An executive summary for managers and executive readers can be found at the end of this article

Contemporary marketing practices of consumer and business-to-business firms: how different are they?
Nicole E. Coviello
Associate Professor, Faculty of Management, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada

Roderick J. Brodie

Department of Marketing, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand Keywords Relationship marketing, Inter-firm comparisons, Canada, New Zealand Abstract The literature has traditionally argued that marketing in firms serving consumer markets is, and should be, different from that in firms serving business markets. This research investigates the marketing practices of 279 firms in Canada and New Zealand to examine the relevance of the consumer/B2B dichotomy in the context of a contemporary conceptual framework. The results show that while consumer firms are somewhat more transactional in their approach to the market and B2B firms are more relational, overall patterns of marketing practice are similar across firm type. Theoretical, practical, and research implications are discussed.

Classic dichotomies

As the marketing literature has evolved over recent decades, we have witnessed the emergence of a number of classic dichotomies; dichotomies which are used to define our research and educational practices, journals and textbooks. Such dichotomies suggest that marketing practice is ``different'' for firms with different types of customers (e.g. consumer vs business), different market offerings (e.g. goods vs services), different geographic scope (e.g. domestic vs international), or different size and age characteristics (e.g. small vs large, or newer vs more established firms). All of these perspectives evolved in the context of a particular view of marketing explicitly defined by the AMA in 1985 (Marketing News, 1985) to involve:
F F F the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals.

Since the mid-1980s, however, academic interest has begun to focus on issues associated with the management of relationships. The concept of ``relationship marketing'' was first defined (in a services marketing context) by Berry (1983, p. 25) as:
F F F attracting, maintaining, and ± in multi-service organizations ± enhancing customer relationships.

Other early proponents of relationship marketing base their views in business-to-business markets (Ford, 1980; Ha Ê kansson, 1982; Dwyer et al., 1987). Yet others take a more holistic perspective (Gummesson, 1987;
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Overall. . we focus on a classic dichotomy that is well established in the literature: consumer versus business-to-business (B2B) marketing. Managerial perspective From a managerial perspective. long purchase cycles. He argues that systems-selling typifies B2B marketing. we seek to identify and understand both differences and similarities across these types of organizations. 5 2001 383 . symmetry. product complexity. 1994). each of which essentially argues that B2B markets are different from consumer markets along a number of dimensions (Ames. and buyer-seller relationships differ from those found in consumer markets. 16 NO. Ames (1970) also argues that marketing in the industrial world is more of a general management responsibility than in consumer firms. We then explain the research method. For example. 1990. By examining the practices of consumer/B2B firms in the context of a conceptual framework that integrates both transactional and relational marketing. to the point where marketing has been described simply as the process of managing relationships (Gro È nroos. business relationships are considered to be different from those in the consumer domain due to their continuity. 1986. and often multiple individuals are involved in the purchase decision process. Two hypotheses are also developed for examination. Webster (1978) differentiates B2B marketing by focusing on the characteristics of: . 16) argues that any similarities that might be identified between B2B and consumer markets are superficial. in order to improve our research. VOL. Theory and hypotheses The consumer/B2B dichotomy was established in the marketing literature by a number of persuasive theoretical works. we believe it is now appropriate to understand whether or not they are still relevant in the context of the more modern view of relational marketing. In this paper. For example. Morgan and Hunt. Cooke. and informality. This review highlights the dearth of empirical studies investigating the consumer/B2B dichotomy. The paper proceeds with an introduction to the literature supporting this study. 1978). buyer decision processes. 1987. p. concluding that: JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. Indeed. and present the results and implications. This latter point is reinforced by Gruen (1995) as well as Ha Ê kansson and Snehota (1995) who argue that business marketing is driven by relationships. B2B marketing Given the various marketing dichotomies which have emerged in the context of what may be considered the traditional view of marketing.Gro È nroos. relationships with unique structural and process characteristics. complexity. and a varying and fragmented market structure. and managerial practice. Lilien (1987) argues that B2B markets are unique due to their derived demand. Lilien. 1996). Lilien (1987. Industrial buyers are described by Lilien as heterogeneous in terms of their number and size. the prevailing view of the literature supporting the dichotomy rests on the conceptual argument that B2B market characteristics and influences. with products sold in a decentralized manner. educational processes. Webster. 1970. and buying process complexity. and both he and Webster (1978) note that B2B markets are characterized by functional interdependence and buyer-seller interdependence.

