ISBM Research Newsletter
Table of Contents
In This Issue . . .
We hope you had a great start of 2022! We are excited that this year we can again organize an in-person academic camp and conference in Chicago. More on this, and other highlights, in this Newsletter.
First, the Newsletter starts with a research Feature by Kristian Möller and Aino Halinen on B2B marketing scholarship. This Feature compares traditional B2B marketing research with the research tradition of the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Group, identifying dominant features of both research communities as well as some inherent constraints and impediments that need to be overcome to avoid stagnation. The authors conclude with a review of research opportunities and gaps that both communities can work to address, provided they are willing to reconsider some of their ideological barriers. Interestingly, some of these research gaps correspond with ISBM priorities that emerged from the 2021 ISBM B2B Trend Study (e.g., new market forms and ecosystems, sustainability), but you will also find several other interesting suggestions for future research. A thought-provoking Feature that invites us to leave our comfort zones, possible using less common research approaches, to tackle complex problems.
Second, about a year ago we wrote that we keep our fingers crossed for an in-person doctoral camp and conference in 2022… Well, it is happening! On August 9-10, Lisa Scheer and Kersi Antia will host the ISBM Ph.D. Camp in Chicago. A big thanks to Lisa and Kersi for organizing this unique platform for doctoral students in B2B marketing. The Ph.D. Camp is followed by the 2022 ISBM Academic Conference (August 10-11). We are grateful to the University of Illinois Chicago for hosting the Camp and Conference, and to Anna Cui and Aric Rindfleisch who generously agreed to serve as co-chairs of the conference along with Andrew Petersen.
Third, we are happy to announce three winners of the 2021 ISBM Doctoral Support Award Competition. Shuai Yan (Iowa State University) won the award for Outstanding Submission. Other winners are Ravi Agarwal (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) and Byungyeon Kim (Harvard Business School). We are happy to fund proposals so diverse in terms of research phenomena and methodologies. Congratulations Shuai, Ravi, and Byungyeon!
Fourth, we seek nominations for new ISBM Distinguished Research Fellows. We strive to develop a more diverse group of Fellows! If you have suggestions, please checkout the “call for nomination” later in this Newsletter which outlines the process.
Finally, concluding this Newsletter, Lynn Yanyo shares the latest from the Membership.
Stefan and Andrew
Feature: B2B Marketing Scholarship - How to Escape Current Stagnation
This Feature is based on our recent article in the Industrial Marketing Management that also covers the historical roots and categorization of B2B marketing (Möller, K., & Halinen, A. (2022). Clearing the paradigmatic fog—how to move forward in business marketing research. Industrial Marketing Management, 102, 280-300.)
B2B research is facing a paradox, although research volume has significantly increased, voices questioning the relevance of the discipline abound. We believe the “culprits” are the major research communities: the North American mainstream tradition (NAM) and the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing (IMP) group. In comparing these traditions, we recognized severe limitations in both (Möller and Halinen, 2022). They leave significant issues uncovered and do not meet the needs of strategic management or societal development. The NAM and IMP are just running out of steam!
NAM and IMP as research communities
Why do we carry out the kind of research we do? Most scholars are members of research communities whether they recognize this or not. Over the course of 30-40 years, the NAM and IMP communities have evolved into mature schools with ingrained paradigmatic cultures. These include norms for ‘good research’. Both NAM and IMP comprise collective belief systems shaping how we view the world. These orientations significantly influence what we perceive and study, how we conduct research, and what kind of research we value.
We employ Figure 1 to discuss the central orientations of the NAM and IMP communities. The upper part summarizes the core features of these, and the bottom part displays the consequences of these characteristics for research practice.
Dominant features of the NAM research
Despite its significant volume and versatile nature, NAM research demonstrates considerable cohesion regarding its meta-theoretical features.
Managerial orientation – the goal is to construct better tools for management and problem solving. This is reflected in the constant calls for closing the theory-praxis gap or conducting more relevant research. Emphasis on managerialism is deeply institutionalized, influencing the criteria universities, journals, or grant-awarding foundations use to evaluate research and researchers.
Figure 1. Characteristics and Consequences of the NAM and IMP Communities (Source: Möller & Halinen, 2022, 290).
