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Paper info: Relationalism as a Marketing StrategyAn Empirical Study among Finnish Business-to-Business Firms


Relationalism as a Marketing StrategyAn Empirical Study among Finnish Business-to-Business Firms


Arto Lindblom and Rami Olkkonen

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 21st IMP-conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2005.


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A host of business and industrial marketing literature has put long-term oriented, cooperative andbonded business relationships into research focus. Empirical field research - mainly in-depth casestudies - has identified them as the dominating governance structure in most industrial businesssettings. In this study, the following research questions are set: 1) In a population of business-tobusinessmarketing firms, what is the extent of firms that apply relational marketing practices and havebeen able to accumulate a high level of relationship assets?, 2) Are there any differences betweenvarious types of busines-to-business firms regarding the relational marketing practices and accruedrelationship assets? Relationalism of a marketing strategy is defined in terms of the cooperativenessof marketing practices and the level of accrued relationship assets within key business relationships ina specific business-to-business marketing context. The sample consisted of 212 business-to-businessmarketing firms in the Finnish metal and electrotechnical industry. MANOVA and ANOVA procedureswere utililized in the study. The study revealed that the respondent companies are on the averagerather relational in their marketing strategies. On the basis of our analysis of the marketing practicesand accrued relationship assets of the firms in the Finnish metal and electrotechnical industry, ageneral conclusion can be made that differences between various types of firms were not subtantiallysignificant. No strong and clear differences were found in marketing practices and relationship assetsbetween the groups of the employed independent variables. Although relationalism of the marketingstrategy in terms of marketing practices/relationship assets and firm profitability seem to have a weakconnection, our study cannot confirm the common belief that companies should strive towards thecreation of close and bonded relationships with their key customers in order to be more profitable thantheir competitors. Rather, it seems to be so that in the business-to-business context where themarkets are network-like, close relationships to key customers can be regarded more as a necessarycondition to survive than a sufficient condition to succeed.