general marketing or advertising activities. the nature and role of the product manager (Cummings et al. Jackson and Cooper (1988) note that although differences in consumer and business buying behaviors are generally accepted and understood. and their results clearly challenge the consumer/B2B dichotomy by finding few differences across executive perceptions of their firm's marketing environment and its marketing strategies. Overall. Avlonitis and Gounaris. the belief that marketing in consumer and B2B firms is fundamentally different appears to have been heavily influenced by strong conceptual arguments. 1997). market orientation. Furthermore. That is. VOL. and the detailed results of three others offer only partial support for the dichotomy in spite of concluding there are differences between B2B and consumer marketing (Kelly and Hise. most of the extant empirical studies rely on what might be considered a ``traditional'' view of marketing for their conceptual and analytical framework. only Andrus and Norvell (1990) specifically focus on marketing practices per se. and perceptions of problem areas. 1985. 1990. Cooke (1986) also argues that it is not realistic to assume the same marketing strategies can be used for consumer and B2B products. Investigations A review of the nine investigations reveals only four that support the consumer/B2B dichotomy. Given these patterns. 1987). Turley and Kelley. and may not reflect contemporary practice. Apparently these views have been widely accepted in spite of Fern and Brown's (1984) argument that the dichotomy is unjustified and characterized by a number of weaknesses including a lack of empirical support..F F F consumer-based approaches will fail in most cases due to simplifying and naõ Ève assumptions. he argues that B2B markets must be handled differently than consumer markets. the concern raised by Fern and Brown (1984) regarding a lack of empirical evidence appears to be reasonable in that the extant literature shows mixed results based on a relatively small number of studies. 1988). only nine studies can be found which empirically test the dichotomy to understand this issue.. Zeithaml et al. Indeed. and perceptions of the market research function (Deshpande and Zaltman. the same cannot be said for differences in marketing approaches. 1997). 16 NO. Dawes and Patterson. These studies showed differences in the nature and influence of the market orientation in consumer vs business firms (Parasuraman et al. 1983. of the nine empirical investigations that were identified. 1979. In contrast.. Furthermore. 1984). most of these investigations are dated. The weak empirical evidence pertaining to the issue of how firms practice marketing in the context of this classic dichotomy therefore leads to the first research question: are marketing practices really different between consumer and B2B firms? In addition. and the marketing research function. These studies address issues related to the role or characteristics of the product manager. However. 5 2001 Conceptual arguments . their conclusions are drawn from data that have been generated and examined in the context of the marketing mix 384 JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. and this seems to have led to the assumption that consumer and B2B marketing practices must also be different. and Webster (1978. These arguments were developed from a general understanding that consumer and business buyer behaviors are different. Consequently. business strategies. 24) argues that the ``complexity'' of B2B markets calls for new approaches that: F F F must be different from those found in consumer marketing. two studies fail to support the dichotomy (Andrus and Norvell. p.

Thus. Ford. 1992) where it is argued that it is more important to focus on the development and management of ``relationships''. 5 2001 385 . Such relationships may extend beyond final customers to include suppliers. to incorporate a more relational view of marketing. Relational dimension Interestingly. it is the relational dimension of business markets that has been commonly used to differentiate B2B marketing from that of consumer marketing (Webster. establishing. This implies that any discussion or examination of marketing practices comparing consumer and B2B firms should extend beyond the simple marketing mix model that is prevalent in the literature. What follows is a brief summary of various conceptualizations of marketing practice in the relational paradigm. and a variety of other market contacts (Webster. however. What is important to recognize. promotion. 16 NO. this environmental and structural change is accompanied by a shift in the way marketing is being organized and practiced (Morgan and Hunt. 1994). Morgan and Hunt (1994. academic and managerial interest has evolved beyond the narrow focus on consumer goods markets. 1992. developing. This includes a classification framework useful for empirical investigation and JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. and one commonly used definition is that offered by Gro È nroos (1991. price. buyers are more demanding. Markets are more global and technologically sophisticated. and enhancing (and when necessary. competition is more intense. and maintaining successful relational exchanges. and distribution are managed in order to attract customers and generate transactions. 1994. At that time. Webster. and as summarized by Hutt and Speh (1998. p. 32): F F F relationship management constitutes the heart of business marketing. This is done by a mutual exchange and fulfillment of promises. This emphasis is perhaps to be expected given the widespread acceptance of the marketing mix/4P model in both the marketing literature and educational practice during the period in which these studies were conducted. 1980). Today. This paradigm is generally referred to as relationship marketing. 34) define relationship marketing as: F F F all marketing activities directed towards establishing. Gro È nroos. the interest in. 8): Marketing is the process of identifying. and clearly. Morgan and Hunt. and this is in turn challenging the traditional view of the discipline. the second research question then becomes: how do the marketing practices of consumer firms compare to those of B2B firms. however. According to Sheth et al. 1994). p. with primary attention focused on the practices of large consumer good firms serving mass markets. at a profit. so that the objectives of all parties involved are met. major changes are occurring within both the marketing environment and business organizations. it is important to understand both the traditional and relational marketing paradigms.model where the variables of product. is that empirical research on the dichotomies has been conducted using a model that emerged in the 1950s. VOL. the business environment was quite different. 1978. when examined in the context of a more relational (and less traditional) view of marketing? To answer this question. also terminating) relationships with customers and other stakeholders. channel intermediaries. and emphasis on relationships is likely to redefine the domain of marketing. 1992. Similarly. p. (1988). A new paradigm of thought has emerged (Kotler. maintaining. Environmental and structural change Perhaps not surprisingly.

