From fragile to agile: marketing as a key driver of entrepreneurial internationalization

Birgit Hagen (Department of Economics and Management, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy)
Antonella Zucchella (Department of Business Research, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy)
Pervez Nasim Ghauri (University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)

International Marketing Review

ISSN: 0265-1335

Publication date: 8 April 2019



The purpose of this paper is to conceptualize strategic agility in entrepreneurial internationalization and highlight the role of marketing “under particular conditions” – those of early and fast internationalizers.


The study is based on in-depth case studies of four entrepreneurial internationalizers using an inductive approach. The role of marketing is studied along a set of four key business processes, i.e. sensing through selective customer/partner intimacy; business development through selective experimentation and testing; coordination and harmonization of multiple stakeholders; and creative extension of resources.


Strategic agility is a composite of flexibility and selective responsiveness. Marketing thought, mainly through customer and partner interaction, plays a prominent role in achieving strategic agility. Customer- and market-centric thinking needs to be built in a key set of business processes. Marketing’s contribution to strategic agility means an ability to cope with time, relationship and functional dependencies. Strategic agility helps improve the risk profile of the entrepreneurial internationalizer. Entrepreneurial internationalizers are particularly suited to compete on and benefit from strategic agility.

Practical implications

The findings show managers and entrepreneurs in early and fast internationalizing ventures a path to strategic agility which helps to overcome the many parallel challenges that come with firm foundation and internationalization.


Strategic agility is a novel explanation for entrepreneurial internationalization. The study explains the prominent role played by marketing in achieving strategic agility and growth. Strategic agility is reconceptualized in the context of the young and small internationalizing firm.



Hagen, B., Zucchella, A. and Ghauri, P. (2019), "From fragile to agile: marketing as a key driver of entrepreneurial internationalization", International Marketing Review, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 260-288.

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