Putting the “service” into B2B marketing: key developments in service research and their relevance for B2B

Jochen Wirtz*, Christian Kowalkowski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The business-to-business (B2B) marketing literature is heavily focused on the manufacturing sector. However, it is the B2B service sector that shows the highest growth in gross domestic product (GDP). Beyond a vibrant stream of literature on servitization, the B2B literature has neglected drawing on the wider service literature. This paper aims to examine recent streams of service research that have promising implications and research opportunities for B2B marketing. Design/methodology/approach: Together, the author team has decades of research, managerial and executive teaching experience related to B2B marketing and services marketing and management. The observations and reflections in this paper originate from this unique perspective and are supplemented by insights from 16 expert interviews. Findings: The authors identify and discuss in this paper four broad and related themes from the service literature that can stimulate B2B research and practice. First, the authors highlight the implications for capturing value in economies with their rapidly increasing specialization and related growth in B2B services. Specifically, the authors explain where B2B firms should focus on to gain bargaining power in the value chains of the future. Second, an additional strategy to enhance a B2B firm’s power to capture value is servitization, which allows firms to get closer to their customers, increase their switching costs and build strategic partnerships. The authors explore how firms can use service productization to enhance their chances of successful servitization. Third, servitization is expensive, and productivity and scalability are often a challenge in B2B contexts. These issues are tackled in a recent service research stream on cost-effective service excellence (CESE) where the authors derive implications for B2B firms. Fourth and related to CESE, latest developments in intelligent automation offer exciting opportunities for B2B services to be made more scalable. Originality/value: This paper is based on the unique perspective of the author team and a panel of experts and connects major streams of service research to the B2B literature.

Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Business and Industrial Marketing
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)272-289
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 20.01.2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Cost-effective service excellence
  • Digitization
  • Intelligent automation
  • Productization
  • Service robots


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