University of Hertfordshire

Business-to-Business (Industrial) Marketing Ethics

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  • David Ross Brennan
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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Sage Handbook of Marketing Ethics
EditorsLynne Eagle, Stephan Dahl, Patrick de Pelsmacker, Charles Taylor
ISBN (Print)9781529709292
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


Business-to-business marketing concerns seller-initiated activities undertaken to bring about mutually beneficial exchanges between organizations. While there is no fundamental difference between business-to-business marketing and consumer marketing, there are important contingent differences between business and consumer markets that frequently entail a different approach to marketing. Notably, business markets are often dominated by a few large customers, which, by virtue of their purchasing power, are critical for suppliers. Consequently, business-to-business marketers often develop strategy at the customer level. Buying organizations seek to build long-term relationships with high quality suppliers, so it is common to find enduring buyer/seller relationships involving commitment and trust in business markets. The particular ethical circumstances of business-to-business marketing follow from these characteristics of business markets. A single customer relationship, and even a single major contract within that relationship, may account for a substantial proportion of a supplier’s sales, hence the loss of the customer would damage the supplier’s economic viability. Furthermore, within that business relationship it is likely that customer and supplier personnel have worked together for an extended period and have developed close personal rapport. In these circumstances professional integrity may be compromised leading to dubious ethical behaviours such as sharing confidential information, excessive gift-giving, and bribery.

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