Development of trust in B2B relationships calls for common goals

The development of trust in business-to-business relationships calls for goal congruence, according to a recent University of Eastern Finland and Cranfield University study shedding new light on power symmetry in business-to-business relationships. However, power does not play as key a role in the development of trust as previously thought.

The significance of power in business-to-business relationships is an essential yet also a controversial topic in marketing research, as diverging approaches have resulted in contradictory findings.

"Some researchers say that power asymmetry has a negative effect on trust, while others claim exactly the opposite. Our study is the first in the world to overcome this inconsistency," says Mika Gabrielsson, Professor of International Business of the University of Eastern Finland Business School.

The study focused on business-to-business relationships in organisations that had contradictory or unpredictable viewpoints. The case studies found that power does not play as key a role in the development of trust as previously thought.

"First and foremost, the development of trust in business-to-business relationships calls for goal congruence. However, this is independent of how evenly power is divided between the organisations," Senior Lecturer Saara Julkunen of the University of Eastern Finland Business School explains.

According to Julkunen, the findings of the study are reassuring for companies, as they provide support for the idea that companies of different types and sizes can establish successful relationships. On the other hand, the results also emphasise the importance of goal congruence in order for the relationship to grow and flourish in the long run.

"In business-to-business relationships, it is essential for the organisations' strategies to meet and be compatible. Goal congruence is of key importance for the development of a shared vision and, consequently, for the emergence of trust in success. These are always needed in order for business-to-business relationships to succeed at the practical level."

The results were published in Industrial Marketing Management.

For further information, please contact:

Deputy Head of UEF Business School, Senior Lecturer Saara Julkunen, DSc (Econ. & Bus. Admin.), tel. +358 40 355 3365, saara.julkunen(at)uef.fi

Professor of International Business Mika Gabrielsson, DSc (Econ. & Bus. Admin.), tel. +358 50 568 7626, mika.gabrielsson(at)uef.fi

Original article:

Power symmetry and the development of trust in interdependent relationships: The mediating role of goal congruence. Javier Marcos Cuevas, Saara Julkunen, Mika Gabrielsson. Industrial Marketing Management 48 (2015) 149–159. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.indmarman.2015.03.015

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The University of Eastern Finland, UEF, is one of the largest universities in Finland. The activities of the UEF underscore multidisciplinarity, and the university is especially strong in research related to forests and the environment, health and well-being, and new technologies and materials. The UEF offers teaching in more than 100 major subjects. In addition to the high standard of teaching, the university offers its students a modern study environment, which is under constant development. The university comprises four faculties: the Philosophical Faculty, the Faculty of Science and Forestry, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. The university’s campuses are located in the heart of beautiful eastern Finland in Joensuu, Kuopio and Savonlinna. The UEF is home to approximately 15 000 students and nearly 2 800 members of staff.

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