Market research involves describing, quantifying, and locating your target customer(s); analyzing your competitors; and evaluating your industry.
The purpose is to determine how you differ from your competitors, if your market can sustain a viable business, and how trends in the industry will affect your business. Thorough market research can help you reach your customers, find a location for a brick and mortar business, anticipate opportunities or challenges, and set yourself apart from the competition.
The resources on this page are primarily sources of secondary market research; the data has been collected, processed, and packaged already. Primary market research is data that you can decide to collect yourself, through methods like surveys, focus groups, and interviews.
Finding Your NAICS or SIC code
A North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code is used to classify businesses by primary industry. Use the NAICS code that best describes your primary business activity when researching. Many market research resources, including federal sources and the DSBC databases, use NAICS in their search functions.
First Research – First Research provides broad industry trend information. Review industry profiles, discover industry websites & associations, and track industry drivers.
SimplyAnalytics – Use SimplyAnalytics to research the demographics in your area. Choose from hundreds of variables from reliable public sources and create professional graphics and tables. SimplyAnalytics also includes PRIZM household demographic segments.
AtoZdatabases – AtoZdatabases allows you to create custom lists of business & residential data and export your lists into Excel. This is an ideal starting place because although the data quality is imperfect, the ability to export is unique to AtoZ.
D&B Hoovers – When data quality is especially important, consult Hoovers. This is a commercial database like AtoZ, but the data cannot be exported as a list into Excel.
Power Library – Business Insights: Essential – Search company and industry profiles, including financial reports, company histories, SWOT analyses, and chronologies. Business Insights: Essential is part of the PA Power Library, which is open to all Pennsylvania library card holders.
🔍 For each source you consult, consider the following:
Bias or purpose. Look for information on the author of the source. Consider the context of the information you’re looking at. Be aware of how you found the source. Then decide if there are biases you need to factor into your evaluation: Is the author trying to convince you of something? Is there hyperbolic language that suggests the author is trying to increase traffic to their source?
Reliability & credibility. Dig deeper: Where exactly does the information come from? Has it been edited or reviewed by industry authorities? Look for references, dates, and statistics—anything that can help you verify that what you’re reading is reliable.
Transparency. The perfect source does not really exist! Not all sources are going to be relevant to you & your business. So to move forward with carefully evaluated information, it’s important to review the transparency of the sources you use.
Navigate through the Toolkit by clicking the links below. If you have any questions, click the Need Help box or give the Library a call!