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International Journal of Project Management 21 (2003) 503510 www.elsevier.


International project marketing: an introduction to the INPM approach

Maria Anne Skaatesa, Henrikki Tikkanenb,*

Department of International Business, Aarhus School of Business, Fuglesangs Allee 4, DK-8210 Aarhus V, Denmark b Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Institute of Strategy and International Business, Helsinki University of Technology, PO Box 9500, FIN-02015 HUT, Finland Received 26 April 2001; received in revised form 29 January 2002; accepted 20 March 2002

Abstract Projects are often sold and procured. Therefore this paper reviews recent contributions of the International Network for Project Marketing and Systems Selling (INPM), emphasising the connection between the business relationships of individual projects and the wider environment in which project marketing takes place. First, we discuss various denitions of projects and project marketing. Second, we consider the implications of three specic features of project businessdiscontinuity, uniqueness, and complexityover multiple projects. Third, we assess three overlapping types of postures that project-selling rms can adopt in relation to their marketing activities. Finally, we make some suggestions for practitioners responsible for marketing projects and discuss avenues for future academic work in project marketing. # 2003 Elsevier Ltd and IPMA. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Project marketing; INPM; Relationships; Milieu; Networks

1. Introduction Today, projects are one of the dominating modes of international business [1,2]. Thus, it is not surprising that project management has received a lot of attention in recent years. However, in marketing, there is a research community called the International Network for Project Marketing and System Selling (INPM); it is loosely aliated to the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing (IMP) group of marketing researchers who emphasise the interactive and relational nature of exchange on business-to-business markets [3]. Most INPM scholars are based in Europe. To date there has been relatively little dialogue between project management and project marketing researchers, this paper reviews recent project marketing research contributions, mainly focusing on the INPM contributions. Thus, our principal goal is to familiarise the readers of the International Journal of Project
* Corresponding author. Present address: Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Helsinki University of Technology, PO Box 9500, FIN-02015 HUT, Finland. Tel.: +358-9-451-3097; fax: +358-9-451-5030. E-mail addresses: henrikki.tikkanen@hut. (H. Tikkanen), mask@asb.dk (M.A. Skaates). 0263-7863/03/$30.00# 2003 Elsevier Ltd and IPMA. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/S0263-7863(02)00021-2

Management with the central tenets of the INPM project marketing approach. To achieve this aim, projects and project marketing are rst dened as they are understood by the INPM community. Second, the implications of specic features of the project-marketing situationas opposed to other business-to-business marketing situationsare considered for single projects as well as successions of multiple projects. Third, three posturesthe deterministic, constructivist and control postures- that project-selling rms can adopt in relation to their marketing activities are presented and assessed [3]. Finally, we discuss practical applications for managers as well as suggestions for further work.

2. Projects and project marketing There are many denitions of the term project (compare e.g. [4, 5]). However, in the INPM project marketing literature, as opposed to the project management literature, where one also nds projects within one rm, projects always involve purchasing and selling organisations (cf. [6]). In other words, one is explicitly dealing with issues related to external marketing. Despite the fact that some of the concepts developed in


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the INPM literature might also prove useful in a company-internal setting (e.g. in conceptualising the management of a portfolio of internal R&D projects with connections to an outside network of collaborators), INPM researchers have not yet specically focused on the internal marketing of projects within one organisation (see e.g. [7]). Instead multi-organisational, international projects are classied in the international business and project marketing literature under the broad heading of contract operationsas opposed to operations primarily based on exports or ownership in the form of foreign direct investment (other contractual operation forms being licensing, franchising, management contracts and international subcontracting) [8]. Project operations are furthermore subdivided into partial projects, turnkey projects and turnkey plus projects. Partial projects include partial system deliveries such as the delivery of a waste disposal system to a factory in construction. In a turnkey project, a complete system is delivered to the buyer. Turnkey plus projects are complete system deliveries plus additional services such as personnel training or facilities management [8]. On a general level, a marketed project is a transaction concerning a functioning whole which is delivered to the buyer [9] and covers a discrete package of products, services and other actions designed to create (capital) assets for the buyer over a certain period of time ([10], emphasis added). Systems selling, i.e. the sale of a complex combination of products and services, often appears to be synonymous with the delivery of projects (cf. [1,11]). However, while projects, with the exception of professional service projects, can most often be considered as systems, systems do not have to be supplied in the sequential or process manner of the earlier project denition [10]. In relation to the distinction between project marketing and project management, the INPM argument for studying project marketing rests on the assertion that it is not enough to regard a project delivered by one rm/a group of rms to another organisation/group of organisations as a set of managerial actions taken by the supplier(s), i.e. as mere project management. Instead the delivery encompasses individual project supply processes within a multi-rm project network, and the management of business relationships between actors in the buying and selling rms is important before, during, and after and delivery process (cf. [2]). Thus, from an INPM perspective, project marketing is the broader term; it always implicitly includes project management but not (necessarily) vice versa. However, this does not mean that organisations that sell projects are purely project-based, as they may sell other goods or services as well. Furthermore, in contrast to project marketing contributions related to the marketing mix and/or strategic planning schools (e.g. [12,13]), INPM researchers emphasise that the development of relationships has an

