Purpose – With B2B (business-to-business) and new developments in marketing as the springboard, to emphasize the necessity of heeding complexity and context by addressing marketing as a coherent, relational system.
Methodology/approach – Conceptual analysis based on new developments in marketing, network theory, and case study research; and the thesis that any company or marketing situation directly or indirectly embraces both B2B and B2C (business-to-consumer) issues.
Findings – First, recent marketing theory points to the need for a network and systems approach to marketing and to changing roles between suppliers and customers. Two of these developments, many-to-many marketing as a broadening of relationship marketing (RM) and CRM (customer relationship management), and the service dominant logic (S-D logic) stress C2B (consumer-to-business) and C2C (customer-to-customer) interaction, exposing the customer’s active role. Second, a practitioner contribution, the cross-disciplinary IBM service science program, is enrolling academic research and education in the development of more functional and seamless service systems that work in real settings. Third, the conventional divide in goods and services marketing is conceptually dissolved in favor of supplier-customer interaction leading to value propositions and co-creation of value.
Research implications – B2B, B2C/C2B and C2C aspects are part of an integrated, complex context. Case study research and network theory allow researchers to let complexity and context come forward. Network theory should be used in all marketing and not only on B2B. Definitions, categories and concepts in use need to be constantly evaluated as to validity and relevance for contemporary and future marketing. The conventional economic sectors (manufacturing, services, agriculture) are supplier-centric whereas marketing prescribes customer-centricity; consequently they should not be used in marketing. By focusing on continuous theory generation, an open source code and collaboration, “testing” and critiquing theory is superfluous; instead generate better theory to replace previous theory. Treat marketing as an aspect of all company activities; in a network every node and link can potentially affect any other part of a network.
Practical implications – For marketers to better overview complexity and context of their specific marketing situations, to systematically observe relational phenomena and the customer’s role, and as a consequence better foresee opportunities and avoid mistakes in their marketing planning.
Originality/value – In the light of new research and conceptualization, the article offers a network view which is only marginally represented in research and education in marketing. With bigger and more global systems and growing dependency on software and the Internet, the need to address integrated systems becomes urgent. In the new logic of service and value creation, marketing categories are being dissolved and the reductionism and linearity of Western science are being challenged in favor of a broader network approach. The dependency between B2B and B2C has been noted before but we go further and treat these as perspectives of a grander marketing context and not as independent categories. The analysis of B and C combinations displays the broadened role of customers in value networks. Goods and services are intertwined and can only be understood and handled in a unified context.
UK: Emerald , 2009. Vol. 24, no 5-6, 337-350 p.
Network theory, Many-to-many marketing, Service-dominant logic, Service science, Case study research