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«Role of Relationship Marketing in Competitive Marketing Strategy Nagasimha Kanagal Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore Abstract Competitive ...»

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Journal of Management and Marketing Research

Role of Relationship Marketing in Competitive Marketing Strategy

Nagasimha Kanagal

Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore


Competitive Marketing Strategy (CMS) has relationship marketing (RM) as one of the

key functionality in enhancing business performance. RM is defined as the identification,

establishment, maintenance, enhancement, modification and termination of relationships with

customers to create value for customers and profit for organization by a series of relational exchanges that have both a history and a future. Relational exchanges can be viewed under transaction cost analysis and social exchange theories depending on the context. The role of RM in CMS includes: guide moments of truth, improve profitability, build partnering, address ‘Customer Better’, buy in of customer attention, protect emotional well being, understand consumer psyche, build trust with customer. All these roles are observed empirically in the hotel industry, with some hotels placing emphasis on their extraordinary operations and services to engage with the customer.

Key words: relational exchanges, emotional well being, trust, profitability, partnering Journal of Management and Marketing Research

1.0. INTRODUCTION The purpose of competitive strategy is to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage (SCA) and thereby enhance a business performance (Bharadwaj, 1993). One of the major objectives of marketing strategy is to enhance the long-term financial performance of a firm. As such competitive marketing strategy serves to improve financial performance of the firm through the route of sustainable competitive advantages. There are four essential requirements for a resource/ skill to be a source of SCA (Barney, 1991). It must be valuable; it must be rare among competitors; it must be imperfectly imitable; there must not be any strategically equivalent substitutes for this resource skill. Sources of SCA leads to positional competitive advantage (differentiation and low cost). Sustainability of positional advantages leads to superior long-term market and financial performance. Formulating competitive marketing strategies also involves, recognizing relationships between elements of the marketing mix as well as assessing the impact of competitive and market conditions on marketing mix formulation. A model (Carpenter, 1987) has been outlined of the relationship between product quality levels, promotion expenditures and prices and assesses the impact of industry structure on the formulation of marketing mix.

Relationship marketing serves as a moderator for the sustenance of positional advantages and influences the impact of competitive and market conditions on the formulation of the marketing mix.

Competitive advantage is realized based on three factors (Sudarshan D, 1995): (1) the firm’s marketing strategy, (2) implementation of this strategy and (3) the industry context (Porter’s model). An important component of firm’s marketing strategy is relationships.

Relationships with customers, channel members and with competitors. He defines each relationship by the identity of the partner public and the contract with it.

1.1. Importance and Objective of the study:

There are two important streams of conceptual and empirical work in strategic marketing that have developed more or less independently during the past 10 years (Steinman, Deshpande and Farley, 2000), although the two are inherently interrelated. One stream is market orientation which focuses on the extent to which a customer focus binds suppliers and customers together.

The second stream is relationship marketing, which principally focuses on efforts of sellers, but also of buyers to some extent, to move from single transaction consummation to investment in longer term streams of mutually profitable partnership behaviors ( Anderson and Weitz, 1989;

Dwyer, Schurr and Oh, 1987; Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Weitz and Jap, 1995). In this context, the following objectives are laid for studying the role of relationship marketing in competitive

marketing strategy:

(1) Competitive marketing strategies (CMS) is a systematic action setting process as much as it is a dynamic adjustment process. By studying role of relationship marketing (RM), proper accordance can be given to RM in the systematic action setting. This helps improve the effectiveness of CMS formulation.

(2) By studying role of RM, marketing programs can be suitably designed to attract, develop customer segments. Resource allocations can be made more effective.

Role of Relationship Marketing, Page 2 Journal of Management and Marketing Research (3) If a particular market needs more relational marketing, then that market can be appropriately addressed for strategic decision making by studying role of RM.

The study is useful to marketing strategists who need to take relationship-marketing efforts into account and is also useful to relationship marketers who need to relate to strategic marketing heads.

In the study, first we examine the nature of relationship marketing. Second we lay out the framework of competitive marketing strategy and delineate the position of relationships. Third we conceptualize the role of relationship marketing to competitive marketing strategy. Fourth we empirically test the role of relationship marketing.


At the core of relationship marketing is exchange, that is profitable to parties involved in the exchange. The concept of exchanges as it applies to relationship marketing can be viewed at from either a transaction cost analysis approach or a social exchange theory approach.

Transactions are distinguished into discrete transactions and relational transactions.

