Research Priorities

Research Mission and Overview

The mission of the ISBM is to play a leadership role in advancing the theory and practice of business-to-business (industrial) marketing, and to advance business marketing as a specialized field within the broader marketing discipline.

The ISBM sponsors a biennial academic conference, a biennial PhD camp, a PhD dissertation support competition, periodic special interest workshops, a series of PhD seminars (IPSS—ISBM PhD Seminar Series) available to B2B PhD students globally. To access the full range of material available through ISBM B2B Pulse please login, using your academic username and password. If you are an academic and do not have a username and password, please register here.

Key Research Priority Domains

ISBM’s Trend Study has identified six areas that will be the ISBM’s key priority domains. All six represent areas of B2B Marketing that are expected to be critical for the next 3-5 years. The six key priority domains that emerged from the 2021 ISBM B2B Trend Study are: (1) Agile (2) Remote (3) Digital (4) Governance (5) Value and (6) Sustainability.  For more details on our most recent key priority domains see the white paper on the 2021 ISBM B2B Trend Study (in particular, pp 16-17 give a more detailed description of each priority).

Figure 1. Key Priority Domains

Traditional Research Priorities

The ISBM has supported a broad spectrum of research in the past, and will continue to entertain proposal on any issue that is relevant to business marketing theory and practice.

B2B Buying Behavior

While buying patterns are evolving greatly, our knowledge and models have not kept up with changing market conditions, new buying practices (e.g., in emerging global markets), influencing factors such as new technologies/social media and cross-industry differences. We need new insights and an up-to-date taxonomy as a foundation for future research and practice development.   Our key priorities include:

  1. Evolution of the Buying Process:  To what extent is extant knowledge on buying centers and buyer behaviors still valid? How does the emergence of B2B electronic commerce and global purchasing practices impact that typology or are new typologies needed?
  2. Geographic/Cultural Differences in the Buying Process: How do theories of buying centers and buyer behaviors differ across countries and what factors drive these differences?
  3. Sales Force Management and Behavior: Changes in B2B buying require that B2B selling strategies adapt. The emergence of solution selling and global key account management practices require more adaptive sales teams. How should one study these new types of sales teams?
  4. The Customer Experience: B2B customers increasingly search for information and seek solutions online for their firms in a fashion similar to the way they shop for themselves. How does one conceptualize and assess the changing nature of customer experience in business market and how does the customer experience change with buying situations and buying roles?


B2B Customer Analytics

Intersecting with the above two themes and others is the issue of B2B customer analytics.  As data on customer needs, information search, influence networks or patterns and transactions proliferates those data provide an opportunity and a challenge.   The opportunity is to integrate transaction data, CRM data, sentiment analysis, web log data and others) provide opportunities to improve customer acquisition, retention, upsell and cross-sell opportunities in business markets.  While we are interested in supporting work in B2B Customer analytics more broadly, our highest priorities surround:

  1. Use of Customer Analytics to identify and qualify opportunities for new B2B offerings.
  2. Use of Customer Analytics to better understand B2B buying behavior and the implications for better customer targeting, marketing resource allocation, pricing and customer life cycle management.


In addition, we are interested in work that integrates direct customer data with data from channel partners as well as data that explicitly recognizes multiple buying influences and buyer-seller networks.


Business Marketing Information Systems and Electronic Markets

  • What are the best practices in managing and getting value out of marketing information system (MKIS) investments?
  • How do the various online business models (e.g., reverse pricing, auctions, automated bidding) influence B-to-B customer behavior (e.g., loyalty, price sensitivity)?
  • How will the next exchange mechanisms of the digital economy alter the distribution structures?
  • What new concepts, theories, and measures can be used to explain and predict customer response to eBusiness initiatives? 
  • What factors (best practices) determine success of eBusiness initiatives in B-to-B firms?
  • What is the role and impact of personalization and customization in online B-to-B markets?
  • What organizational mechanisms are appropriate for designing high performance eBusiness?
  • What methods and models can help us determine the value of IT systems on marketing functions and processes?
  • What are the drivers of successful online relationships with customers at various stages of the sales cycle?
  • What are the determinants of successful supplier relationships in network-centric markets?


Business Market Research

  • How should firms best match research methods with marketing problems?
  • What are best practices for business marketing research, especially when there are a small number of (important) customers- i.e., what methods perform better in business marketing settings?
  • What methods are appropriate for doing market research not only with customers, but with other stakeholders and value chain members?
  • How can market research be used in areas such as: customer value creation, market segmentation and measurement of customer loyalty, brand equity and customer satisfaction?
  • What market research methods can be used with large amounts of missing customer data?
  • How can market research, combined with marketing models, be used to improve the return on a firm’s marketing mix investments?
  • How can the capabilities of the Internet be incorporated into market research practice?


Business Relationships

  • What makes a long-term relationship stick together or break up? Why?
  • What are the costs and benefits of long-term relationships for the buyer? For the seller?
  • In what industries, countries, or economic environments are long-term relationships more prevalent? Why?
  • What is the impact of the Internet on the nature of business relationships?