overall eect on a rms project business. Building on this viewpoint, there are two nested levels of relationship management in the marketing of industrial projects ([14], see also [6]). The rst level is that of managing networks and relationships related to individual projects from beginning to end. The second level is the level of multiple projects; it encompasses relationships during a (longer) period of multiple project activity, including possible periods in which there are no projects.

3. Key INPM project marketing concepts As both IMP and INPM researchers emphasise the role of relationships in business-to-business marketing, INPM scholars have perceived a need for a conceptual framework which contrasts the specic characteristics of project marketing and systems selling with characteristics commonly found in other business-to-business marketing situations. To meet this need, the so-called D-U-C framework was created [15]; its three key distinguishing features of project marketing are: D. The discontinuity of demand for projects. U. The uniqueness of each project in technical, nancial and socio-political terms. C. The complexity of each individual project in terms of the number of actors involved throughout the supply process. The implication of discontinuity on relationships at the level of multiple project activity may be a lack of bonding, long-term mutual dependence, and mutual orientation beyond the single project, although there is substantial relationship interaction during the delivery of the individual project in questions. However, this is not always the case; after the completion of a project, a sleeping relationship phase may start [2]. This refers to for example, cases of continued buyerseller dependence or trust after completion of the project itself due to i.e. the possible future need for improvements or replacement parts with regard to the project or the buyer rmspecic knowledge that the selling rm possess [2,16]. Moreover, project-selling rms may initiate or use preexisting possibilities for ritual meeting to insure postproject interaction with previous clients [17]. Relationships are thus sometimes maintained by oand-on social and informational exchange during the discontinuity phase, although this exchange does not always result in new projects for the selling rm [2,16,17]. For their part, the uniqueness and complexity characteristics of the D-U-C framework may furthermore imply that dierent rm constellations or units from a given rm are used in each individual project. This, in turn, also aects the discontinuous aspects of relationships.

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Thus, as Hadjikhani [2] indicates, overcoming the demand-related discontinuity (i.e. the D characteristic of the D-U-C framework) in the business relationship between project buyers and sellers is the major strategic problem in project marketing. Therefore, several recent INPM studies have focused upon discontinuity at the level of multiple projects [2,14,1619]. In these studies, each individual project is regarded as an episode in a given buyersupplier relationship (compare also to the basic IMP interaction model of buyerseller relationships in industrial markets in [20]). These studies also demonstrate that the success or failure of individual projects will often eect the long-term development of buyer seller relationships. Therefore, it is wise for project

marketers to focus on the implications of single projects for subsequent project marketing eorts as well as to understand and develop the relevant relationships through which individual projects are planned and realised, also in the sleeping relationship phase [2]. To aid project marketers in managing relationship marketing at both the levels of the individual project and the level of multiple projects, Cova et al, [21] developed a general marketing conguration for project-to-order supplier rms; it is depicted in Fig. 1. The model includes a detailed depiction of the preproject phases or the anticipative stage, i.e. the phases above the thick line of Fig. 1. During this phase, maintaining and receiving information from relationships to

Fig. 1. Cova et al.s [21] general marketing conguration for project-to-order supplier rms.