Relational contract law governs relational transactions. In classical contract law that governs discrete transactions identity of parties is not relevant; however this is not true in relationship marketing. In relational contracting the reference point shifts from the agreement (as in classical contract law), to the relation itself as it has developed over time. There might be or might not be an original agreement and if there is, there may not be any great deference to it. In a relational transaction, the contractual gaps between parties are reduced, as the relation becomes stronger and stronger. The frequency with which transactions recur influence the terms of the transaction (discounts as in frequent flyer). The degree to which durable transaction specific investments are incurred determine the rapidity of commitment given and received, the time period of commitment and the intensity of the relation between two parties. Transaction specific investments (asset specificity in physical capital and human capital) leads to relational exchanges where trust is a prime moderator. As such non-specific exchanges leads to transaction marketing and for exchanges that are not non-specific the concept of Relationship marketing will hold (Williamson, 1979). The Williamsonian approach to understand relational contracting has been augmented (Anderson and Weitz, 1992), by postulating that whenever idiosyncratic investments are made by the exchanging parties in one another then there is a stronger commitment to the relationship. In a relationship the set of understandings that has grown up over time (the implicit contract) is more influential. Exclusivity to the other party is also seen as a signal of commitment. Further the relationship dyad has been examined from perspective of a strong buyer facing a large number of small suppliers ( Heide and John, 1992). It has been shown that relational norms do play a role in serving as a governance mechanism to safeguard against opportunistic behavior in the presence of transaction specific assets. It has also been shown that in case of a relationship dyad between a strong supplier and a large number of small buyers relational norms do not play a significant role (Berthon, Pierre et. Al, 2003).

George Homans (George Homans, 1961) first proposed social exchange theory. He said that exchanges of goods and services take place between two parties who are rational entities acting in their own self-interest and who will perform social action based on rewards and costs.

The exchange of goods and services take place not only for money but also for non-monetary benefits such as love, esteem, affection and approval. Such exchanges are social exchanges.

Social exchanges almost always involve an element of power, allowing one party to do activities Role of Relationship Marketing, Page 3 Journal of Management and Marketing Research the way it wants to do. Social exchanges involves interaction; interaction occurs when an activity emitted by one man is rewarded (or punished) by an activity emitted by another man. Social exchanges respect sentiment; sentiments are signs of the attitudes and feelings a party takes towards another party. This social exchange theory (George Homans, 1961) draws on the disciplines of behavioral psychology and elementary economics in proposing the principles of social exchange. Behavioral psychology decides on current actions based on past history of behavior / actions. Elementary economics decides on current action based on future stream of profits. It is difficult to balance these two directions. Further elementary economics assume perfect markets. Relationship marketing situations are far from perfect. Also relationships are built on future promises as much as on past behavior. In studying relationship marketing, both the transaction cost analysis and social exchange theory concepts can be used to explain and conceptualize relationship-marketing paradigms.

Relationship marketing refers to a wide range of ‘relationship type strategies’ that have developed over the past few decades in product as well as service markets and in consumer as well as business to business sectors. The antecedents of RM go to Industrial marketing and Services marketing. RM found ready acceptance in a marketing world where it had become obvious that strategic competitive advantage could no longer be delivered on the basis of product characteristics alone and where corporate profitability was beginning to become associated with satisfying existing customers (John Egan, 2001). Relationship marketing as contrasted to transaction marketing involves relational exchanges that trace to previous agreements. There are four types of buyer-seller relationships – bilateral relationships, seller-maintained relationships, buyer-maintained relationships, discrete exchanges (Dwyer, Schurr and Oh 1987). For a firm relational exchanges could occur with goods suppliers, services suppliers, business units, employees, functional departments, intermediate customers, ultimate customers, competitors, nonprofit organizations, government (Hunt and Morgan 1994). Though conceptualizing relationship marketing accommodates all types of above mentioned relational exchanges, an adequate definition of relationship marketing for the purpose of this paper will relate to exchanges with intermediate customers and ultimate customers. For example, it is also stated that (Berry, 1983) ‘Relationship marketing is attracting, maintaining and – in multi service organizations – enhancing customer relationships’.

In industrial marketing, relationship marketing is referred to as marketing oriented towards strong, lasting relationships with individual accounts (Jackson, 1985). From a sales management perspective, the term relationship marketing is applied to a number of different marketing activities ranging from consumer frequency marketing programs to selling activities directed towards building partnerships with key business – to – business customers (Weitz and Bradford, 1999). In developing long term relationships with channel members, it is stated (Anderson and Weitz, 1989) that such relationships combine the advantages of vertically integrated distributed systems (control and coordination), with the advantages of systems utilizing independent channel members (flexibility, scale economies, efficiency and low overhead). They also state that channel relationships are dependent on (1) continuity of relationship (2) trust and (3) communications.

Many global packaged goods manufacturers regard resellers (wholesalers, retailers) as their customers. The literature cites the case of Proctor and Gamble who regard retailers as their customers and Intel which has built its business around OEM customers (Webster Jr., 2000).

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