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Relationship marketing defined? An examination of current relationship marketing definitions

Harker, Michael John (1999) Relationship marketing defined? An examination of current relationship marketing definitions. Marketing Intelligence and Planning, 17 (1). pp. 13-20. ISSN 0263-4503

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Attempts to define “relationship marketing” have been varied and many, neatly reflecting the diverse academic and socio-political backgrounds of RM scholars. This paper lists 26 such definitions, collected as a by-product of a literature review. Presented alongside this resource are the results of applying a content- analysis-based methodology to these definitions. These results suggest that seven RM “con- structs” enjoy general support. In a discussion of this, it is con- cluded that any integration of disparate RM theories implied by these findings is at best superfi- cial and at worst misleading. It is further suggested that “true” and complete integration of RM theory must wait until a coherent under- standing of these fundamental concepts has been developed. From the 26 definitions listed, one is judged as being more compre- hensive and generally acceptable, and a new definition is presented as an inducement to further discussion.