Easier Digging, But Just a Little Deeper

‘Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?’ said the March Hare. ‘Exactly so,’ said Alice.

It’s all about using the easy way.  And the easy way is sometimes not the one that immediately occurs to you.

Several of my posts have described techniques for finding information in databases that are not reached by search engines.  The average searcher’s lack of understanding about this has become even more clear to me as I field requests for research services.  

Most people assume that to find all of the realtors in Sacramento, or all of the hotel supply businesses in Illinois, the best method is to simply search on Google for those terms.   None of them seem to have consulted a directory of any sort.

Directories: Great Tools!

Just what is a directory?    The dictionary defines a directory as a book containing an alphabetical index of the names and addresses of persons in a city, district, organization, or of a particular category of people.  Obviously, someone else has done all the work for you.  What could be better than that? Continue reading

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SBIRs—Have a Great Idea? The Government Might Help You Develop It

Small Business Innovative Research Programs

Are you familiar with the SBIR Program?  If  not, think of federal agencies as eager investors with a mandate to develop new technologies.  If you can find a topic that fits your expertise, you may be awarded the funds to develop it.  To qualify for the SBIR program a for-profit business must have less than 500 employees, be U.S. based, and the chief researcher must be employed by the submitting business. 

As directed by Congress, SBA’s Office of Technology “administers the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program.*  Through these two competitive programs, SBA ensures that the nation’s small, high-tech, innovative businesses are a significant part of the federal government’s research and development efforts.”    

Each agency with SBIR funds publishes periodic lists of requested proposals.  The topics vary widely—from digital gaming in education to new energy storage devices.  

In addition, each agency has different rules about procurement and administration of SBIRs.  For example, when lists of requested projects are announced, most agencies provide contacts for questions, while others preclude any contact at all.  Be aware that each of the DoD’s components (Army, Navy etc.)  have slightly different rules and procedures.  Sometimes there are specific instructions for a particular topic, so you must study the solicitation instructions thoroughly.  Some agencies also change their instructions from year to year.  Most proposals are limited to 25 pages; you must learn to be really succinct.

I once did an SBIR submission for a company that always included colored line graphs to illustrate scientific points.  The submission rules for that agency clearly stated that color was not acceptable because they would be copying the proposals in black and white for the evaluation team.  These line graphs were meaningless in black and white.  It was a huge chore for me to convince the scientists that color was not allowed.   A small item like this can doom you to failure.

SBIR award amounts are from $100,000 to $150,000 for phase I, and $750,000 to $1,000,000 for phase II. This does not affect an agency’s right to make awards of greater or lesser amounts.  $150K is not a lot of money to do basic research.  Phase II is commercialization.  More on that later.

Finding Information About SBIR Agency Programs

Two web sites offer the most information about SBIR programs. 

The first is the SBIR Gateway  ( http://www.zyn.com/sbir/  ) which offers plethora of information, including a newsletter, news about the program and solicitations, event calendars, and agency links.     

* STTR requires the small business to partner with organizations such as universities, contractor-operated federally funded research and development centers or other non-profit research institutions.

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Search Planning 101

“Good advice. If I listened earlier, I wouldn’t be here. But that’s just the trouble with me. I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”



Developing a search plan is a good idea when searching for business intelligence,  especially when you are looking for targeted results.  (And I hope that you are!)        

As I mentioned in my first postIf you had no research skills before Google, you probably don’t now.          

Most internet users are sure that they know all about finding information and don’t need any help.   I have talked so many times with people who are so confident that what they need is not to be found.            

Way back in the mists of the internet beginnings, I was promoting my book  (Internet for Newbies) when a man came up to me, and said he thought that the internet was just not worth bothering with.   He was looking for information about planting trees.  “I really looked hard and could not find a thing.”  “Where did you look?”  I asked. “ On AOL” (which was very new at that time),  he said.             

 I tried to explain that there were more sites on the internet than AOL and that there were methods for expanding search terms.  He was absolutely sure that he did not need any advice.  ( Hard to believe, but Google did not exist then. )             


I have also found that when people tell me that they can’t find what they need, and I find it in less than five minutes, they get very annoyed.  So I have learned to keep quieter and take longer.  BUT, that is not a good technique if you need business information and don’t have time to waste.           

 So, lets talk about search plans.  As you do this over and over,  you will get better and better at devising a plan.        

The main thing is to be organized.  And, unlike Alice, to pay attention to your own advice.   Critical thinking is probably your most important skill now. Continue reading

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Too Much Information! Finding the Lowdown on Federal Contractors

As you probably know, the amount of information available about federal government contracts sometimes seems infinite. 

There is no one simple method for hunting down marketing intelligence.  You need information that is better than the data that every other potential bidder will find.  Perseverance and a little time will yield rewards.

In this post I am going to concentrate on only one source regarding federal contractors—i.e. those firms already doing business with the feds.  I have also provided a case study that will provide step-by-step instructions for using this source.

The federal government site  USAspending.gov is an almost bottomless well of business intelligence. 

This massive database is a bit intimidating, but with a little effort you will be rewarded with a lot of information that you can use to find business opportunities.   Continue reading

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Is Big Brother Watching? State Information on Business

I have an excellent idea. LET'S CHANGE THE SUBJECT!


You still have your list of business names, and you want to get some inside scoop on them.    

A great place to look is your state web site.    (I hope that you have been looking at your state’s web site to find all kinds of great resources to help businesses, especially small ones!)     

Most states have business information online—usually maintained by the secretary of State—that will help you identify companies and check on the status of potential clients.  Many state public databases are free, some charge per record found, while a few do not have online searching at all. Continue reading

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Finding Business News


If you read the last post you probably have tried the http://www.referenceusa.com/ database and found some businesses you want to target.  

You have the names of business owners, managers, marketing executives, purchasing agents, etc.  

But you are sure that knowing something about the businesses or persons would be even more useful.  

The Problem 

So where can you find more information about a person or business?  Of course typing their name into a search engine will yield their web site and other places they are mentioned—so do that first.  

But ( this is a big but ) do one of two things: 

  • type the name with quotes (i.e. “Penelope Smith” or “Acme Business Corporation”) or
  • use the advanced search options and select the exact words option. 

Otherwise you will get a clutter of hits.  Do go to the company’s website and look around. You might get some great ideas about how to approach them. Continue reading

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I Need Names!

This post will cover a simple topic—an easy way to find businesses who might want your product or service.

There are an unlimited number of online and paper directories that list businesses.  They range from phone books to very specialized lists of specific types of businesses.

The Problem

Your firm provides a service or product and you want to know what companies fall into a niche market you have identified—maybe it’s cleaning services, or IT consultants, or all the large businesses in a certain building (so you can sell them coffee services, copier toner, whatever…). 

You might want to find only companies with more than 25 employees but less than 2000. 

You want to pick zip codes. 

You want to find out as much about them as possible. 

And of course you don’t want to spend a lot of time and money to get this information.  Continue reading

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To Infinity and Beyond! Finding Really Useful Business Information

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.

Market Research for the Busy Businessperson

Any person with internet access has quickly learned that simply typing a company or personal name into any search engine will usually yield what seems like an infinite number of hits. The problem of course is that most of them are not useful, and they probably don’t provide the business intelligence that you could really use to build your business.

And unlike Buzz Lightyear, you don’t have an infinite amount of time to look at them all.

Research Methods

“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”    The King of Hearts  (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll)  never did quite find anything useful…and he did go on for a long, long time.  With the internet he would never come to the end.  Neither will you…so you need to be organized and focused. Continue reading

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