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Marketing for Survival: A Comparative Case Study of SME Software Firms


  • Sara Parry

    (Bangor University)

  • Rosalind Jones

    (Bangor University)

  • Jennifer Rowley

    (Manchester Metropolitan University)

  • Beata Kupiec-Teahan

    (Scottish Agricultural College)


Purpose This study explores the success and failure of two similar small software technology firms from a marketing perspective, where there is a paucity of research. Using a dyadic approach, this research compares the degree of customer orientation and innovativeness exhibited in both firms by investigating the companies and their customers. The paper seeks to understand contributing factors for success and failure with the acknowledgement that both marketing and innovativeness are drivers for competitive advantage, firm growth and sustainability. Design/methodology/approach A two-case comparative case study was employed as the primary method of investigation. Company B was investigated for a period of three months but went into liquidation after six years of operation, whilst Company A was investigated over a period of two and a half years. Both cases were based on the same technology park in the North Wales region. Participant-observation in both firms and 22 semi-structured interviews with owner-managers, employees and customers provided a holistic approach to how these firms perceived and prioritised marketing and innovation. Findings The findings confirm the need for small software firms to strike a balance between customer orientation and innovativeness in order to survive. In terms of customer orientation, the findings show that it is not only related to customer contacts and relationships, but is also about delivering on the promise. The small firm’s ability to achieve this is highly dependent on managerial style, communication between the firms and their customers, business planning, market research, promotion and firm culture.Practical implications The benefits of this study which demonstrates the stark contrast between successful and unsuccessful behaviour can act as a useful guide to practitioners, and could be particularly valuable to SME managers who often have technical but less managerial competencies. The results can also offer a marketing benchmark for other SMEs within the software industry. Originality/value This is a unique study comparing two software SMEs, particularly one which failed and one which succeeded under similar condition, thus illustrating good practice by contrasting with bad practice. It also contributes to the literature on how SMEs conduct marketing in the software industry and how to secure small firm sustainability and growth in developing regions.

Suggested Citation

  • Sara Parry & Rosalind Jones & Jennifer Rowley & Beata Kupiec-Teahan, 2010. "Marketing for Survival: A Comparative Case Study of SME Software Firms," Working Papers 10016, Bangor Business School, Prifysgol Bangor University (Cymru / Wales).
  • Handle: RePEc:bng:wpaper:10016

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Zoltan Acs & David Audretsch, 1990. "Innovation and Small Firms," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262011131, February.
    2. Thierry Burger-Helmchen, 2009. "Capabilities in small high-tech firms : A case of plural-Entrepreneurship," Post-Print hal-02302906, HAL.
    3. Gilmore, Audrey & Carson, David & Rocks, Steve, 2006. "Networking in SMEs: Evaluating its contribution to marketing activity," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 278-293, June.
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