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THE DOMAIN AND CONCEPTUAL FOUNDATIONS OF RELATIONSHIP MARKETING

Atul Parvatiyar, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Marketing Goizueta Business School Emory University Atlanta, GA 30322 (404) 727-6693

Jagdish N. Sheth, Ph.D. Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing Goizueta Business School Emory University Atlanta, GA 30322 (404) 727-7603

Prepared for: Handbook of Relationship Marketing JagdishN. Sheth and Atul Parvatiyar, Eds. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, 1999.

Revised August 28, 1998

THE DOMAIN AND CONCEPTUAL FOUNDATIONS OF RELATIONSHIP MARKETING

In the current era of intense competition and demanding customers, relationship marketing has attracted the expanded attention of scholars and practitioners. Marketing scholars are studying the nature and scope of relationshipmarketing and developing conceptualizations regarding the value of cooperative and collaborative relationship between buyers and sellers as well as the relationship between different marketing actors, including suppliers, competitors, distributors and internal functions in creating and delivering customer value. Many scholars with interests in various sub-disciplines of marketing, such as channels,services marketing, business-to-business marketing, advertising, and so forth, are actively engaged in studying and exploring the conceptual foundations of relationship marketing. However, the conceptual foundations of relationship marketing are not fully developed as yet. The current growth in the field of relationship marketing is somewhat similar to what we experienced in the early stages of thedevelopment of the discipline of consumer behavior. There is a growing interest in the subject matter and many explorations are underway to finding its conceptual foundations. In the floodgate of knowledge, such diverse perspectives are required for understanding this growing phenomenon. Each exploration offers a perspective that should help in further conceptualization of the discipline ofrelationship marketing. As Sheth (1996) observed that for a discipline to emerge, it is necessary to build conceptual foundations and develop theory that will provide purpose and

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explanation for the phenomenon. This is how consumer behavior grew to become a discipline and now enjoys central position in marketing knowledge. We expect relationship marketing to undergo a similar growth pattern andsoon become a discipline into itself. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a synthesis of existing knowledge on relationship marketing by integrating diverse explorations. In the following section, we discuss what is relationship marketing, examine its various perspectives, and offer a definition of relationship marketing. Subsequently, we trace the paradigmatic shifts in the evolution ofmarketing theory that have led to the emergence of a relationship marketing school of thought. We also identify the forces impacting the marketing environment in recent years leading to the rapid development of relationship marketing practices. A typology of relationship marketing programs is presented to provide a parsimonious view of the domain of relationship marketing practices. We then describe aprocess model of relationship marketing to better delineate the challenges of relationship formation, its governance, its performance evaluation, and its evolution. Finally, we examine the domain of current relationship marketing research and the issues it needs to address in the future.

What is Relationship Marketing? Before we begin to examine the theoretical foundations of relationshipmarketing, it will be useful to define what the term relationship marketing means. As Nevin (1995) points out, the term relationship marketing has been used to reflect a variety of themes and perspectives. Some of these themes offer a narrow functional marketing perspective while

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others offer a perspective that is broad and somewhat paradigmatic in approach and orientation.

Narrow versus Broad...
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