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Linking relationship marketing to social embeddedness in a rural bilingual context

Sara Parry (Bangor Business School, Bangor University, Bangor, UK)
Paul Westhead (Business School, Durham University, Durham, UK)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Article publication date: 15 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore the evolution of relationship marketing (RM) in a new technology-based firm (NTBF) and to illustrate how social embeddednesss benefits can be achieved by engaging in RM in a rural resource-constrained bilingual context.


A single in-depth case study of a NTBF operating in a rural bilingual context was explored over a five-year period. As part of the case study, participant observation was carried out and interviews with the novice entrepreneur, the firm’s employees and its customers were conducted.


Developing mutually beneficial relationships with customers and key partners can enable a novice entrepreneur with no prior business ownership and limited marketing experience to accumulate and mobilise resources in order to achieve credibility and business growth. By analysing information from the NTBF’s entrepreneur, customers and other actors, the authors build theory and present propositions relating to the RM process.

Practical implications

This case illustrates that RM can enhance the legitimacy of an inexperienced entrepreneur, and can enable a firm to address the liabilities of newness in a rural resource-constrained context. Entrepreneurs need to focus on relevant and specialised partnership and alliance relationships that can provide strategic resources for firm development. The bilingual influence has also been shown to aid the development of new relationships and thus ensuring social embeddedness.


The theoretical contribution of this study is to integrate insights from both RM and social embeddedness theories, and illustrate the extent to which a NTBF demonstrates social embeddedness benefits relating to customer retention and accumulation of strategic resources due to RM.



Parry, S. and Westhead, P. (2017), "Linking relationship marketing to social embeddedness in a rural bilingual context", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 261-277.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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