Entrepreneurial Marketing and SMEs Performance in Saudi Arabia

Subject: Marketing
Pages: 6
Words: 5021
Reading time:
20 min
Study level: PhD


The competitive landscape in many industries today is marked by intense competition among existing players and the emergence of many focused competitors targeting specific segments of the market (Ramachandran, Mukherji, & Sud, 2006). The entrepreneur has been considered as a driver of change and has been responsible for shaping the lifestyle of different socioeconomic institutions (McDaniel, 2002). In an information base society, an entrepreneur needs information in particular financial information to reflect regularly the performance to stakeholders of the organizations such as investors, managers, and stockholders. In developing countries, external environmental conditions, such as the competitive effects of globalization and the frequent financial crises, force national firms to identify the opportunities and threats to be more entrepreneurial, adaptive, and innovative to sustain their competitiveness (Barringer & Bluedorn, 1999). Thus, the first signals of successful entrepreneurial accomplishments may be obtained from the marketplace, for example, an increase in sales and market share (Bora & Cagri, 2008).

Due to this competitive scenario, the synergy between entrepreneurship and marketing has been increasingly explored in the academic milieu, based on the concept of marketing. However, entrepreneurship represents the action of simultaneously engaging in the search for opportunities and competitive advantages for devising and implementing entrepreneurial strategies that create wealth (Hitt, Ireland, Camp, & Sexton, 2001). Entrepreneurial Marketing (EM) as a term is described as unplanned, nonlinear, and visionary to play a role as an interface between marketing and entrepreneurship (Morris, Schindehutte &La Forge, 2004). Now it is becoming apparent that marketing in SMEs is fundamentally different and more successful in SMEs than in large firms (Hills & Hultman, 2006). This is partly because marketing implementation can be more important to success than planning and strategy (Hills & Hultman, 2006). Therefore, this study aims at the relationship between entrepreneurial marketing dimensions competitive advantage and SMEs performance in Saudi Arabia.

Background of the Study

Developed and developing countries have realized the importance of SMEs for their economic development and growth (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1997). Definitely, SMEs are also vital for the development and growth of Saudi Arabia. Saudi SMEs forum reported that “According to the latest available data, around 90% of companies registered in the Kingdom are small and medium-sized enterprises in terms of a number of employees and sales. But their contribution to GDP remains significantly below the prevailing average in industrialized countries, as it amounts to nearly 15.5%”. SMEs sector, as they form 92 percent of businesses and employ more than 80 % of the workforce in the Kingdom, but their contribution to the economy is only 33% of the GDP. In addition, the average age of Saudi SMEs is seven years (The EU-GCC Chamber Forum, 2010). It is, therefore, of interest to determine the reason behind this dismal performance, especially given the fact that small and medium enterprises in developed countries like the United States are performing much better.

Recent researches have pointed out the fact that developing a competitive advantage is one of the best approaches that small and medium-term enterprises can sustain the market competition. The market has increasingly become competitive, and firms are forced to come up with strategies that can help them sustain this competition. Developing a competitive advantage means that a firm will be forced to come up with a strategy that is unique in the market and that which makes it more appealing to the eye of the customer. Entrepreneurial marketing has been seen as the best solution for most small and medium-term enterprises.

Entrepreneurial marketing brings the creativity of entrepreneurship into such a firm. This would involve coming up with marketing approaches that go beyond the conventional approaches used by marketers. This means that there will be a need to develop marketing approaches that will put the firm an edge over its competitors. This will improve its performance in the market and ensure sustainability in the market. This would help reduce the trend where most of the small and medium enterprises in Saudi Arabia fail to celebrate their seventh anniversary. This would also help enhance the productivity and increase their percentage contribution towards the GPD of this country. This would not only benefit the owners of these enterprises, but also the government in form of increased income from taxation, and the citizens of this country through increased job opportunities.

Problem Statement

The globalization of the economy, the growth in competition, and the environmental changes are evitable challenges that confront SMEs. Businesses, as such, need to respond to these challenges (Ahmed, 2012). One of the biggest challenges is the lack of ongoing assistance and finances that has shortened the life cycles of SMEs in Saudi Arabia. Ahmed adds that it has been established that SMEs are not innovative. They also do not have comprehensive business plans and suffer from managerial problems.

There are many differences between entrepreneurs and small business owners that can create conflicts (Runyan et al., 2008). Furthermore, it is surprising that the best practices of successful entrepreneurs often ignore traditional marketing concepts (Hills et al., 2008). Besides, most entrepreneurs are specialists in a field other than marketing.

Ireland and Webb (2007) argue that the most prevalent problem in small firms is a lack of knowledge about the marketplace and planning. Hence, achieving such a “competitive advantage” status is not an easy task without a proper road map or strategy being outlined and put into practice (Raduan et al., 2009). However, many researchers argue that performance is a multidimensional construct that needs multiple views in measurements (Armstrong, 2009). It has been observed that the majority of EM studies have been conducted in a western context (US-centric) (Ireland & Webb, 2007).

It has been documented that there is a lack of empirical work in the EM construct (Sekaran, 2003). Consequently, Hills and Hultman (2006) argued that EM needs to be better clarified to reveal the complexity of EM dimensions. Therefore, this study aims to examine the relationship between EM dimensions (marketing and entrepreneurial), competitive advantage and performance.

Research Questions

  1. What is the level of entrepreneurial marketing application among Saudi Arabia SMEs?
  2. What are the different types of entrepreneurial marketing dimensions?
  3. What is the effect of competitive advantage on performance?
  4. Is a propose model for examining entrepreneurial marketing dimensions, competitive advantage and performance can be validated among SMEs in Saudi Arabia?

Research Objectives

  1. To determine the level of marketing practices among Saudi Arabia SMEs.
  2. To identify the different types of entrepreneurial marketing dimensions.
  3. To propose and validate a model that examines the entrepreneurial marketing dimensions, competitive advantage and performance can be validated among SMEs in Saudi Arabia.


  1. To examine the effect of marketing dimension on competitive advantage.
  2. To examine the effect of entrepreneurial dimension on competitive advantage.

Rationale of the Study

Based on both academic literature and experiences being witnessed in a growing number of companies committed to practicing EM, we believe that effective EM helps a firm position itself such that it is capable of properly responding to the types of significant environmental changes that face many of today’s organizations (Ireland & Webb, 2007). Recently, in marketing literature, there has been an evident trend that addresses the traditional marketing approach from an entrepreneurial perspective and reveals itself in the interface of marketing and entrepreneurship (Kurgun & Bagiran, 2011). It has been documented that is valuable and rare, sustainable advantages are also difficult for competitors to fully understand, and difficult to imitate as a result of that lack of understanding (Barney, 1991). Thus, the main aim of this study is to investigate the structural relationship between EM dimensions and their impacts on competitive advantage.

The study investigates the relationship between EM dimensions and competitive advantage in SMEs in Saudi with a particular focus on SMEs in the service sector. The integration of key dimensions of EM and is expected to have influence competitive advantage. Without an adequate understanding of EM and its dimensions, it may be (a) hard to predict competitive advantage (b) difficult for the practitioner to develop a competitiveness strategy. The rationale for this research is to undertake an analytical study so that some of these issues can be addressed. Ultimately, the rationale for such a study is to provide structural integration of key determinants of EM practices and sustainable competitive advantage.

Significance of the Study

Studies on EM dimensions are limited in developing countries as most research has been conducted in developing countries such as the UK, Australia, and European countries (Hills, Hultman, Miles, 2008; Schindehutte & Morris, 2010). To the best of the researcher’s knowledge, there is a shortage of theoretical models to investigate EM dimensions in relation to competitive advantage. Furthermore, no previous research has been conducted which examines the dimensions of EM and their impact on competitive advantage and performance. Therefore, the study will contribute to the existing body of knowledge by integrating various dimensions from different models in one study.

