What’s the best way for a small or medium-sized business with international distribution to develop competitive analyses on privately held market players? That is, when no public resources such as 10-K filings can be perused.
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Simply put, the level and depth of the analysis will depend on how much time and how many resources you want to dedicate to it. Regardless, the outcome is most likely to provide only a partial picture of a privately held competitor in the absence of public resources.
If you have the time and money, you can commission a consultant to conduct primary research on a privately held competitor. However, this can be exceedingly expensive, especially if you want to analyze several competitors. A much less expensive option is buying a subscription to a commercial database that covers private companies such as Dun & Bradstreet, Business Source Premier and Hoover’s.
But again, the information is likely to be incomplete — company profiles normally contain information about key executives, number of employees, estimated annual sales and, in some cases, a company’s history. Unfortunately, commercially available information usually does not provide much insight about a competitor’s products, so the next step is to conduct your own primary research.
This process can be quick-and-dirty. Many private companies have their own corporate website. Better yet, larger privately held companies are often covered in business news media, so you should be able to find articles about product launches.
Perhaps best of all, because you are in the same industry, you probably know some of your competitor’s suppliers and customers. In fact, they may be your suppliers and customers, too. Talk to them. Find out what they like and do not like about your competitor and its product. Ask them how your product stacks up. You might even want to buy your competitor’s product and assess it yourself.
Jason M. Pattit
About the author
Assistant professor of management at the Opus College of Business, University of St. Thomas.