May 25 - 31, 2009

Business firms are shifting to internet technologies to incorporate the stream of information in their internal business functions and their customers and suppliers. Companies are using the World Wide Web and intranets and extranets as the technology platform for their cross-functional and inter organizational information systems.

The business function of marketing is concerned with the planning, promotion, and sale of existing products in existing markets, and the development of new products and new markets to better serve present and probable customers.

Marketing information systems incorporate the information stream required by many marketing activities. Marketing information systems provide information for Internet/intranet web sites and services make an interactive marketing process possible where customers can become partners in creating, marketing, purchasing, and improving products and services.

Sales force automation systems use mobile computing and Internet technologies to computerize many information processing activities for sales support and management.

Other marketing systems assist marketing managers in product planning, pricing, and other product management decisions, advertising and sales promotion strategies, and market research and forecasting.

The volatile growth of Internet technologies has had a major impact on the marketing function. The term interactive marketing has been used to portray a type of marketing that is based on using the Internet, intranets, and extranets to set up two-way relations between a business and its customers or potential customers. The goal of interactive marketing is to enable a company to profitably use those networks to attract and keep customers who will become partners with the business in creating, purchasing, and improving products and services. Interactive marketing is enabled by various Internet technologies, including chat and discussion groups, web forms and questionnaires, and e-mail correspondence.

Targeted marketing has become a vital tool in emerging advertising and promotion strategies for a company's electronic commerce websites.

Target marketing is an advertising and promotion management model that includes five targeting components including Community, Content, Context, Demographic/Psychographic and Online Behavior. Ever more, computers and networks are providing the foundation for sales force automation. In many organizations, the sales force is being outfitted with laptop computers that connect them to Web browsers, and sales contact management software that connect them to marketing websites on the Internet, extranets, and their company intranets.

Sales force is a company's most expensive promotional resource. Continued business competition and sales force growth has resulted in increasingly aggressive promotion to future prospects, reducing the average duration of detailing visits and weaken share of voice with the clients. Changes in customer's information needs across a product's lifecycle have resulted in requirements for more responsive and flexible promotional efforts. New sales force tactics are being considered all over the globe, such as the implementation of new Customer Relationship Management approaches and investments into new technologies. Wireless sales force automation is a new phenomenon emerging in the industry. Mobile sales representatives can now use light weight palm devices that turn on and off instantly. They run all day on a singe battery charge with user-friendly environment and keep important data automatically synchronized with PCs & corporate servers.

Marketing decision support systems comprise a set of core applications of the marketing information system. The marketing decision support system provides computer-based tools, models, and techniques to support the marketing manager's decision process. In the common case, marketing decision support systems is optimized for queries of historical data. Marketing decision support system data typically are extracted from both internal and external market sources. The Marketing decision support system features inquiry and report generation functions where the manager can access marketing data, analyze it statistically, and use the results to determine an optimal course of action.

Geographical Information Systems enable marketers to geographically map their customers, competitors, suppliers, sales concentrations, prospects, suppliers and partners. Newer systems have integrated global positioning system (GPS) capability for location reports from resources in motion such as mapping transportation fleet movements, sales representative reporting, and locating and managing key assets in real time. Geographical Information Systems data provide powerful new visualization opportunities for customer data that can link consumer behavior to a fixed location at a specified time.

The swift acceptance of Internet-based technologies and the development of electronic business and electronic commerce applications are having a radical impact on the marketing discipline. Marketing information systems, in particular, are being changed as these new technologies are enabling the incorporation of marketing, sales and customer service activities. The key drivers of this transfer are the assurance of delivering improved value to the customer more speedily and at less cost. Future implementations of marketing information systems will increasingly engage the customer in the value creation process and work to more effectively support the enterprise and its supply chain on rapidly changing market prospects.

The writer is lecturer, Defence Authority College of Business, Karachi