How To Obtain The Information

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How to obtain the information

The items described and listed above are not exhaustive but cover most aspects of a competitor's operations in which the company may be interested. The next two major questions for the company, and for the marketing function in particular, are what methods of information acquisition is it prepared to countenance and on how many of the above aspects does it want to be briefed. The second question is the easier to answer. To mount a serious and thorough competitor offensive, marketing needs at least some information on all the headings.

The first question involves questions of legality, of ethics, of the nebulous transition zone between industrial intelligence and industrial espionage. In deciding what means are permissible the company will need to tread carefully. A useful starting-point for the compilation of such a list has been prepared by Worth Wade, a Philadelphia management consultant. The first seven items in the Wade list are unquestionably ethical and legal. Thereafter the list is approximately in a descending order of acceptability, and each company must make its own decision about the methods it is prepared to use. As a general guide it is suggested that any method that is legally available to a member of the general public is ethically acceptable.

1. Published material, and public documents such as court records.

2. Disclosures made by competitors' employees, and obtained without subterfuge.

3. Market surveys and consultants' reports.

4. Financial reports, and brokers' research surveys.

5. Trade fairs, exhibits and competitors' brochures.

6. Analysis of competitors' products.

7. Reports of your salesmen and purchasing Affiliates.

8. Legitimate employment interviews with people who have worked for competitors.

9. Camouflage questioning and "drawing out" of competitors' employees at trade and technical meetings.

10. Direct observation under secret conditions.

11. False job interviews with competitors' employees (i.e. where there is no real intent to hire).

12. False negotiations with competitor for licence.

13. Hiring a professional investigc.tor to obtain a specific piece of information.

14. Hiring an employee away from the competitor, to get specific know-how.

15. Trespassing on competitors' property.

16. Bribing competitors' suppliers or employees.

17 "Planting" an agent on competitors' payroll.

18. Eavesdropping on competitors (e.g. via wire-tapping).

19. Theft or photocopying of drawings, samples, documents and similar property.

20. Blackmail and extortion.


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