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Marketing 4100 - Marketing Concepts: Company Research

This guide is relevant not only for Marketing 4100, but also for XMBA 4360 (Strategic Marketing) and other similar marketing courses.



This section provides you with the sources that allow you to:

  • Identify type of company (this is where you start if you have a company name)
  • Find information about public companies
  • What to do if a company is private or a subsidiary
  • Identify competitors

Be sure to search for articles about the companies you are researching.  The "Databases for Articles" tab in this guide provides links to subscription based databases that you should use for any type of company.

Identify Type of Company

When doing company research one should determine whether a company is public, private, or a subsidiary. You should use a database like Mergent Intellect to make this determination.  If you are doing research on a local level where there are many small businesses, use a database like ReferenceUSA to make the determination.  Additional databases that can help in this process are listed below.

Public Company

If you have established that a company is publicly traded, you will be able to find many sources that provide financial summaries, investment analyst reports (such as those provided via ThomsonOne), as well as their 10-Ks or 20-Fs.  The sources in this section will help you find this type of information. 

10-Ks are the annual reports that U.S. public companies must submit to the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).  20-Fs are the annual reports that foreign companies trading in the U.S. file to the SEC.  Another good source for the 10-Ks or other annual reports is the company's website.   These reports are usually located in the "Investor Relations" section of a company's website. 

Information and Tips for Conducting Private Company and Subsidiaries Research

In general you will not be able to find detailed financials for the majority of subsidiaries or private companies that exist in the U.S. However, PrivCo does have information for over 850,000 privately-held U.S. companies, and there are some subsidiaries that may be trading independently of the parent.  Here are some tips for private company and subsidiaries research:

  • Search PrivCo.
  • Use a database like ReferenceUSA which will provide estimated sales figures for these types of companies.
  • The Book of Lists is a good source when looking for top companies for an industry in a metro area like Denver and throughout the U.S.
  • Most companies have websites, so you should comb through them for information.
  • If the company is a subsidiary, identify the parent.  Then determine whether the parent is publicly traded or not. If the parent is trading publicly, information about the subsidiary may be provided in the 10-K, including revenue figures for two or three years.
  • Use databases like ABI/Inform Collection, or others that are identified in the Articles section of this guide, to find out if anything has been written about these companies in magazines, trade periodicals, or newspapers.
  • Another strategy would be to look at credit reports for these types of companies. Experian Powered Business reports provide the most recent credit information for companies and can be found in LexisNexis Academic.
  • Information about a private company or subsidiaries may be included in market research or industry reports, so be alert when looking at these types of sources. In addition, an annual report for a publicly-traded company may provide some information about privately-held competitors.
  • Use industry financial benchmarks.
  • If your company is from Europe, regardless of whether it is public, private, or subsidiary, use Orbis.

Databases for Subsidiary / Private Company Research

If you have identified a company as a subsidiary, find its parent.  Then use the databases in the "Identify Type of Company" section to determine whether the parent company is public, private, or a subsidiary.  

You will not be able to find detailed financials for the majority of subsidiary or private companies (unless the subsidiary happens to be trading separately from the parent).  However, PrivCo will have financial data for over 850,000 privately-held companies. In addition, a database like ReferenceUSA will provide estimated sales figures for these types of U.S. companies. Use Orbis if your private company is incorporated in the United Kingdom.

Most companies also have websites, so you should comb through them for information.

Use databases like ABI/Inform Collection and others listed in the Databases for Articles section of this guide to find out if anything has been written about these companies in magazines, trade periodicals, or newspapers.

Identify Competitors

These sources will help you identify competitors.  They will also help you determine whether the competitor is public, private, or a subsidiary. 

ReferenceUSA is a strong source for identifying competitors on a local level as well as helping you to determine the type of company.