Arketing Intelligence System

Whereas the internal records system supplies results data, the marketing intelligence system supplies happenings data.

■ A marketing intelligence system is a set of procedures and sources used by managers to obtain everyday information about developments in the marketing environment.

Marketing managers collect marketing intelligence by reading books, newspapers, and trade publications; talking to customers, suppliers, and distributors; and meeting with other company managers. A company can take several steps to improve the quality of its marketing intelligence.

First, it can train and motivate the sales force to spot and report new developments. Sales representatives are the company's "eyes and ears"; they are positioned to pick up information missed by other means. Yet they are very busy and often fail to pass on significant information. The company must "sell" its sales force on their importance as intelligence gatherers. Sales reps should know which types of information to send to which managers. For instance, the Prentice Hall sales reps who sell this textbook let their editors know what is going on in each discipline, who is doing exciting research, and who plans to write cutting-edge textbooks.

Second, the company can motivate distributors, retailers, and other intermediaries to pass along important intelligence. Consider the following example:7

■ Pa Ha C a A major fluid-power-products manufacturer, Parker Hannifin has asked each of its distributors to forward to Parker's marketing research division a copy of all invoices containing sales of its products. Parker analyzes these invoices to learn about end users and shares its findings with the distributors.

Many companies hire specialists to gather marketing intelligence. Retailers often send mystery shoppers to their stores to assess how employees treat customers. The city of Dallas recently hired Feedback Plus, a professional-shopper agency, to see how car-

pound employees treat citizens picking up their cars. Neiman Marcus employs the same agency to shop at its 26 stores nationwide. "Those stores that consistently score high on the shopping service," says a Neiman Marcus senior VP, "not so coinciden-tally have the best sales." The stores will tell salespeople that they've "been shopped" and give them copies of the mystery shopper's report. Typical questions on the report are: How long before a sales associate greeted you? Did the sales associate act as if he or she wanted your business? Was the sales associate knowledgeable about products in stock?8

Third, companies can learn about competitors by purchasing their products; attending open houses and trade shows; reading competitors' published reports; attending stockholders' meetings; talking to employees, dealers, distributors, suppliers, and freight agents; collecting competitors' ads; and reading the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and trade association papers.

Fourth, the company can set up a customer advisory panel made up of representative customers or the company's largest customers or its most outspoken or sophisticated customers. For example, Hitachi Data Systems holds a three-day meeting with its customer panel of 20 members every 9 months. They discuss service issues, new technologies, and customers' strategic requirements. The discussion is free-flowing, and both parties gain: The company gains valuable information about customer needs; and the customers feel more bonded to a company that listens closely to their com-ments.9

Fifth, the company can purchase information from outside suppliers such as the A. C. Nielsen Company and Information Resources, Inc. (see Table 1.2, part D). These research firms gather and store consumer-panel data at a much lower cost than the company could do on its own.

Sixth, some companies have established a marketing information center to collect and circulate marketing intelligence. The staff scans the Internet and major publications, abstracts relevant news, and disseminates a news bulletin to marketing managers. It collects and files relevant information and assists managers in evaluating new information.

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