Obtaining the information - Strategic Management

None of this analysis would have been possible if we had been unable to obtain any information. This meant that we had to consider primary research if we were to obtain any information at all. Our first major competitor study was undertaken in 1985, and this set a foundation that helped us to make sense of information from other sources. After that time, there was an increase in the number of published research studies, which meant that our information became more complete.

Our first piece of research into the market was completed in 1983. Most of these reports are published so that they can be shared with other interested parties, and although they have contributed greatly to our understanding of buyer behaviour and awareness of changing needs and responses, they are not primarily market research reports. From this, our first intention was to prepare a market-related assessment of our strengths and weaknesses, compared with those of competitors.

A sample survey was conducted by telephone of forty-three buyers of our type of training service, exploring aspects of all the research objectives. We interviewed on a personal visit nine major competitors, building up our list of real competitors from information supplied by buyers and competitors. We were able to check most of the information provided by competitors from the interviews with buyers. All this research was done honestly and openly by one of our consultants.

The information from this survey provided the base from which we could build and develop on the lines already discussed, and led to immediate tactical and strategic decisions. Meanwhile, we continued to add more valuable data from our research for publication and focused some of this on areas of the industry map, which were hitherto blank. We published a report on distance learning, for example, in 1986, and another in late 1989 on consortium and company MBAs.

Primary-research undertaken by us for the analysis

Three activities that yielded useful information were:

  1. Continued direct contact with competitors, including the exchange of information that would be in the annual report if we were all public limited companies. The competitor analysis system that we have built up means that there is somewhere to put the results of all these formal and informal comments, as well as information that comes to us about a competitor from elsewhere in the industry.
  2. Obtaining feedback from clients when there is a pre-qualifying exercise or a competitive bid (whether we win or lose). This has been an invaluable source of information. On occasion, buyers have prepared an analysis of all the bidders that they have been willing to share.
  3. Helping journalists to write about the industry and suggesting who they should approach for the collection of data for league tables. In this way, we filled several gaps in our own information, especially as a few firms who had refused to exchange information with us on the grounds of confidentiality did not have the same inhibitions when it was a question of gaining publicity.

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