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Business: Industry Research

Identify an Industry

To understand a company and its competitors, you need to understand the industry of which it is a part.

Finding information about an industry includes the following steps:

  • Get an overview of the industry (market research, industry summaries)
  • Look for articles on trends and see if you can find forecasts
  • Gather statistics from government agencies and trade associations
  • Contact trade associations for additional information about an industry

Every company or business is part of an industry.  Likewise, every product fits into an industry.  Industries have been defined and codified by the U.S. federal government. Some industry information is organized by the industry code (a number) rather than the industry name.  There are several ways to identify the industry and obtain the industry code.

If you are working with a real company or you know which real company will be a competitor, you can identify the industry using Nexis-Uni.  Select the Business section and click Company Dossier.  Enter the company name in the name search box and click Search.  Record the Primary SIC code and Primary NAICS code that appear in the Industry Classification section.

North American Industry Classification System. (NAICS) Defines industries across North America (Canada, United States, and Mexico) and provides industry codes, since 1997. In the search box, enter the name of the industry or keywords to describe the business idea.  Review the definition to be sure this is the correct industry. 

Standard Industrial Classification Manual.  (SIC) Predates NAICS.  Defines U.S. industries and provides industry codes.  Some resources still use the SIC code rather than the NAICS 

For more help in developing your industry overview, consult Industry Analysis: The Five Forces  from Purdue University. See also Harvard Business School's The Five Forces overview.

Databases for Industry Research

Nexis Uni (formally Lexis-Nexis) is a great tool to use for industry research.  Use it to find information on U.S. and international industries, NAICS codes, as well as and newspaper, magazine, and trade journal articles on your industry.


  • Market report publications in Nexis Uni include: Integra, Hoovers (Company Records, Industry Snapshots, & IPO Reports), & Global DataPoint, Marketline (NewsWire & Financial Deals Tracker). 
  • Use smart search strategies in Nexis Uni and other databases, such as: 
    • outlook w/10 photography (Nexis Uni)
    • forecast W5 swimwear (Academic Search Complete)
    • forecast N/6 "automobile industry" (ProQuest Academic Complete)
  • Search the name of the company and "competitors" for articles.


Government Industry Information including NAICS Codes

Statistical Source for Industry Analysis

Economic Census - U.S.Census Bureau.  Business & Industry.  Reports business and economic statistics from the Census Bureau.

Small Business.  Official business link to the U.S. Government.  The U.S. Government's Official Web Portal.  Data and Statistics about the U.S..  Provides business statistics from several U.S. government agencies.

Chambers of Commerce.  Provide information about specific cities.  Search Google, e.g. "Detroit Chamber of Commerce", include quotes.

County Business Patterns.  Annual series includes a separate report for each State by county and a U.S. summary.  Covers agricultural services, forestry, and fisheries; mining; contract construction; manufacturing; transportation and other public utilities; wholesale trade; retail trade; finance, insurance, and real estate; and services.  

State of MichiganProvides estimates of state and local population, monitors changes in the state economy and labor force, and conducts research on a variety of issues affecting the state budget and public policy.

FDIC State Profiles. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  Provides a quarterly data sheet summation of banking and economic conditions in each state.

Financial Information and Ratios

  • Nexis Uni provides ratios for U.S. public companies.

Free Industry News and Reports

  • Bloomberg News - Industries
  • B. Riley Financial - Industry Insights
  • S&P Global Ratings  From S&P's Global Ratings mission statement: Our globally respected credit ratings paired with unparalleled thought leadership helps promote universal benchmarking, transparency and business growth. We empower people to make informed, confident decisions.