Marketing as a Determinant of Long-Run
Competitive Success in Medium-Sized
U.K. Manufacturing Firms
Small Business Economics
20: 259–272, 2003.
2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
ABSTRACT. Over the last decade or so, many studies have
highlighted the important role that marketing plays in con-
tributing to a firm’s competitive success. Thus, this article
aims to examine the contribution of marketing to the com-
petitive success of forty two British medium-sized manufac-
turing firms at two time points, 1987/88 and 1997/98, in order
to determine any success factors that are durable over time.
The investigation is based on mail surveys and in-depth
interviews undertaken within the same set of firms at both
dates. The findings identify eight specific marketing practices
that might well be described as key determinants of success.
However, they also draw into question several of the tradi-
tional tenets of successful marketing.
Earlier (1987/88) research published in this journal
(Brooksbank, Kirby and Wright, 1992) found a
wide range of strategic marketing activities to be
associated with higher performing (1), medium
sized manufacturing companies in the U.K.
However, one of the key weaknesses of this paper,
and of many such “success” studies which have
been undertaken over the last decade or so, is that
they serve only to provide a “snapshot” of suc-
cessful marketing practice at one point in time (see
for example, Hooley and Jobber, 1986; Narver and
Slater, 1990; Lai et al., 1992; Shaw, 1995).
Consequently, the goal of the current study is to
compare and contrast the findings from the
original 1987/1988 research with those of an
identical study carried out ten years later in
1997/98, within the same sample of firms. The
underlying research question is: Are there a set
of marketing practices, durable over time, that are
associated with high performance among British
medium-sized manufacturing firms?
2. Research methodology
The research on which this article is based follows
precisely the methodology adopted in the 1987/88
study (Brooksbank et al., 1992). In 1987 1,460
medium-sized manufacturing firms (2) had been
selected randomly from a commercial database
(ICC Ltd.) of 85,000 companies registered in
Great Britain as of April 1987 and surveyed using
a mailed questionnaire developed following an
extensive review of both the empirical and nor-
mative literature. It elicited 231 fully completed
responses (a response rate of 16.9 per cent) and
this was followed by in-depth interviews with the
Chief Marketing Executives of 20 randomly-
selected sample firms in order to provide a more
qualitative insight into the quantitative findings
derived from the postal survey.
In the autumn of 1997, almost exactly 10 years
after the original survey, a repeat postal survey
was conducted. Of the original 231 firms
surveyed, 131 were identified as being “live” and
an identical questionnaire to that used in 1987 was
sent to them. After two reminder letters a total of
42 fully completed questionnaires were received,
Final version accepted on November 25, 2001
Roger Brooksbank and David Taylor
University of Waikato
Surrey European Management School
University of Surrey
Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XH
University of South Australia
University of Tampa