THE ROLE OF MICROCOMPUTERS IN SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING
Two major trends appear to be taking shape in American business and the field of business education. First, there is an overwhelming interest in entrepreneurship, and second, technology has had a strong effect on business and business education.
As Albert Shapero noted in this journal, "Entrepreneurship is in.'1 Numerous academic institutions are either expanding existing programs in entrepreneurship or creating new ones. Many successful entrepreneurs are supporting such activities with their own time and financial resources. Most academicians will admit that an increasing number of traditional students are now more interested in the area of entrepreneurship and small business.
1 Albert Shapero, "Why Entrepreneurship? A Worldwide Perspective,' Journal of Small Business Management (October 1985), p. 1.
Technological developments have affected both business and business education. Most educational institutions are stressing computer literacy and are putting together the resources necessary to give their students such knowledge. Small businesses have entered the high-tech world by purchasing microcomputer hardware and software. There is little doubt that such technology aids small businesses in competition with larger organizations.2
2 Stewart Malone, "Computerizing Small Business Information Systems,' Journal of Small Business Management (April 1985), p. 10.
These two "trends,' entrepreneurship and microcomputer acquisitions, have an important relationship. The microcomputer is an inexpensive tool which can be used productively by aspiring entrepreneurs. The power and inexpensiveness of the micro are now inextricably linked with the imagination, vision, and energy of the entrepreneur.
This combination of man and machine seems to offer a bright outlook for many small businesses, but the plea (especially by computer/software manufacturers and distributors) for small businesses to buy and use microcomputer products is not new, and more focus is needed. As Malone states, "the computer advertisements and text in some of the popular business magazines can seem like a wish list.'3
Microcomputer technology can be adopted to great advantage by many small businesses, but visions as to how it can and should be used have been too limited. Small businesses probably tend to use their micro systems mostly for bookkeeping/accounting and word processing. Although these uses are quite legitimate, small businesses must expand their microcomputer use into new areas. For example, small businesses can use their microcomputers to develop databases and modeling approaches to make better marketing decisions.
Achieving marketing success requires much more effort in information collection, analysis, and dissemination than many small business people recognize. A recent study by Lincoln and McCain4 indicates that small business retailers believe that increasing sales personnel productivity and measuring profitability are the two most important (out of 29) marketing decision areas. Solid data are required in order to make good decisions in either of these areas. For example, unless a retailer is able to directly tie sales, lead generation, etc. to the name of a specific salesperson, it may be difficult to fairly assess that salesperson's productivity.
4 Doug Lincoln and Gary McCain, "Marketing Decision-Making Problems Faced by Small Business Retailers,' Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science (Summer 1985), pp. 183-197.
The purpose of this study is to assess the extent to which today's small business microcomputer owners are using their microcomputers to make better marketing decisions. It explores the question: where and when are microcomputers helpful in the marketing decision-making process?
BUSINESS USE OF COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY--BACKGROUND
As this study investigated the manner and methods by which small businesses are using microcomputers to make marketing decisions, it is first important to understand the evolution of computer use in business. …