Classifying relationship structures: Relationship strength in industrial markets

Bill Donaldson, Tom O'Toole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


Although many authors examine relationships, few attempt to classify alternative structures. In this research a relationship strength construct is developed to distinguish among alternative relationship structures based on a key mediating variable set derived from an assessment of the dominant behavior process and economic content variables underlying important buyer-seller relationships. Results using a cluster analysis procedure based on a sample of 200 industrial company respondents from the UK engineering, electronic and telecommunications sectors support the classification. This allows us to discriminate between four relationship structures in main buyer-supplier relationships, which are labeled: bilateral, recurrent, dominant partner, and discrete. Such a classification can provide managers with a mechanism for analyzing and planning for the development of their inter-firm relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)491-506
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Business and Industrial Marketing
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Business-to-business marketing
  • Channel relations
  • Industrial marketing
  • Relationship marketing


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