Science-orientation forms another feature of NAM. The emulation of natural sciences involves reliance on theory-testing or problem-led modeling and quantitative analysis. Research phenomena are examined as quantifiable variables and analyzed as relational sets of focal variables with management science-driven modeling or statistical methods. The overarching science orientation influences the ontological and epistemological characteristics of the NAM research.
Working markets refers to the widespread, often silent, assumption about the context of business marketing, perceived as competitive markets of independent companies. Among the broad NAM community only the channel researchers have greater interest in the context of business marketing.
NAM research is method driven. The science ethos with the tendency to examine focal phenomena through objectification leads to the endorsement of quantitative research methods. Predominantly knowledge produced through quantitative analysis is seen as scientific.
Consequences of the NAM Research Culture
Knowledge construction within the NAM community prioritizes research of such management/firm issues that occur frequently, are relatively stable, and can be reduced into a relatively small number of constructs and measurable variables (the left end of the complexity continuum, Figure 1).
Most research focuses on issues having either inherently relatively low complexity or the complexity of which can be reduced with research designs so that the issues can be analyzed with legitimate methods. All research obviously involves reduction of reality; the issue is, to what extent can we simplify and still achieve meaningful results?
The reliance on objectifying methods involves avoidance of complex and dynamic issues, and processual research in general. This tendency is enhanced by the taken-for-granted assumption of working markets. The ‘legitimate’ methodological requirements have impeded NAM scholars from addressing complex business strategy and market transformation issues. Is the NAM community losing its innovativeness, the ability to renew itself?
Dominant features of the IMP research
Thriving on complexity: the IMP community excels in examining complex phenomena in a real-world context. This involves interaction and interdependence perspectives; actors, relationships, and networks are constituted through the continuing interactions of their members. The community tends to consider actors, resources, and activities as unique, embedded in their historical contexts.
Social science orientation guides the scholarship of core IMP; studies follow social constructionism, although often implicitly. This enables consideration of multiple perceived realities. Another orientation is critical realism, which looks for the underlying causal mechanisms of specific network structures and behaviors.
Subjective knowledge creation implies the use of qualitative methods for the description of business phenomena. Highly generic constructs (actors, resources, network pictures, and network change) are used to make sense of network structures, processes, and firm behavior.
Sticking to the IMP conceptual tools. Core IMP scholars tend to safeguard the “correct” use of the central ontological and epistemological assumptions of the IMP network theory. While fostering conceptual coherence this stickiness has impeded the renewal of the IMP scholarship.
Consequences of the IMP Research Culture
The emphasis on the uniqueness of focal phenomena, because of their embeddedness in history and context, implicates knowledge production typical in social sciences and humanities. This involves thick description via qualitative and historical methods; the goal is understanding temporally and contextually contingent, unique phenomena through meaning construction.
Phenomenon-driven case research of complex business network topics is prioritized (the right hand-side in Figure 1). Using interpretative theorizing from case studies, the IMP scholars have developed abstract conceptual frames (Interaction Model, Actors-Resources-Activities Framework, Network picture concept) adept for analytical description of any network phenomena.
The uniqueness notion significantly constricts IMP research. Innumerable case studies have reproduced the postulated complexity across various business networks. Theoretically more advanced questions and research designs has been overshadowed; we lack knowledge of how networks and their management differ, and why. If everything is unique, comparative studies are considered useless. This ontological foundation is leading IMP into an impasse.
Research GAP – future opportunities
The NAM and IMP communities have almost diametric research interests, worldviews, and knowledge construction practices. While being highly successful, their dominance has left significant issues underdeveloped. To move forward we propose to develop them internally and examine ways to alleviate their cultural barriers.
We miss knowledge and theories of the emergence of new market forms and ecosystems. This concerns descriptive research (what kind of market forms emerge and what are the driving forces), processual research (through what kind of processes do these forms evolve), and positive research (how to construct and orchestrate markets/ecosystems).
Similar what, why and how questions are relevant for new channel configurations and strategic networks. What kind of forms evolve and why, and how to shape them?
Rapidly transforming business marketing practices call for better understanding across emerging markets and business contexts. What are dominant marketing practices, their drivers, and effectiveness? Are there new marketer, mediator, and customer roles? What are the change drivers and their profitability consequences?
These are pertinent issues in the changing business landscape. Global crises, radical innovations and societal transitions are disrupting markets and challenging established B2B practices (Möller et al., 2020). Evolving strategies, business models, and digitization of marketing call for innovative research.
