Entrepreneurial marketing and SME growth: the role of internal marketing practice and multiple innovations

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Doctor of Philosophy
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Gameti, Daniel Komla

The Entrepreneurial Marketing (EM) concept has significantly impacted our understanding of the synergistic benefits of two academic disciplines in small and large firms. Although Entrepreneurship and Marketing are considered independent academic disciplines, scholars have conceptually and empirically demonstrated that combining concepts from the two disciplines improves organisational performance.

However, research on EM has focused mainly on the entrepreneur and the external customer, with limited attention paid to the internal customer (employee) despite studies highlighting employees as important resources that can be leveraged to achieve EM objectives. Scholars have used the seven established dimensions of EM in many studies with different results; nevertheless, Internal Marketing Practice (IMP), an equally important marketing concept, has not been investigated as an EM dimension. Also, innovation is considered the lifeblood of organisational survival and growth. Yet, EM scholars have not explored the influence of multiple innovation capabilities as potential mediating variables in achieving SME growth. Therefore, this study examines the role of IMP as a dimension of EM and mediating effects of multiple innovations (product, process, and business model) on the relationship between EM and SME growth.

The main question the study seeks to address is: How do IMP as an EM dimension and multiple innovations as mediators affect the relationship between EM and SME growth? Three related theoretical lenses (effectuation logic, RBV, and DC theories) underpinned the theoretical development of the study. Literature on various concepts related to growth, EM, and innovation was reviewed to develop a conceptual model and hypotheses for the study

Using survey data from 480 SMEs in Australia and New Zealand and structural equation modelling, the study reports on the contribution of IMP as an EM dimension. The study also reports on the influence of multiple innovations on EM/SME growth. The findings indicate that IMP is a significant dimension of EM in achieving innovation and growth performances. The study also illustrates that when modelled as a second-order construct, EM positively and significantly impacts all three types of innovation and SME growth. The study further demonstrates that different dimensions of EM can impact multiple innovations differently. When analysed individually, the study shows that Business Model Innovation (BMI) was the only significant partial mediator between EM and SME growth. Finally, Integrated Business Model Innovation (IBMI), a combination of all three types of innovation, significantly and partially mediates the relationship between EM and SME growth. These results have implications for theory, practice, and policymakers.

Theoretically, the significant contribution of IMP as a dimension of EM and the influence of multiple innovations on the EM/SME growth relationship has enriched the EM literature as it advances toward theory building. Furthermore, SMEs that adopt EM behaviour can determine which dimensions to use to achieve different innovation outcomes and deploy IBMI to achieve growth. Based on these findings, policymakers can review their policies to support SMEs to survive and grow.

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