Business to business dimensions of relationship marketing in the South African cement manufacturing industry.
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The focus of this study was relationship marketing (RM) in the business-to-business (B2B) context in the cement manufacturing industry in South Africa. Literature reveals published research for the cement industry is limited, particularly in South Africa, regarding the dimensions of relationship marketing. Research in this field focuses primarily on other industries and no agreed dimensions of RM exist. One of the objectives of the study was to test satisfaction as a mediator between causes and outcomes, with the causes being supplier competencies, trust, commitment and communication and the outcomes being cooperation and loyalty. An additional objective of the study was to develop a framework of relationship marketing dimensions for the South African cement industry. Data was collected from 362 major cement customers throughout South Africa’s nine provinces using a face-to-face interview technique with self-administered questionnaires. The data collected in the empirical study was analysed using Structural Equation Modelling (SEM). A framework of relationship marketing dimensions for the cement industry in South Africa was developed. It is anticipated this framework may contribute towards addressing the deficiencies in the implementation of relationship marketing strategies. The empirical results of this study suggested that a cement supplier should invest in methods of enhancing customer trust and communication in order to maintain customer satisfaction. The results also show that customer loyalty and cooperation could be maintained, by focusing on strategies for building relationships on the basis of customer satisfaction as well as surpassing customer needs and desires. One of the contributions of this study is the examination of the sequential logic of relationship marketing constructs in a business-to-business context for the cement industry. As a result, this study makes both theoretical and practical contributions to the field of relationship marketing. The outcome of the study developed a framework of RM dimensions, which could be used for the benefit of future researchers. It also presents findings of managerial interest such as the knowledge that satisfaction is a key factor between trust and communication. In addition, important outcomes of the relationship are cooperation and loyalty. The study offers practical contribution to the field of marketing by assisting cement companies to formulate profession-shielding mechanisms from competitors. The findings of this study also contribute by providing dimensions of RM, which may improve customer cooperation and loyalty within the cement and other business-to-business environments in related industries, which could lead to larger market share, higher customer retention and greater profitability. A limitation of the study is the use of a judgemental sample since the results may be interpreted to represent populations of those similar to the respondents only. Generalisation of results to the South African population and industries is therefore restricted. In light of this, it is recommended that the study is replicated for other South African industries.