As we noted, most external forces are beyond the direct control of the marketing organization. By “direct control” we mean marketers lack the power to determine the direction and intensity of a change in these forces. Instead, marketers must treat external forces as something to be monitored and responded to when necessary.
While marketers lack direct control over external forces, in some cases they can exercise a small amount of influence over these factors. For instance, Apple’s iPod has played an important role in changing how consumers listen to music, and for some, how they acquire information (e.g., news podcasts). But while Apple is credited with being the catalyst for changing a social behavior (an external force) they represent just one of several organizations (e.g., music publishers, manufacturers of other music players) and others (e.g., bloggers, podcasters, news media) whose actions were necessary for behavior to change across a large group. Thus, while one company can market products and services with the intention of changing how a target market behaves, it is nearly impossible for one company alone to control the change.
For marketers the key to dealing with external forces is to engage in continual market research. For larger companies this may involve dedicated research personnel, who watch these factors as part of their day-to-day responsibilities. A research staff dedicated to monitoring external forces may offer marketers the ability to better predict changes and respond well in advance of a change. For example, researchers may be able to predict how the economy (an external force) will change over the next one to two years and through this information allow the marketing organization to respond (e.g., new products, reduced price, etc.).
For small organizations that do not have the luxury of market research staff, monitoring change is difficult and often means they react after a change has occurred. However, new innovative products (an external force) are making the monitoring task much easier allowing small companies to respond quicker than in the past.