Business Research 101

Walker Management Library

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Walker Management *Library
Walker Management Library
Owen Graduate School of Management
401 21st. Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203

Problem, Relevance, Solution

Leverage Information and Data to Be Successful In Your Work

For a successful business pitch or idea, you need to understand the problem, its relevance to the market and the solution you offer. We all Google – but what’s unique about your pitch that goes beyond Google?

Where do you find facts that strengthen your case?  If you were a journalist, you’d know how to write a good article using the Five Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why).  These simple concepts can help you begin library research. Once you have this outline of what you need to know, then you can begin your research.

  • Who *cares* about this product or service?  Is it a trade association? Government? Key competitors?

  • What is the nature of your idea?  Does it compete with an existing product/service or replace one that already exists? What do you already know about it?

  • When will this be needed or used?  Is that important for you in promoting it?

  • Where will the person/company be – geography, phase of life, what other demographics matter?  What channel will you use to reach them?

  • Why does your idea have value? Why would someone buy it? What benefit does it offer the user?

Types of Business Information


Business information typically falls under 5 major categories: 

  • Company: internal and external data and analysis on a particular company and its subsidiaries. 
  • Industry: data and analysis on a group of companies that are related based on their primary business activities such as a particular business service or goods. NAICS and SIC codes are typically used to delineate industry groups.  
  • Consumer: insight into customer needs, behavior, motivations, preferences, psychographics. Can be focused on particular demographic segments, or industries. 
  • Geography: information about the macro and micro economic factors of a particular geography, often focused on the factors impacting business; may also focus on a particular industry within that geography. 
  • News: announcements and insight from trade and business publications about any aspects that are affecting the current business environment. 

Research can be gathered or distributed in different ways.  It can be:

  • Primary Sources- gathered directly from the source; i.e. a survey or interview
  • Secondary Sources - gathers primary information and redistributes it; i.e. a report or article that quotes information from another source
  • Tertiary Sources - gathers information from primary and secondary sources; i.e. textbooks, encyclopedias

Why does the above matter? It can help you decide WHERE To look for information.  The BIG question is, where is the kind of information you need likely to be provided and then how can you find it?

Information Sources


Information is generally distributed via channels that are either free (the Internet) or for-fee or by subscription (library type databases).  Think of for-fee information as being distributed and packaged in databases by type.

Free Information can be from industry thought leaders, government or non-profits, companies and individuals.  They use the Internet to distribute their direct information.

  • Industry Thought Leaders often publish information to promote their business.  Well respected Thought Leaders respected are: PWC, Deloitte, E&Y, KPMG, McKinsey, Bain and Boston Consulting Group.

For-fee or subscription information (library databases):

  •  Wide range of information types: news & articles, analyst reports on companies & industries, customers; technologies and more.

Vetting Your Sources

Using Google is quick and easy but Caveat Emptor: evaluate the resources you use.
Apply the CRAP test:

  • Currency - Is the information current? Is it updated regularly?
  • Reliability - Is the source reputable? Is it accurate?
  • Authority - Who created the information? Why?
  • Purpose/Point of View - Is there a balance of perspectives? Is the information biased?

Try using Google Advanced Search to build a more precise search and return more relevant results.