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The Effects of Relationship Marketing on Share of Business: A Synthesis and Comparison of Models

Vieira, Armando Luis; Winklhofer, Heidi; Ennew, Christine


Armando Luis Vieira

Christine Ennew


Purpose: The article synthesizes the extensive empirical work on relationship marketing (RM) and compares the various conceptualizations to give a better understanding of the relational factors (i.e., characteristics of the business relationship) that improve a seller’s objective performance (i.e., share of business) in a business-to-business (B2B) services context. These conceptualizations, taken from the literature, link relational antecedents (i.e., communication, domain expertise, relational value, and mutual goals) to relational mediators (i.e., trust, satisfaction, commitment, relationship quality) to explore how they in turn affect a seller’s share of business.

Methodology/approach: All 4 models derived from the literature review were assessed using a dataset drawn from a survey of 948 client firm representatives of a Portuguese hotel chain in a B2B services context.

Findings: The best of the models in terms of model fit and prediction of share of business shows that only customer commitment directly drives a seller’s share of business, and simultaneous interrelated changes in customer trust and satisfaction, as well as customer perceptions of relational value, drive customer commitment, and so exert indirect effects on performance. The model that proposes that a seller’s performance is strengthened by simultaneous interrelated improvements in customer trust, satisfaction, and commitment (i.e., with these three mediators being conceptualized as a single, combined, higher-order mediator, termed relationship quality [RQ]) shows inferior fit. No combination of mediators (satisfaction, trust, or commitment) improves the seller’s objective performance over and above their individual effects (i.e., there are no synergistic effects).

Research implications: The literature review suggested four ways of modeling RM antecedents, mediators, and their effect on performance. Complex second-order constructs such as RQ lack explanatory power when predicting outcomes and mask the effects of individual relational mediators. Correct conceptualization is important, as conclusions vary drastically even with the same set of relational mediators and same dataset.

Practical implications: B2B service providers’ investments in RM will lead to improved share of business only if customer commitment is high or there is at least the potential to improve it. This requires an understanding of how valuable the customer believes the relationship to be, and how the customer rates the relationship with the firm in terms of satisfaction and trust. A customer segmentation approach to relationship building and maintenance is advocated and detailed suggestions are put forward.

Originality/value/contribution: Apart from the work by Palmatier, the relationships between RM antecedents and mediators have not yet been examined simultaneously and findings are fragmented. The article provides a synthesis of this expansive literature. It contrasts different interplays between RM mediators, including their interrelationships as a higher-order construct, and explores possible synergy effects. Unlike previous work, this study focused on an objective measure of seller performance (i.e., share of business), whereas previous studies have tended to examine subjective measures, especially within the B2B context. Furthermore, four full models were assessed here, each of which included the antecedents to RM mediators and their links to objective performance.


Vieira, A. L., Winklhofer, H., & Ennew, C. (2014). The Effects of Relationship Marketing on Share of Business: A Synthesis and Comparison of Models. Journal of Business to Business Marketing, 21(2), 85-110. doi:10.1080/1051712x.2014.903455

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 3, 2014
Online Publication Date May 23, 2014
Publication Date Apr 3, 2014
Deposit Date Mar 4, 2019
Journal Journal of Business-to-Business Marketing
Print ISSN 1051-712X
Electronic ISSN 1547-0628
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 2
Pages 85-110
Keywords relational drivers, relational mediators, relationship marketing, seller objective performance, industrial marketing, business marketing
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope: