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Award-winning study of business across borders

Professor Carl Arthur Solberg from BI Norwegian School of Management has won the international research prize, IMR International Marketing Award 2007, for the best study within the subject of international marketing.

The IMR International Marketing Award is awarded to the best research paper that is presented at the annual European International Business Academy (EIBA) conference.

Carl Arthur Solberg won the prize for his study of how Nordic export businesses collaborate with their partners in foreign markets. The prize was presented at EIBA’s 33rd annual conference, which was held on the 13-15th December 2007 at the University of Catania in Italy.

“The control and follow up of international sales and marketing activities within individual markets is one of management’s most challenging tasks,” says Carl Arthur Solberg, who is an expert in international marketing and management.

“The greater the cultural distance, the more difficult communication between the exporter and the local collaborating partner becomes. The assignment is made no simpler if it relates to the sale of state of the art, highly complex products.”

“To succeed in running a business abroad, you will achieve more by developing mutual values and understanding than by control via directives and reports,” concludes Solberg on the basis of a study of 173 export businesses.

Different types of partner relations

In the study, the BI professor identified four different situations within international sales and marketing based on two factors: cultural difference and the complexity of the product.

1) Limited relations: The products are not particularly complicated. Neither does the cultural distance present any special problems.

2) Functional relations: The products are highly complex, which requires greater attention from both exporters and the local collaborating partner. However, the cultural distance is small.

3) Cultural relations: Here the products are reasonably simple. However, a great cultural distance presents special challenges.

4) Complex relations: Here both a great cultural distance and state of the art products are involved.

Social relations are decisive

One of the most important success factors for export businesses is the flexibility to be able to tackle unforeseen situations.

Social relations are important in all export situations, but particularly so in the situations which in principle are the simplest (limited relations).

In limited relations, the export business must still be careful of becoming too involved in local market activities. This can have an effect on their intentions.

“It’s better to motivate the local representative with activities to create a feeling of affiliation, rather than to actually participate in local marketing,” says Solberg.


Carl Arthur Solberg (2007): "Exploring product and cultural contingencies in export-intermediary relationships". The article was presented during the European International Business Academy’s (EIBA) annual conference, which was held on the 13-15th December 2007 at the University of Catania in Italy.

Audun Farbrot | alfa
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