Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

The Role of Relationships in Initiating the Internationalisation Process in B2B Markets



Objective: The objective of this paper is to evaluate how companies use the relationship capital when initiating the internationalisation process and how the development of a business network affects this process.

Research Design & Methods: The paper presents a comparative analysis of case studies of seven companies based in Poland and operating in foreign markets. This set of primary data and a comprehensive literature review served as a stimulus for the development of a typology of relationship capital mediating agents.

Findings: The cornerstone of the article is the assumption that in order to accelerate internationalisation, entities trying to enter foreign markets have to “borrow” relationship capital from one or more of several mediating agents. The article identifies these agents and outlines the role of different types of relationships during the market entry phase.

Implications & Recommendations: The article proposes a typology of relationship capital mediating agents such as: foreign and domestic intermediaries, individual insiders, own international and corporate network, own network expansion, and corporate or personal referrals. It also outlines the limited role of social relationships in concluding a successful market entry, placing them as one of the possible, but not necessary, options.

Contribution & Value Added: The originality of this work lies in the application of the concept of the relationship assets/capital to the network approach in internationalisation as proposed by the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Group (IMP) and the development of a typology of relationship capital mediating agents.



internationalisation, relationship capital mediating agents, relation-ship management


Author Biography

Bartosz Deszczyński

Bartosz Deszczyński, Ph. D., Assistant Professor in the Department of International Marketing at Poznan University of Economics and Business (PUE), Lecturer and Marketing module Leader in PUE'a MBA program, Plenipotentiary of the Dean of International Business and Economics Faculty for student trainee programs. Research areas: relationship management, Resource Based View (RBV).

Krzysztof Fonfara

Krzysztof Fonfara, full professor, head of Department of International Marketing at the Poznań University of Economics and Business, Poland. Member of the Editorial Committee and Reviewer of Industrial Marketing Management, Member of the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Group (IMP). Research interests span issues of internationalisation process (network approach), B2B marketing and relationship marketing.

Adam Dymitrowski

Adam Dymitrowski,  Ph. D., Assistant Professor of Poznan University of Economics and Business in the Department of International Marketing at Poznan University of Economics. Research areas: business model innovation, innovation, internationalization, international marketing, B2B marketing.