or practiced by. relationship marketing emphasizes product benefits with high service. networks. Bagozzi's theoretical framework provides the basis for distinguishing between a discrete transaction and a sequence of transactions that lead to relationships between buyers and sellers and other actors involved in a marketing system. ranging from transactions and repeated transactions. He describes marketing as exchange systems of actors.two hypotheses regarding the nature of marketing practice as it relates to the consumer/B2B dichotomy. (1997. VOL. the dominating marketing function and quality dimension. and now include four exchange dimensions and five managerial dimensions. B2B goods and services are more likely to employ relationship marketing. (1997) for details on the development of the conceptual framework). Webster (1992) outlines an extended continuum of marketing relationships. For example. with consumer packaged goods normally characterized by transaction marketing. Conceptualizations of marketing practice Bagozzi (1975) first suggested the notion that exchange is a central concept of marketing. and can be differentiated by a series of dimensions derived from an extensive review of the literature (see Coviello et al. measurement of customer satisfaction. At the same time. customer contact. (1991) explain that traditional or transaction marketing is focused on a single sale in the short term. rather than viewing traditional and relational marketing as mutually exclusive. In contrast. That is. 16 NO. They analyzed and synthesized the literature to develop an integrated conceptual framework that reflects a pluralistic view of marketing practice. functional interdependence. but also the type of customer served and the stage of business life cycle. price elasticity. (2000). JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. through to long-term relationships. Coviello et al. Beyond these essentially dichotomous classifications. These dimensions (originally 12) were refined and operationalized by Brodie et al. More recently. while relationship marketing is focused on customer retention over the longer term. each of these approaches is distinct. and involves moderate customer contact and limited customer commitment. (1997) and later Coviello et al. relationships and causes (endogenous and exogenous). the customer information system. In contrast. The key point of the framework is that rather than position the various marketing approaches on a continuum. Nevertheless. 2000) argue that any or all of the approaches might be relevant to. and the role of internal marketing. (1997) undertook an extensive review of the wider marketing literature encompassing both the traditional and relational views of marketing. Gro È nroos notes that the choice of approach used (either transactional or relational) may depend not only on the offer. and vertical integration. buyer-seller partnerships. A more complex view is offered by Gro È nroos (1991) who argues that transaction and relationship marketing differ in their time perspective. an organization at a given time. Christopher et al. Transaction marketing A variety of other authors have since attempted to differentiate traditional marketing (sometimes referred to as transaction marketing) from relationship marketing. 5 2001 Integrated conceptual framework 386 . Coviello et al. strategic alliances. they suggest that marketing is characterized by multiple complex processes that are manifested in four different approaches to marketing practice (see Table I). and customer commitment. he argues that a continuum exists. Transaction marketing is said to be oriented towards product features with low service emphasis.

g. at both a business and social level) Co-ordination (interaction between sellers. buyers. interpersonal (close. etc.) Connected relationships between firms (in a network) External market assets (focusing on developing the firms position in a network of firms) General manager JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. VOL. and customer at a profit) customer. etc. product development manager) Purpose of exchange Economic transaction Notes: Adapted from Coviello et al. decreased customer risk. sales service manager. and attain facilitate a cooperative relationship for other objectives such as increased mutual benefit) loyalty. market access.g. and cooperation) Duration of exchange Discrete (yet perhaps over time) Discrete and over time Continuous (ongoing and mutually adaptive. develop.e. customer Managers from across functions and Managerial level Functional marketers (e. promotion capabilities) information. increase profit. 16 NO. 5 2001 Information and economic transaction Interactive relationships between a buyer and seller Nature of communication Firm ``to'' mass market Firm ``to'' targeted segment or Individuals ``with'' individuals (across individuals organizations) Type of contact Arms-length. on product/service. loyalty manager) levels in the firm manager.Transaction marketing Transactional perspective Database marketing Interaction marketing Relational perspective Network marketing Connected relationships between firms Firms ``with'' firms (involving individuals) Impersonal ± interpersonal (ranging from distant to close) Continuous (stable yet dynamic. and other parties across multiple firms for mutual benefit. (1997. price. based on commitment. trust. may be short or long term) Formal and informal (i. 2000) Table I. Four marketing approaches classified by exchange and managerial dimensions 387 .) Managerial focus Product or brand Product/brand and customers (in a Relationships between individuals targeted market) External market assets (focusing on Managerial investment Internal marketing assets (focusing Internal marketing assets establishing and developing a (emphasizing communication. impersonal Personalized (yet distant) Face-to-face. resource exchange. relationship with another individual) distribution. and technology capabilities) Specialist marketers (e. may be short or long term) Formality in exchange Formal Formal (yet personalized via Formal and informal (ie at both a technology) business and social level) Managerial intent Customer attraction (to satisfy the Customer retention (to satisfy the Interaction (to establish.