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many potential customers or cooperation partners is the key activity because there is not yet any concrete project. Instead the company watches the market in order to gain information necessary for anticipating future projects and in order to optimally inuence future projects through its network [15,21,22]. The social and informational exchange of this phase is, however, facilitated and insured by previous network investments [21,22]. When a concrete future project starts to take shape, i.e. when a rm is asked to prepare tender by a potential client or sees a public sector notication of a public tendering procedure, the second stage of preparation, i.e. the adaptive stage (below the thick line of Fig. 1), starts. In this phase the relationship marketing eorts become more focused upon the focal relationship to the potential customer of the project in question. Initially, the concrete project does not yet exist, so the contractor rst starts to prepare and mobilise its network and, if possible, tries to inuence the buyer concerning the development of specications of the project to be purchased [15,21] These actions are followed by the oering and negotiation about it. If the bid is successful, the project is realised. Both before and after realisation, the experiences of the project-selling rm are fed back to the anticipative steps and, for example, adjustments of strategic priorities or future network investment actions, for example, in sleeping relationships, may occur. Cova et al.s [21] model can also be easily modied to depict situations where concurrent work on two or more projects is undertaken or situations concerning of postproject supplementary delivery services such as training in the use of the facility or facility management. In this case, the experiences from multiple projects all inuence both subsequent anticipative actions and subsequent adaptations. With regard to the environment in which all project marketing-related relationships are placed, INPM conceptualisations emphasise its socially constructed nature. This is due to the inherent complexity of relationships (i.e. a part of the C in the D-U-C Framework). Furthermore, the dierence between conventions and interests is often less clear-cut than in many other business situations. This can be explained in the following manner: due to the complexity of the project the buyer will be receiving, she or he may not know of or be able to articulate all of her or his own interests (see e.g. [23]). However, this does not make the relationship between the seller and the buyer purely dependent on existing conventions and laws, as achieving sales still depends on convincing the buyer that one is taking her or his perceived interests into account (see e.g. [24]). Furthermore, there will be conventions or norms that are commonly used in certain solutions, as their use reduces the complexity for all parties involved [25]. The French project marketing researchers Cova et al.s [26] milieu concept is especially important in

highlighting the complex nature of the environment of project marketing. According to them, a milieu is a socio-spatial conguration [. . .] characterised by four elements: 1. Territory. 2. Network of heterogeneous actors related to each other within this territory. 3. Representation constructed and shared by these actors. 4. Set of rules and norms (the law of the milieu) regulating the interactions between these actors. Furthermore, Cova et al. [26] describe the projectmarketing milieu in the following way: What distinguishes the milieu from a simple localized network of industrial actors is its collective linkage to the territory developed by practices of all types [. . .]. The actors share, both in their life and in their imagination, the community of some elementary structures. In this approach, the territory is no longer considered as a simple support of localisation factors but more and more as a group of territorial agents and economic, socio-cultural, political, and institutional elements having specic organisation and regulation patterns [. . .], shared rules and norms. The milieu, as described by Cova et al., resembles the eld or eld-of-force of institutional theory (see e.g. [27]). Within the milieu, project marketing rms have to generate or maintain credibility in order to be considered serious by important others (most importantly customers) and to be made part of informational and social networks by these others [24]. Individuals in rms do this mainly through their personal networks. Sometimes the creation and maintenance of credibility is done consciously, for example, through the aforementioned nurturing sleeping relationships or arranging ritual gatherings and ocial occasions [2,17]. At other times, the generation of credibility is a by-product of activities that have other primary goals, such as the successful nishing of project negotiations [19]. However, as other milieu actors have many social or informational links to third actors, it is not enough for project-selling rms to merely concentrate their credibility generation activities upon previous and potential customers. Instead, they must also include broader societal and institutional actors in their eorts. The categories of potentially relevant actors has been identied and systematised by Tikkanen [28], who took his point of departure in the three partly overlapping societal spheres originally identied by German sociologist Max Weber, the economic, the sociological, and the political spheres. Table 1 presents Tikkanens schematic

M.A. Skaates, H. Tikkanen / International Journal of Project Management 21 (2003) 503510 Table 1 A categorisation of relevant milieu actors [28] Business actors The level of individuals Employees: managers, salespeople, specialists, etc. Intra-organisational departments or functions, formal adhocratic bodies: Marketing departments, R&D units, project organisations, etc. Civil/community actors Citizens in their dierent roles:Owners, inuencers, consumers, etc. Intra-organisational departments or functions, formal adhocratic bodies of non-governmental, not-for-prot organisations: Party departments and committees, board of directors of not-for-prot organisations, etc. Non-governmental notfor-prot organisations: Parties, the Red Cross, registered civic or environmental movements, etc. Formal civil collectives: Regional or international administration of large notfor-prot organisations, the Red Cross, labourUnions, etc. Informal groups of all sizes and features: families, ethnic groups, social classes, political cliques, etc. Government/state actors


Employees of governmental organisations: ocials, political decision-makers, civil servants, etc. Intra-organisational departments or functions, formal adhocratic bodies of governmental organisations: ministry departments, committees, project organisations, etc.

The level of formal intra-organisational bodies

The level of whole formal organisations

Companies and other business organisations: suppliers, buyers, competitors, consultants, other horizontal organisations, etc. Formal business collectives: Diversied corporations, Formal alliances, etc.

Governmental organisations: Ministries, universities, research units, etc.

The level of formal collectives

Formal governmental collectives: governments,Regional administration, the EU, ministry administration, etc.

