Internal marketing as a social process

Varey and Lewis (1999) argue for a broader definition of internal marketing. They suggest that the authors identified above tend to present internal marketing as ‘simply persuasion of staff to a management determined situation’ (Varey and Lewis, 1999: 929), and as a tool that is secondary to the prime business objective of customer and competitor responsiveness. They also point out that the marketing practices that are brought to internal marketing are limited to those of marketing mix management – Piercy, for example, develops a model of internal marketing based exclusively on the 4Ps (Piercy 1995).

Varey and Lewis’ exhortations for the acceptance of a new paradigm for internal marketing mirror the debate surrounding RM. Indeed, the writers call for use of the term ‘internal relationship marketing’, which they define as ‘an integrative process within a system for fostering positive working relationships in a developmental way in a climate of cooperation and achievement’ (Varey and Lewis, 1999: 941).

The practice of internal RM involves the blurring of the internal-external boundary of the organization through inter alia:

• Customer involvement in product design, production and service;
• Close partnership between suppliers and customers;
• Acceptance that relationships are enterprise assets;
• Open exchange of ideas of mutual gain;
• The systematic collection and dissemination of customer information (detailing and negotiating requirements, expectations, needs, attitudes and satisfaction).

Perhaps the most important feature of Varey and Lewis’ approach is that internal marketing is not seen as a means of effecting change, but as an end in itself – the establishment of internal relationship marketing will create the conditions in which the organization can move forward in partnership with its internal and external stakeholders, towards goals that can only emerge once these conditions are in place.