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Networking as marketing strategy: a case study of small community businesses

Nancy J. Miller (University of North Carolina‐Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)
Terry L. Besser (Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA)
Sandra Sattler Weber (University of Nebraska‐Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 15 June 2010




The paper examines the building of a new business network by women apparel retailers operating in small Midwest US communities to better understand the network development process and the contributions to small business marketing strategy.


Work draws upon the theoretical and empirical tradition of network studies using prior research for considering current small business owners. This case study approach involved documenting the evolution of relationships among retailers over a five‐year period by means of primary data collection from multiple sources.


Two theoretical network development frameworks were supported in the identification and description of critical transformation phases and the implicit impacts on retail member firms.

Research limitations/implications

The case study involves a limited number of business owners in the same retail sector operating in small towns. It may not be representative of retail operations of different size, in different sectors, and in different sized communities. However, insights are gained that can be used to build studies that focus on a variety of business types, geographic locations, and owner demographics.

Practical implications

The paper shows that networking is a viable market strategy for small community retailers and that economic as well as social benefits are accrued from interactions with network members.


Given the unique challenges of operating a small independent business, this work provides suggestions for building networks that generate collaboration as a marketing strategy.



Miller, N.J., Besser, T.L. and Sattler Weber, S. (2010), "Networking as marketing strategy: a case study of small community businesses", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 253-270.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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