Marketing of Information Products and Services
The nature of the information marketplace is under continual evolution. Two of the most powerful drivers of change in ‘the new economy’, information and communication technology and the internationalization of the marketplaces, are impacting even more strongly on the marketplace for information products and services than on other business sectors. All organizations in the information industry, irrespective of whether they are in the public or private sector, need to form new strategic alliances, identify new market segments, and evolve new products and, in general, manage changing relationships between suppliers and customers. If organizations in the information marketplace are to survive and flourish, they need to be confident about their mission and role, and to be continually alert to technological, economic, political and social factors that are re-shaping the context in which they seek to serve users, contribute to communities, attract and retain customers, and establish and maintain relationship with other organizations.
In such an environment, suppliers need to employ the full armory of marketing concepts, approaches and tactics. An organization that embraces the marketing concept tries to provide products that satisfy customer needs through a co-ordinate set of activities that also allow the organization to achieve its goals. Customer satisfaction is the major aim of marketing. The marketing concept should affect all areas and activities of the organization and not just promotional activities, or those activities performed through the marketing department. Marketing needs to permeate the organization; it should influence operational, tactical and strategic decision- making and actions. Rowley1 (2006) defines information marketing “as the Marketing of information-based products and services”. The Typical information- based products include books, DVDs, CDs, journals articles, databases, electronic journals, newspapers and databanks. Typical information-based services include services providing access to databases, electronic current-awareness service, business consultancy services, subject gateways and portals, and web-based information services.
Libraries, bookshops, database producers, online search services, business intelligence services and portals act as the interface between the consumer and producer in respect of these products. Marketing of information products and services in India is fairly a new concept in the library and information service field. As a result of the complex and multi-dimensional activities of the society, the demand for information products and services is steadily expanding. In addition, the factors such as rising cost of the documents, change in information demand, increasing competition from the emerging information industry etc. necessitate the use of marketing techniques in libraries. To survive in the modern technological and competitive world, libraries must rise up to the situation to provide the right information to the right user at the right time in the required manner. For this purpose libraries have to use marketing strategies, which are used in other service organizations.
Users’ satisfaction in the 21st century will surely go beyond the boundaries of any library as the emphasis in librarianship is focused on customer service. As information is no longer location-dependent, librarians must now accept the fact that they cannot assume that users will continue to view them as the principal information providers. Developments in information and communications technologies (ICTs) and the Internet are two catalysts of change in the info academic environment. They are leading, to a large extent, to the replacement of the physical library with the virtual library of resources available elsewhere. The Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) have made it possible for users to locate what they need without entering the library. Online subject search is now the order of the day and the virtual library is the challenge of the future. This move from traditional manual to electronic procedures means that librarians have to change their attitude and techniques to offer a more proactive service.
Librarians should now be aware that they are no longer the sole link between information users and the online store of knowledge, as users are able to independently search the Internet and the Web themselves. Internet technologies provide unique opportunities by bringing together people who are geographically distant but belong to similar communities. Scholars in the same fields of specialization share their views and visions online. The virtual library is certainly the library of the future, and librarians need a change of attitude to enable them embrace this new challenge to their profession. Limited financial and personnel resources will be no excuse for not being in the centre of the information universe.
ICTs are an important tool for development, but they do not create development. Information development becomes sustainable when the people that use information participate in its production and information becomes knowledge through the process of being used. Users need to be educated and trained on how to use ICT effectively to enhance their teaching and research. Librarians must rethink access tools, develop intelligent databases and redesign their organizations to enable them to face the challenge of ICTs. Professional library staff should be trained in ICT skills to enable them assist and educate users. Training in ICT skills and management expertise should be a continuous exercise. Staff needs this expertise to enable them to handle the change from traditional to electronic ways of managing library resources, as a dynamic information environment demands continual renewal of skills. With ICT, libraries have to re-order their priorities; old systems have to make way for new and useful ones to suit the electronic age. For effective services, the acquisition of relevant skills is vitally important. Just as a library is only as good as its catalogue, so the value of the Internet depends to a large extent on the tools used to search it. The use of search tools such as AltaVista, Google and Info seek, to find Internet resources on specific subjects often leads to disappointing results as lots of irrelevant sources are obtained.