How to Advance NAM Research
Mitigating the Science-view & Legitimacy Barrier. The NAM community is a captive of its science-driven worldview. This ideal dominates the entire knowledge construction by determining the ‘correct’ research practices. In effect the science orientation forms a legitimacy barrier for the acceptable methodological tools for NAM researchers.
The barrier could be overcome by adopting culturally acceptable quantitative methods tackling the multilayered and complex marketing phenomena in a less reduced manner. The growing application of qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) seems most prominent. Compared to the SEM modeling and statistical analysis, the QCA is case-oriented and enables contextual analysis by considering a set membership of the particular cases under study (firms, organizational forms, behaviors, solutions like Key Account Management).
Getting beyond mere Managerial Orientation would enable addressing such fundamental questions as “what kind of marketing phenomena exist and emerge, and why”, and examining the influence of marketing efforts on other stakeholders beyond managers. This would bring marketing to the realm of social sciences. Similarly, B2B marketing should participate in solving economic, social, and environmental issues by contributing to sustainable markets and marketing solutions.
Seeing beyond Working Markets and Competition. By embracing these assumptions NAM research has largely discarded business context and market-level collaboration. The scarcity of process research is another weakness. These biases link to variance-based modeling not offering proper tools for examining the emergence of complex market systems. Consequently, NAM has misleadingly simple views of markets and their change. To advance, we advise the NAM community to embrace system and process views and new methodologies.
How to Advance IMP Research
Overcoming the Ideological Barrier refers to the unwavering focus of the IMP community on the complexity of business networks and the uniqueness of research phenomena. This involves deep description of single cases and omittance of comparative research designs. Traversing the barrier entails accepting more reductionist research, paradoxically the opposite to the legitimacy challenge of the NAM community.
We advocate more theory-driven research addressing the construction and orchestration of different types of business networks. The strategic nets approach by Möller and colleagues (Möller & Halinen, 2017) offers a significant forerunner.
Taking Process and Evolution Seriously. Advanced historical research on the evolution of networks, and their construction and orchestration are needed. Scholars should undertake multilevel analysis to identify key events and conditioning factors, to examine processes both at the macro- and micro-levels of networks/ecosystems.
Network effectiveness requires special attention. We need efficacy analysis of various network forms and practices. Longitudinal studies contrasting theoretically diverse business networks should be prioritized to single cases. Adopting these suggestions would, however, require traversing the strong ideological barrier of the IMP research.
Kristian Möller is an Emeritus Professor at the Aalto University School of Business, Aino Halinen is a Professor at the University of Turku, School of Economics. Both have extensive research experience in business marketing.
Möller, K., & Halinen, A. (2022). Clearing the paradigmatic fog—how to move forward in business marketing research. Industrial Marketing Management, 102, 280-300.
Möller, K., & Halinen, A. (2017). Managing business and innovation networks—From strategic nets to business fields and ecosystems. Industrial Marketing Management, 67, 5-22.
Möller, K., Nenonen, S., & Storbacka, K. (2020). Networks, ecosystems, fields, market systems? Making sense of the business environment. Industrial Marketing Management, 90, 380-399.
2022 ISBM PhD Camp - August 9 & 10 - Student Nomination Deadline Extended to April 18
Penn State’s Institute for the Study of Business Markets is sponsoring its 9th Ph.D. Camp for Research in Business-to-Business Markets. The Camp is open to all doctoral students, but it is particularly targeted to students in their first 3 years of study. The Camp is designed to educate students about research opportunities in the B-to-B realm, to introduce students to the network of B-to-B students and scholars, and to help cultivate relationships among those researchers.
The Camp enables students to interact with prominent faculty and young, promising scholars, get acquainted with research paradigms and topics in business-to-business strategy, marketing, and management. Camp counselors will offer insights on:
- Sources of data, financial support, and research guidance
- Working with practitioners to develop research projects
- Obtaining secondary data creatively
- The joys and trials of research collaborations
- Developing a career while dealing with life’s unexpected twists
- Student participants’ own research ideas
Scheduled counselors include Kersi D. Antia, Elham Ghazimatin, David Griffith, Colleen Harmeling, Mark Houston, Vamsi Kanuri, Vishal Kashyap, Son Lam, Erik Mooi, Unnati Narang, Andrew Petersen, Nandini Ramani, Lisa Scheer & Stefan Wuyts.
