Competitive intelligence (CI) may be defined as the process of enhancing marketplace competitiveness through a greater understanding of a firm’s competitors and the competitive environment. This process is unequivocally ethical. It involves the legal collection and analysis of information regarding the capabilities, vulnerabilities, and intentions of business competitors, conducted by using information databases and other “open sources” and through ethical marketing research inquiry.
CI enables senior managers in companies of all sizes to make informed decisions about everything from marketing, research and development (R&D), and investin$ tactics to 1011$-term business strategies. Effective CI is a continuous process involving the legal and ethical collection of information, analysis that doesn’t avoid unwelcome conclusions, and controlled dissemination of actionable intelligence to decision makers. Competitive intelligence is a crucial part of the emerging knowledge economy. By analyzing rivals’ moves, CI allows companies to anticipate market developments rather than merely react to them.
The Decision to Conduct Marketing Research
Marketing research can be beneficial in a variety of situations, but the decision to conduct research is not automatic. Rather, this decision should be guided by a number of considerations, including the costs versus the benefits, the resources available to conduct the research, the resources available to implement the research findings, and management’s attitude toward research. Marketing research should be undertaken when the expected value of information it generates exceeds the costs of conducting the marketing research project. In general, the more important the decision confronting management and the greater the uncertainty or risk facing them, the greater the value of information obtained. Formal procedures are . available for quantifying the expected value as well as the costs of a marketing research project. Although in most instances the value of information exceeds the costs, there are
instances when the reverse may be true. A pie manufacturer, for example, wanted to understand consumers’ purchase of pies in convenience stores. I advised against a major marketing research project when we discovered that less than 1 percent of the sales were coming from convenience stores and that this situation was unlikely to change in the next five years.
Resources, especially time and money, are always limited. However, if either time or money is not available in adequate amounts to conduct a quality project, that project probably should not be undertaken. It is better not to do a formal project than undertake one in which the integrity of the research is compromised because of lack of resources. Likewise, a firm may lack the resources to implement the recommendations arising from the findings of marketing research. In that case, spending the resources to conduct the research may not be warranted. And if management does not have a positive attitude toward research, then it is likely that the project report will gather dust after the project is conducted. However, there may be exceptions to this guideline. I conducted a project for a retail chain with management that was hostile toward the project, but the research was commissioned and funded by the parent organization. Although the store management was opposed to the findings, which reflected negatively on the store chain, the parent company did implement my recommendations.
There are other instances that may argue against conducting a marketing research project. If the required information is already available within the organization, or the decision for which the research is to be conducted has already been made, or the research is going to be used for gaining political ends, then the value of information generated is greatly reduced and the project is generally not warranted. However, if the decision is made to conduct marketing research, then management may also rely on marketing research suppliers and services to obtain the specific information needed.!?
The Marketing Research Industry
The marketing research industry consists of suppliers who provide marketing research services. Marketing research suppliers and services provide most of the information needed for making marketing decisions. Most of the big suppliers have several subsidiaries and divisions that encompass various areas of marketing research. Nevertheless, it is useful to classify marketing research suppliers and services. Broadly, research suppliers can be classified as internal or external (see Figure 1.4). An internal supplier is a marketing research department within the firm. Many firms, particularly the big ones, ranging from automobile companies
(GM, Ford, Chrysler) to consumer products firms (Procter & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, Coca-Cola) to bank’s (JPMorgim Chase, Bank of America), maintain in-house marketing research departments. The marketing research department’s place in the organizational structure may vary considerably. At one extreme, [he research function may be centralized and located at the corporate headquarters. At the other extreme is a decentralized structure in which the marketing’ research function is organized along divisional lines. In a decentralized scheme, the company may be organized into divisions by products, customers, or geographical regions, with marketing research personnel assigned to the various divisions. These personnel generally report to a division manager rather than to a corporate-level executive. I.n addition, between these two extremes, there are different types of organizations. The best organization for a firm depends on its marketing research needs and the structure of marketing and other functions, although in recent years there has been a trend toward centralization and a trimming
of the marketing research staff. Internal suppliers often rely on external suppliers to perform specific marketing research tasks
Customized services offer a wide variety of marketing research services customized to suit a client’s specific needs. Each marketing research project is treated uniquely. Some marketing research firms that offer these services include Burke, Inc. Synovate The survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Boeing in the opening example constituted customized research
Limited-service suppliers specialize in one or it few phases of the marketing research project, as illustrated by the Satrnetrix example in the chapter overview. Services offered by such suppliers are classified as field services, focus groups and qualitative research, technical and analytical services, and other services. Field services collect data through mail, personal, telephone, or electronic interviewing, and firms that specialize in interviewing are called field
service organizations. These organizations may range from small proprietary organizations
that operate locally to large multinational organizations. Some organizations maintain extensive interviewing facilities across the country for interviewing shoppers in mal1s. Some firms that offer field services are Field Facts, Inc. and Field Work Chicago, Inc.
Other services include branded marketing research products and services developed to address specific types of marketing research problems. For example, Survey Sampling International specializes in sampling design and distribution.
Some firms focus on specialized services such as research in ethnic markets (Hispanic, African, multicultural). Examples in this category include Hispanic Consumer Research and Multicultural Insights There are certain guidelines that should be followed when selecting a research supplier, whether it is a full-service or a limited-service supplier