impersonal process. but now involves both economic and information exchange. and supporting technology and information. More specifically. and managers focus on developing internal capabilities related to the marketing mix. interaction marketing activities involve face-to-face interactions within relationships. network marketing encompasses relationships at both the individual and firm level. the focus is still on the market transaction. Relationships are established between individuals. as a result of developing and maintaining individual. They do not generally involve ongoing interpersonal communication and interaction between individuals. Interaction marketing is not the responsibility of a specialist marketer per se (as in database marketing). thus allowing firms to compete in a manner different from mass marketing. transaction marketing involves activities where a firm attracts and satisfies potential customers by managing the elements in the marketing mix. and in the context of a formal. rather than ``with'' the customer. The seller actively manages the exchange. the intent is to use technology to help retain customers over time. Database marketing Database marketing involves applying a tool or technique to develop and manage long-term relationships between the company and its targeted customers. At a managerial level. Rather. and manages communication ``to'' buyers in the mass market. and can occur in both a formal and informal manner. interaction marketing can involve a number of individuals across functions and levels in the firm. it is an internal and controllable marketing asset managed by specialist marketers. albeit over time. at arms length. Marketing is still ``to'' the customer. In this marketing activity. but are facilitated and personalized through the use of technology. the managerial focus widens to include both the product/brand and specifically targeted customers. That is.In this framework. Thus. While database marketing involves a certain form of relationship that is personalized yet distant. This is generally accomplished through business and social transactions over time. where firms commit resources to develop a position in a network of relationships. In this approach to marketing. nor is the practitioner necessarily in the position of seller. Relationships per se are not close. Marketing occurs at the individual level based on social processes and personal interactions. 16 NO. VOL. Network marketing Network marketing activities occur across organizations. Marketing activities are usually relegated to functional marketing areas. managers focus on marketing a product/brand to an identified group of customers. and may encompass both buying and selling activities. Because the relationships are part of a larger net. 5 2001 388 . and exchange is discrete. and are therefore asymmetrical (similar to transaction marketing). they can range from close (interpersonal) to distant (impersonal). The marketer relies on information technology (e. with the parties being mutually active and adaptive.g. Coordination of parties through network marketing may be conducted by general managers or by ``part-time'' marketers from all areas in the JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. Communication patterns are generally driven and managed by the seller. interaction marketing is truly ``with'' the customer. as both parties in the dyad invest resources to develop a mutually beneficial and interpersonal relationship. At a managerial level. Managerial investment for database marketing is in the tool/technique. This approach involves creating discrete economic transactions that are generally treated in isolation. and have varying levels of dependence and degrees of communication. in the form of a database or the Internet) to create a type of relationship. interaction-based relationships.

All parties and their communication efforts are directed towards relationship building between buyers and sellers (at a micro level) and firms (at a macro level). the relevance of the Coviello et al. and so on. the literature review clearly suggests that the marketing practices of firms serving business markets are driven by relationships that are complex. competitors. distributors. the framework recognizes and encompasses the established European perspective on interaction. First. where the ``seller'' can be any or a number of a individuals in the organization. Empirical investigation Thus. it complements Christopher et al. it facilitates empirical investigation on the dichotomies in an underrepresented yet important area: marketing practice. and able to be operationalized for the purposes of comparing different approaches to marketing across different types of firms. This leads to the following hypothesis. 1970). 16 NO. the dichotomy argument is based on a traditional. Hypotheses To summarize the literature. focused on marketing practice. Relationships may be with customers. we offer two hypotheses that examine the relevance of the dichotomy in the context of both transactional and relational marketing. interpersonal. framed in the context of the classification scheme developed by Coviello et al. or even outside the organization. (1997): H1. 5 2001 389 . as well as more recent developments in the marketing literature that reflect the use of technology in marketing and the role of network relationships. (1991). there is: . the dominant view of the marketing literature appears to be that marketing is ``different'' in consumer and B2B organizations. 1978). somewhat transactional conceptualization of marketing. (1997) framework to this research is seen in two ways. It therefore integrates both traditional and relational paradigms of marketing thought and provides a more relevant base from which to examine marketing practices in different contexts (compared with the reliance on the traditional paradigm that prevails in the extant literature). . it extends our view of marketing from the traditional (transactional) perspective or a simple transactional/relational dichotomy. and involving interdependence between buyer and seller (Webster. Gro È nroos (1991) and Webster (1992) by offering a framework that is: . including senior executives (Ames.organization. VOL. Marketing practices To improve our understanding of the contemporary marketing practices of consumer and B2B firms. and a dearth of investigations focused on marketing practices in the dichotomous context. Nevertheless. Firms serving business markets are more likely to practice interaction marketing (IM) and network marketing (NM). and no empirical research comparing relational marketing practices across the dichotomy can be identified. . a lack of consistent empirical support for the consumer/B2B dichotomy. Overall. Furthermore. Volume sales and JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. Second. to a more pluralistic view. In contrast to B2B firms. That is. First. the relationship between buyers and sellers in consumer firms is one characterized as an arms-length marketplace transaction enacted through relatively indirect channels. suppliers.

