Advances in the Internal Marketing Concept: Definition, Synthesis and Extension

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An executive summary for managers and executive readers can be found at the end of this article

Advances in the internal marketing concept: definition, synthesis and extension Mohammed Rafiq
Lecturer in Retailing and Marketing, The Business School, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

Pervaiz K. Ahmed

Unilever Lecturer in Innovation Management, University of Bradford Management Centre, Bradford, UK Keywords Services marketing, Internal marketing, Customer orientation, Service quality Abstract Over 20 years ago internal marketing was first proposed as a solution to the problem of delivering consistently high service quality. However, despite the rapidly growing literature, very few organisations actually implement the concept in practice as there does not, as yet, exist a single unified concept of what is meant by internal marketing. Critically examines the internal marketing concept and delineates its scope by tracing the major developments in the concept since its inception. The literature review suggests three major phases in the development of the concept, namely an employee motivation and satisfaction phase, a customer orientation phase, and a strategy implementation/change management phase. Proposes a definition and a set of core criteria that are essential features of an internal marketing program. Also explores the interrelationship between the proposed criteria and suggests a framework for empirical investigation of the IM concept in the context of services marketing. Discusses managerial implications arising from the proposed definition and model of internal marketing.

Introduction More than 20 years ago internal marketing (IM) was first proposed as a solution to the problem of delivering consistently high service quality by Berry et al. (1976). However, despite the rapidly growing literature on IM (see for example, Barnes, 1989; Berry, 1981; Cahill, 1996; Collins and Payne, 1991; Flipo, 1986; George, 1977, 1990; Gronroos, 1981, 1985; È Richardson and Robinson, 1986; Piercy and Morgan, 1991; Piercy, 1995; Pitt and Foreman, 1999; Sasser and Arbeit, 1976; Winter, 1985), very few organizations actually apply the concept in practice (see for instance, Sargent and Saadia, 1998). One of the main problems contributing to this is that there does not exist a single unified concept of what is meant by IM. A diverse range of activities There is a great deal of confusion in the literature as to exactly what IM is, what it is supposed to do, how it is supposed to do it, and who is supposed to do it. The variety of interpretations as to what IM constitutes has led to a diverse range of activities being grouped under the umbrella of IM. This situation has been further compounded by a confusion of IM with the economic concept of internal markets (Baumol, 1967; Fama, 1980; Williamson, 1964; Williamson et al., 1975). This diversity of interpretations and definitions in turn has led to difficulties in the implementation and widespread adoption of the concept. Most importantly, these problems create contradictions at the conceptual level with respect to defining the precise domain of IM, and make empirical investigations of the concept more difficult. The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at



In order for IM to be effectively operationalized as a paradigm of organizational change management and implementation of strategies a clarification at the definitional level is required. What is required is a precise specification of those activities that can be taken to constitute IM and those that do not, since definition and classification are fundamental prerequisites to marketing analysis (Hunt, 1976; Lovelock, 1983). The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the IM concept and delineate its scope by tracing the major developments in the...
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