Classifying relationship structures: relationship strength in industrial markets

Bill Donaldson (Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Strathclyde Graduate Business School, Glasgow, Scotland, UK)
Tom O’ Toole (Lecturer in Business Strategy and International Marketing, Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford, Ireland)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Publication date: 1 December 2000


Although many authors examine relationships, few attempt to classify alternative structures. In this research a relationship strength construct is developed to distinguish among alternative relationship structures based on a key mediating variable set derived from an assessment of the dominant behavior process and economic content variables underlying important buyer‐seller relationships. Results using a cluster analysis procedure based on a sample of 200 industrial company respondents from the UK engineering, electronic and telecommunications sectors support the classification. This allows us to discriminate between four relationship structures in main buyer‐supplier relationships, which are labeled: bilateral, recurrent, dominant partner, and discrete. Such a classification can provide managers with a mechanism for analyzing and planning for the development of their inter‐firm relationships.



Donaldson, B. and O’ Toole, T. (2000), "Classifying relationship structures: relationship strength in industrial markets", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 15 No. 7, pp. 491-506.

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Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

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