The level of informal collectives

Informal co-operative nets between companies

Informal co-operative nets within the public sector

categorisation of actors relevant for project marketing credibility generation. Some actors in the milieu may best be inuenced directly by project marketing rms, whereas others may be reached by, for example, indirect relationship and reputation eects [19,29]. Additionally, references may be used in the general inuence activityeither directly by the project-selling rm [30,31] or indirectly by rm(s) connected to the project-marketing rm, for example, its customer(s) [29,30]. Finally visits to facilities may also be used [32]. However regardless of the means of inuence used, there are three postures that a project marketing rm can adopt in its project seeking activities As these postures are important for strategic marketing concerns, they are discussed in detail in the next section.

4. Possible postures of project marketing rms and their implications In a seminal article, Cova and Hoskins [22] have pointed out that project marketing rms may take in two fundamentally dierent approaches to project marketing in relation to the norms, rules, and representations of a given project marketing milieu and the

demands of a specic customer. They may either anticipate, learn to comprehend, and excel in following the accepted rules and representations of the milieu and meeting the demands of the customer (the deterministic posture), or they may become actively involved in shaping these demands, rules and representations (the constructivist posture). Additionally the authors indicate that project marketing rms may alternate between both approaches at dierent points in time when aiming to achieve one or more project orders. The third posture, the control posture is an extreme version of the constructivist posture (see [33]). From a strategic marketing perspective, for large multi-technology systems or project selling companies, it may be paramount to maintain long-term global control of the technological dynamics of the system. This is due to the fact that in situations where system architecture or major component innovation may occur, the project supplier may be in danger of losing its advantage. It is therefore often pertinent for the supplier to retain as much control of all possible combinations as possible. Thus, the control posture presupposes that project-selling rms are constantly involved in attempting to control all rules, representations, and developments in their relevant milieus to minimise their market uncertainty. The three postures are depicted in Fig. 2.


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Fig. 2. The deterministic, constructivist, and control postures [22,33].

Fig. 2 illustrates that the interpretations and norms of the milieu govern the actions of the project-selling rm that adopts a determinist posture as well as the actions of the other rm(s) with which the rm is interacting at a given point in time. The constructivist posture, on the other hand, entails that the project-selling rm is manipulating with accepted interpretations of the milieu in order to inuence the decisions of other rm(s) to its favour. Finally, the control posture mandates the project-selling rms constant control and manipulation with the representations and norms of the milieu and their changes across time as well as control of individual rms within the milieu. These three postures are fruitful cognitive tools for understanding possible inter-organisational interactions or, more specically, relationships between project selling rms and other milieu actors. Furthermore, these postures highlight the fact that project selling rms may in some circumstances be able to change the interpretations and norms of external others. However, at the moment we lack more exhaustive knowledge of (a) the process of meaning and norm construction in project marketing milieus, (b) variation of meaning and norms among dierent milieus, and (c) the situations in which each type of posture is possible and suitable. With regard to point (b), a comparison of a projectmarketing book based mainly on data from the German-speaking regions [34] to some of the previously covered works [2,27] illustrates this knowledge gap very well. The project-marketing book [34] indicates that in cases where a project or systems buyer has incomplete information, they usually do not commit themselves to technology requiring long-term ties. Additionally, in these same German-speaking regions, part of this risk is often regulated through contracts and the legal system, thus the same book suggests that the management of legal contracts should be a key part of project marketers strategy and that it is only the second best alternative to work to build the trust of the buyer, a suggestion which is contrary to some of the theory covered in [2] and [27]. Thus, one may presume that the use of contracts to reduce the risks associated with being locked into a specic technology may be a very common part of the interpretive and normative framework of actors in German-speaking project marketing milieus, yet that this does not necessarily have to be the case to

the same extent in other milieus (see also [35] for further discussion of this issue). To take another example, dierences in the interpretation of supra and international public tendering rules vary substantially from country to country (compare e.g. [29] for France; [18] for Canada; [19] for Denmark and Germany; [36] for a Chinese/World Bank Project). Thus, in order to create general rules about when a certain posture is most suitable, we need more information about variations in interpretive frameworks and norms as well as better theories about the construction of common meaning in inter-organisational settings in dierent countries. However, at a lower level of abstraction, as far as the management of complexity in project business is concerned, the identication and development of most relevant inter-actor relationships in the milieu (using e.g. Table 1) of the project marketing rm is a crucial issue that also should inuence the choice of posture in relation to other(s). When it comes to individual milieu actors, some may not be important for a selling rms business and also not be inuential actors in the milieu. In this case, relationships might best be managed in a relatively transactional manner with an arms-length, deterministic posture (see Fig. 2). Other actors may, on the other hand, be important with regard to several projects as well as the periods between individual project supply processes. The management of relationships to these actors would then probably need to be totally dierent from the management of the rst type of relationships. Thus how to deal eciently with the complexity of relevant actor structures in terms of both time and space may be identied as one of the most crucial yet dicult managerial issues in project business. Furthermore, proper longitudinal understanding of the main features of the specic milieu in question, in terms of both historical development and anticipation of the future, may be regarded as a prerequisite for any strategic decision in project marketing.

