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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Volume 30, Issue 2
Welcome to this special issue on SME marketing. This issue gathers a showcase of cutting edge contemporary research in the field of marketing in the SME context. SMEs are challenged by a contemporary competitive framework of global actors and an ultra-dynamic competitive marketplace, making SMEs especially important to economies and businesses across nations. The purpose of this Special Issue is to offer insight and a critical understanding of how SMEs are managing marketing from their unique perspective amidst both favourable and not so favourable characteristics. With this Special Issue we seek to pinpoint the importance of the innovative nature of SMEs in the marketing area while strengthening the position of this discipline by offering new insights of their activities and strategies.
As prior research has established, SMEs in many countries represent a significant contribution to national economies. They are highly regarded as an important source of employment, creativity and innovation. It has also been argued that larger organisations are no longer suitable for economic development, placing SMEs in the spotlight of researchers and practitioners.
It has also been established that SMEs have an unconventional way of practising marketing due to their unique characteristics. Moreover, it has been argued that SMEs require appreciation of their context and characteristics in order that they may be enabled to further develop their marketing prowess. Furthermore, it is recognised that SMEs may perform better if the marketing framework is adapted to consider the scope of their business along with their unique characteristics.
As you will read from the selection of articles, this special issue purposely presents new insights into how marketing is being understood by managers and how the discipline of marketing can further evolve by learning the perspective of SMEs. By doing so, we bring a closer fit between the discipline of marketing and the SME context. By gathering articles from across geographical regions we bring a global understanding, while at the same time pinpointing key characteristics of SMEs. Thus, this edition presents studies from Spain, Finland, the UK, Mexico, Jordan and Brazil.
Contents of this special issue
The first two articles address marketing capabilities in SMEs. Our first article, by Pérez-Cabañero, González-Cruz and Cruz-Ros, deals with marketing capabilities in one of the most important types of SMEs, i.e. family-owned business. This type of SME accounts for more than 80 per cent of businesses and is considered the true backbone of Europe’s businesses. The purpose of this article is to extend knowledge on how family SMEs marketing capabilities may impact product differentiation as means to gain satisfaction amongst stakeholders. This research brings to light an important conclusion that when resources are in place for product policy investments, firm profitability may increase. It also stresses the importance of two major marketing capabilities for better financial performance: marketing planning and pricing capabilities.
The second article on marketing capabilities, contributed by Trez and Luce, argues the importance of organisational structure as a basic element in successful strategy. This study posits that by focusing on the use of both inter-functional and inter-firm processes, SMEs are better capable of developing better strategic marketing capabilities. The authors present an integrated approach to three main processes:
the development of marketing capabilities;
the analysis of marketing integration into other functional areas; and
the establishment of inter-firm relationships for the development of new products.
This article draws three important original conclusions. First, it concludes that SMEs should reconsider some of their processes that integrate their structures as means to exploit market opportunities for the creation of superior value. Second, the dispersion of marketing decisions supports theoretical propositions which relate the ability of higher complexity with more flexible structures such as those found in SMEs. Finally, dispersion of marketing decisions provides better capacities for planning and implementation of marketing activities such as new product development.
The third article comes from Spain, and provides insights into launch strategies, order of entry and the role of switching costs – all involving the performance of pioneering products of SMEs in both existing and new categories. Molina-Castillo, Rodriguez-Escudero and Munuera-Aleman suggest that even when some SMEs may focus on creating innovative products or services to increase firm value, they may be missing some important dimensions that are essential to capturing the true value that innovations bring to their firms. While pioneering products may offer positive results to the firm’s image and performance, they may need to consider switching costs as barriers to consumer preference. This study proposes that using switching costs as a strategy for keeping consumers in not viable. The authors recommend that SMEs may select an early market entry when switching costs are not high.
The fourth article, from Jordan, has been developed by Al-Hyari, Al-Weshah and Alnsour. It addresses some important issues on how SMEs have found new growth opportunities through internationalisation strategies. However, there is a paucity of research studying some of the barriers to international business activities in developing markets, and in particular in the Middle East. This article focuses on exporting activities and barriers and their effects on exporting performance for SMEs in Jordan. The results presented in this article demonstrate that external barriers tend to be viewed as being greater than the internal barriers. For instance, political and economic instability of the region affects the level of firm involvement in export activity. That is, the higher the perception of exporting barriers, the lower the performance of the firm. Thus, some of the managerial implications proposed in this article are that public policy measures offered by governments should be aimed at diminishing external barriers, protecting property rights and transaction costs and offering better export assistance organisations to SMEs.
The fifth article is about the use of e-business technologies and discusses how organisational factors affect the use of e-business in micro, small, medium-sized and large firms. By providing empirical evidence, Bordonaba-Juste, Lucia-Palacios and Polo-Redondo focus on the effect of size, IT knowledge and level of education as basic organisational elements that may affect the use of e-business. The results propose that size, IT expertise and the educational levels of employees do influence the use of e-business. Moreover, the results suggest that European SME firms have stronger possibilities of carrying out e-business compared to American organisations. This article especially highlights the relationship between employee education and the use of e-business.
The next two articles of this special issue deal with brands, a recent area within the SME and brand literatures. Both articles propose that branding in SMEs takes an unconventional perspective when compared to larger organisation activity. In the first article, entitled “Co-creating corporate brands in start-ups”, Mari Juntunen answers two key questions:
Which brand stakeholders are involved in corporate brand co-creation in start-ups?
Which corporate brand co-creation processes do stakeholders engage in?
The results suggest that stakeholders are involved in three main processes including corporate name and product developments and communication material updates. This article presents new evidence suggesting that customers are seen as co-creators rather than passive receptors.
The second brand article is presented by Centeno and Hart. It examines how SMEs use communication activities to strengthen their brands. By means of “contemporary marketing practices” theory, the findings of this study suggest four types of brand communication activities including close and personal, mass-personalisation, mass and e-communication. This study confirms that SMEs as large organisations select an interactional, transactional and e-marketing approach depending on particular groups of brand communication stakeholders. Moreover, this study suggests that many more activities from the interactional marketing approach are particularly suitable for SMEs due to their particular characteristics and context, which help them to have a more personalised communication.
The last article on SME corporate social responsibility (CSR) was developed by Fraj-Andrés, López-Pérez, Melero-Polo and Vázquez-Carrasco. The authors reflect on the environmental complexity in which SMEs are required to operate in order to maintain competitive advantage. This study identifies the influencers for the implementation of CSR practices and their impact on SME image and positioning. Results suggest that there are two behaviour profiles. The proactive companies are those closely connected with the values given by the owner or managers of the companies interested in anticipating and pioneering the application of particular CSR practices such as ISO norms and the creation of sustainability reports. This type of company is also concerned with constant training linked to a long-term vision.
We want to thank each one of the authors of this special issue for their outstanding contribution to this interlink between the domains of SME and Marketing hoping that as we continue to move through a new decade, SMEs may continue to find their way in the business world by strengthening not only their position in the marketplace but also the discipline of marketing. By joining forces between SME and marketing theory we may better enable a more innovative understanding of both areas. Of course, we also want to thank each one of the reviewers for their punctual and valuable comments.
Finally, we express our gratitude to Gillian Wright and the Marketing Intelligence & Planning Editorial Board for the opportunity to manage this special issue.
Professor Jesus Cambra-FierroDepartment of Business, University “Pablo de Olavide”, Sevilla, Spain
Dr Edgar CentenoDepartment of Marketing, ITESM Monterrey Campus, México DF, Mexico