  1. Ahearne, M., Gruen, T.W., & Jarvis, Ch.B. (1999). If looks could sell: Moderation and mediation of the attractiveness effect on salesperson performance. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 16(4), 269-284.
  2. Andersen, O. (1993). On the internationalization process of firms: A critical analysis. Journal of International Business Studies, 24(2), 209-231.
  3. Anderson, J., Håkansson, H., & Johanson, J. (1994). Dyadic Business Relationships within a Busi-ness Network Context. Journal of Marketing, 58(4), 1-15. DOI: 10.2307/1251912
  4. Baum, J.A.C., Shipilov, A.V., & Rowley, T.J. (2003). Where do small worlds come from?. Ind. Corp. Chang., 12(4), 697-725.
  5. Barney, J. (1991). Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Manage-ment, 17(1), 99-120.
  6. Bilkey, W., & Nes, E. (1982). Country-of-Origin Effects on Product Evaluations. Journal of Interna-tional Business Studies, 13(1), 89-100. DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8490539
  7. Blankenburg-Holm, D., & Eriksson, K. (2000). The character of bridgehead relationships. Interna-tional Business Review, 9(2), 191-210.
  8. Bowey, J.L., & Easton, G. (2007). Net social capital processes. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 22(3), 171-177. DOI: 10.1108/08858620710741878
  9. Chen, Y.Y., & Jaw, Y.L. (2014). How do business groups’ small world networks effect diversifica-tion, innovation, and internationalization?. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 31(4), 1019-1044.
  10. Chen, T.-Y., Yeh, T.-L., & Yeh, H-Ch. (2011). Trust-Building Mechanisms and Relationship Capital. Journal of Relationship Marketing, 10(3), 113-144. DOI: 10.1080/15332667.2011.596471
  11. Chetty, S., & Blankenburg-Holm, D. (2000). The role of business networks in the internationalisa-tion of manufacturing firms: a longitudinal case study. Advances in International Marketing, 205-222.
  12. Chetty, S., & Pahlberg, C. (2015). Networks and social capital. An internationalizing entrepreneurial firm’s network is its network. In S.A. Fernhaber & S. Prashantham (Eds.), The Routledge Com-panion to International Entrepreneurship. London: Routledge.
  13. Cooper, M.C., & Gardner, J.T. (1993). Building Good Business Relationships: More than Just Part-nering or Strategic Alliances?. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Man-agement, 23(6), 14-26. DOI: 10.1108/09600039310044876
  14. Costa, E., Soares, A.L., & de Sousa, J.P. (2015). A new insight in the SMEs internationalization process. In L.M. Camarinha-Matos, F. Bénaben & W. Picard (Eds.), Proceedings 16th IFIP WG 5.5 Working Conference on Virtual Enterprises. Heidelberg: Springer.
  15. Czakon, W. (2011). Paradygmat sieciowy w naukach o zarządzaniu. Przegląd Organizacji, 11, 3-8.
  16. Danik, L., Duliniec, E., & Kowalik, I. (2016). The Polish born global firms: founding processes and motives of early internationalisation. Transformation in Business & Economics, 15(2), 111-131.
  17. Danik, L., & Kowalik, I. (2013). The studies on Born Global Companies – A review of Research Methods. Journal of Economics & Management, 13, 9-26.
  18. Daszkiewicz, N., & Wach, K. (2012). Internationalization of SMEs: Context, Models and Implemen-tation. Gdańsk: Gdańsk University of Technology Publishers.
  19. Decker, A. (2016). Levels of Social Capital in Internationalization: A View on Smaller Firms and Entrepreneurs. In J. Kuada (Ed.), Perspectives on International Business. London: Adonis & Ab-bey Publishers.
  20. Deszczyński, B. (2016). The Maturity of Corporate Relationship Management. Gospodarka Narodowa, 3, 283.
  21. Deszczyński, B. (2016). The Impact of Opportunity Management on the Relationship Business Model (A Study in the Polish Housing Industry). Journal of Eastern European and Central Asian Research (JEECAR), 3(2).
  22. Deszczyński, B. (2014). Zasoby relacyjne-konceptualizacja pojęcia w świetle zasobowej teorii przedsiębiorstwa. Studia Oeconomica Posnaniensia, 2(11), 25-44.
  23. Dunning, J.H. (2006). Towards a new paradigm of development: implications for the determinants of international business. Transnational Corporations, 15(1), 173-227.
  24. Dunning, J.H. (1980). Toward an Eclectic Theory of International Production: Some Empirical Tests. Journal of International Business Studies, 1(1), 9-31. Retrieved on August 28, 2017 from
  25. Dymitrowski, A. (2014). The Role of Innovations Created in the Internationalization Process for Company Performance. Warszawa: PWN.
  26. Dymitrowski, A., Małys, Ł., & Ratajczak-Mrozek, M. (2012). Forms of internationalisation and company performance (research results). Modern World Economy. Micro-and Macroeconomic Issues. Poznań: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Ekonomicznego w Poznaniu.
  27. Easton, G. (2010). Critical realism in case study research. Industrial Marketing Management, 39(1), 118-128.
  28. Evers, N., & O’Gorman, C. (2011). Improvised internationalization in new ventures: The role of prior knowledge and networks. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 23(7-8), 549-574.