Table 1.0: Paradigm shift in Information Services Management. Gupta & Jambhekar2 (2003)
|Former Pattern||Emerging Pattern|
|A library as building, a place, where customers had to come physically in order to avail themselves of library services.||We are in the service business, through which information is reached to the right user at the right time in the right form. Library acts as a window to the world of information.|
|Whenever there was a need for the user to go to the library and if there was not any need, there was no effort at library’s end. Library staff just waited for users to come with the need. The responsibility of non-use or under use of the library resources and services was placed on the users.||We are more comfortable with the relationship with users. It needs to be continuous, through better understanding of users and their needs, intimacy among both the parties and developing trust.|
|Library was considered inherently desirable for the users and dependency of the users largely rested with the library. There was always an effort to make the library good for the future in place of meeting the present requirements.||Users now have different options to acquire the desired information. We are not the sole suppliers of information; now have options to get it, even at their offices or at home. As such, our existence depends on them they are not dependent on us.|
|There was lot of emphasis on what the library staff said about the availability of resources. Users did not have much place to state his requirements.||Through interactive media, two communications are possible, among users and the library. Now users expect to be treated like customers they want individuality, responsiveness and a relationship.|
|Rules were set to serve the interest of the providers of the information and for the convenience of the staff.||Rules made to support individual users should be a hurdle in their reach of the library.|
|There were no strategic steps planned for improvements in the services, it was not a continual activity.||In fast changing times libraries need to restructure/reshape their resources and services on a continual basis.|
|There was a common understanding among librarians that library services were free and the concept was an ingredient that free service meant no service. Service if provided is an obligation towards the users.||Users do not mind paying if they are offered some value in the product and services.|
|We need librarians who speak out about the libraries needs, raise awareness on campuses and in communities. And push for appropriate funding even as they work miracles with marginal resources. Multiple access to information, customer convenience is foremost, extending a range of formats, staff activity involved in the community, advocacy, etc.|
Librarians are thereby challenged to develop sophisticated search tools to enable them select and evaluate internet resources in particular disciplines and subjects. Meeting users’ needs by improving resources and expertise in searching techniques is a good index of an active library. Users’ perceptions of a library service that undertakes this approach usually change for the better. Expertise in database search (print and electronic) is thus an important factor in the marketing of information services; and signs of active marketing indicate that the services being rendered are healthy and competitive.
A. Concept of Marketing:
Concept Marketing of any commodity means working with market to actualize potential exchange for the purpose of satisfying human needs and wants of that commodity. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of its final result that is from the point of view of the customer. Marketing is the systematic gathering, recording and analyzing of data about problems relating to the marketing of products (goods) and services.
According to American Marketing Association (AMA) “Marketing is the performance of business activities that directs the flow of goods and services from the producer to the consumer or user”.
According to Kotler3 (2006) “Marketing means working with markets to actualize potential exchanges for the purpose of satisfying human need and wants”.
Thus, marketing shall at least encompass the following aspects:
-Flow of goods from producer to customer or consumer in exchange for money i.e. through value exchange.
-Satisfaction of wants and needs of the customers or consumers. Chartered Institute of Marketing expressed that “Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”.
Another definition by American Marketing Association (AMA) “Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders”.
B. Marketing of Information Products and Services:
Information is power and libraries and information centers are the reservoir of this power. The marketing of information implies transference of information to the perspective or potential user for a consideration. Marketing of information is a set of activities by which information products and services are channeled to the potential users. The core of marketing concept is user oriented. Therefore marketing and its techniques if applied to library and information services can help in vital to fulfill the expected needs of information of the users. Marketing helps in increasing user satisfaction, and brings in an element of competition, which results in providing better services. Focus is on saving time, money and labour and also adapting to the latest information technology.
In libraries users are made to pay for the services in the form of annual subscription, caution deposit, fine, penalty for lost books/ damaged book etc. This was only to make the user prompt in using library facilities. Of late the concept changed dramatically and information became a tradable commodity now, which has led to the emergence of marketing in libraries. Today the high value of information and its importance as a strategic resource for the development of a nation has changed the information into a product for selling in the markets.
C. Some Information Product Categories
a) Documents (most exist in both print and electronic formats)
- Learned journals academic journals
- Professional journals
- Newsletters and bulletin boards
2. Reference documents:
- Bibliographies and bibliographic databases
- Directories and databanks
- Adult fiction, classics
- Adult fiction, popular
- Adult non-fiction, learned, textbooks
- Adult non-fiction, popular
- Children’s fiction
- Children’s non- fiction
- Paperback books
- Hardcover books
- Published reports from Government and other agencies
- Music CDs
- Multimedia documents
- Government publications
- Corporate reports-technical and business
- Conference proceeding
- Information services
- Document delivery and inter-library loans services
- End-user training
- Market research agencies
- Information service providers (ISPs)
- Alerting services
- Helpdesk services
- Consultancy services
- Financial and business information services
- Entertainment services
- Computing services. Rowley4 (2006).
D. Marketing Skills in Librarians:
Modern world is the world of mechanization and computerization. Every technological development has immediately on its invention influenced librarianship and library services tremendously. Due to various technological developments the face of library profession has changed dramatically. Library and information technologists predict a paperless society and an electronic future for the libraries. Today, libraries are concentrating on speedy access to information. The information super highway and Internet enables access to knowledge from one place at any time at the touch of a button. Thus, today the users are better equipped to seek and select the required information in required form by using sophisticated technologies. Now there has been an increasing demand for information in electronic form rather than print.
All these factors are forcing the professionals engaged in library and information services to rethink about the skill they have. The competitive marketing for products and services of information necessitate librarians to cultivate some of the following skills.
1. Analytical skills
The two basic analytical skills that a librarian must have are market analysis and product analysis. The market analysis is what the user wants and product analysis is what we are providing. A librarian should know the needs of his information users. Thus he should effort to provide library services in accordance with the needs of the users.
2. Planning Skills:
The librarian must be skilled with various planning skills like product development, distribution, promotion etc. Hence librarian should try to provide best services with minimum time and cost. He should also determine proper ways for the circulation of products as well as its accessibility to its
3. Organizing skills:
The marketing of information products and services should be a part and parcel of the organization policy. The staff for marketing should be properly trained and skilled. The whole organization of which the library is a part, need to be motivated for marketing activity.
4. Control skills:
These types of skills require controlling the market. The librarian should keep himself/herself informed of the behavioral responses. This will help the librarian to gear the services to the ever-changing demands of the users.
E. The Marketing Mix:
The ‘Marketing mix’ is a one way of profiling the offering that an organization seeks to make to its chosen customer groups. The marketing mix is frequently described in terms of the combination of four major tools of marketing viz., product, price, place and promotion known widely as the 4Ps. The extended marketing mix adds people, process, and physical environment (the 7Ps). For marketing mix the organization needs to undertake a range of processes in order to identify customer needs. One valuable source of such information is customers’ responses to current product offerings, which will be evident through sales and usage levels, customer’s server’s complaints and other channels through which the organization listens to its customers. Other data may be collected on customers’ attitude to potential new products, services or communication messages and to competitors’ products.
i. Product: This is the aspect of marketing mix that deals with the management of product. A product is everything that is received by the customer in a marketing exchange. Products can be ideas, goods, services, experience, organizations, persons or places, or a combination of two or more of these. The information industry offers access to information goods, such as books and databases, and also to services such as traditional library services, market research services and alerting services. A service is an activity or benefit that one party can offer to another that is essentially intangible and does not result in the ownership of anything Kotler, Keller, Koshy & Jha5 (2007). As differentiation from competitor offerings becomes more difficult on the basis of goods or services, organizations are increasingly looking to ‘experiences’ as their core offering. Experiences are memorable and personal, and extend beyond their component goods or services.