5. The managerial and research implications of the INPM contributions The IMP marketing management perspective, from which much of the INPM work has originated, has been

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termed the rm as a nexus of exchange relationships [37]. From this perspective the rst managerial objective is to tackle the structure and content of the key relationships of a focal company in its relevant network. In other words, the focal company has to identify the relationships it maintains or inuences in the sleeping relationship/anticipative phase in order to conduct its project business. These relationships can, in turn, be classied in accordance with their nature to Websters [38] six exchange categories of spot transactions, repeated transactions, long-term customerseller relationships, customerseller partnerships, strategic alliances, network organisations, and vertical integration. The key managerial message is that the dierent types of relationships mandate variations in managerial attention. To take an example, relationships characterised by short-term or transactional market exchanges related to minor contracting issues during the implementation phase of an individual project probably do not often require long-term attention on the part of the project marketer. On the other hand, long-term relationships with central nanciers or customers, for example, need dierent, long-term oriented attention, which continues during the sleeping phase of the relationship between individual projects when future demand is anticipated and constructed (cf. [2,17]). This need for attention is often overlooked by project marketers who focus only upon the marketing of and bidding for individual projects during the delivery process (see [12,13] and thus, inadvertently, on sporadic, last moment pell-mell running after promising potential projects (cf. [21]). The second objective is for the project marketer to produce a longitudinal understanding of the processes or dynamic aspects of the milieu, including its discontinuous relationships. These processes concern actor representations as well as the internal and external development of the activity structure and the resource constellations within the milieu. However, this is a dicult task, due to the complexity of the network of actors and their activities and resources, the relative uniqueness of individual project deliveries, as well as the previously emphasised discontinuities in exchange. Thus, the deepening and widening of a rms understanding of its milieu may prove to be an especially challenging task for mozre project suppliers mainly schooled in engineering or project management. In this case we advise project marketers to let themselves be inspired by contextual research. In Pettigrews often cited terms (see [39,40]), a project marketing researcher has to construct his or her understanding along the three dimensions of context, content and process. A profound understanding of project marketingrelated structures and processes involves examining these issues within their actual environments, i.e. in the connected focal relationships and the entire milieu. This milieu forms the context dimension, whereas its history

forms the process dimension. Furthermore, the content dimension is linked to the project marketing-related phenomena that the project marketer wishes to understand better. Thus, a rm may focus on studying discontinuity in its project business relationships, as was done in [2,14,16,17] or try to learn how its project marketers have until now perceived and managed their relevant connected networks, i.e. how they have tackled the dilemmas of living with as well as constructingor even controllingtheir project-marketing milieus, as was examined in [19,22,26,29,33,36]. As for researchers, it is still fruitful to use as intensive, focused, qualitative methods to create a more sucient understanding of variations of the phenomena under scrutiny in their real-life contexts, based on multiple actor-informants own constructions of their situations in the context studied. This is an especially important avenue because, as was mentioned in Section 4, we still lack basic knowledge of how networks and central relationships develop in the manifold situations where discontinuity, uniqueness, and complexity eects are at work. Furthermore, the marketing role of key project actors, such as the project manager or the project owner, could be further investigated in multiple and varying contexts as could the issue of how project-selling rms in innovative industries manage their competence development in relationships in order to remain marketoriented (see [41]). Moreover, with regard to future simple and powerful models, it is relevant for researchers to develop theories and models about, for example: (a) how variations in project marketers conceptualisations and study of its relevant connected milieu are related to their long-term success in international project business, and (b) the suitability and the possibility of using the deterministic, constructivist, and control postures in dierent situations. Finally, there is a need for researchers to write textbooks, as there is a relative lack of textbooks or books for practitioners in the eld of project marketing, especially in the English-speaking world. The rst English-language textbook [42] has just been published, whereas in the French-language world, there are already two textbooks [43,44], Additionally, there is one comprehensive, research-based German language contribution with substantial suggestions for practitioners [34] and one shorter, practitioner-oriented Danish language handbook on international project marketing [45]. References
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