I have a small practice and try to read about my industry but don't have the money for research reports and special studies. Is there a less expensive source than these market research studies that cost thousands of dollars each (some of which are of questionable value)?
This shouldn't be a secret but it seems that few people know about it. Every public company, and many private ones, publishes an annual report. It contains financial information, news about the company history, major initiatives, people, partners, sometimes identifies suppliers and vendors, and often shows images of facilities. These are available for free, either online or in hard copy. You should never be having a conversation with a prospect, or a client, without having thoroughly digested at least the annual report.
To get an understanding of an industry, look up your target company in a marketing information service like at Hoovers where it lists the "top" companies in the industry (by revenue, product sales, number of employees, growth rate or other criteria). Request the annual report of each of the companies on that list and create our own "research report." Tip:
In almost every report is a section called the Management Letter, in which the company describes the key issues it faces, its investment and market philosophy and its perceived risks. These are a gold mine of insight into the company and, when compared across leading companies in the same market, give you your trends and research for which you didn't have to pay a cent. © 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA