Marketing – Support System or Competitive Advantage?

Globalisation, liberalization and rapid technological developments have been changing business environments drastically in the recent decades. These trends are increasingly exposing businesses to market competition and thus intensifying competition. In such an environment, says Prof. Jehoshua Eliashberg, Sebastian S. Kresge Professor of Marketing and Professor of Operations and Information Management at Wharton, Univ of Pennsylvania, the role of marketing management support systems (MMSS) becomes exceedingly important for the
long-term growth of an organisation’s marketing expertise and success.

As firms race toward more competitive positions, knowledge becomes a significant driver of competitive advantage under a globally deregulated business environment. With the easing of national barriers, managing knowledge has become essential to accessing timely information about international competitive environments, regional growth rates, and economic and cultural issues for building a global business portfolio. The penetration of the Internet has been one of the major catalysts that are speeding up this process. With the increase in virtual collaboration and remote teaming among highly distributed teams across the globe, the partnering firms (or in specific cases, country subsidiaries with parent companies) need both explicit and tacit knowledge sharing. Businesses that were once organized along geographic lines are now re-orienting themselves according to markets, products, and processes.

In such a dynamic and competitive environment, the management of marketing functions becomes very important. It is challenging to manage diverse teams spread across geographical boundaries. One effective way to increase the efficiency of the marketing function is to make good use of marketing management support systems (MMSS) for the long-term growth of the organisation.

What does this mean to marketing in the context of the pharmaceutical industry? Can marketing here become collaborative in nature between industry and academia, in which a company identifies a series of problems whose solutions are developed by university-based scientists? Sure! This collaboration exists for both MNC as well as Indian players. From a knowledge management perspective, therefore, I make a distinction between academic knowledge (R&D work) and practice.

How can this be extrapolated to help the actual interface of a firm with its customer — the medical representative — deliver better quality of services ? Can the penetration of the Internet and the increase in virtual collaboration and remote teaming among teams across the globe help to create a central repository of company knowledge that is accessible to the med rep, on his PDA, as he talks to customers? Can we do away with information that is stale? Today a med rep discussing a 2009 study with a customer, claims to give him “oven-fresh” information! What if he can access the cumulative knowledge base of a company in real time? Can the Internet catalyzed dissemination of knowledge across geographical boundaries not help to provide real time information? This sort of service can help seperate the chaff from the grain, particularly in the genericized context of the Indian pharma market, where innovator firms struggle to gain share through differential services. I assume here, of course, that innovator firms possess knowledge banks that are more voluminous and clinically relevant to help clinicians make informed decisions.

In such a context must the marketing function continue to remain a support system or actively strive to create competitive advantage?

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