Most organizations have many products described as their product portfolio. They may for example offer a number of different information services or licenses for a range different databases. Information products are products whose core is information or knowledge. There is some discussion whether information products should be treated as a separate category of product, due to the unique nature of information.
Products have both functional characteristics and psychological characteristics; the later are captured by the brand. For example, an MP3 player has product attributes such as a storage capacity, size, colour, software, sound quality and battery life. It will also have psychological characteristics based on the user’s perceptions of the benefits that it offers such as ease of use, quality, innovative features, stylishness and reliability. There is typically a relationship between the functional and psychological characteristics of a product, and for services it can be particularly difficult to differentiate functional and psychological characteristics. For example, the customer’s perspectives will define whether helpfulness of staff or accessibility of information sources are functional or psychological characteristics.
Product decisions are important because they directly involve creating products that satisfy customers needs and wants. An organization needs to maintain a satisfactory set of products, this involves introducing new products modifying existing products and eliminating products that no longer satisfy customers and / or yield acceptable profits,
ii. Price: This covers activities associated with establishing pricing objectives and strategies and determining product prices. Price represents the agreed value of an exchange. Price may be used as a competitive tool and it is one of the marketing mix variables that can be changed relatively quickly to respond to changes in the environment. Price plays both an economic and psychological role. From an economic perspective, price is closely associated with costs and profits. From a psychological perspective, price may be used as an indicator of quality. In the service sector the psychological role of price is magnified because consumers must rely on price as the sole indicator of service quality, because the intangible nature of service means that other quality indicators are absent.
iii. Place: Products must be available at the right time and at a convenient location. Place is concerned both with consumer service delivery points such as retail outlets and libraries, but also with the distribution network that ensures that products make their way from producer or creator to the user or consumer. Delivery channels are significant factors within an industry and involve a complex web of organization relationship, in which collaboration and competition are equally important.
iv. Promotion: This can also be termed marketing communication and relates to activities used to inform one or more groups of people about an organization and its products. Promotion can be used more generally to increase public awareness of an organization and of new or existing products or alternatively, it can be used to educate consumer about product features, or to maintain public awareness of existing products. Promotion includes advertising, public relation, personal selling, online marketing communication and direct marketing. Promotion is one element of the two-way communication with customers that forms the basis for customer relationship.
Promotion of services presents specific difficulties because of their intangible nature. The intangible element is depicted in advertising, so service advertising needs to emphasize tangible clues, such as physical facilities or other concepts that project an image that reflects services. Tangible clue may be embedded in the environment, such as the building and service points occupied by a library building or the professionalism or the appearance of staff, but may also be used in picture form on publicity and websites. Personal selling is potentially powerful in services because this form of promotion allows customers and sales persons to interact. Customer contact personnel therefore have an important promotional function.
v. People: Most services use people in service delivery, often creating and delivering the product in interaction with the customer. The quality of the interaction between the service agent and the customer is a major influence on satisfaction. In services where the level of contact is high, as an in dentistry or physiotherapy, the customer needs to feel comfortable with service agent, to trust them and to develop a rapport with them, probably over a service relationship that comprises several service episodes. Even where the service is less intimate, as in a shop or a library, the attitude and responsiveness of the staff can make a difference to the acceptability of the service experience, and customer evaluation of service quality.
