group and the age, sex, birth and death rates, location, income, occupation, race/ethnicity, education, etc. of its members.

Direct marketing (or direct response marketing) - marketing that is aimed directly at a customer in a certain physical or virtual location and which intends to elicit and obtain a measurable response from the customer. Methods include postal mailings, email, telemarketing, and social media marketing.

Distribution channel (or channel of distribution) - route along which goods and services travel from producer/manufacturer through marketing intermediaries such as wholesalers, distributors, and retailers to the final user.

Market share - the part of a total market controlled by one firm.

Market segmentation - process of aggregating customers into groups based on common characteristics and needs, where they are expected to respond similarly to marketing actions. Common types include geoographic, demographic, psychographic (e.g. lifestyle, personality, values), and behaviorial (e.g. level of product usage).

Marketing mix - those marketing variables (such as product planning, pricing, promotion, and distribution channel selection) which, when blended together, form a marketing strategy designed to satisfy the firm's customers.

Mass marketing - a marketing strategy in which a product or service having wide appeal among the consuming public is promoted under a single marketing program and sold through such outlets as chain stores, discount stores, and supermarkets. Mass marketers do not target "everyone" as their customers but do address large numbers of consumers over broad geographic areas.

Metropolitan Statistical Area (or MSA) - freestanding metropolitan area which: 1) contains a city of at least 50,000 inhabitants, or 2) encompasses an urbanized area of at least 50,000 and a total metro population of at least 100,000. An MSA may include multiple counties which have close economic and social ties to the central city.

Retailing - selling of goods and/or services to the ultimate consumer for personal or household use.

Target market (or target audience) - particular segment of a total potential market selected by a company as the target of its marketing efforts. Choice of a target market is usually based on some common characteristic possessed by the market segment, e.g., sex, education level, income, etc.