The importance of research and innovation for marketing
Too many professional service firms compete by trying not to fail rather than by trying to win, according to Suzanne C Lowe in her book Marketplace Masters: How Professional Service Firms Compete to Win. They are engaged in a never-ending game of catch-up, rarely allowing themselves the time to try to gain an understanding of the entire marketplace context in which they compete, and avoiding real innovation by sticking to small improvements on existing products and services.
To become true marketplace masters, according to the author, firms need to build a “market-driven infrastructure”, taking the small continuous steps needed to master their competitive arena so that they achieve competitive advantage on a daily basis, while being ready to make decisive, informed decisions about marketplace opportunities. The three elements of a market-driven infrastructure are:
- Looking Out: Researching clients, competitors and markets to detect market shifts and opportunities
- Digging Deeper: Doing targeted organisational and analytical work to discover unmet needs of clients and prospects
- Embedding Innovation: Deliberately incorporating support of innovation into a firm’s practices and policies
While I agree that these three elements are useful components of a professional service firm’s marketing program, I am not entirely convinced that they are the key elements, and I struggle to understand the demarcation between the first two elements, “looking out” and “digging deeper”, both of which seem to relate to analytical research.
The book is now ten years old. Some of the examples now appear to be superseded, and some of the examples do not look highly convincing even in retrospect. The Internet and digital marketing have caused significant dislocation in the field of professional services marketing. Nonetheless, there is still a substantial amount of wisdom to be gained particularly by reading the first four chapters of the book.