Contribution to theory and Knowledge

This study will add to the existing knowledge of EM and strategic management studies by identifying the EM dimensions. Furthermore, this study will examine, particularly, the specific key dimensions that affect competitive advantage in SMEs. In addition, this study will extend the existing body of knowledge by improving the understanding of the relationship between EM competitive advantage and performance. Moreover, this study will provide empirical evidence on the factors influencing EM by validating a model of competitive advantage in SMEs, particularly the service sector, in Saudi Arabia.

Contribution to Management Practice (SMEs)

For practice and management, the present study will benefit the SMEs with particular benefit for the service sector by enhancing the knowledge and understanding concerns the influence of EM practices on sustainable competitive advantage. By using the findings of this research, SMEs can develop their marketing strategy in order to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness in their services. Also, the findings can be served as a future reference for researchers in the field of marketing, entrepreneurship, and strategic management. SMEs contribute significantly to every economy because they mainly generate employment and income (Sharma, 2011). Indeed in both developing and developed economies alike, SMEs absorb a high capacity of employees including the skilled and semi-skilled (Motwani et al, 2006). These organizations are unable to specialize and diversify because they lack the needed marketing expertise (Kamyabi & Devi, 2011). The expected contribution of this study stems from this fact to help improve the applicability of entrepreneurial marketing practices that represent two main dimensions, namely, marketing and entrepreneurship.

The government of Saudi Arabia has stepped up support for the SMEs in conjunction with other bodies such as commercial banks, the ministry of Finance, and the Saudi Industrial Development Fund. These bodies will make use of the expected research findings in a way that enhances their plans by finding new possibilities of setting marketing programs and long-term strategies.

Literature Review

Key Concepts

Entrepreneurial Marketing

“Entrepreneurial Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders and that is characterized by innovativeness, risk-taking, pro-activeness, and may be performed without resources currently controlled” (Kraus, Harms &Fink, 2010, p. 26). Morris et al. (2002) defined the term “entrepreneurial marketing” as “the proactive identification and exploitation of opportunities for acquiring and retaining profitable customers through innovative approaches to risk management, resource leveraging and value creation”. According to the above definitions, entrepreneurial marketing goes beyond conventional marketing strategies. It evokes the characteristics of an entrepreneur in the field of marketing.

Entrepreneurial marketing involves taking calculated risks in a proactive and innovative manner with the aim of creating value within the firm. According to Jaworski and Kohli (1993), this strategy will always depend on the creativity of the entrepreneur within a given market. This scholar says that there are always opportunities that would arise within the market. Taking the approach of EM, a marketer should be in a position to detect these opportunities early enough ahead of its competitors and create a competitive advantage over them. The focus would always be to offer customers a new experience that would create an attachment. This would require a firm to take early adoption strategy in the market to any opportunity that comes by, especially in the field of technology.

It is important to note that this strategy may result in massive loss to the firm if care is not taken to determine the appropriateness of the strategy. That is why one of the main characteristics of this strategy is calculated risk-taking. The risk taken should be calculated in order to avoid adverse effects on the firm. It is a risk because the viability of new strategies in the market is not always guaranteed. The only way that the management can counter a possible negative consequence in case the strategy backfires is to determine the possible level of the effect and prepare measures that would help counter the effect, in what is referred to as taking calculated risks. The ultimate aim of the entire process would be to leverage the resources of the firm through creativity and innovativeness in the field of marketing.

Competitive Advantage

Competitive advantage is an advantage that one firm has relative to competing firms (Porter, 1985). The market is increasingly becoming competitive as new firms come up with products that already exist in the market. In order to counter this stiff competition, firms are under pressure to develop a competitive advantage that can enable them to outsmart their competitors. According to Ma (2000), a firm should always develop short-term strategies that would put them in a better competitive position than its competitors. This would mean that such a firm would devise strategies that would enable it to meet the market demands in a better and more creative way than its competitors. Sekaran (2003) says that in the current society, a permanent competitive advantage does not exist.

