Relationships with customers have been characterized as a company's most important business asset (Webster, 1992). Indications that it can cost six to nine times more to acquire new customers than to retain current ones illustrate the value of maintaining relationships (Peppers and Rogers, 1993). Relationship marketing has been defined as "an organization's effort to develop a long-term, cost-effective, link with individual customers for mutual benefit" (Berkowitz, et al, 1994). With regard to business marketing, relationship marketing has been defined as "enabling buyers and sellers to plan jointly, and work to secure the future for both companies" (Dwyer and Tanner, 1999). Perhaps illustrative of the relative lack of attention to relationship marketing as a distinct subject in business
markets, a relatively recent edition of a business marketing text (Haas, 1995) the term "relationship" does not appear in the index. What these references have in common is a description of end-state relationships. They do not clearly indicate how to determine what type of relationship may be most desirable under various circumstances or how to achieve the desired state.
What is relatively lacking in all of these definitions and discussions is guidance on
how to integrate relationship concerns into the business marketing process and marketing programs. In other words, what is the appropriate role of relationships and how should that role be implemented in the business marketing process? One notable exception to the above references is the book by Christopher, Payne, and Ballantyne (1991) which discusses development of relationship strategy among other relationship considerations.