Before the invention of the internet – in the Middle Ages, isn't it ? – there were not thirty-six solutions to find addresses of business companies: one consulted the "yellow pages" of the telephone directory. For the record, the first commercial phone book was created in 1886 by Reuben H. Donnelley in the United States under the term "Yellow pages." According to the legend, the worker in charge of printing the directory would have run out of white paper and replaced it with yellow ones (source).
More than a century later, numerous alternatives are available on the web.
In Switzerland, the yellow pages directory is published by Swisscom, the main telephone operator in the country. The local.ch website allows you to search for addresses online in english too. Enter the first letters of what you are looking for and the site will suggest you some keywords in a drop-down menu. It is possible to locate the address or find a route using a map, a satellite photo or a combination of both. If you want to keep a contact in your address book, click on the link "Vcard", it will be added automatically. But beware, the asterisk next to a number indicates that the owner does not want to receive advertising.
A keyword search in Google map provides quick results grouped by geographic location. This information is customized through Google My Business Services, which is an essential part of any local Search engine optimization (SEO) on Google.ch.
The Registry of Commerce
In order to get legal information on a Swiss company, the best way is to consult the Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce or the search engine Zefix. These official Swiss Confederation's web sites are linked to the cantonal databases and offer an english version. The addresses of the company names are accompanied by information published in the newspaper Swiss Official Gazette of Commerce (SOGC). It is thus possible to search for new registrations or write-offs published in the official organ for any cantons.
The sites specialized in the sale of business addresses
If you want to get addresses for direct mailing, you can visit Swiss firms, a website of the Swiss Chambers of Commerce. It is possible to order address files according to the desired criteria in paper or digital format. This is of course a commercial service. Another commercial source is the Kompass database which provides addresses of Swiss companies. Despite a particularly challenging name for a French speaker, Wer liefert Was offers an easy to use French version of its search engine for products and companies.
A list of big Swiss companies
Switzerland is a small country, but some of its biggest companies make regular headlines in the world press, sometimes in controversial ways. Who has not heard of Nestlé, Novartis, Serono, the Swiss airlines (eg Swissair), UBS or Rolex? The collaborative online encyclopedia Wikipedia offers a list of the largest Swiss companies, an article for each company, as well as their ranking. Another source is the site "Working in Switzerland", which has a list of the biggest companies installed in Switzerland.
Switzerland is well known around the world for its banks and financial services. A list of all Swiss banks is available on Wikipedia.
And in the communication sector ?
A little self-promotion does not hurt: this directory of communication professionals brings together the best addresses in the French-speaking part of the country. And you can contact me if you want to add an URL to this page or if you need a webmaster to create or update a website targeting the swiss market.