  29. Fonfara, K. (2014). Współczesne procesy internacjonalizacji firmy. In K. Fonfara (Ed.), Marketing międzynarodowy: współczesne trendy i praktyka (pp. 39-67). Warszawa: PWN.
  30. Fonfara, K. (2012). The role of business networks in the company internationalization process. In K. Fonfara (Ed.), The Development Of Business Networks In The Company Internationalization Process. Poznań: Poznań University of Economics Press.
  31. Fonfara, K., Deszczyński, B., & Dymitrowski, A. (2016). Informal Relationships in the Company Internationalization Process – Concept and Empirical Evidence. 32nd Annual IMP Conference: Change and Transformation of Markets, Networks and Relationships. Poznań, Poland.
  32. Fonfara, K., & Szczepański, R. (2010). Różnorodność relacji w procesie internacjonalizacji firmy. Marketing i Rynek, 1, 2-7.
  33. Forsgren, M., & Johanson, J. (1992). Managing Internationalization in Business Networks. In M. Forsgren & J. Johanson (Eds.), Managing Networks in International Business (pp. 1-16). Phila-delphia: Gordon and Breach.
  34. Fried, D. (2010). Crowdsourcing in the software development industry. Nexus of Entrepreneurship and Technology Initiative Fall.
  35. Friman, M., Gärling, T., Millett, B., Mattsson, J., & Johnston, R. (2002). An analysis of international business-to-business relationships based on the Commitment-Trust theory. Industrial Market-ing Management, 31(5), 403-409.
  36. Gammelgaard, J. (2015). Case study I Internationalization of brewery companies. In P.J. Buckley & P.N. Ghauri (Eds.), International Business Strategy: Theory and Practice (pp. 109-113). London: Routledge.
  37. Ganesan, S. (1994). Determinants of long-term orientation in buyer-seller relationship. Journal of Marketing, 58, 1-19.
  38. Gorostidi-Martinez, H., & Zhao, X. (2017). Strategies to avoid liability of foreignness when enter-ing a new market. Journal of Advances in Management Research, 14(1), 46-68. DOI: 10.1108/jamr-09-2016-0067
  39. Gulati, R., & Gargiulo, M. (1999). Where do interorganizational networks come from?. The Ameri-can Journal of Sociology, 104(5), 1439-1493.
  40. Gummesson, E. (2017). From relationship marketing to total relationship marketing and beyond. Journal of Services Marketing, 31(1),
  41. Gummesson, E. (2004). Return on relationships (ROR): the value of relationship marketing and CRM in business-to-business contexts. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 19(2), 136-148. DOI: 10.1108/08858620410524016
  42. Granovetter, M. (1973). The Strength of Weak Ties. The American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380.
  43. Halinen, A., & Salmi, A. (2001). Managing the informal side of business interaction: Personal contacts in the critical phases of business relationships. Paper presented at the 17th IMP con-ference, Oslo, Norway.
  44. Halinen, A. (1997). Relationship Marketing in Professional Services. A study of agency-client dy-namics in the advertising sector. London: Routledge.
  45. Hanaki, N., Nakajima R., & Ogura, Y. (2010). The dynamics of R&D network in the IT industry. Research Policy, 39(3), 386-399.
  46. Hauke-Lopes, A. (2011). Współpraca przedsiębiorstw w strategicznej sieci biznesowej działającej na rynku zagranicznym. Determinanty sukcesu. In B. Stępień (Ed.), Współpraca i strategie marketingowe przedsiębiorstw na arenie międzynarodowej (pp. 29-38). Zeszyty Naukowe, 198, Poznań: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Ekonomicznego w Poznaniu.
  47. Havila, V., Johanson, J., & Thilenius, P. (2004). International business relationship triads. Interna-tional Marketing Review, 21(2), 172-186. DOI: 10.1108/02651330410531385
  48. Hennart, J.-F. (2014), The Accidental Internationalists: A Theory of Born Globals. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 38, 117-135. DOI: 10.1111/etap.12076
  49. Ibrahim, M., & Ribbers, P.M. (2009). The impacts of competence-trust and openness-trust on interorganizational systems. European Journal of Information Systems, 18(3), 223-234.
  50. Johanson, J., & Mattsson L.-G. (1988). Internationalization in industrial systems - a network ap-proach. In N. Hood & J-E. Vahlne (Eds.), Strategies in Global Competition (pp. 303-321). New York: Croom Helm.
  51. Johanson, J., & Mattsson, L.-G. (1993). Internationalization in Industrial Systems – A Network Approach. In P. Ghauri (Ed.), The Internationalization of the Firm: A Reader (pp. 303-321). London: Academic Press.
  52. Johanson, J., & Vahlne, J.E. (2009). The Uppsala internationalization process model revisited: From liability of foreignness to liability of outsidership. Journal of International Business Stud-ies, 40(9), 1411-1431.
  53. Johanson, J., & Vahlne, J.E. (2003). Business relationship learning and commitment in the interna-tionalization process. Journal of International Entrepreneurship, 1(1), 83-101.
