The Range Of Information Required

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The range of information required

Many companies would benefit from a complete rethinking of policy on competition. In the first stage of the exercise, one should completely ignore any legal restrictions, informal price agreements, current trading relationships with competitors, problems of monopoly, or any other difficulties in the way of the new policy. This ensures that your thinking is uninhibited and that you fully realize the range of weapons available. At a later stage, you can decide what you are prepared to sacrifice in observing the conventions.

The principal indicator of success in battle is the share of the market actually achieved and its relative profitability. The detailed activities described below should be geared to a marketing plan which specifies the share of the market expected and the expected position in the league of competitor profitability's.

It is desirable to set down the information about competitors that the company would like to possess if there were no restrictions of cost, legality, confidentiality or of any other kind. This information will include, for each competitor:

1. Product information

A complete list of all the competitive products in his range with comprehensive details of their design, properties, analysis and performance. Engineering drawings, samples, models, operating and maintenance instructions, installation instructions and a full range of sales and technical literature should be available for each. In particular, a careful analysis of competitive products should be made.

2. Customer information

A complete list of all important customers and potential customers should be compiled, showing details of amounts purchased. A dossier on each customer should show his credit worthiness, size of individual orders, special peculiarities and the names of purchasing decision makers. This information would be of most value for those customers who are not served by the company and on whom little information will probably be available.

3. Marketing information

Information should be collected on the type of selling effort made by each competitor, the number of representatives, the sales regions, the policy on remuneration of salesmen, full details of the advertising carried out and the promotional aids available.

A comprehensive picture is needed of the standard of customer service offered. How much after sales wervice is given? What is the policy on breakages and rejects, how much technical effort does each competitor make available? What is the delivery period and how many products are met from stock? What does each competitor know about the activities of its competitors? What special strengths and weaknesses exist in the marketing efforts of each competitor?

4. Cost and profit information

Is anything known about competitors' costs, contributions and profits? What selling prices are given to different customers? Are prices standardised, i.e. quoted from a price list or calculated on a basis of what the market or customer will bear? What is the estimated break-even point? How easily could they withstand a price war? What is the financial strength of each competitor and his rate of profit on sales and on capital? In what ways is the company financially vulnerable, e.g. to devaluation, to a take-over, to a price cut?

5. Production information

What is each competitor's productive capacity? How many products does he make which do not compete with ours? What proportion are these of the total effort? What processing methods are used and are these better than ours?

6. Personnel information

Details should be obtained of key executives in competitor organizations, particularly those in marketing, but also any other specially valuable or indispensable managers. How vulnerable is the competitor to executive poaching (head hunting)?

7. Legal information

Records should be kept of important patents filed, and of licensing and royalty arrangements made.

In addition to static information about a competitor at one point in time, the company will require a full dynamic picture, i.e. each competitor's plans, objectives and progress. Such information can be collected under the same headings as those listed above:

Products: new product development and product rationalization plans

Customers: plans to increase or decrease the range of customers served

Marketing: future advertising campaigns

Cost and profit: investment plans

Production: process developments; research and development progress and plans

Legal: patents or applications being considered.

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