The study involves convenience samples of working managers participating in part-time MBA programs in each country. They were enrolled in the introductory marketing course that was taught by members of the research team.1 68.6 44.8 18.0 15.8 15. Type of product offer Goods Services c.2 42.8 Canada (n = 94) 37. sales promotion. geographically dispersed market. Firms serving consumer markets are more likely to practice transaction marketing (TM) and database marketing (DM). Size* < = 100 employees > 100 employees d.4 28.3 16. and sales growth rate (see Table II). This variable was controlled for in data analysis. p = 0.9 55.8 44. This is facilitated by technological advancements that allow for the development of more direct one-to-one relationships with consumers in mass markets (Sheth and Parvatiyar.2 Questionnaire Note: *Chi-square (degrees of freedom): 10.6 40.4 13. it is likely that in contemporary marketing.6 48. however.7 55.3 15.9 44.1 44.3 31. VOL. 16 NO. it is recognized that relational concepts have begun to be applied in consumer markets.7 51. Iacobucci and Hibbard. Method Data collection method and sample A self-administered structured questionnaire was developed to collect quantitative data pertaining to aspects of marketing practice and both respondent and organizational demographics. They also share similar cultural characteristics (Hofstede. Data from the two countries were pooled for analytic purposes.1 64. again framed in the context of the classification framework adopted in this study: H2. Type of market served Consumer B2B b. Growth rate Decreased/no change (change in sales over 3 yrs) 1-10% growth > 10% growth New Zealand (n = 185) 34.8 13. Size.4 55. type of product offer. and public relations efforts to reach a large.3 55. 5 2001 . 1980). Of note however. Age Less than 5 years 6-10 years 11-30 years > 30 years e. Thus. as chi-square analysis shows the two country samples to be similar along most of the key organizational characteristics: type of customer served. and communication efforts typically involve advertising. Key characteristics of the sample (%) 390 JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. This leads to the second hypothesis. Participants/respondents received the survey in the first week of class Characteristic a.2 62.9 44.1 54.2 34. 1995. in that both are individualistic.9 13.0 42.0 18. with small power distance and weak uncertainty avoidance levels. 1999).1 13.market share are particularly important to these firms.7 45. These two countries share similar business-economic influences in that each is driven by resource-based industries and serves a major (and geographically close) trading partner.1 65.8 25. with New Zealand firms being smaller than their Canadian counterparts. The sample consists of 279 firms comprising two groups of managers in Canada (n = 94) and New Zealand (n = 185).2 50. was an exception.001 Table II.6 Total 35. consumer firms also utilize technology to get closer to their customers. Consumer firms are therefore more likely to emphasize practices associated with transactional marketing.1 39. age.269 (1).

1983. Each variable was measured using five-point Likert-type scales anchored by ``never (1)'' and ``always (5)''.77 (network marketing). Each of these scales reflected one of the four approaches to marketing discussed by Coviello et al. As completion of the instrument was a required project early in the term. and captured the characteristics of marketing practice of interest in this investigation. 1990). each of the nine dimensions consisted of a set of variables designed to capture each of the four approaches to marketing practice. The final number of dimensions across the four scales was thus reduced from nine to eight. This minimizes bias created by classroom exposure to marketing theory and/or the professor's personal views on the topic. the instrument was pre-tested with a set of executive students similar to those ultimately targeted to participate in the research..64 (database marketing). interpreted appropriately.and were asked to complete it as a ``take-home'' assignment.65 (transaction marketing). 0. age. Respondents in both Canada and New Zealand were similar across the key managerial demographics.71 (interaction marketing). Primary variable Measurement approach The primary variable for hypothesis examination is the type of customer served. and the four scales showed alpha values of 0. Respondents were actively involved in the daily marketing and general management operations of their organization. size. These levels are generally considered to be acceptable (Nunnally. The construct validity of the instrument is initially justified on the basis that the items were developed from a theoretical framework that was derived from an extensive literature review. and all were middle managers from firms that were representative of the local business population in each center. 0. On the survey instrument. 391 JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. Following minor modifications to structure and wording. 1978). the approach resulted in a high level of response with considerable care being given by respondents to all aspects of the study. 5 2001 . VOL. This choice then guided the manager's responses for the survey questions pertaining to marketing practices. The variables of firm sector (type of product offer). and were well suited to answer questions about their firm's marketing practices. This decision was further confirmed by the results of a Principal Components Analysis of the scales. Firms were classified as serving either consumer or business markets based on managers' responses to a question regarding their primary (most important) customer base. Validation of the instrument The instrument and items used in the measurement model were pre-tested with ten marketing practitioners from various sectors and five marketing academics (all of whom have at least ten years of industry experience in marketing and management). Pre-testing On the basis of pre-testing. it was concluded that the instrument had adequate content and face validity. (2000). and it was decided to eliminate the variables associated with the dimension labeled ``formality''. The reliability of the measures was assessed by developing a series of four scales using the variables within each of the nine dimensions. Andrus and Norvell. and sales growth rate were also defined given two studies on the consumer/B2B dichotomy noted the potential influence of other co-variates on marketing (Parasuraman et al. Differences in marketing practice were measured using a series of individual items reflecting the nine dimensions operationalized by Coviello et al. and 0. The results suggested the instrument was understandable. Coefficients were calculated for each scale using Cronbach Alpha tests. (1997). 16 NO.

