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Antecedents of internal marketing practice: some preliminary empirical evidence

Gounaris, Spiros (2008) Antecedents of internal marketing practice: some preliminary empirical evidence. International Journal of Service Industry Management, 19 (3). pp. 400-434. ISSN 0956-4233

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Service employees are reported to influence negatively the development of a market orientation hindering thus the service company's effort to become more customer centric. A way to overcome this barrier is the implementation of internal marketing (IM) programs. However, the extant literature reports that the number of companies practicing marketing internally is disproportionate small compared to the number of companies trying to adopt the market orientation concept. Hence, the purpose of this paper is to offer a preliminary insight regarding the antecedents of practicing marketing internally. To do this, data were collected from 583 first-line personnel from 29 five and four stars hotels in Greece through personal interviews in order to investigate the impact of company culture and internal-market orientation (IMO) as antecedents of IM and investigate the effect that the company's culture, IMO and IM have on employee's job satisfaction at the individual's level. The analysis involved multilevel SEM and demonstrates that the company's culture influences the adoption of the IMO concept, which in turn is an important antecedent to the implementation of IM programs. Moreover, employee's job satisfaction level is directly conditioned by the degree to which the company has adopted the IMO concept and practices IM, although the effect of the former is significantly stronger than the latter. Various directions for future research open from this study, which address the limitations of this study while facilitating further understanding of how the adoption of the IMO concept can complement the company's espousal of marketing philosophy. For instance, although assessing the impact of the IMO concept adoption and IM practice on the adoption of a market orientation and on customer satisfaction is beyond the scope of the present study, future research towards this direction through an integrated conceptual framework would be particularly helpful and welcome. The practical implication from this paper is that IM programs, in order to be effective, require that the company is willing to invest in adjusting its culture and also in adopting the IMO concept, which translates to investing in understanding what the employee's value, developing bidirectional communication channels and becoming responsive to the needs of its employees. This is the first study addressing the role of company culture and IMO adoption as antecedents of IM programs. Hence, it makes a contribution for both scholars and practitioners alike since the former derive a more comprehensive framework of studying further the practice of marketing internally while the latter obtain a more pragmatic picture of the actions required prior to launching an IM program.