Porter's Five Forces Analysis

A Template for a Five Forces Analysis

The website Strategic Management Tools offers guidance for many strategy tools including Porter's Five Forces. Find a definition, summary of the Five Forces model, and a step-by-step guide to performing a Five Forces analysis.

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Research Strategy for a Five Forces Analysis

Start with the Big Picture

Gather Industry profiles. Industry overviews from S&P NetAdvantage, IBISWorld, and BMI Research examine current market forces, analyze performance, identify recent trends, list leading companies, and provide aggregate financial data and forecasts.

Immerse Yourself in the Industry.

Supplement your industry profiles with news on the industry from trade journals and business magazines. Trade journals, magazines written for practitioners in an industry, cover trends and offer analysis from industry insiders. Use business news databases, Business Source, ABI/INFORM, and Factiva to update your industry profiles with the latest analysis.

Look for reports from industry associations. Associations monitor industry trends, collect industry data and promote the interests of their members. Their publications are excellent sources of industry data. Use the database Statista to find data and reports from trade associations, government agencies, and market research companies.

Your goal here is to learn as much as you can about how the industry operates. Do not rely on one source. Gather alternative viewpoints with multiple sources.

Research Your Company and Its Competitors

Start at the company website but don't stop there. Read the company's 10-K report to the SEC. Companies often describe the competitive environment and list their top competitors in their 10-K report. They describe their business, products and brands and discuss strategy in Item 1 of the 10-K.  They evaluate the environment and identify risk factors in Items 1-A and 7-A.

Use the company website to find transcripts, PPTs or webcasts of management presentations at various investor events.  These can be bank-sponsored Conferences that focus on various industry sectors or a company sponsored Analyst Meeting. Many companies  schedule conference calls to discuss their quarterly earnings and to report on important transactions like a merger or acquisition or change of management.  Large institutional investors and financial analysts listen in to the webcast and can ask questions.  If transcripts are not posted on the website, find free transcripts of the earnings calls at the website Seeking Alpha.

Many databases offer profiles of public companies. S&P NetAdvantage and Mergent Online profile companies with an emphasis on financial data. ValueLine and CFRA Equity Research reports (found in the database S&P NetAdvantage) offer investment analysis.

Use the Wall Street Journal to get a timeline of company events over the last year. The Wall Street Journal is online in Factiva and ABI/INFORM.

Look for Expert Analysis

Bank analysts' reports can be found in Bloomberg (in the Subotnick Financial Services Center). These reports identify strategic issues as well as provide financial analysis and forecasts.

Also look for market research reports in Passport, Mintel Academic or Gartner. Market research firms gather competitive intelligence for their clients. Their research reports can include: analysis of market trends, market share and market size data, distribution channels, brand and product information, demographics of consumers (and sometimes life style information), forecasts, and alternative industry scenarios.

Supplement with a Google Search

Be strategic when using Google. Google is not a good first place to search. Use it when you need to fill in gaps, find a report referenced in a news article, or find reports from government agencies, think tanks or consulting firms like McKinsey or PwC. Focus your Google searches by looking for websites in the .org or .gov domains (combine your search terms with site:.org or site:.gov).  Always evaluate information found on the web. Ask: Is the source credible? Who is the author and what audience is he speaking to?

Read and Evaluate

Now you are ready to bring your team together and use the information you have gathered.  Look at each of the five forces and determine how each is affecting the industry. Use the "Questions to Ask" listed in this guide  to structure your analysis. Make a list of the evidence that supports your analysis. Be careful to question your assumptions and validate your results.

If you find gaps or questions unanswered, do more research.  News databases are often useful at this point. Be creative - try new search terms or new databases.

Get Help

At any point, if you need research help, make an appointment with a librarian.