Purpose - The aim of this article is to develop an understanding of marketing and customer relationships in software SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises) using a mixed methods approach. Design/methodology/approach - The methodology combined qualitative research methods along with quantitative adaptive conjoint analysis (ACA). A software SME was investigated as a case study during the first stage of the investigation. In order to ascertain detailed customer perceptions and expectations of their software supplier, 16 semi-structured interviews were conducted with the software SME's customers. The interviews subsequently informed the ACA, which was chosen as an analytical tool to establish quantitative hierarchy of relevant attributes identified at the qualitative stage of the study. Findings - Marketing in software SMEs is dependant on effective relationships between the firm and its customers and these relationships should be based on providing a quality software solution, understanding the customer requirement and professionalism. Other marketing tactics that are used to improve customer perceived credibility include forming alliances and partnerships within the technology sector. Practical implications - Software SMEs should proactively develop relationships with prospective as well as current customers and strive for a balance between customer orientation and innovation by involving the customer throughout the development of the software solution. The study's pragmatic approach has provided applicable results due to insight into a management case complemented with industry expectation of software product and service delivery. Originality/value - This combination of methods has made it possible to explore marketing and customer relationships in the software industry from multiple viewpoints. Therefore, the findings contribute to the limited literature of marketing in software SMEs and customers' decision-making processes when purchasing software.
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