B2B firm practices Table III shows that B2B firms are more likely than consumer firms to practice significantly higher levels of certain aspects of interaction marketing. consumer firms practice significantly higher levels of certain aspects of transaction marketing. 16 NO. invest in areas related to the traditional marketing mix. No association was found between type of market served and type of product offer. targeted segment. Marketing practices Comparing the marketing practices across the two types of firm. or sales growth rate. For example. emphasize the product offering. but it is important to first understand the associations between the type of market served and other key characteristics. At an aggregate level. Table III shows that significant differences were found for seven of the 16 variables that comprise the four managerial dimensions measured in this study. Thus. it offers more insight to examine the dichotomy along the 31 individual variables underlying the dimensions in order to understand the subtleties of specific practices. they tend to emphasize interpersonal contact with primary customers. Details are discussed below. That is. it was decided to control for the co-variation of firm size. Analysis indicates that type of market served is negatively associated with firm size (p < 0. More detailed results will now be discussed. and sales growth rate. both similarities and differences are identified. and focus their marketing communication on customers in a specific. emphasize marketing communication that is directed from the firm to the mass market. this would suggest that the marketing practices of firms serving consumer markets are different from those serving business markets. and nine of the 15 variables underlying the four relational exchange dimensions. Results This section discusses the results of the study and shows that both hypotheses are only partially supported. In addition to these significant differences. 5 2001 Higher levels of transaction marketing . Table III shows that significant differences emerge across seven of the eight dimensions for the consumer/ B2B dichotomy. and marketing communication that involves individual employees with their customers. utilize specialist marketers to conduct various marketing activities. and participate in relational exchanges which involve no future personalized contact between the customer and the firm.Analysis The data was first analyzed using regression to examine the extent to which the type of firm (consumer or B2B) was associated with firm sector. size. They are also more likely to participate in relational exchanges that involve ongoing personal contact between 392 JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. age. The data was then analyzed using multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) to examine individual item differences across the primary variable of interest (the consumer/B2B dichotomy). Consumer firms also differ from B2B firms in their practice of certain aspects of database marketing. Consumer firm practices These results indicate that relative to B2B organizations. engage in customer contact that is arms-length and impersonal. they are more likely to: focus their efforts on attracting new customers. a review of the ranked means within each of the eight dimensions in Table III shows that firms serving consumer markets emphasize activities pertaining to transaction marketing and database marketing. For example. However. VOL. for the tests of H1 and H2. They are more likely to invest resources in communication technologies.05). firm age.

