Exploring the influence of market intelligence on the development of small business marketing capabilities

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Small businesses that demonstrate marketing capabilities at higher levels of proficiency have been shown to display better performance characteristics. This applies just as readily for small agri-food firms in Northern Ireland, who operate in a concise domestic market and are exposed to intensified competition and margin stress, set in unpredictable socio-political dimensions. This signifies a pressing need for increased information flow in these firms. Adeptly applied, market intelligence can revise firms’ appreciation of their market position, clarify opportunities and threats and inform marketing practices that will allow them to navigate shifting environments.

The interaction between market intelligence and marketing capabilities can signal and validate value propositions and the implementation of strategies that are in alignment with their market. However, there is little literature pertaining to the relationship between marketing capabilities and market intelligence in small businesses.

This study seeks to establish if, and how, marketing capabilities in small businesses can be developed through the application of market intelligence, with particular reference to architectural marketing capabilities, specialised marketing capabilities and dynamic capabilities. The research was qualitative and longitudinal in design and data was collected through in-depth semi-structured interviews. The interviews were conducted with seven agri-food case firms in Northern Ireland and took place before and after ten months of exposure to market intelligence.

Key findings indicate that market intelligence can have a significant impact on marketing capability development in small businesses. However, to garner these inherent benefits the potential of market intelligence must be acknowledged. Central to this is the role and attitude of the owner/manager and the support provided by statutory funding bodies. Where market intelligence is provided at public expense, policymakers need to rationalise the scale of expenditure against outcomes, the motivations of all parties, and the need to realign funding to maximise return on investment for all stakeholders.

Thesis embargoed until 31 December 2024.
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsInvest Northern Ireland
SupervisorHilary Downey (Supervisor)

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