Relationship Value and Portfolio Management


The Industrial Network Approach (INA) has increasingly explored the concept of relationship value and highlighted the need to take into consideration the interdependent and dynamic features of business relationships, as well as the phenomenological and situational nature of value perceptions. Some scholars have demonstrated that considering value in a relational and interactional perspective has many more far-reaching consequences than considered until now (Baxter and Matear, 2004; Corsaro and Snehota, 2010; Vargo and Lusch, 2008). It has been posited that business interactions represent processes with critical consequences for relationship value: Interactions occurring between parties lead to value considerations being time and space specific as well as context dependent (Ford and Håkansson, 2006; Edvardsson et al., 2011). In addition, the value concepts used in business relationship analyses to date have only partially reflected the complexity of actors’ perceptions of value, particularly related to the numerous intangible, intrinsic, and emotional factors that form part of the construct (Sanchez-Fernandez and Iniesta-Bonillo, 2007; Peñaloza and Venkatesh, 2011): “Value is in the experience as an ongoing, iterative circular process of individual, and collective sense-making as opposed to a linear cognitive process…” (Helkkula et al. 2012: 59).

These considerations open up to new research directions and also to the need for more sophisticated tools to manage relationship value in business practice.

Among them, we highlight the consequences of the interactional, phenomenological and context dependent nature of value on portfolio management. In the past, developments in business relationships research have already emphasized the need to rethink business portfolio analyses from a relational perspective (Turnbull and Zolkiewski, 1997; Tehro and Halinen, 2007). The two topics, in fact, relationship value and relationship portfolio, are closely interrelated. Based on relationship value considerations, companies can direct investments to the most promising relationships, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the overall portfolio management (Campbell and Cunningham, 1983; Fiocca, 1982; Johnson and Selnes, 2004, Homburg et al., 2009). Relationship value should be instrumental for managing the set of relationships in the portfolio; in other words, without value considerations, any portfolio analysis would be impracticable.

However, although judgments in terms of relationship value applied to the set of business relationships are fundamental to portfolio investment decisions, the connection between the two streams of research has not yet been explored in depth. Thus, one of the purposes of this call for papers is to help meet the challenge of understanding how to approach the development of relationship portfolios from a relationship value perspective in business-to-business markets (Corsaro, Fiocca, Tunisini, Henneberg, 2013; Corsaro, Fiocca, Tunisini, 2009).

This call for papers aims at developing new insights on relationship value, with a particular (but not exclusive) interest in terms of portfolio considerations. The following are some possible research questions that can assist in developing such insights:

  • How can the Industrial Network Approach contribute to a further development of the relationship value concept?
  • Which models can support development of theory and practice in representing the complexity of the value concept?
  • How to further develop metrics for relationship value measurement?
  • What are the roles of relationship actors in value creation?
  • How are images of value related to value creation processes?
  • What are the implications for portfolio management of recent insights into relationship value?
  • What could relationship portfolio management based on value imply?
  • How to build a dynamic relationship portfolio which takes into account the interaction nature of value?
  • How can sales people deal effectively with relationship value considerations?
  • How does the nature or context of a relationship, for example its “atmosphere” in IMP terms, affect relationship outcomes such as value and hence affect relationship portfolio management?
  • How can the relative worth of the many valuable aspects of a relationship, such as its tangible, intangible, intrinsic, and emotional value, be assessed and how can that assessment be used to manage a relationship portfolio?


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Corsaro D and Snehota I (2010) Searching for Relationship Value in Business Markets: Are we Missing Something? Industrial Marketing Management 39(6): 986-995.

Corsaro D., Fiocca R., Tunisini A. (2009). Relationship Value Portfolio in Business Markets. Proceedings 2nd European Workshop on B2B Marketing, Lione (Francia), 19-20 giugno, pp. 14.

Corsaro D., Fiocca R., Tunisini A., Henneberg S. (2013) A Value Perspective on Portfolios, Marketing Theory, forthcoming.

Edvardsson B, Tronvoll B and Gruber T (2011). Expanding understanding of service exchange and value co-creation: A social construction approach. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 39(2): 327-339.

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Håkansson H and Ford D (2002) How should companies interact? Journal of Business Research 55 (2): 133-153.

Helkkula A., Kelleher C., and Pihlström M. (2012). CharacterizingValue as an Experience: Implications for Service Researchers and Managers. Journal of Service Research, 15(1) 59-75.

Homburg C, Steiner VV and Totzek D, (2009). Managing Dynamics in a Customer Portfolio. Journal of Marketing 73 (September): 70–89.

Johnson M and Selnes F (2004) Customer portfolio management: towards a dynamic theory of exchange relationships. Journal of Marketing 68 (1): 1–17.

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Zolkiewski J and Turnbull P (2002) Do relationship portfolios and networks provide the key to successful relationship management? Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing 17 (7): 575–597.