How should firms develop and or change their marketing competencies when developing relationships with consumers online?
An empirical study is reported which attempts both to improve marketing practice whilst developing key aspects of marketing and resource-based theory. The thesis describes how firms can develop marketing competencies to exploit emerging online marketing technology and business opportunities. In doing so, the thesis provides empirical evidence that opens up what is widely acknowledged in the literature as "the black box of resources". Specifically, it explores the way marketing competencies develop as the result of investment in complementary marketing resources and conscious management activity. A literature review is presented which identifies generic marketing competencies and how they are expressed across a continuum of three forms of marketing: transaction, relationship and network. From this insight, the researcher develops a framework and a set of tools that help managers identify their firms' current marketing competencies and develop future marketing competencies needed to implement their marketing strategies. A co-operative inquiry research design is developed that permits managers to use and develop further these frameworks and tools, improve their day-to-day practice and contribute to academic literature and theory. The experience of two sets of managers trying to develop their firms' online marketing competencies through co-operative inquiry is presented. One inquiry is with a highly successful dot. com and the other the UK division of a leading automotive manufacturer. The findings from each are compared and the researcher develops contributions to both theory and practice. The contributions confirm and illuminate much of the extant, conceptually-grounded dynamic capabilities literature. The major implication for marketing theory and practice is that online consumer relationships can only develop incrementally along a continuum of marketing competencies. Details as to how these marketing competencies develop and change are discussed. Secondary contributions involve economics and the nature of co- operative inquiry within a marketing context. The validity of co-operative inquiry, and therefore of this research, is discussed in detail. Limitations of the research and its future directions are discussed.