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The Commitment-Trust Theory of Online Relationship Marketing

While studying Marketing I have always been interested in the dynamics of channel theory, or to put it in practice: How do you manage all the different kinds of partnerships that evolve around your organization? Nowadays organizations are more and more aware of the multichannel opportunities that are out there. PR for example is currently presented in relationship marketing as a sequence: traditional media, e-media, social media. More media means more relationships. And since I moved from offline marketing to online marketing it makes the channel theory in practice even more dynamic.

Lucky me 🙂 Would it be on the bright side. But taking into consideration the little control-freak traits I might show now and then…I’m facing nowadays the sado masochistic task to manage hundreds of thousands of relations, linkbuilding my online popularity, if I should blindly follow Yahoo! Side Explorer.


Strategic Focus in Online Relationship Marketing: Linkscaping before Linkbuilding

Because that’s where online marketing practitioners are loosing themselves: online tools in support of their activities. While some are actually very useful, also in online relationship marketing (Like the InternetEffect’s hub finder) I think it is most visible in this area that tools don’t provide the solution organizations need. We should not let ourselves lead by the enormous amount of free online tools to use with some trial and error without applying some common sense marketing knowledge. In my linkbuilding example there are indeed hundreds of thousands potential partnerships to whom I could link, or who can link to me, because of interests in each others’ business. But then I would be only focussed on the number of “partnerships” I can easily develop online – not on their quality. The main thing is to keep focussed from a strategic point of view: Why are those partnerships important to me and how can I classify them?

Morgan and Hunt (1994) wrote about this in “The Commitment-Trust Theory of Relationship Marketing” Exactly, that’s the title of this article except for the fact that I put “online” in between. In the figure blow I elaborated on their model, putting it in an online context.

Online Relationship Marketing

Although the model was originally developed about 16 years ago, in an offline context. I believe it still contributes to online relationship marketing activities like linkbuilding, to make practitioners aware of the nature of all the different kinds of partnerships around them. To prevent them in getting immediately attached to linkbuilding tools to use on the web – or worse: paying for acquiring a bunch of ingoing links. In that they first try to explain which kind of partnerships are really useful to them, what they are focussed on (transactional vs relational), and if factors like commitment and trust can play a role.

Hopefully this model can help you in linkscaping the opportunities around you before actually start linkbuilding.

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