ELIGIBILITY & SELECTION CRITERIA
The Camp is designed for students who have completed at least one year of doctoral studies and have interest in pursuing work in B-to-B marketing or management. There are no geographic or field restrictions; students studying marketing, strategy, management, R&D management, information systems, business logistics/supply chain management and others will find the Camp attractive and beneficial.
Each university can submit up to 2 student nominations. E-mail nominations to Lisa Scheer (Scheer@missouri.edu) by April 18, 2022. Those accepted for the Camp will be notified by April 25. Attach a single file (Word, pdf) for each nomination that contains the following materials:
- Student’s Vita
- Faculty Recommendation Letter
This is used to verify the motivation and ability of the student, along with the student’s interest in the domain of B-to-B.
- Student’s Essay
The essay (1000 words maximum) should address the topic: A business-to-business research issue that I would like to pursue is XXX. . . Why?
The student may wish to associate the research idea with ISBM’s Research Priorities (https://isbm.org/research-priorities/). Although not essential, alignment with ISBM Research Priorities opens greater opportunities for future submission of funding proposals or participation in proposal competitions.
Looking ahead – for Camp participants:
Our small-group Research Workshops in which students share early-stage research ideas and get feedback from B-to-B researchers is a popular feature of the Camp. Camp participants will be requested to submit a 1000-word (maximum) summary of an early-stage research topic/project plus an illustrative diagram or figure by June 15, 2022. Please note, this early-stage research may or may not address the same topic as the student’s essay for the nomination. Details will be provided later.
Camp participants are encouraged to consider the additional development opportunities offered by ISBM, specifically, Ajay Kohli’s Theory Construction Workshop (August 8 & 9) and the ISBM Academic Research Conference (August 10 & 11).
2022 ISBM Academic Conference - August 10 & 11 - Call for Papers and Special Session Proposals Due May 1
The Institute for the Study of Business Markets will be holding its 2022 biennial Academic Conference in Chicago, IL on Aug 10 – 11 (immediately preceding the Summer AMA Educators’ Conference). The venue will be the University of Illinois at Chicago (750 South Halstead), Chicago, Illinois.
The conference will kick‐off Wednesday, Aug 10 at noon and continue until 5:00PM on Thursday, Aug 11, ending with a cocktail reception.
The objective of the conference, as always, is to develop new ideas and new ways to address the pressing issues at the interface of the B2B academic communities; generate new research approaches and ideas; and to provide a forum for interaction amongst the world’s leading B2B researchers.
Note: We are particularly interested in papers or special sessions that are aligned with the six Key Priority Domains that emerged from the 2021 ISBM B2B Trends Study©. All six represent areas of B2B marketing that are expected to be critical for the next 3-5 years. The six key priority domains are:
- Agile (Agile Innovation; Manage rapid change; B2B data analytics)
- Remote (Remote business development; Market remotely)
- Digital (B2B data analytics; Reimagining marketing; Digital B2B decision-making)
- Sustainability (Environmental impact; Social impact)
- Value (Value of marketing; STP & value proposition; B2B CRM)
- Governance (Align value chain; Manage interorganizational relationships)
A full conference agenda will be added after May 15 once papers and special sessions have been accepted. Conference details will be added to our website when available https://isbm.org/biennial-conference/. We invite you to submit an abstract and/or special session for the conference before the due date of May 1, 2022.
- Abstracts should be approximately 250-500 words double-spaced (about a ½ page typed)
- Correspondence will be directed to submitting author, unless directed otherwise
- Corresponding author will receive notice of acceptance by May 15, 2022.
- If there are multiple authors, please indicate which author is presenting the paper in the submission: Note: while individuals may submit multiple abstracts, an individual is limited to one presentation at the conference.
- Paper will not be placed on the schedule until at least the presenting author has registered to attend the conference.
Special Note: This will be a Live, Face-to-Face Event only, and we will follow all visitor safety guidelines that are in place at the time from the University of Illinois Chicago (https://ehso.uic.edu/covid19/).
We hope you will be able to attend the conference. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
2021 Doctoral Support Award Competition Winners Announced
Winners have been named in the thirty-first annual Institute for the Study of Business Markets (ISBM) Doctoral Support Award Competition. The ISBM’s doctoral support competition provides financial support for PhD dissertations for candidates in accredited doctoral programs.
