An important aspect of business-to-business marketing involves the development over time of privileged bonds between firms. Research has identified the complexity of such bonds and emphasised the need for closer scrutiny of the different mechanisms at work in successful and mutually beneficial business relationships. Actor intention and actor bonds are structured as a complex amalgam of self and collective interest. Firms cooperate for self-interest and in that process generate relational norms whose structure can be represented as actor bonds. In this study, a longitudinal input-process-output model of relationships is proposed. Input by firms motivated to create relationships is driven by the need to access customers or resources. This desire to operate in a relationship leads firms to coordinate themselves through a process whereby relational norms are developed and finally, output is achieved at a relationship level. That output is conceptualised at a relationship level recognises the emergent results of interaction, an essential reason for joining any relationship. The model was empirically tested in the computer software industry with a survey of firms acting as principals and distributors in a number of existing distribution relationships. Our findings, based on regression analysis, suggest that self and collective interest result in an intriguing blend of relational norms. The proposition that self-interest is not linked to trust and commitment is supported, suggesting that relational coordination is primarily based on collective interest. However, the proposition that flexibility is linked to both self and collective interest is also supported. This suggests that the degree of flexibility found in relationships may reflect the continuing need of balancing self and collective interests. The final section of the paper proposes directions for future research on the intertwining of self and collective interest in relationships, along with their associations to actor bond structure that is configured as relational norms
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