Marketing Information Systems

Marketing information systems have been around for a long time - conceptually there is nothing particularly new about them. The original ones were paper-based systems in which summarised information was stored in large banks of filing

Marketing information systems cabinets. In comparison with current notions of information systems, the early paper-based systems were relatively inefficient. With the advent of computers, particularly desktop computers, the opportunity developed for marketing information systems to become more sophisticated and efficient.

A marketing information system is a way of systematically gathering and giving helpful marketing information to the right people on a continuous basis and at the right time. Since information needs, sources and costs alter with time, a review of any information system is desirable from time to time. Such a review should specify individual people's information requirements, at what times information is required and where it can be found.

Marketing managers use many different types of information and there are many ways of putting together a marketing information system. The required information can be classified in a number of different ways. One way of classifying the information is:

• internal information

• external information

• position information

• decision information

• forecast information.

Internal information is made up of sales reports, sales analyses and cost analyses related to sales. Most of the raw data already exist within the organisation and need to be processed or analysed so that they become helpful information. An information system facilitates this process.

External information refers to the size and structure of the market (or potential market) and to trends, opportunities and threats in the environment. It also includes information on competitors and customers, both existing and potential. Employees, customers and distributors contribute this form of marketing information.

Position information is created by combining internal and external information. For example, one might combine the enterprise's sales and the overall sales of the enterprise and its competitors in the market to calculate market share. In a similar fashion, internal strengths and weaknesses can be compared to those of competitors to find competitive advantage and unique selling points, and to ascertain whether any competitive advantage is sustainable.

Decision information results from various analyses which can involve mathematical and statistical treatment of data.

Forecast information can be based on either subjective opinions, ascertained by survey, or on statistical analysis of trends.

Some of this information can be obtained cheaply, while other forms take time to gather and analyse. There is a tradeoff between the value of information and its cost - in terms of both time and money. Executives must know which information affects which decisions and which information is essential.

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