Buying Strategies and Operations

  • How have changes in the buyer/seller relationship changed buyer practices and value creation? (Teamwork? JITII? Opening buyer operations to sellers?)
  • What causes the formation of buying centers? How can we predict likely buying center choice?
  • How do buying center decisions depend on price, product, and situation factors?
  • What are best purchasing practices?
  • What role do brands (or ingredient brands) play in business markets?
  • How have electronic media affected buying processes and behaviors?
  • What effect do value-chain structures have on the nature of purchasing processes?
  • What is the buying behavior of global accounts? 
  • How can multiple preferences in the buying center best be modeled?  


Customer Value

  • What are the best ways to conceptualize and understand customer value?
  • How do you get beyond the buyer to identify the values of the right people in the buyer’s firm?
  • What approaches and measurement methods exist, can be adapted, or can be developed to assess customer value in business markets?
  • How can the value of the core product or service and its augmenting services, programs, and systems be separately assessed?
  • How do and how should buyers assess the value of alternative suppliers’ market offerings?
  • How are value, quality, and customer satisfaction conceptually and empirically related?
  • How can we measure the value of collaborative relationships with customers?


Exchange Design and Analysis

  • How should marketplaces be designed to best meet the objectives of buyers? of sellers? of intermediaries?
  • What gaps exist between the theory and practice of business marketing negotiations?
  • How can decision support systems be used to support exchange mechanisms?
  • How can we understand the negotiation process better so that outcomes can be improved from the buyer’s or seller’s perspective, or both?
  • When is bidding/price discovery mechanism inferior/superior to a negotiation process?
  • How can we understand and model the likely behavior of competition?
  • How can we model and manage competition?


Market Channels

  • What are the best ways to develop, compensate, and measure channel effectiveness?
  • How should we measure the effectiveness of value-creating networks and related activities?
  • What is the role of partnering in overcoming shortfalls in other relationship forms?
  • What is the experience of managers in measuring value in relationships?


Market Communications

  • How can firms measure the value of their communications programs?
  • What is the appropriate level of spending and allocation of those funds in the communications mix?
  • What is the best way to develop and manage a program of integrated marketing communications?
  • What roles do brands and branding strategies play in business markets?
  • How does brand awareness affect brand preference across business markets?
  • What is the role of the trade show and how should trade show effectiveness be measured?
  • How should firms develop and measure corporate and brand image, both domestically and globally?
  • How do the new tools of eBusiness impact the nature of the market communications process and the role of brands and branding? 


Marketing Engineering

  • When, why and how do decision models help improve marketing decision-making?
  • What factors (personal, organizational, educational, and system-specific) affect the individual and organizational adoption and use of such systems?
  • What forms of decision models are most effective? In what types of firms? In what types of environments?
  • How can decision models be best adapted to different forms of data interchange? (Traditional transaction capture? Electronic commerce? Internet/intranet environments?)


Marketing’s Role in B2B Innovation

This theme, the most highly cited issue in the B2B Agenda, includes three focused sub-areas:

  1. Taking B2B innovation beyond the product and beyond the lab: With the growing recognition that innovation can fruitfully take more forms than that involving traditional NPD processes, what nontraditional processes are needed or are most effective in B2B markets?
  2. Ideation in B2B: tapping customers and non-experts for fresh ideas: How can research determine how to better understand B2B customer needs and better involve customers in the innovation process.
  3. The interface of innovation with marketing and sales: How can research determine the most appropriate role for the salesforce in the innovation and new product development process in B2B organizations?


Marketing Strategies and Operations

  • What strategies do or should firms use when adding and deleting production capacity?
  • What norms exist for spending levels for marketing mix elements? Are these “optimal” or are they mere folklore? If folklore, how can they be improved?
  • What does it mean for the firm to be market oriented?
  • What are best marketing mix policies (pricing, bundling, product-line management, sales force structure and operations, sales force motivation and compensation, etc.)?
  • How can we measure the productivity of the elements of the marketing mix, both individually and jointly?


Product Policy

  • How can we evaluate the market for revolutionary, new vs. more incremental or evolutionary, products?
  • How do the benefits and costs of investing in each of these types of products differ?
  • How can we best measure new product development (NPD) success?
  • What organizational and cultural forces lead to NPD success?
  • What do we mean by new product success or failure?
  • What are the best means for producers and buyers to interact in the NPD process? 
  • What are the best tools to forecast new product sales?
  • How can the Internet best be used to facilitate and improve new product development? 


Other Research Topics

Other topics that we would encourage research on include (but are not limited to):

  • Global business marketing issues
  • The role of design in the business marketing mix
  • Direct business marketing
  • The use of business marketing research
  • Modeling and managing the value chain
  • Implementation of marketing/organizational change
  • Metrics 
  • Organizational design for marketing initiatives
  • Change management