32 4. The nature of their marketing JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING.81** 0.98 3.75 2.91 4.35 3.95 3.17 3.56 3.34** 18.05. **p < 0.77 3.66 3.94 3.22 3.88 2.91 3.22 3. ***p < 0.39 3.24 4.16** 6.68* 6.25 1.66** 5.94 3.17 4.10 3.84 2.15 2.61 3.09*** 12.78 3.27** 2.20 3.76*** 0.94* 2.07 3.37** 1.50 4.91 3.55* 4.73 2.53 8.51 2.63*** Transaction Database Interaction Network 1.90 4.16 3.39 4.08 5.72 2.44 3.56 2.61*** 2.23 3.01. 16 NO.66 4.50 F-value 3. where B2B firms are more likely to emphasize interpersonal contact with primary customers and participate in relationships that involve ongoing contact with the organizational network/system.31 4.80 2.19 23.70 3.95 7.90 1. Comparing marketing practices individual buyers and sellers.64 2.97 2.46 1.87 1.79 2.71 9.85*** Table III. and invest resources to develop personal dyadic relationships. Similar patterns appear for network marketing.50 0.45 3.83 4.44*** 3. impersonal (b) somewhat personalized (c) interpersonal Duration of relational exchange/time frame: (a) no future personalized contact by firm (b) some future personalized contact by firm (c) ongoing personal contact with an individual (d) ongoing personal contact with the system Notes: *p < 0.78 0.81*** 0.001 Marketing approach Transaction Database Interaction Network Transaction Database Interaction Network Transaction Database Interaction Network Transaction Database Interaction Network Transaction Database Interaction Network Transaction Database Interaction Network Transaction Database Interaction/ network Consumer B2B mean mean 4.08 0.69 3.96 3.34 1.Dimensions and variable Managerial intent: (a) attract customers (b) retain customers (c) develop cooperative relationships (d) coordinate system-wide relationships Managerial planning focus: (a) product offering (b) general customer base (c) individual customers (d) system-wide relationships Managerial resource investment: (a) ``4P'' activities (b) communication technology (c) personal relationships (d) organizational/system relationships Managerial level (marketing done by): (a) functional marketers (b) specialist marketers (c) all employees (d) chief executive Purpose of relational exchange: (a) generate financial return (d) acquire customer information (c) build individual long-term relationships (d) form system-wide relationships Communication pattern/balance/parties: (a) firm to mass market (b) firm to specific segment (c) individual employees with their customers (d) senior managers with other senior managers Type of customer contact: (a) arms-length. VOL.12 3.46 3.88 3.26 4.28 33.12 3.72 3.16 3. 5 2001 393 .32 3.11 4.00 0.35 3.96 4.98 3.25 4.

and the differences might not always be managerially important or relevant. individual relationships with buyers. These behaviors are conceptualized by Coviello et al. acquiring customer information. that while statistically significant results exist for certain variables: . and marketing generally takes place at the senior management level. These findings. the direction of these results is informative. .50 and 4. when the MANOVA results are combined with other patterns found in Table III. VOL. Similarities Indeed. and communicating with the customers in a personalized manner are slightly lower. both consumer and B2B firms report relatively high levels of activity on this variable (means of 4. both types of firm report relatively low levels of activity for this variable (means of 1. (1997) to reflect transaction marketing. Both consumer and B2B firms also practice aspects of interaction marketing as evidenced by the relatively high mean ratings for the intent to develop long-term. Perhaps the obvious explanation is that the practices of consumer firms are driven by volume requirements (due to market size) while business-to-business firms are more likely to manage fewer relationships and. Although the mean ratings for investment in communication technology. with marketing activities carried out by functional managers. such differences appear for just over half the variables (16 of 31). together with a review of the ranked means for B2B firms suggest that these organizations are more relational than their consumer counterparts in some of their marketing practices. a simple comparison of means in the dimension labeled ``purpose of relational exchange'' shows that B2B firm means for the three relational variables (b-d) exceed those of consumer firms. Although not statistically significant. and the latter IM and NM).44). and also their planning focus on the customer base (in addition to the product offer). Volume requirements Summary and other findings Overall. Both types of firm also practice conceptualized aspects of database marketing as seen in the high level of intent to retain customers.23). thus. There is also evidence that both types of firm focus their planning on specific customers with the intent 394 JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. 16 NO. Furthermore. 5 2001 .communication in B2B firms also tends to involve senior managers interacting with their counterparts in other organizations. Thus. the general patterns of behavior are more similar than not. This is also supported by other patterns in Table III. although consumer firms are more likely than B2B firms to be involved with relational exchange that involves no future personalized contact by the firm. both consumer and B2B firms report a high emphasis on generating a financial return. the patterns remain consistent across consumer and B2B firms. For example. where for example. while consumer firms are more likely to focus on the product offer in their market planning. It is equally important to note. a review of the MANOVA results suggests that while certain differences do emerge between consumer and B2B firms (with the former emphasizing TM and DM. they both appear to practice conceptualized aspects of database marketing. however. when the 15 non-significant results are reviewed.91 and 1. it appears that both H1 (Consumer firms are more likely to practice TM and DM) and H2 (B2B firms are more likely to practice IM and NM) are supported. Similarly. interaction and network marketing are more appropriate.

