In the field of service marketing, relationship marketing is gradually experiencing more common deployment. To some, it would appear as if it were new. But, as Morgan and Hunt (1994) have demonstrated, relationship marketing and a ‘commitment-trust theory of customer relationships’ have been around for decades. Christopher, Payne, and Ballantyne (1995) described a similar concept when talking about the need to integrate quality and customer service in any marketing delivery or product offering.
More recently, authors such as Gummesson (2017) have started explaining the need to extend the scope of relationship marketing. It is not fragmented and isolated actions, aimed at short-term results, that bring the best outcomes. Instead, long-term stewardship leads to continuous growth and increased benefits—for shareholders, customers, and the entire community that people live in. When people plan hardwood forests, they are not creating something that they will see the harvest of, and yet, they contribute. In many ways, such a form of stewardship is needed for relationship marketing. Even when it costs an organization in the short term, building relationships with customers, by ensuring long-term symbiotic relationships, benefits everybody.
More importantly, research is starting to demonstrate that corporate social responsibility coordinates with an effective marketing strategy (Luu, 2019). Corporations do not need to choose between profitability and accountability; corporations can have both. The marketing of an organization’s position forms an essential component of the strategy, in the sense that it is necessary to market the organization’s strategy and stance to effectively capitalise on the investment in society. If your clients do not know that you are acting responsibly, they won’t treat you as if you’re working conscientiously. As Boateng (2019) describes, customer loyalty needs to be earned, and to earn it, corporations need to signal not only their current position; they need to signal the long-term stance.
Boateng, S. L. (2019). Online relationship marketing and customer loyalty: a signaling theory perspective. International Journal of Bank Marketing, 37(1), 226–240. doi: 10.1108/ijbm-01-2018-0009
Christopher, M., Payne, A., Ballantyne, D., & Pelton, L. (1995). Relationship marketing: Bringing quality, customer service and marketing together. International Business Review, 4(4), 538–541. doi: 10.1016/0969-5931(95)90007-1
Gummesson, E. (2017). From relationship marketing to total relationship marketing and beyond. Journal of Services Marketing, 31(1), 16–19. doi: 10.1108/jsm-11-2016-0398
Luu, T. T. (2019). CSR and Customer Value Co-creation Behavior: The Moderation Mechanisms of Servant Leadership and Relationship Marketing Orientation. Journal of Business Ethics, 155, 379–398. doi: 10.1007/s10551-017-3493-7
Morgan, R. M., & Hunt, S. D. (1994). The Commitment-Trust Theory of Relationship Marketing. Journal of Marketing, 58(3), 20–38. doi: 10.2307/1252308
[Image: Hardwood Forest; Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wackybadger/7327382958/in/photostream/; https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]