Developing relationships through direct marketing in a business-to-business context: the training sector in Portugal

Raquel Reis, Caroline Oates, Matina McGuinness, Dominic Elliott


Developing relationships between companies and customers is and will always be of extreme importance. The use of direct marketing to collect customer information in order to target chosen segments is seen as a powerful way to develop relationships with customers. Therefore, these two important marketing areas, direct marketing and relationship marketing, are closely related by many authors. Nevertheless, there is a surprising lack of empirical evidence on how the relationship development through direct marketing occurs. It is not enough to argue that direct marketing has an important role in relationship marketing. There is a real need to understand which are the activities and processes behind this link. Moreover, the existing literature relating direct marketing and relationship marketing is almost entirely focused on businessto-consumer markets, being more quantitative-oriented, and forgetting the customers' side of this "relationship" development.

In this paper a qualitative study is presented. The main aim was to explore if and how direct marketing can contribute to develop relationships with customers in the training sector based in Portugal. Furthermore, this study analysed the customers’ perspective and experiences on this important subject. Thus, this research explored qualitatively customers' perceptions on the relationship development through direct marketing, in a business-to-business context, using a grounded theory app.roach. No empirical study was found examining this particular combination. 30 semi-structured interviews were conducted with training customers, specifically training directors and participants of 30 different companies in Portugal.

This paper presents the main results of this empirical research, explaining in detail which are the direct marketing key roles in the relationship development, namely in its different stages of establishment, maintenance and enhancement.

Interestingly, some of the research findings are already starting to be app. lied to the marketing practices of the training company where the author works; the aim being to develop better and more effective relationships through direct marketing with their customers.



Direct marketing, Relationship marketing, B2B markets, Training, Grounded theory.

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