This year there were three winners, named ISBM Doctoral Fellows. Each will receive a cash award to support their research. The winning proposals illustrate the breadth of the B2B marketing domain. Conceptually, they cover business-to-government relationships, interorganizational relationships, and sales force control. Methodologically, they include survey research, panel regressions, and dynamic structural models.
Shuai Yan of Iowa State University won the award for the outstanding submission with his dissertation proposal,
Effect of Government-to-Contractor Revolving Door Appointments on Customer Relationship Performance
Ph.D. Advisor: Ju-Yeon Lee
Ravi Agarwal of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Regulatory Focus in Key Account Management Teams, Governance Mechanisms, and Solution Outcomes
Ph.D. Advisor: Alok Kumar
Byungyeon Kim of Harvard Business School
Managing Relational Sales: The Role of Behavior-Based and Outcome-Based Controls
Ph.D. Advisor: Doug Chung
This year there were twenty entrants from which seven finalists were selected. Dissertation entries are judged on the rigor of the proposed work and the relevance of that work to business-to-business marketing practice. For information about the competition, email the ISBM at ISBM@psu.edu or visit our website https://isbm.org/doctoral-support-award-competition for current competition information.
Headquartered in the Smeal College of Business at Penn State, the ISBM has been supporting business-to-business marketing research and practice since 1983. Funding for this competition comes from the generous support of corporate members.
Nominations for New ISBM Distinguished Research Fellows Extended
The ISBM continues to seek nominations for its 2022 Class of ISBM Distinguished Research Fellows.
An “ISBM Fellow” is:
- A recognized senior scholar and thought leader in one or more domains of B2B marketing,
- Dedicated to the Institute’s mission of advancing both the theory and the practice of the discipline,
- Dedicated to working with practitioners, is deeply involved in B2B education, is active in field research and publication in respected journals, and
- Active in ISBM academic meetings, practitioner meetings and/or ISBM educational programs.
Nomination: Any existing Fellow (see here for list of existing Fellows) may make a nomination. The nomination should include:
- A recent vita of the candidate and
- A letter (max 2 pages) addressing the following three dimensions for selection.
- Contributions to B2B Scholarship
- Contributions to B2B Practice
- Involvement in ISBM Activities
If you feel you or someone you know would be an appropriate candidate for a Fellow, please connect with and work with any of the existing Fellows (https://isbm.org/isbm-fellows/) to prepare a nomination.
The nomination deadline has been extended to April 30, 2022. Please email nominations to Lori Nicolini (LNicolini@psu.edu).
From the ISBM Corporate Membership
Greetings from the ISBM Membership,
There is nothing better than rapid, unpredictable change to challenge all our assumptions, experience and faith. After two years, our businesses, education methodologies, interpersonal skills and daily routines have changed in many ways, permanently. Where not permanently changed, we have new understanding – through direct experience – of the value of direct human contact and communication.
Our membership continues to express optimism that we are moving through this period and to a time – this year – when we will be back to in-person events.
While we continue to offer our educational programming virtually all of this year, we are looking to a Fall, in-person member event. Date and location are still to be defined – a behavior learned from recent experience.
At the end of last year we held a virtual Members Meeting where we talked about the Power of Frameworks. Business Frameworks are useful tools that help you analyze business issues and structure your thinking. Our own Ralph Oliva has recorded a historical perspective of the “ Top 10” Frameworks, including several that were developed by ISBM Fellows. We showcased several new Frameworks including the new B2B Marketing Analytics Framework – which we believe is the first of its kind – by Dr. Andrew Petersen. You can view all of the presentations on B2B Pulse.
Last year we ran our first B2B Marketing Mastery TRACKTM, which provides a new B2B Marketer with all the basics of B2B Marketing over the span of several months. It was a critical success with 15 attendees fully completing the courses over 6 months. This TRACKTM is scheduled again in 2022, but based on participant feedback, we have shortened the span to 4 months.
We are planning a one-day, virtual Jam Session for our membership on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). This topic area was identified by our research group as an area of high interest. We will share more about this as the date is finalized.
Our webinars continue and I invite you to browse them at B2B Pulse.
Best wishes to all of us for a return to in-person meetings!