Digital communications in industrial marketing

Heikki Karjaluoto (School of Business and Economics, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Pauliina Ulkuniemi (Oulu Business School, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 6 July 2015



Karjaluoto, H. and Ulkuniemi, P. (2015), "Digital communications in industrial marketing", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 30 No. 6.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Digital communications in industrial marketing

Article Type: Guest editorial From: Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Volume 30, Issue 6

Recent advances in communications and information technology, especially the rise of social media, are changing the way individuals and businesses interact with each other. Both practitioners and academics agree that the social revolution occurring through digital channels will have a profound impact on how people interact with each other and how companies manage their relationships in the changing communications landscape (Greenberg, 2010; Kietzmann et al., 2011; Dennis et al., 2009). The digital environment with two-way communication channels and user-generated content has changed the role of the customer to one of content creator and active discussant. Consequently, the balance of power has shifted from firms to customers.

Although adoption of information technology and digital channels in marketing and sales has attracted attention among various disciplines, to date, little is known about how digitalization of communications affects industrial marketing. The use of new digital media such as social media and the associated increasing mobility have been broadly covered under consumer marketing, but the changes they have brought to the ways industrial companies serve their customers, manage their sales channels, set up marketing campaigns or interact with their current customers remain relatively under-researched.

This special issue defines digital marketing in industrial marketing as the use of digital communications channels such as a company Web site, Web analytics, online advertising, search engine marketing, intranet and extranet channels, e-mail marketing, digital sales support material and social and mobile media to manage the various relationships an industrial company maintains like firm-client and firm-stakeholder relationships.

In industrial markets, digital marketing has been used in pursuit of cost efficiencies in managing brand and customer relationships (Drèze and Hussherr, 2003). Recently, in terms of consumer marketing, research has stressed the role of the social user who generates content and actively discusses, shares and comments on products and services, and by doing so generates positive word-of-mouth (Hanna et al., 2011). Despite the acknowledged role of the social user in creating content as a part of marketing communications in consumer markets, the role of such an actor and the social media in industrial marketing has not been examined to any great extent. Yet, as social media seems inevitably destined to change the way people communicate, it is apparent that these changes will become a part of communication behavior within industrial markets as well.

This special issue offers a broad picture of the utilization of digital marketing in industrial marketing. In the first article of this special issue, Heikki Karjaluoto, Nora Mustonen and Pauliina Ulkuniemi review the state-of-the-art of industrial marketing communications tools and the role of digital channels in it. With the use of a multiple case study method including six industrial firms, the authors find that the analyzed companies regard digital channels as important but have not yet used them to their full potential. In addition, they argue that digital channels in industrial marketing are used to enhance customer relationship communications, to support sales and to create awareness among new customers. Finally, the study reveals that in industrial marketing, social media tools are very limitedly utilized in marketing.

In the second paper, Hanna Keinänen and Olli Kuivalainen discuss social media use from the perspective of business-to-business (B2B) customers. They explore the role of corporate culture, colleagues’ support and personal and psychological factors affecting social media use. By surveying key customers of an IT service company, they find that private social media use has the most significant effect on social media business use. Interestingly, they find that customers’ perceptions of usability of social media for B2B use do not explain social media business use.

In the third paper, Susan Standing and Craig Standing provide an analysis of a specific form of digital communication, e-marketplaces. The paper explores the aspects of organizational value that can be realized through taking a service exchange perspective of e-marketplaces as opposed to a product transaction perspective. Through analysis of existing literature and three large e-marketplace organizations as case examples, the paper argues that e-marketplaces should not be thought of solely as a product transaction mechanism but rather as a digital marketing and communication network where service, rather than products, forms the basis of a value-creating exchange.

In the fourth paper, Heini Lipiäinen and Heikki Karjaluoto analyze an international B2B company from the renewable energy industry from the perspective of brand management. On the basis of this case study, the paper presents a model concerning industrial digital branding that shows the process of branding in the digital age from a fresh perspective. The paper argues that social media channels in particular are important for an industrial organization to build its brand and become an opinion leader.

In the fifth paper, written by Jedsada Wongsansukcharoen, Jirasek Trimetsoontorn and Wanno Fongsuwan, the authors examine the relationship between social customer relationship management (CRM), relationship marketing orientation and business strategies and banking performance effectiveness. The key success factors of social CRM and relationship marketing orientation were found to have indirect influences on banking performance effectiveness through the mediation of business strategies.

In the sixth paper, Lauri Huotari, Pauliina Ulkuniemi and Saila Saraniemi examine how B2B marketers can influence content creation in social media. The paper proposes that B2B company can influence content creation in social media directly by adding new content, participating in discussions and removing content through corporate user accounts and controlling employee social media behavior or indirectly by training employees to create desired content and performing marketing activities that influence other users to create content that is favorable for the company.

In the seventh paper, Sergio Román and Rocío Rodríguez investigate that salespeople’s use of technology affects sales outcomes. By using a sample of 265 salespeople from different industries, they find out that the effect of technology use on outcomes is rather indirect than direct, as customer-qualification skills and customer-oriented selling fully mediate this relationship. The study proposes that technology use only increases performance for salespeople with high self-efficacy.

Overall, the results of these seven papers confirm that digital marketing in general and social media in particular have become a central part of industrial organizations and have a profound impact on industrial companies' marketing communications and sales. However, at the moment, the extent to which these new forms of communications are utilized seems to vary depending on the context and the study. It seems that firms are engaging themselves increasingly into marketing activities employing digital media in general and social media in particular. Theoretical advancements in this area are increasing, but a pro-active approach is needed. Studying the underlying dynamics of B2B marketing communication within the context of social media is necessary for the development of B2B marketing practices for the future. We hope this special issue provides a platform for continuing research in this area.

We thank the special issue reviewers for their contribution in reviewing the submissions and all the authors of this special issue for cooperation.

Heikki Karjaluoto and Pauliina Ulkuniemi


Dennis, C., Merrilees, B., Jayawardhena, C. and Wright, L.T. (2009), “E-consumer behavior”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 43 Nos 9/10, pp. 1121-1139.

Drèze, X. and Hussherr, F.X. (2003), “Internet advertising: is anybody watching?”, Journal of Interactive Marketing, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 8-23.

Greenberg, P. (2010), “The impact of CRM 2.0 on customer insight”, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 25 No. 6, pp. 410-419.

Hanna, R., Rohm, A. and Crittenden, V.L. (2011), “We’re all connected: the power of the social media ecosystem”, Business Horizons, Vol. 54 No. 3, pp. 265-273.

Kietzmann, J.H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I.P. and Silvestre, B.S. (2011), “Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media”, Business Horizons, Vol. 54 No. 3, pp. 241-251.