Strategic Approaches to Business Network Development



Many industries operating within global environments are facing major disruption from technological, ecological and social forces (e.g. Song et al., 2022), and these have the potential to radically re-shape business practices within and across firms (e.g. Dubey et al.,2021; Hu, 2022; Sharma et al., 2022). Digital transformation (AI, IoT, Blockchain etc.), energy transitions (renewable resources, distributed grids etc.) and various social change agents (ethical/political pressures, ESG measurement/reporting etc.) are prime examples of such disruption that have started to impact the way firms are configuring both their operations and relationships (e.g., Cortez and Johnston, 2020; Xue and Li, 2022). Despite this, firm interpretations and responses to their effects within business-to-business (B2B) settings remain poorly understood, and thereby provide the impetus underpinning this special issue. From a B2B perspective, these and other environmental changes potentially mean B2B firms need to look at strategic network approaches of establishing more diverse and resilient value-chain relationships (Kano, Tsang and Yeung, 2020), take a more proactive role in helping to shape emerging markets (Flaig et al., 2021) and examine ways of reimaging inter-firm value creation (Makkonen el al., 2019), among others.

Given the overall paucity of knowledge in these and other domains of the B2B marketing discipline, this call for papers focuses on helping explain how firm and public policy decision makers can develop more effective strategies to take full advantage of emerging opportunities, while at the same time negate the potential threats associated with environmental disruption. Practical implications for this research are varied, for instance, reconfiguring local industry clusters to produce offerings more sustainably and identify circular solutions for waste. Firms considering how to reposition to a new value-creating role within their own B2B network in anticipation that disruptive technologies may reduce their competitive position. Supply chain leaders looking to establish new channels to reduce overreliance on B2B partners in countries impacted by political turmoil and/or create diverse pathways to avoid bottlenecks arising from external shocks. Whilst these examples are non-exhaustive, they indicate that B2B firms across a wide number of contexts require proactive, forward-thinking approaches to implement strategies though network processes, while accounting for complex dynamic forces likely to shape their business practices. Contributing authors thus have the opportunity to inform strategic approaches to current and future managerial dilemmas that can help B2B decision makers navigate their respective complex business environments. Manuscript submissions in this special issue may therefore vary in research context and theoretical perspective.


With the above in mind, one of the focus areas in the special issue relates to better describing and explaining the emergence of new networks, particularly those which have been established or nurtured with strategic intent. For instance, in many sectors around the world, large firms and public actors are establishing innovation precincts and technological clusters to develop and commercialise future market offerings (Cantù et al., 2021; Schepis et al., 2021). Yet, practitioners still struggle with understanding how best to stimulate open knowledge sharing and resource exchange practices; determining appropriate structures and governance for collaborative activities; and how to measure and evaluate the performance and outcomes of strategic network approaches. Accordingly, it is anticipated that manuscript submissions will focus on how decision makers can best address these concerns, while also appreciating the contextual complexities arising from diverse actor and industry backgrounds and/or philosophical dilemmas around balancing strategic and organic network processes. This therefore reengages with the important debate within the business network literature around the manageability of complex networked relationships (Ritter et al., 2004). Similarly, manuscripts that contribute to better understanding the important role that public policy and NFP actors play in influencing B2B firm interactions and relationships, and in particular how these align non-commercial goals with the profit-seeking motivations of industry partners are also highly desirable. Although networks have been researched across various contexts (e.g., Bai et al., 2021; Chetty et al., 2018), we join the recent call by Möller and Halinen (2022) to advance the B2B domains of the marketing discipline by reconsidering our paradigmatic assumptions and reengaging with current business and societal challenges.

