Industrial marketing communication : A (r)evolutionary journey from marketplace to marketspace

Abstract: This thesis looks back over a ca 10-year period, 1994 - 2005, on the use of marketing communication tools in industrial markets. The year 1994 is significant in two ways: First, it was the year I was hired as a doctoral student at Luleå University of Technology in Sweden. The year is also significant as it is around this time (1994-95) that the Internet became commercialized and openly available for use beyond simple, point-and-click information retrieval. This decade-long journey was broken into two parts: The first part explored the entire industrial marketing communication toolbox, where both personal and non-personal tools, as well as the emerging Internet were used for industrial sellers to provide information, as compared to what industrial buyers were using to obtain information. The second part looked at the Internet as a marketing communication tool onto itself. The first part of the study (1994 - 1998), resulted in a Licentiate thesis entitled "Industrial Marketing Communication: An Empirical Investigation on the Use of Marketing Communication Tools" (Foster, 1998). It is provided here synoptically as Study A. In Study A, industrial sellers and buyers were investigated as to how they utilized all of the marketing communication tools within the industrial marketing communication toolbox. It was found that there was still a heavy reliance on personal, non-commercial forms of marketing communication, primarily personal selling. The non-personal forms of marketing communication, or the "tools" within the compartments of advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and direct marketing, were also utilized, but not in the same way or to the same degree. The Internet was seen neither as a purely personal nor as only a non-personal form of communication, so it was given its own "compartment" in the toolbox, as highlighted in Study A's conceptual framework as an additional (new) "industrial cyber space" (or area) within the toolbox. Although being utilized at the time by industrial sellers and buyers, primarily via tools such as websites and to a certain degree e-mail, the Internet was considered a little-used but potentially valuable "marketing communication tool of the future." It was this finding that became the foundation and the invitation to investigate the Internet as a marketing communication tool onto itself in "the future." This became the focus of the next phase of the study. The second part of this study picked up where the first part left off and took place during the years 1999 - 2005. It started with looking at the literature on the use of the Internet in industrial (B2B) markets, and more specifically at the use of websites as industrial marketing communication tools. This in turn became the foundation for Study B in this doctoral thesis, "The Internet as an Industrial Marketing Communication Tool." For various reasons, chief among them the flexibility with investigating the area at a time when so much was changing and at such a rapid pace, an article format was chosen over continuing on with the monograph format used in presenting Study A. Around this time Jones (1999) explained that not only should the Internet continue to be a focus of our respective scholarly research efforts, but it should also be used as a tool to conduct that research. From this, it became of interest to focus Study B on these two areas: The Internet as a focus of my research (i.e. the AREA focusing on its use as an industrial marketing communication tool), as well as a tool used in conducting the research itself (i.e. the APPROACH to the research). Therefore, the first two articles in Study B look empirically at the use of the Internet as a marketing communication tool in an industrial setting. The third article focuses on how the Internet was used as a tool in conducting this research. The fourth article looks back longitudinally over the entire 10-year period, from Study A through Study B, discussing the findings from both the area of research as well as the approach. Overall, it was found that this research area focusing on the use of industrial marketing communication tools is actually becoming revolutionized in terms of how industrial sellers and buyers, and potentially other stakeholders in the industrial value chain, communicate and interact with one another. More specifically, technology seems to be affecting these relationships in new and exciting ways. It is suggested that what this 10-year journey has produced is the idea that we are in the midst of a "perfect storm" of revolutions within industrial marketing communication research, where both the respective focus of our research as well as the ways in which we go about doing it are caught up and mixed together within areas that will inspire us to continue to do more research, if we can keep up.