Essentials of Marketing. What are some of the likely problems facing the marketing manager in a small firm who plans to search the Internet for information on competitors’ marketing plans? How can the marketing manager minimize those problems?
The main problem confronting a “marketing manager in a small firm who plans to search the Internet for information on competitors’ marketing plans” is the fact that no marketing executive is going to place the strategy documents behind those marketing plans on the Internet. What the “marketing manager” of a small firm can discover by perusing the Internet is the actual application of a competitor’s marketing plan – in effect, the actual advertisement for a product or service. He or she can also, sometimes, find data on the target market and on the success of the competitor’s marketing plan in terms of competitiveness rankings. Locating and perusing the competition’s marketing plans is what is commonly labeled “economic espionage; in other words, it involves the acquisition through illicit means of internal strategy documents that constitute the proprietary possession of the competitor. Should the competitor choose to make his or her marketing plans publicly available, then they might be found on the Internet. Otherwise, those are internal documents the distribution of which are generally very limited.
The marketing manager of the small firm is faced with the same challenges as his or her competitors in terms of identifying a market and targeting it through product modification and advertising. Because of the availability of marketing data, such as that accumulated from point-of-purchase registers, that illuminate consumers’ purchasing patterns and preferences, any company with the financial resources can attain as much data as can possibly be needed. In fact, as the following passage from the June 16, 2012 edition of the International New York Times points out, one company, Acxiom Corporation, has successfully accumulated all of that information and makes it available to markers. Regarding that corporation,
“. . .analysts say it has amassed the world’s largest commercial database on consumers — and that it wants to know much, much more. Its servers process more than 50 trillion data “transactions” a year. Company executives have said its database contains information about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. That includes a majority of adults in the United States.”
In short, the marketing manager should do his or her work and acquire data that is legally available and formulate his or her own marketing strategy. Or, the marketing manager can conduct his or her own research into consumer preferences, such as through questionnaires and surveys. Digging out information on the competitors’ marketing plans, however, can come perilously close to crossing legal boundaries with regard to proprietary information.