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The Five C's of Company Research
(Marketing Memo, August, 2007)

When your company makes investment, marketing, and partnering decisions that involve other companies, you should thoroughly investigate the target companies. While you may be tempted to focus on the four P's, Price, Product, Place, and Promotion do not tell a company's whole story. A company may be effectively promoting itself through webinars and blogs but neglecting to invest in research and development. Research the five C's of the company - Context, Company, Cash, Competition, and Collaborators. Here are some of the issues to explore:

Context: Is anything unusual happening in the industry, such as widespread product recalls or bankruptcy filings? How have forces, such as Mergers and Acquisitions, Nearshoring, Compliance, the Economy, and New Technology affected the company and the industry? In many industries, widespread consolidation means that it is harder than ever for small and midsize companies to compete.

Company: How does the company differentiate itself? What does the industry think of the company and its brand? Do executives stay, or is turnover common? What are the causes? When you call the company, are people helpful, or do they sound disgruntled? What does this imply about company morale? Has the company merged or been acquired? If so, the center of gravity has probably shifted, and decision makers are now operating from the new corporate headquarters. Does the new management have relevant industry experience?

Cash and financial situation: Is the company profitable? Are revenues increasing? Is the company growing organically or through acquisition of companies, products, or technology? Is the growth rate sustainable? If the company is public, check the annual report for information about the company's cash flow, debt, and investment in R&D. Also check the notes in fine print that accompany the financial statements.

Competition: Who are the target company's main competitors? What are their offerings? What are the competitors' strengths and weaknesses? How do they stack up against the target company? How do the competitors promote themselves? What are their marketing messages? If a competitor is experiencing unprecedented growth rates, what are the causes?

Collaborators: Companies can no longer "go it alone." What sorts of partners is the company seeking? Who are the company's current partners and affiliates? What added capabilities do they bring to the company? Partners may possess patents for desirable new technology, or they may have established a distribution channel in Asia or name recognition in South Africa.

Creating a comprehensive company profile is difficult, and it is time-consuming. We can provide you with professional assistance.

Send an email to to receive a complementary copy of Ask the Pro: How to Guarantee Your Written Communication is on Point with Ruth Winett. This article first appeared in May, 2007, in The Voice of Leadership, an e-newsletter from Bates Communications.

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