This is because a strategy that a firm uses to give it a competitive advantage does reach its competitors after a short while. Competitors would then use the same strategy or come up with counter-strategies that would render the strategy irrelevant. A firm should therefore come up with short-term objectives and with each objective, there should be a clear short-term strategy that would give the firm leverage over others in the market. By the time competitors would be learning of the competitive advantage this firm has due to the strategy, the objective shall be achieved and the firm would be moving to the next objective.

This way, a firm would ensure that it maintains a competitive advantage in the market by ensuring that it is always unpredictable in the market. Gaining a competitive advantage means that the firm would be in a position to gain a market share within the market in which it operates. According to Zontanos and Anderson (2004), firms in Saudi Arabia have suffered from the inability to get a sustainable competitive advantage in the market. They would develop a competitive advantage within the first years of their inception. As time goes by, this competitive advantage would wear out as competitors get to understand and apply it. These firms would fail to come up with new innovative strategies, and this explains the reason behind their early departure from the market.

Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

The definition of SMEs varies from one country to another (Ahmed, 2012). According to Sekaran (2003), the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority classified small enterprises as ones with less than 60 employees and medium-sized firms which have less than 100 workers. The classification can also be based on the capital base of a firm in some of the countries. In Saudi Arabia, SMEs are struggling to stay in the market, but due to their inability to develop a competitive advantage regularly, they are always faced out of the market due to intense competition.


Stevenson et al. (1989) defined entrepreneurship as “the process of creating value by bringing together a unique package of resources to exploit an opportunity”. Hill and Hultman (2006) indicated that the entrepreneurial marketing concept can be explained by using traditional marketing concepts and words, but can never be completely understood without including aspects of entrepreneurship theory and therefore, they specify that a fruitful way of understanding the subject is to regard entrepreneurial marketing as an interface between marketing and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship involves bringing together factors of production with an aim of grabbing an opportunity within the market and maintaining profitability to ensure sustainability. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has seen a rise in the number of entrepreneurs within the local economy. For a long time, most of the investors in this country have been foreign investors. However, this is changing as the government makes effort to stimulate the growth of the economy.

Entrepreneurship in this country has been motivated by government incentives within the past decade. However, Sekaran (2003) notes that most of the entrepreneurs fail to maintain their businesses for over 7 years. Most of these firms would be closed after a short period of time, especially when the government incentive is withdrawn. This is a clear sign that there is a lack of entrepreneurial strategies among emerging entrepreneurs. Ma (2000) calls these entrepreneurs managers who have seen an opportunity to exploit when they are given the backing of the government. When left to operate independently, they lack the visionary thinking that would enable them to guide the firm to higher heights. They lack the entrepreneurial capacity that would enable them to devise strategies that would enable them to get a competitive advantage over other competitors in the market. Due to the increasing competitive pressure in the market, such entrepreneurs are easily faced out of the market.


According to Ahmed (2012), marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders. Globalization and emerging technologies have redefined marketing from what it used to be in the past. In the past, marketing took an inward-out approach popularly referred to as the product and production approaches. The belief was that once a firm would deliver a product to the market, consumers would have no other but to buy the product. This was working well for this firm because they were operating as monopolies. However, this changed as new firms got into the market, and consumers were offered a wide variety from which to choose.

Marketing in the contemporary world is forced to embrace an outward-in approach where firms would first determine the needs of the customers, then develop products that meet their demands. Marketing currently demands that a marketer develops mechanisms that would make the brand attractive to consumers. Consumers should develop an attachment to the brand in order for them to be loyal customers. It is only through this that marketing shall attain its main objective of creating value for the firm by attracting customers (Ma, 2000). This would demand that such a firm develops a competitive advantage in order to attract these customers. From a marketing perspective, this may involve designing marketing campaigns that are unique to the firm. The firm can also come up with unique packaging, incentives, or after-sale services. Marketing will help ensure that customers will appreciate the value offered by the products of the firm.