Although some differences do emerge across contexts. Key findings At one level. That is. They also emphasize the development and management of personal relationships with individual customers (interaction marketing). and managerial level of market planning. regardless of type of market served. Thus. and should be recognized as such in research and education. Second. as firms invest in external marketing assets to develop and co-ordinate system-wide relationships. marketing appears to be more relational in B2B firms and more transactional in consumer firms. a clear dichotomous pattern fails to emerge. the combined results show that H1 and H2 are only partially supported. customer contact. There are. Cooke (1986) and Lilien (1987). these findings contradict Webster (1978). and B2B firms are more likely to emphasize interaction marketing and network marketing. additional analysis shows there are more similarities than differences across the 31 individual variables in this investigation. General patterns Given the above. and suggestions for both managerial practice and future research. First. and the general patterns show that contemporary practices of both types of firms reflect aspects of all four marketing approaches. Finally. however. it might be argued that the conduct of marketing in B2B firms is different from that in consumer firms. However. and perhaps most important. What follows is a discussion of the key findings. We hypothesized that consumer firms would be more likely to practice transaction marketing and also database marketing (H1). and the purpose of exchange. Such an argument would in fact support most of the existing literature. the similarities in practice encompass both the traditional and more relational views of marketing. VOL. a number of similarities are also identified. a number of important points to recognize before reaching this conclusion.to develop co-operative relationships. it is unreasonable to argue that marketing practices are fundamentally different across consumer and B2B firms. these empirical findings support Fern and Brown's (1984) argument that the dichotomy is unjustified. their theoretical significance. Discussion and implications This study examined two hypotheses related to contemporary marketing practice in the context of the consumer/B2B dichotomy. 5 2001 . Therefore. 16 NO. the managerial planning focus. Therefore. Third. the dichotomy argument seems to be supported given the comparison across individual items provides evidence that consumer firms are more likely to practice transaction marketing and database marketing. the current business practices of both consumer and B2B firms involve managing the marketing mix to attract customers (transaction marketing) and utilizing technology to enhance customer relationships (database marketing). consumer and B2B firms have a large number of similarities in their marketing practice across the three dimensions describing the intent of marketing decisions. 395 JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. there are also similarities within other dimensions such as resource investment. and efforts to position the firm in a net of various market relationships (network marketing). both the transactional and relational paradigms are relevant in contemporary marketing. These findings contradict the marketing literature that has consistently argued for consumer/B2B marketing differences. while B2B firms would be more likely to practice interaction and network marketing (H2). Thus. Thus. At one level. aspects of network marketing are also practiced across the dichotomy (although less frequently). The results offer mixed support for these hypotheses in that while some support is found for the expected differences.

Practical implications Managers should identify which marketing approaches may challenge their organization as there will be increasing pressure on all firms to effectively apply different approaches as the firm and its portfolio of relationships evolves. and consequently will continue to emphasize relational marketing in the form of database marketing. Second. market or managerial characteristics. this study enriches our understanding of contemporary marketing in the context of firms serving consumer and business markets. as the marketing environment continues to evolve. For example. Limitations and research implications There are certain limitations to this study that should be recognized and overcome in future research. it is important to understand both similarities and differences in marketing practice across contexts. While buyer market structure. 16 NO. the division of the sample into firms Marketing approaches Ongoing development 396 JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING. demand patterns. 5 2001 . theoretical frameworks must also evolve to reflect new developments in practice and research. theoretical frameworks should include a full spectrum of marketing approaches. given that the core product and its supporting marketing mix lie at the heart of the firm's relational offer. and financial resources) should be placed in both the individual relationships. Also. consumer firms may attempt to get closer to their various customers as a defensive measure in increasingly competitive markets. Related to this. and B2B firms will use them to support/facilitate interaction and network marketing efforts. and systems underlying each approach. and how these practices might be influenced by other firms. this paper argues that the traditional divide between consumer and B2B marketing practice is oversimplified in a contemporary environment. First. resources. B2B firms might develop more sophisticated transactional marketing abilities and infrastructure. Indeed. and the development of the firm's position in a network of firms. Managers in these organizations should also consider focusing on understanding. while unique in certain aspects. an appreciation of the different marketing approaches examined in this study should help guide managers in developing their ability to effectively implement both transactional and relational marketing. First. development of the requisite skills and infrastructure to support database marketing will become increasingly important to both consumer and B2B firms as customers continue to increase their technological sophistication and use of information technology in decision making. and not rely solely either the transactional or relational paradigm as a conceptual base. it is likely that consumer and B2B firms might learn from one another in their ongoing development of broader marketing capacity. it is important to recognize that B2B marketing. Similarly. establishing and facilitating both personal and business relationships such that a network of viable contacts is developed. the key implications of this study are as follows. Thus. VOL. In this regard. Overall. Consumer firms will apply alternative technologies in an effort to manage smaller segments on a more personal basis. These firms should also seek to enhance their database marketing capabilities as e-business continues to grow. Investment (time. how multiple approaches can be practiced simultaneously. including when and why different approaches to marketing are being practiced.Contemporary marketing Theoretical implications Overall. is not fundamentally different from consumer marketing. personal effort. and buyer behaviors may be different across firms serving these two types of market (and perhaps even these are changing). to accurately depict and understand contemporary marketing practices. Managers will have to be sensitive to the knowledge.

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