vi. Process: Services are manufactured and consumed live, and because they involve an interaction between two people, it is more difficult to exercise control and ensure consistency. The service process needs careful design; it may include queuing arrangements, processing customer detail payment, as well as elements of the core service delivery. For example call centre operator and help lines may have standard set or questions that they ask each caller. Once a customer has experienced a service process once, she / he will start to learn ‘the script’ which helps her / him to feel more comfortable with the process. In self-service environment as, for example, with a public access kiosk, the customer is taken through a process by the prompts on the computer screen. These prompts form the dialogue or the online script. The quality of the service delivery in online environment depends on customer’s competence even more heavily then in physical service delivery. It is important to remember that customers, as well as service agent, are part of service delivery.
vii. Physical Evidence: This is concerned with the physical surrounding from which a service is delivered, and with other tangible elements in a service episode. Physical evidence is important in service delivery because it is usually the only tangible clue that the customer has about the quality of the service experience. Thus information services should pay attention to the presentation of staff, atmosphere, and ambience, design of premises, cleanliness, colour palettes, tidiness, signage, heating, seating, accessibility and lighting. In online environments physical evidence is extremely limited. This is a very significant challenge in the marketing of digital information services since the absence of physical clue removes an important channel of communication with customers, and for customers an important source of evidence on which to base their preliminary judgment. In multi-channel or hybrid environment physical evidence from the ‘bricks’ channel may be used to support impressions relating to online channels. Where this is not possible, other elements of marketing-mix, such as product and their attributes and branding, become more important.
The marketing-mix is an important tool in creating and maintaining an offering that is of value to customers. Success of marketing depends on the right mix. In other words as product that lacks visibility amongst the potential customer group will fail; a marketing message that is not consistent with value that customer perceives the product to offer will mean that the promise does not match the delivery; this will lead to dissatisfaction and may damage customers attitudes to the organization or the brand. All elements of the marketing mix are interdependent, and must be consistent with one another. The most appropriate marketing mix depends upon the customer and is influence by the marketing environment. An organization needs to design and combine elements of the marketing mix in such a way as to create an offering that differentiates it from its competitors and creates a competitive advantage.
The elements of the marketing mix can be changed. However, change to most of the elements of the marketing mix are constrained by the organization’s existing resources (including its existing customer base), and the rate of change that is possible may at times be frustratingly slow. For example, library often occupy specific buildings; these are not always in the best locations to ensure the optimum of visits, but a new building must be negotiated over many years and through complex political processes.
Marketing as a philosophy and activity can make a significant contribution to organization in the information industry, whether they are in the public or private sector. Marketing is defined as a social and managerial process that is about people and communication. Marketing is about everything that an organization does or says. The marketing concept or marketing orientation emphasizes the importance of understanding the benefits that customer seeks, and developing shared notions of value. This knowledge and understanding can act as the platform for the development of the organizations’ offering. The extended marketing mix is a useful tool for describing the offer. The 7Ps of the marketing mix are: product, price, place, promotion, people, process and physical evidence etc. Rowley4 (2006)
- Riyazuddin. (2012). Marketing of Information Products and Services in Some Select NGO Libraries of Delhi and NCR in the Areas of Health Education and Women Studies.
- Rowley, Jennifer (2006) Information Marketing (2nd Ed.). London : Ashgate, P. 228.
- Kotler, Philip and Keller, Kevin Lane (2006) Marketing Management (12th Ed.). New Delhi : Pearson Education.
- Kotler, Philip; Keller, Kevin Lane; Koshy, Abraham and Jha, Mithileshwar (2007) Marketing Management: A South Asian Perspective (12th Ed.). New Delhi : Prentice Hall.
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- Connaway, Lynn Silipigni and Powell, Ronald R. (2010) Basic Research Methods for Librarians (5th Ed.). Santa Barbara : Libraries Unlimited.
- Rowley, Jennifer (2006) Information Marketing (2nd Ed.). London : Ashgate, P. 7 – 11.
- Gupta, D.K. and Jambhekar, A. (2003) An Integrated Approach to Services Marketing: A Book of Readings on Marketing of Library and Information Services. New Delhi : Allied Publishers, P. 328.