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How relational drivers affect relationship value in key exporter-importer relationships: a dark side

Updated: Jan 9, 2021


Purpose B2B marketing scholarship has acknowledged that relational capital and relationship-specific investments (RSIs) are critical relational drivers for explaining the success of business relationships, especially those in an export-import (E-I) context. However, the literature is still inconclusive on whether E-I partners should accentuate relational drivers to the fullest in order to increase relationship value. By drawing on relational view of competitive advantage and literature that explored the dark side of business relationships, the author builds a conceptual model exploring the boundary conditions (historical ties and relational capabilities) upon which relational drivers enhance or diminish relationship value in key E-I relationships.

Design/methodology/approach To test the proposed model, a survey was conducted among 114 industrial exporters from Croatia. The data was analysed with the use of confirmatory factor analysis and hierarchical regression.

Findings This study contributes to the international B2B literature in two ways. First, the findings show that in the case of strong historical ties between E-I partners, relational capital has an inverted U-shape association with the relationship value, whereas in the case of weak historical ties this relationship becomes linear. Second, the findings show that an importer’s RSI will lead to the highest relationship value when an exporter reciprocates through employing relational capabilities through which the exporter adapts his business model to the needs of the importer. In case of an exporter’s weak relational capabilities, the relationship between an importer’s RSIs and the relationship value flips into an inverted U-shape.

Originality/value This study extends the literature on dark side of business relationships by offering insights into the boundary conditions that are essential for sustaining the relationship value in key E-I relationships. The study reveals that historical ties and relational capabilities represent boundary conditions that offer a more detailed explanation what is the optimal configuration of relational drives that would increase the relationship value between key E-I partners.

Article written by Dario Miočević, Vice Dean, Research & International Cooperation at University of Split, Faculty of Economics, Business and Tourism (Croatia).

Team Leader and lecturer on behalf of the "CSB pilot course" core activity of the Erasmus Plus K203 Project "Cultural Studies in Business".

Published on Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing - ISSN: 0885-8624 - March 28, 2020 and by Emerald insight – Discover journals, books & Case Studies -

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