Marketing of Information Services: A Conceptual Framework

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Introduction

Before 1970, the concept of marketing was restricted almost exclusively to organizations supplying products rather than services. Although the idea of applying marketing principles to library activity was realized by Dr. S. R. Ranganathan in 1930s himself and on the basis of which the Five Laws of Library Science were formulated by him. Over the last few years, a number of information services have been experimenting with modern marketing methods or at least in certain aspects of marketing such as advertising and public relations. The marketing approach may profoundly modify the perspective of information products and services just as it transformed the business world some years ago. The application of information technology (IT) based marketing approach in information products and services would be quite radical and dynamic as it forces the organization to the competitive business world. Marketing of information activity, of course, involves user need analysis, definition of user segments, analysis of the available products, definition of differentiated products, matching the user profiles with product profile, identifying tools and techniques of trade, creating suitable publicity/marketable products, and defining out reach areas and levels.

Now-a-days marketing acts as a driving force in achieving quality library and information products and services and maximizing users/customers’ satisfactions at the minimum producing and delivery cost. A market orientation program that promote the use of information products and services in libraries need to be instituted in order to create superior values to customers by increasing benefit relative to the cost of information products and services. Instead of the user approaching for services in the library and information centers, the information must reach the user’s place of work; whether it is a classroom, the research laboratory, the home or any other place of activity in any field of life. The libraries and information centers have become profit-making organizations due to adoption of new technological advances and innovations, and changing nature of their information storage, retrieval and services.

In the recent time, the cost-effective information is to be provided by the special and some academic libraries as a service for application of modern principles of marketing management. Marketing management is the analysis, planning, implementation and control of programs designed to create, build and maintain beneficial exchange with the target customers for the purpose of achieving organizational objectives (Mandal, Poddar & Choudhury, 1998). Keeping this in view, some modern libraries and information centers in Bangladesh (e.g. BANSDOC, ICDDR,B Library, CIRDAP Library, SAIC, AIC, BIDS Library, etc.) have set up a full-fledged Division of Marketing and Customers Services to keep the users community constantly with the latest information on new services by publicity and advertising materials and participating in various exhibitions, fairs, etc. Therefore, in the coming days library and information services would not be available free to all particularly in highly specialized and technical libraries/information centers. So, it is essential for a librarian or information specialist to know the practical aspect of marketing techniques of information products and services and their application to library and information centers. Thus marketing has become an instrument through which library objectives can be fulfilled.

Objective of the Paper

This article is an attempted to discuss the concept of marketing, a conceptual framework of marketing information services, marketing programs for libraries and information centers, marketing concept to information products and services, and benefits of marketing library and information services.

The Concept of Marketing

Marketing has been one of the world’s oldest professions. ‘The enigma of marketing is that is one of man’s oldest activities and yet it is regarded as the most recent of the business disciplines’ (Baker, 1995). Of course, the formal study of marketing started only in the 1920s. Starting from the barter stage, it has passed through the different stages like money as common medium for exchange, industrial revolution resulting in transitions from sellers to buyer’s market. Perhaps, one can be successful in marketing by giving the customer what he wants at the right price and by making it available at the right place and at the right quantity. In essence, marketing covers all those activities involved in providing customer satisfaction and making a profit for the manufacturer who makes use of available resources to the maximum. Marketing starts with the customer – what he wants to have and ends with the customer getting what he wants. Some important definitions of marketing are given below:

“Marketing is the process of determining consumer demand for a product or service, motivating its sale and distributing it into ultimate consumption at a profit” (Brech, 1954).

“Marketing is the business function that identifies current unfilled needs and wants, defines and measures their magnitude, determines which target markets the organization can best serve, and decides on appropriate products, services, and programs to serve these markets. Thus marketing serves as the link between a society’s needs and its pattern of industrial response” (Kotler, 1988).

“Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals” (American Marketing Association, 1969).

“The analysis, planning, implementation and control of programs designed to bring about desired exchange with target customers for the purpose of personal or mutual gain. It relies heavily on the adaptation and coordination of product, price, promotion and place of achieving effective response” (Kotler & Andreasen, 1995).

In library and information centers, Sherkow defines segmentation as the: “process of identifying various groups of users and modifying your services and information based on those different groups and their different needs” (Sherkow, 1985-86).

From the above definitions, we can identify several important features of marketing:

–         it is an exchange function

–         it’s aim is to satisfy customers/users

–         it is a managerial process

–         it stresses on quality of goods and services

–         it emphasizes the satisfaction of  consumer’s requirements profitably

–         it serves as the link between a society’s needs and its pattern of institutional response

–         it is concerned with the creation and maintenance of mutually satisfying exchange relationships

–         it includes the flow of goods and services between producers and consumers

–         it is a process of identifying various groups of users and modifying services

–         it’s overall goal is to maximize profit.

This is to say that any market consists of groups of individuals (customers) whose needs are completely different from one another. This segmentation may follow different patterns and can be geographic, demographic, or psycho-graphic. Marketing techniques have implications that will vary from one organization to another. First, marketing techniques imply a change in the structure of the organization. Second, any organization that wishes to adapt marketing techniques will have to take into account the competition. Finally, an organization that wants to use marketing techniques will have to undertake market research so as to determine the real needs of the people it is serving or intends to serve.

Conceptual Framework of Marketing Information Services

The conceptual framework advocated by Ashill and Jobber in 1999 that examines the influence of contextual settings on the effective design of Marketing Information Services (MkIS), and draws on three key literature based and illustrates three categories of antecedents of the usefulness of marketing information characteristics: environmental uncertainty perception; decision-maker characteristics; and work environment factors (Ashill &Jobber, 2001). Environment uncertainty perceptions are drawn from conceptual frameworks and empirical investigations in organizational design and behavioral decision-making; decision-maker factors are drawn from the personality and cognitive psychology literature; work environment factors are drawn from theories of managerial information processing. The authors also suggest that the design of marketing information services can be operationalized in terms of the perceived usefulness of seven information characteristics:

1.      broad scope information;

2.      timely information;

3.      accurate information;

4.      aggregated information;

5.      current information;

6.      personal information sources; and

7.      impersonal information sources.

Broad scope information thus describes information that is wide or broad in its representation (a wide or broad set of information inputs is required to facilitate marketing management decision making). Timely information describes receiving information quickly and on time. Information currency refers to the age of the information appropriate for decision-making and describes the length of time between something occurring and the event being reflected in the information. Current marketing information thus describes marketing data that report on the most recent events.

Source: Ashill & Jobber

Information aggregation refers to the degree of summarization performed on information. Information accuracy refers to the extent to which the output information is sufficiently correct to satisfy its intended use. Accurate information thus describes data, which are correct for their intended use. Personal information sources involve direct contact with other individuals (such as face to face conversations, telephone conversations and meetings); impersonal information sources describe those sources of information which are written in nature, such as computer generated reports and market research reports.

 

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