Imprinting, honeymooning, or maturing: Testing three theories of how interfirm social bonding impacts suppliers’ allocations of resources to business customers
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In business markets, does strength of social bonds that a supplier perceives with a specific customer influence the supplier’s allocations of resources relative to other customers? If social bonding does uniquely impact supplier allocation of resources to customers, does the impact vary by relationship duration? Relationship marketing and Homans’ framework for social behavior are the theoretical bases for the study, which uses survey data to examine three alternative models that indicate how suppliers’ perceptions of social bonds with customers influence the suppliers’ allocations of resources over time. Analysis of data from sales and marketing managers confirms that two of these models, the imprinting theory and the maturity theory, are relevant. The findings indicate that relationship managers need to take into account the clear effect that creation of strong social bonds in buyer–seller relationships, as distinct from financial bonds, has on the way in which suppliers allocate resources to those relationships and how relationship duration affects the way in which they do so. The study strengthens the argument, on a strong theoretical base, to adopt a collaborative, as opposed to a transactional, approach to buyer–seller relationships.
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