  54. Johanson, J., & Vahlne, J.E. (1977). The internationalization process of the firm – a model of knowledge development and increasing foreign market commitments. Journal of Internation-al Business Studies, 8(1), 23-32.
  55. Johanson, M., & Kao, P. (2012). Network and internationalization. A review of more than 20 years of research. Proceedings of the 28th IMP-conference, Rome, Italy. Retrieved on August 28, 2017 from
  56. Laghzaoui, S. (2011). SMEs’ internationalization: an analysis with the concept of resources and competencies. Journal of Innovation Economics & Management, 7(1), 181-196. DOI: 10.3917/jie.007.0181
  57. Loane, S., & Bell, J. (2006). Rapid internationalisation among entrepreneurial firms in Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand: An extension to the network approach. International Mar-keting Review, 23(5), 467-485.
  58. López-Cózar-Navarro, C., Benito-Hernández, S., & Platero-Jaime, M. (2017). The influence of coop-erative relations on geographical expansion and diversification strategies in family firms. In-ternational Business Review, 26(4), 764-773. ISSN 0969-5931,
  59. Łobacz, K., Głodek, P., Stawasz, E., & Niedzielski, P. (2016). Utilisation of Business Advice in Small Innovative Firms: the Role of Trust and Tacit Knowledge. Entrepreneurial Business and Eco-nomics Review, 4(2), 117-138. DOI:
  60. Madsen, T.K. (2014). 5 Internationalization processes of professional service firms. In C.C. Julian (Ed.), Research Handbook on Export Marketing (pp. 132-144). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Pu-blishing.
  61. Małys, Ł. (2013). Siła powiązań sieciowych w procesie internacjonalizacji a wyniki przedsiębior-stwa. Warszawa: Difin.
  62. Marano, V., Arregle, J.L., Hitt, M.A., Spadafora, E., & van Essen, M. (2016). Home country institu-tions and the internationalization-performance relationship: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Management, 42(5), 1075-1110.
  63. Möller, K.K., & Halinen, A. (1999). Business Relationships and Networks: Managerial Challenge of Network Era. Industrial Marketing Management, 28(5), 413-427.
  64. Nielsen, B.B. (2004). The Role of Trust in Collaborative Relationships: A Multi-Dimensional Ap-proach. M@n@gement, 7(3), 239-256.
  65. Onetti, A., Zucchella, A., Jones, M.V., & McDougall-Covin, P.P. (2012). Internationalization, innova-tion and entrepreneurship: business models for new technology-based firms. Journal of Man-agement & Governance, 16(3), 337-368.
  66. Osterwalder, A., Lagha, S.B., & Pigneur, Y. (2002). An ontology for developing e-business models. IFIP DsiAge.
  67. Payne, A., & Frow, P. (2017). Relationship marketing: looking backwards towards the future. Jour-nal of Services Marketing, 31(1), 1-8.
  68. Piekkari, R., & Welch, C. (2006). Reflections on using qualitative research methods. Liiketa-loudellinen Aikakauskirja, 4(06), 565-574.
  69. Reid, S. (1983). Firm internationalization, transaction costs and strategic choice. International Marketing Review, 1(2), 44-56.
  70. Ring, P.S., & Van de Ven, A.H. (1994). Developmental Processes of Cooperative Interorganizational Relationships. Academy of Management Review, 19(1), 90-118.
  71. Sako, M. (1992). Prices, Quality and Trust, Inter-firm Relations in Britain & Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  72. Shirashi, N., & Iijima, J. (2009). Inter-Firm Relationships in the Telecommunications Industry: Characteristics and Typology. Contemporary Management Research, 5(4), 369-386.
  73. Smith, A., Ryan, P.A., & Evers, N. (2015). Inside born globals’ international network: a microscopic study of the Irish digital animation sector. In J. Larimo, N. Nummela & T. Mainela (Eds.), Handbook on International Alliance and Network Research. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publis-hing.
  74. Trąpczyński, P., Jankowska, B., Dzikowska, M., & Gorynia, M. (2016). Identification of Linkages between the Competitive Potential and Competitive Position of SMEs Related to their Interna-tionalization Patterns Shortly after the Economic Crisis. Entrepreneurial Business and Eco-nomics Review, 4(4), 29-50. DOI:
  75. Wach, K. (2015). Incremental versus Rapid Internationalisation of Firms: Results of Exploratory Investigation from Poland. Entrepreneurial Business and Economics Review, 3(4), 37-48. DOI: 10.15678/EBER.2015.030403
  76. Walter, A. (1999). Relationship Promoters: Driving Forces for Successful Customer Relationships. Industrial Marketing Management, 28(5), 537-551.
  77. Welch, D.E., Welch, L.S., Young, L.C., & Wilkinson, I.F. (1998). The importance of networks in ex-port promotion: policy issues. Journal of International Marketing, 6(4), 66-82. Retrieved on August 28, 2017 from
  78. Yoshino, M.Y., & Rangan, U.S. (1995). Strategic alliances: An entrepreneurial approach to globali-zation. Harvard: Harvard Business School Press.
  79. Zhu, H., Hitt, M.A., & Tihanyi, L. (2007). The internationalization of SMEs in emerging economies: institutional embeddedness and absorptive capacities. Journal of Small Business Strate-gy, 17(2), 1


Download data is not yet available.