Sample Topics

This special issue seeks submissions (but not limited to) from scholars on topical areas listed below to help better understand and encapsulate the impact that the various forms of environmental disruption can and potentially have on B2B opportunities:

  • The roles played by key stakeholders (e.g., customers, employees, suppliers, regulators, policy-makers etc.) involved in B2B relationships in global value chains.
  • Factors contributing to value chain conflict between competing practices and expectations, as well as the need to harmonise divergent ethical standards and business objectives.
  • The role of public sector and NFP actors in the formation and maintenance of B2B networks, particularly in pursuit of socio-environmental goals.
  • Network management practices of innovation intermediaries, platform managers, network administrative organisations (NAO), who may not direct members or beneficiaries of network outcomes.
  • Orchestration mechanisms and processes applied across different network types to achieve individual and collective objectives.
  • The impact and role that B2B networks play in developing and nurturing relationships within emerging markets (EMs) during environmental uncertainty.
  • Temporal perspectives of macro and strategic network change in the context of external environmental shocks and/or diminishing value horizons.
  • Market shaping activities involving the establishment of new network forms and processes to capitalize on emerging needs and/or technological advancements.
  • The effects of environmental disruption and change on services within B2B networks.
  • Interdisciplinary perspectives applied to B2B network strategy, such as from economic geography, international business and innovation management.
  • The role that migration, immigration and shifting patterns of cultural and linguistically diverse (CaLD) populations play in the development of cross-national B2B networks and value chains.


We welcome both conceptual and empirical papers related to B2B relationships that involve the impact environmental disruption can play within B2B settings. For enquiries regarding this call, please contact either of the guest editors.

Submission Information: 

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available at:

Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see:

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Deadline for submission:

April 28, 2023

Guest editors


Bai, W., Johanson, M., Oliveira, L. and Ratajczak-Mrozek, M. (2021), “The role of business and social networks in the effectual internationalization: insights from emerging market SMEs”. Journal of Business Research, Vol. 129, pp. 96-109.

Cantù, C.L., Schepis, D., Minunno, R. and Morrison, G. (2021), “The role of relational governance in innovation platform growth: the context of living labs”, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 36, No. 13, pp. 236-249.

Cortez, R.M. and Johnston, W.J. (2020), “The Coronavirus crisis in B2B settings: crisis uniqueness and managerial implications based on social exchange theory”, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 88, pp. 125-135.

Dubey, R., Bryde, D.J., Blome, C., Roubaud, D. and Giannakis, M. (2021), “Facilitating artificial intelligence powered supply chain analytics through alliance management during the pandemic crises in the B2B context”, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 96, pp. 135-146.

Flaig, A., Kindström, D. and Ottosson, M. (2021), “Market-shaping strategies: a conceptual framework for generating market outcomes”, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 96, pp. 254-266.

Hu, L. (2022), “The PPE industry in Italy during COVID-19: supply chain disruption and the adoption of digital and social media in B2B firms”, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

Kano, L., Tsang, E.W. and Yeung, H.W.C. (2020),  “Global value chains: a review of the multi-disciplinary literature”,. Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 51, No. 4, pp. 577-622.

Makkonen, H., Saarikorpi, M. and Rajala, R. (2019), “A transition from goods-dominant to service-dominant exchange logic in a B2B relationship: a relationship positioning perspective”, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 81, pp. 65-77.

Möller, K. and Halinen, A. (2022), “Clearing the paradigmatic fog - how to move forward in business marketing research”, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 102, pp. 280-300.

Ritter, T., Wilkinson, I.F. and Johnston, W.J. (2004), “Managing in complex business networks:, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 175-183.

Schepis, D., Purchase, S. and Butler, B. (2021), “Facilitating open innovation processes through network orchestration mechanisms”, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 93, pp. 270-280.

Sharma, P., Kingshott, R., Leung, T.Y. and Malik, A. (2022), “Dark side of business-to-business (B2B) relationships”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 144, pp. 1186-1195.

Song, M., Wang, L., Wang, L. and Chen, W. (2022), "Environmental uncertainty, participative corporate political activity and radical innovation in China: a sensemaking perspective", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

Statsenko, L. and de Zubielqui, G.C. (2020), “Customer collaboration, service firms' diversification and innovation performance”, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 85, pp. 180-196.

Xue, R. and Li, L. (2022), "Strategic alliances and firms’ chances to survive “black swans” in B2B industries", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.