With the latest “Facebook relationship status” categories (February 2011) and the Government decision today that it will no longer defend the Marriage Act or DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) B2B marketing thought is truly at a cross-roads. Because ever since Dwyer,Schurr and Oh’s 1987 article on relationship marketing, the customer funnel has been seen as B2B partners proceeding through the following relationship phases viz. 1) Awareness 2) Exploration 3) Expansion 4) Commitment. The parallel logic is based on the sociology of the traditional marriage starting with exploring possible mates,dating, engagement and marriage.CRM systems speak to this kind of linear view and to some extent SRM systems also take such a perspective.
[Note: This post from February 23, 2011 was updated for formatting issues on May 22, 2021]
Now with Facebook relationship status categories like “Engaged”, “Civil Union,” “domestic partnership” or the more complicated “it’s complicated” probably things will get more involved in B2B relationship thinking as well. It’s early days for marketing thought to classify customers into the Facebook categories given that we don’t know exactly how you would map individual Facebook relationship categories to the inter-organizational relationships space. So a whole lot of work is ahead for marketing thinkers.
Call it the “Facebook” effect or the impact of the younger millenial Y generation who seem to be much more tolerant of ambiguity in relationships than older baby boomers or the more cynical Gen X. As Gen Y age and hold more important organizational positions, their world view will probably shape the B2B relationship field both in theory and practice.