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Customer’s expectations and perceptions of reference marketing programs

Andre Vilares Morgado (AESE Business School, Lisboa, Portugal)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 25 March 2020

Issue publication date: 23 November 2021




The purpose of this research is to study organizational purchasing and relationship formation in interactions between customers and suppliers of capital equipment and the factors affecting the ability of reference marketing programs to deliver their expected purchasing benefits.


This work adopts an inductive research strategy and combines a critical realist approach with a qualitative research method consisting of in-depth interviews with purchasing managers from the energy industry.


By presenting a new theoretical model that aims to explain the referencing phenomenon, this study offers a deeper understanding of referencing and thus new perspectives on how and under what circumstances the customer–supplier relationship can be leveraged.

Research limitations/implications

Because of the qualitative nature of the research, no claim to statistical significance can be made. The model presented here helps the authors to understand the empirical phenomena as exhibited in the recorded interviews, but it does not allow for statistical generalization. The model allows for a certain degree of analytic inference but only within the study’s boundaries and limitations because the above findings are specific to the electric power industry.

Practical implications

A deeper understanding of this phenomenon allows suppliers to pursue strategies based on efficient reference marketing programs. The paper ends by presenting useful recommendations for reference marketing best practices and suggestions for improving the use of references in organizational purchasing.


The available literature on referencing does not clarify the factors that affect the ability of reference marketing to deliver its purchasing benefits. Thus, the facts and circumstances associated with the influence that reference marketing programs have on purchasing behavior have yet to be determined.



The author gratefully acknowledges the financial support from AESE Business School and FCT, I.P., the Portuguese national funding agency for science, research and technology, under the Project UIDB/04521/2020.


Morgado, A.V. (2021), "Customer’s expectations and perceptions of reference marketing programs", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 12, pp. 2176-2186.



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