The role and uses of market research in small and medium sized exporting companies
Wise use of information leads to knowledge, and with that knowledge comes power (van der Vegt 1998). The importance of information to marketing success is well documented (Kohli and Jaworski 1990), and recent years have seen a burgeoning academic interest in the area of export market information and research (EMI/R) use (Diamantopoulos and Souchon 1999). This dissertation comprises the results of, and reflections on, an investigation into the EMIR activities of small and medium-sized industrial enterprises in the UK. A review of the literature uncovers the unique, informal and personal nature of these activities. The fieldwork takes a grounded approach, with the first stage consisting of depth interviews conducted among a small sample of manufacturers, as well as among SME export market research suppliers and support organisations. The second stage comprises a quantitative study of industrial SMEs. The research discovers that managers' attitudes to EMI/R, and the internationalism of their backgrounds, are both linked to export information gathering and decision making behaviour, which in turn are linked to export performance. In particular, managers' views of the importance of the role of exporting to their companies, and their commitment of human resources to exporting, are directly and positively linked to export performance. The study finds that SMEs gather export information less than they make export decisions, indicating a paucity of relevant information, and identifies a shortfall between the level and type of EMUR support SMEs needed, and that currently offered by the market research industry and government export support programmes. This dissertation therefore ends with an appeal to all parties (the market research industry, government export promotion agencies and academics) to co-operate in the development of an EMIIR support network appropriate to the special requirements of industrial SMEs.