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ESBM 3200: Principles of Business for Entrepreneurs

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Search Strategy

A little planning at the beginning of your research process will save time. Frame your search strategy in terms of the data pieces you will need for your analysis.


  • What types of information will you need in order to understand your target market? Demographic data? Spending trends? Market forecast?
  • Who might keep track of that information? The Census Bureau? Trade groups? Regulatory agencies? The local Chamber of Commerce?
  • Is the information likely to be freely available or hidden behind a paywall? Is it something a company might not want their competitors to see?


Using the Library

If you do your research away from campus, you may wish to connect through the VPN. The VPN software makes it appear as though you are accessing the Library's subscription resources from on campus, thus reducing the need to log in to each subscription database.

NOTE: Some of our databases require a VPN connection. Those databases are identified with this icon: VPN Only Icon

Problems with the VPN software should be referred to OIT, the Office of Information Technology. Walk-in computer support hours and locations are here.


In addition to books and periodicals in print, CU provides access to a huge number of subscription websites, article databases, and ebooks. Finding these resources can be tricky. If you need a refresher on how to find books, journals, articles, or data owned by the Library, see the "How do I...?" pages.


Google Tricks

Power Searching with Google Quick Reference
Some useful examples are:

  • (brand) strategy filetype:ppt
  • (location) population site:gov
  • Tesla -coil

Obviously, Google is amazing and we all use it. Be aware, though, that your search results may not be an objective representation of the available information.

Need help determining if a source is credible? Check out this guide.



Market Research Reports

Market research reports provide a macro-level overview of the market

including factors and trends that impact buyer behavior,

consumer preferences, and product innovations.



This database is the best source for secondary research on demographic, sociocultural, economic, and technological trends.


Mintel offers two types of reports. You'll find reports about a product or activity (i.e. "Ethnic Foods - US"), and reports about marketing to a particular group (i.e. "Marketing to Millennials - US").


For a broad treatment of the American Consumer, see "American Lifestyles 2013." Especially useful is the appendix: Population and Demographics Tables with *some* projections to 2018.


NOTE: Use is restricted to current CU-Boulder students and faculty with a valid Colorado.edu email address. After agreeing to the academic terms of use, click the link for "create a personal profile" and create an account using your Colorado.edu email address.



Frost & Sullivan

This database offers market research reports and forecasts. Strong in medical, engineering, biotech, and information & communication technology (ICT) research.

NOTE: Frost & Sullivan sometimes requires user sign-in to access the reports. If the site asks, enter your first and last name, as well as a valid University of Colorado email address.


Census Bureau Data

American Factfinder is the easiest interface for searching census data, and the best source for freely-available data about the demographic characteristics of the US population.


Who Wants What You Have To Offer?

Once you've defined your target market segment (e.g., long-distance runners), you can use secondary research to determine the size of the segment and whether it's growing, shrinking, or stable.


If your target market is a type of consumer, use the data tables in Mintel reports to define the size of your defined market segments.


If your target market is a particular type of business (e.g., dairy farms), use an industry report from IBISWorld.



The Local Market

Considering Boulder for your venture? The Boulder Economic Council's Site Selection page has lots of facts about doing business in Boulder.


Find a snapshot of Boulder's demographic makeup, or download the BEC Market Profile for more detail.


Facts about major industries in Boulder (aerospace, natural & organic products, tourism, etc.) are also available.


In Their Own Words

What do your target customers think? How are they currently meeting their needs?


Read reviews on Amazon or Yelp or see what they are tweeting and facebooking about the competition.


Even More


Need more? Check out the consumer research guide or the marketing research guide.




Industry Profiles

Use industry profiles for a broad overview of the industry, major companies, macro-level trends, and benchmark data.



Search by keyword, major company, or NAICS code, or browse reports (US Specialized Industry Reports are a great place to start).



Trade Publications

Trade associations are often the only place to find current statistics or trends for an industry. Trade associations (also called trade groups, industry groups, business associations, etc.) exist at the local, regional, national, or international level. Many trade associations publish newsletters or journals geared toward the members: practitioners in the industry. Trade journals are very useful for learning the vocabulary of an industry, the key players, and current issues or trends.

These databases are the best sources for trade publications:


  • Business Source Complete covers over 1,200 business periodicals including scholarly, trade, and news sources.

  • Business & Industry has full-text articles from trade and business publications. Good for industry trends, marketing, strategy, operations, and management best practices.


Want to find a trade association for your industry? Just Google your industry and the word "association."



One tool for finding industry information is the industry classification code. Many databases allow you to search by industry code. Doing so ensures relevant results.

NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) and its precursor SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) are a means for organizing disparate business into a category about which statistics and data can be collected.


The main standard is the NAICS system, but some agencies and databases continue to use the SIC system for retrieving data. Learn more and search the codes using the links below.

NAICS: North American Industry Classification System


SIC: Standard Industrial Classification

Think broadly and creatively about where your target fits. Some industries are too new or too odd to fit into an established category.


If you have trouble finding the right code, you can always look for a similar/competing company in a database such as Reference USA VPN Only Icon and find the codes there.


Need More?


See the industry research guide.




Company Information

ReferenceUSA VPN Only Icon

ReferenceUSA is mainly a directory source, but sometimes includes estimated sales, operations, number of employees, and more. This database is especially good for small companies.


Competitive Advantage

What's good about your competitors' products or services? What could use improvement or be replaced with something better? What's your unique competitive advantage?

Read reviews on Amazon or Yelp or look for tweets and facebook posts about the competition.


Want to learn about your competition's weaknesses? Use a SWOT analysis. The W stands for weaknesses! You can find SWOT analyses for most major companies by searching Business Source Complete for "(company name) AND SWOT".


Need More?


See the company research guide.




Financial Model

Generating a financial plan can be tricky. One tool to use in the process is benchmark data. The Almanac of Business and Industrial Financial Ratios and RMA's Annual Statement Studies are excellent sources for benchmark data.


The Business Library has these in print on reserve. RMA's Annual Statement Studies is also available online through Reference USA - OneSource VPN icon




In addition to the aggregated financial data you find in the sources listed above, you will want to look at ventures that are similar in size, location, and type of business as your own.


Reference USA VPN icon is an excellent place to search for comparable companies' financial structure and expenses.



How much of your time and capital will be tied up in finding, creating, and receiving your products or materials? Can you outsource? How easy would it be to replicate your product?



Search for producers and suppliers of equipment, raw materials and custom manufacturing services.



From flash drives to curtains to mechanical parts, AliBaba is a supplier directory for all kinds of products and materials.


Even More


Sometimes it helps to look at some business plans. Lucky for you, we have a business plans guide that links to the Business Plans Handbook Online and lots of other sources.




Research Assistance

Have questions about using the library or databases? Ask a librarian! We're available for consultation via email or in person.



Natalia Tingle




Office Hours (KOBL 200E):

Mondays 3-5

or by appointment

Jennie Gerke




Office Hours (KOBL 200D):

Tuesdays 3-5

or by appointment