In the following chapter, motivation and justification for the applied research philosophy, research approach and research design are presented. This is followed by an outline of the data collection technique and analysis procedure for the empirical findings. At the end of the chapter, the means of ensuring quality and trustworthiness to the research is presented.
A research philosophy, also known as a paradigm, involves guidelines to how the researchers study and interpret what they see. The research philosophy also indicates how the research should be conducted and provides a clear understanding of how the researchers will obtain the necessary information of the research. As for the perspective chosen as a suitable one for the research paradigm, it is dependent on the research topic (Rubin & Rubin, 2005), the context of the study as well as the assumptions of the researchers (Malhotra & Birks, 2007).
The two main philosophies usually applied in the paradigm are positivism and interpretivism which are two approaches that differ in the sense of what kind of information the researchers should be looking for and how they should obtain it (Rubin Rubin, 2005). The main objective for a positivists is to establish rules which, in turn, enable the researchers to provide explanations of a certain phenomenon using reliable facts and objectivity (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). Usually, the positivist approach is suitable for statistical studies, experiments, and surveys, in which measurements are achievable and relationships can be extracted from the results. The positivist approach can also be used to test theories and if the topic is suitable, high-quality work can be achieved (Malhotra & Birks, 2007).
The contrasting philosophy to positivism is interpretivism, which rather than seeking laws that applies uniformity to a context, emphasizes a dynamic reality in which there exist a broad range of interpretations and an evolving nature. Instead of predicting and extrapolating an outcome from a larger population, the main objective for interpretivists is to gain a deeper understanding from the perspectives of the participants (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). Interpretivism can also provide guidance to in-depth and semi-structured interviews (Rubin & Rubin, 2005). With the purpose of this study in mind, the authors argue that the interpretivist philosophy is the most suitable. Considering the aim to understand where B2B businesses are in their adoption process of inbound marketing, the best fitting research technique is to use interviews and find patterns in answers. Therefore, the interpretivist philosophy is arguably the best option according to the authors of this study.
Researchers can achieve legitimacy to their research through either a deductive or inductive approach. The deductive approach is commonly used by positivists since it makes predictions, test hypotheses and measures specific variables. In order to achieve this, a broad theoretical framework is said to be required (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). As for this study however, a deductive approach is not applicable since the authors do not seek to make predictions or measure variables.
Interpretivists usually adopts an inductive approach, as it tries to draw conclusions, although no established theoretical framework is present (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). Since the authors will conducted semi-structured interviews and tried to generate meaning by identifying patterns in the collected data, an inductive approach was applicable for this study.
A research design can be classified in a broad way as either conclusive or exploratory. With a conclusive design, the researchers often aim to examine or measure specific relationships or describe a certain phenomenon. The design is often formal and structured, which requires the information provided to be clearly specified. Since this design is often used on subjects where much theory is present, hypotheses are often tested (Malhotra & Birks, 2007).
In contrast, an exploratory design is often adopted in situations when not much information on a specific subject is available, or if the subject at hand is difficult to measure. Further on, as its name suggests, this design is appropriate to use when the researchers’ objective is to explore a certain subject, in order to provide insights and a deeper understanding. An exploratory design is also more flexible in its nature in comparison to the conclusive design in which the process is more structured (Malhotra & Birks, 2007).
Since the authors conducted their research in an area which there exists a limited amount of previous research, an exploratory design was deemed appropriate. Furthermore, the authors were looking to provide insight and achieve a deeper understanding towards the implementation and effects of inbound marketing strategies in the B2B sector, which further reinforced the use of an exploratory design.
Using in-depth interviews as a mean of data collection involves having a personal and direct discussion with a participant. The personal discussion could be used to probe the participant for deep and underlying motivations for the investigated topic (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). In this case, interviews served as a mean to discover attitudes towards the adoption of inbound marketing strategies along with the expected effects of implementing these strategies.
In-depth interviews could be conducted in an unstructured or semi-structured manner (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). Since inbound marketing strategies incorporates multiple techniques which are interesting for this research, some structure to the interview were desirable. Therefore, the authors chose to conduct semi-structured interviews to ensure that all areas of digital marketing strategies would be addressed by the participants (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2009). For the purpose of this study, one of the biggest arguments to use semi-structured interviews was the flexibility. Flexibility in the interview is vital to acquire the in-depth understanding on a diverse issue. Malhotra and Birks (2007) argued that unsuspected and interesting answers may occur in interviews which might help to achieve deeper insight. In such cases, it could be fitting to ask probing questions to further understand the underlying meaning. The reliability of the data that is collected in the interview is, in general, partly dependent on the theoretical knowledge that interviewers possess on the subject beforehand (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). However, this was especially important in this case, since this study collected data from business professionals and industry experts.
Theoretical knowledge on the subject discussed might also have an effect on the level of trust between the interviewer and participant. This trust is vital to ensure that the conversation flows smoothly and will also make the participant more open to questions of a more sensitive nature (Malhotra & Birks, 2007; Saunders et al., 2009). The participants in this study were, as previously mentioned, professionals which meant that the questions were to be answered, not only from the participants’ view, but also from the companies at which the professionals worked for. Therefore, trust played a crucial role in acquiring answers regarding companies marketing strategies and processes. Additionally, marketing professionals who could express their opinions without being influenced by a company to the same extent were interviewed. This to enable a nuanced and objective view of the matter at hand. When choosing participants, the authors attempted to contact people that had knowledge about inbound marketing. Posts on LinkedIn generated responses from people that worked with incorporating these strategies who were interested in participating. Also, B2B businesses were approached by e-mail with the aim to connect with professionals who worked with B2B marketing on a daily basis.
1.1. Background and Problem Definition
1.2. Purpose and Research Questions
1.5. Key Definitions
2. Frame of Reference
2.1. B2B Buyer-Seller Relationship and Digitalisation
2.2. Digital Inbound Marketing
2.3. Content Marketing
2.4. Search Engine Optimization
2.5. Mobile Marketing
2.6. Social Media Marketing
2.7. E-mail Marketing ..
2.8. General Data Protection Regulation
3.1. Research Philosophy
3.2. Research Approach
3.3. Research Design
3.4. Semi-Structured Interviews
3.6. Data Analysis and Interpretation
3.7. Quality Assessment
4. Empirical Findings
4.1. Interview Information
4.2. Topic Themes
4.3. Summary of Empirical Findings
5.1. Buyer-Seller Relationship
5.2. Digital Strategy Decision Making
5.3. Communication Channels
5.4. Content in Marketing Communications
5.5. Inbound Marketing and Future
5.6. Connecting the Dots and Theoretical Suggestions
6. Conclusion and Discussion
6.1. What are the perceived key aspects and challenges when implementing inbound marketing techniques in a B2B context?
6.2. How mature are B2B companies in their inbound marketing development?
6.3. To which extent will inbound marketing techniques be part of future
marketing strategies for B2B companies?
6.4. Relevance of the Study and Managerial Implications
6.5. Further Research Suggestions
6.6. Societal and Ethical Effects
7. List of References
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Content with Content? A qualitative study on the implementation, maturity and future of inbound marketing strategies in the Swedish B2B sector