Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marketing (Business Administration)

First Advisor

William C. Black


Industrial suppliers often seek close relationships with selected customers in order to obtain certain strategic advantages. These advantages include not only those accruing directly from the preferred position with that particular customer (e.g., an assured outlet for the firm's products), but also those related to the attainment of mutual buyer-seller benefits including, as examples, new product development, new market entry, reduced distribution and shipping costs, and others. These advantages are obtained by the creation of close formal and informal ties or bonds between the firms using joint product development projects, R&D projects, Just-in-Time logistics systems and others. These types of buyer-seller associations have been referred to variously as "strategic relationships," "partnerships," or "alliances.". The purpose of this study was to develop and empirically investigate a model of industrial buyer-seller alliances. Although numerous conceptual industrial buyer-seller alliance models have been proposed (e.g., Dwyer, Schurr, and Oh 1987; Frazier, Spekman, and O'Neal 1988), only a handful of empirical studies have been conducted (e.g., Heide and John 1990). The model in this study consisted of a set of situational, process, and outcome dimensions intended to "best" describe and explain the alliance. It focused on the role and importance of strategic elements (Porter 1985), switching costs (Jackson 1985; Williamson 1975), and cooperation and trust (Contractor and Lorange 1988; Macneil 1980). Thirteen constructs and 21 hypotheses comprised the full study model. A pretest and full study test were employed. The sample consisted of industrial distributor and chemical manufacturing firms. Data collection involved a written, self-report questionnaire completed by key informants. Data analysis on the 163 usable questionnaire was conducted with LISREL (Joerskog and Sorbom 1984) and involved confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modeling. The findings evidenced substantial statistical support for the model and hypotheses. Hypotheses involving strategic elements, cooperation, and trust were generally supported. Two dimensions of switching costs ("hard" and "soft" assets) were identified but empirical support for their hypothesized role in the model was mixed. Future research directions and managerial implications which emerged from the study are offered.