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Female entrepreneurial networking in the marketing services sector

Carley Foster (University of Derby, Derby, UK)
Clare Brindley (University of Derby, Derby, UK)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 9 April 2018




Networking is a key element of entrepreneurial and SME activity. The skills required to network share similarities to those of a marketer and can be associated with feminine traits, such as relationship building. Yet, little is known about how female SME marketers engage in networking. This study aims to address this gap by exploring how self-employed female services marketers build, use and value networks over the lifetime of their business.


In-depth narrative interviews were conducted with 26 self-employed women working in the UK marketing services sector. Template analysis was used to analyse the materials.


A model encapsulates the fluid nature of the networking activity throughout the lifetime of the participants’ businesses by illustrating which networks the women used and their perceived value. Networking led to multi-directional outsourcing opportunities and philanthropic marketing activity, all of which supported the success of the SME. Despite support from family, friends and the community, these were not regarded as networks by the women.

Practical implications

At the individual level, insights are offered into which networking activity is more valuable for female entrepreneurs working in the sector. For policymakers, the study indicates that participants did not see value in the formal, government networks and the women did not engage with professional bodies. More creative solutions to supporting female marketing entrepreneurs are required.


The study is original, in that it offers qualitative insights into how self-employed female marketers use and value networks throughout the lifetime of their business. It concentrates on one sector (marketing services) and so answers criticisms that studies in entrepreneurship do not consider specific sectors. In contrast to studies which focus on one stage of the business lifecycle, this research contributes to a holistic, longitudinal understanding of entrepreneurial female networking activity in marketing. More generally, it contributes to the paucity of literature which explores the reality of working in the marketing services sector.



Foster, C. and Brindley, C. (2018), "Female entrepreneurial networking in the marketing services sector", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 182-201.



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