An Ethical Basis for Relationship Marketing- a Virtue Ethics Perspective

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The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/0309-0566.htm

An ethical basis for relationship marketing: a virtue ethics perspective Patrick E. Murphy
Institute for Ethical Business Worldwide, Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, USA

Ethical basis for RM

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Received May 2004 Revised January 2006

Gene R. Laczniak
Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, and

Graham Wood
School of Management, University of Salford, Salford, UK
Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide an ethical foundation for relationship marketing using a virtue ethics approach. Design/methodology/approach – The approach is a conceptual one providing a background on relationship marketing from both American and European perspectives. Earlier studies published in EJM on relationship marketing are featured in a table. Findings – The proposed ethical relationship marketing approach has three stages (establishing, sustaining and reinforcing) that are paired with specific virtues (trust, commitment and diligence). These and other facilitating virtues are shown in a figure. Research limitations/implications – The model and its components have yet to be tested empirically. Some strategies for undertaking such research are discussed. Practical implications – Several European and American companies that currently practice ethical relationship marketing are discussed. Originality/value – Although relationship marketing has been studied for a number of years by many scholars, the ethical basis of it has not been thoroughly examined in any previous work. Keywords Relationship marketing, Ethics, Business ethics Paper type Conceptual paper

From the management consulting literature:
Unless you build relationships of trust with your customers, listen, learn, and respond to their changing needs, and empower your people to correct mistakes when they occur (not days or weeks after they have been measured), you will not establish an environment for long-lasting customer relationships (Pollard, 1996, pp. 74-75).

From the boardroom: Mark Walsh, the CEO of VerticalNet, a provider of e-business infrastructures writes: A technology vendor is crazy if he or she feels that these firms will overthrow these personal relationships simply by putting new technologies in place. These technologies may make existing relationships more efficient, but they will not transform them (Walsh quoted in Cohen and Prusak, 2001, p. 54). European Journal of Marketing Vol. 41 No. 1/2, 2007 pp. 37-57 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0309-0566 DOI 10.1108/03090560710718102

EJM 41,1/2

From the lessons of history: an American visitor to Oxford marveled at the smooth green perfection of the lawn inside the quadrangle of one of Oxford University’s venerable colleges. While he stood admiring it, a groundskeeper appeared through one of the entries. The visitor asked him the secret of that lawn, so superior to any he had seen in the Us. The groundskeeper said: There’s no secret. Only soil, seed, water, and 500 years of rolling.

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It does not take anything like 500 years to build social capital in an organization, but it does take consistent effort over time. There is no quick fix (Cohen and Prusak, 2001, p. 185). These three excerpts aptly capture the essence of relationship marketing (RM) from a virtue ethics perspective. The first two quotes are by former executives who believe that trust and earned reputation are keys to establishing relationships in service and dot com businesses. The third quote indicates that it takes time, and serious cultivation (i.e. commitment and diligence), to build and maintain a truly lasting relationship. This paper focuses on the ethical basis of relationship marketing by taking a virtue ethics perspective. We envision relationship marketing as passing through three stages –establishment, maintenance and reinforcement. Each stage is...
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