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Relationship marketing defined? An examination of current relationship marketing definitions

Michael John Harker (Research Student, Department of Strategic Management and Marketing, Nottingham Business School, Nottingham, UK)

Marketing Intelligence & Planning

ISSN: 0263-4503

Article publication date: 1 February 1999



Attempts to define “relationship marketing” have been varied and many, neatly reflecting the diverse academic and socio‐political backgrounds of RM scholars. This paper lists 26 such definitions, collected as a by‐product of a literature review. Presented alongside this resource are the results of applying a content‐analysis‐based methodology to these definitions. These results suggest that seven RM “constructs” enjoy general support. In a discussion of this, it is concluded that any integration of disparate RM theories implied by these findings is at best superficial and at worst misleading. It is further suggested that “true” and complete integration of RM theory must wait until a coherent understanding of these fundamental concepts has been developed. From the 26 definitions listed, one is judged as being more comprehensive and generally acceptable, and a new definition is presented as an inducement to further discussion.



Harker, M.J. (1999), "Relationship marketing defined? An examination of current relationship marketing definitions", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 13-20.




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