Waning of relationship marketing: A grounded theory study of small hotels
Relationship marketing is a popular concept among marketing practitioners and scholars. Since the inception of the concept, it has been evolving for the last four decades. The implications of relationship marketing though proved to be significant in B2B settings and larger organizations, what it means or how it relates to small firms is rarely looked at. This study examines relationship marketing concept in the small hotels’ context. Adopting a grounded theory method in qualitative research strategy the study conducts 15 in-depth interviews between 15/08/2018 and 24/02/2020 with small hotel owners/managers. Participant hotels are independently owned budget hotels within London mainly, except for one in Peterborough. Interview data were systematically analysed with the help of NVivo 12 (software). A thorough literature review was conducted on relationship marketing (RM), small firms’ marketing, planning, market orientation, and networking. The study identifies no strong relationship orientation within the small hotels’ marketing practices. Though relationship orientation was once the main thrust of small hotels’ marketing strategy, the scenario has changed over time. In fact, relationship-driven business in small (budget) hotel sector is in decline significantly which means the practice of relationship marketing is waning in such businesses. Based on the findings, a conceptual model was drawn that illustrates why relationship marketing interests less and is deemed obsolete by small independent hotel owners. Two broad themes in the model: ‘going with the flow’ and ‘give it a go’ explain how waning in relationship marketing practice occurs. Nonetheless, conceptually relationship marketing paradigm is great. However, putting that into practice with theoretical and technological sophistication in small firms can be very difficult or impossible due to their inherent limitations. The study is limited to certain geographical locations and industry-specific. Future research can investigate the relationship marketing concept in different sectors to see the concept in a new light.
- School of Management