Skip to Main Content

Market Research Basics: Finding Competitors

Competitors & Complementary Businesses

You'll want to identify existing businesses that would be your direct competitors. If your target market is other businesses, you will want to use these information sources to locate businesses that might be your customers.

Industry reports include some information about companies that are major players in the market, as well analysis of the competitive environment.

You may also want to identify complementary businesses. These are businesses that do not offer the same services as you, but may be useful to your target market. (source)

Data Axle Reference Solutions is your best first stop for identifying competitors and complementary businesses. It's available with public library or UNC library access. Click here or scroll down to learn more.

Free or Freemium Information

"Freemium" means that information is free if you create an account.

County Business Patterns Survey (free)

This annual survey from the U.S. Census Bureau reports the number of a given type of business in a county by ZIP code and metropolitan and micropolitan statistical area.

Chamber of Commerce & Better Business Bureau (free)

Check out the directories for your area's Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau. FInd these website by searching the web for "[your location] chamber of commerce" or "[your location] better business bureau."

Local/Regional Business News (free or freemium, subscription)

In some industries, locally produced products have a competitive edge in the market (e.g. craft food and beverage products) (source). Local publications will have news articles that mention specific companies and events, advertisements, and other related information. Examples in the Triangle region of NC: WRAL Business news page, INDY Week, Triangle Business Journal (editions for 40 cities/regions, limited free content.).

Buyer's Guides & Consumer Review Sites (free or library subscription access)

Examples include Consumer Reports (public libraries or UNC Libraries), Google Reviews, Yelp, and Zagat. (source)

Data Axle Reference Solutions (formerly ReferenceUSA)

Data Axle Reference Solutions is a great first stop for building a list of competitors and a list of complementary businesses. Data Axle provides detailed directory information for millions of U.S. businesses and households. Search in this database to find other businesses in your industry. (public library access, UNC library access).

Here's how to find businesses in Data Axle using the Advanced Search. This example searches by industry and geography. You will create a list of businesses in a given industry that operate in a geographic location. Watch the video and follow the instructions to try a search.

Watch the video to view a sample search or follow the instructions below to learn.

You can download your results list, but there is a limit on the number of records that can be downloaded.

  1. Go to the NCLive database page.
  2. Click on "Data Axle"
  3. Select search under “U.S. Businesses”
  4. On the right hand side, select “search”
  5. Click on the “advanced search” tab
  6. Under “Business Type” on the left hand side, use keywords to choose an industry (example “restaurants” or “coffee shop”)
  7. Database will suggest SIC codes or NAICS codes. Select what is relevant for you and then, on the right hand side “update count”.
  8. On the left side, select “Geography” and select your location type (example: North Carolina or Chapel Hill, or 10 mile radius from a zip code). Select what is relevant for you and then, on the right hand side click “update count”.
  9. On the right hand side, select “view results”

Database will produce an exportable chart. Click on any one result to view information about any particular business. You can export all files into a chart. They contain information about sales and industry average expenditures.

UNC Library Databases for Competitors

The industry reports you found earlier usually included lists of major companies operating in your industry. That's a good start for understanding your potential competitors, but you also will probably want to build your own list of competitors and complementary businesses.

You must have an active ONYEN and password to access these databases.

Profile Photo
Nancy Lovas
Davis Library