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B2B is not an island!

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Purpose ‐ With B2B (business-to-business) and new developments in marketing as the springboard, this paper seeks to emphasize complexity and context in marketing systems, embracing both B2B and B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The approach takes the form of a conceptual analysis of new developments in marketing through network theory and case study research. Findings ‐ Recent theory points to a network and systems approach to marketing and to changing roles between suppliers and customers. Both many-to-many marketing as a broadening of relational approaches and the service dominant (S-D) logic stress consumer involvement, exposing the customer's interactive role. The IBM service science programme enrols research and education in developing more functional service systems. The conventional divide in goods and services marketing is dissolved in favour of supplier-customer interaction. Research limitations/implications ‐ B2B and B2C are both part of complex contexts. Case study research and network theory allow complexity and context to come forward. Network theory should be applied in all marketing, and concepts in marketing need to be constantly evaluated as to validity and relevance. The conventional sectors (manufacturing, services, agriculture) are supplier-centric whereas marketing prescribes customer centricity. By focusing on continuous theory generation better theory will replace previous theory. Practical implications ‐ Marketers overview the complexity of specific marketing situations, to systematically observe relational phenomena and the customer's role, and will be better able to foresee opportunities and avoid mistakes in marketing planning and execution. Originality/value ‐ The paper offers a network view which is little represented in research and education. With growing dependency on larger integrated systems such a coherent view becomes increasingly more urgent. In a new marketing logic of service and value creation, the reductionism, fragmentation and linearity of Western science are challenged in favour of a comprehensive network approach. B2B and B2C are treated as perspectives of a grander marketing context and not as independent categories, and the broadened role of customers in value networks is recognized. Goods and services can only be understood and handled in a unified context.
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Keywords: Case study research; Many-to-many marketing; Network theory; Service science; Service-dominant logic

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 12, 2009

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