Theoretical Foundations

It is important to provide a theoretical foundation for entrepreneurial marketing. EM is consistent with this schema and has applicability to all combinations of the profit/nonprofit, micro/macro levels. Although EM fits with a number of theoretical frameworks such as resource-based theory, transaction cost theory, strategic adaptation theory), it is especially consistent with resource-advantage (R-A) theory (Morris et al., 2002). The development of the theory of entrepreneurship deals with issues such as identifying an opportunity, mobilizing resources, and organizing the institution (Shane and Venkataraman, 2000). Morris et al. (2002) illustrate that R-A theory clearly allows both for conventional approaches to marketing and for entrepreneurial marketing. Consistent with the dynamics of competition under R-A theory, marketing can facilitate the ability of firms to create new resources and greatly enhance the productivity of current resources (a) through the various leveraging approaches mentioned earlier and (b) by championing innovation in the form of new combinations of resources. In addition, the trend of contingency theory of organizations is associated with the argument that the internal functioning of work organizations must be consistent with the demands of organizational tasks, technology, or external environment among others (Ma, 2000).

This theory is particularly important because of its emphasis on the use of the existing resources to gain a competitive advantage that would result in increased new resources of a firm. It is a fact that the level of resource of a firm will determine its competitive capacity within the market. This is because most of the strategies that a firm would come up with require some level of financing. With a well-established resource base within the firm, it becomes easier to implement strategies that would make the firm more competitive. It is important, therefore, that a firm develops a resource advantage within the firm. This is one of the strategies that would help give a firm a competitive advantage over other competitors in the market. According to Sekaran (2003), it is important to note that the ultimate aim of entrepreneurial marketing is to ensure that a firm has a constant competitive advantage in the market that would allow it a competitive edge. This can best be supported by resource-advantage theory. This would enable the firm to counter many of the challenges that may affect its marketing strategies.

Performance Measurement

Performance measurement is a fundamental building block of total quality management (TQM) and a total quality organization. Historically, organizations have always measured performance in some way through the financial performance, be this success by profit or failure through liquidation (Violet & Josiah, 2012). However, traditional performance measures, based on cost accounting information, provide little to support organizations on their quality journey, because they do not map process performance and improvements seen by the customer. In a successful total quality organization, performance will be measured by the improvements seen by the customer as well as by the results delivered to other stakeholders, such as the shareholders (Gupta, 2012).

Proposed Framework

EM Dimensions
EM Dimensions (Morris et al., 2002).

Morris et al. (2002) developed seven core dimensions of entrepreneurial marketing: Pro-activeness, calculated risk-taking, innovativeness, opportunity focus, resource leveraging, are entrepreneurial dimensions (Hills et al., 2008) while costumer intensity and value creation are marketing dimensions (Kocak, 2004). Therefore, the following hypothesis is suggested:

Hypotheses Development


Entrepreneurship plays an important role not only in products and services but also in finding creative and unique solutions including developing new technologies that will serve executive methods and organizational functions (Davis et al., 1991). Schumacker and Lomax (2004) confirmed the role of entrepreneurial marketing’s innovativeness dimension in creating superior value. Therefore, the following hypothesis is suggested:

Hypothesis: There is a significant positive relationship between the level of innovation and competitive advantage

Risk Management

Morris et al. (2002) emphasized the making use of opportunities through risk management. Enterprises adopting an entrepreneurial marketing approach take into consideration the rational and measurable risks (Shane and Venkataraman, 2000). Therefore, the following hypothesis is suggested:

Hypothesis: There is a significant positive relationship between the level of risk management and competitive advantage

Competitive advantage and Performance

Research studies in strategic management have emphasized how to strengthen an existing firm to maintain competitive advantages by accumulating capabilities (Teece, Pisano, and Shuen, 1997; Berghout, 2012). Competitive advantage and firm performance are two different constructs with an apparently complex relationship (Ma, 2000). Studies have shown a significant relationship between competitive advantage and performance (Ray et al., 2004). Therefore, the following hypothesis is suggested:

Hypothesis: There is a significant positive relationship between the level of competitive advantage and organizational performance

Table1. Hypotheses summary.

Variable Hypotheses Expected Direction
Customer Focus There is a significant positive relationship between level of customer focus and competitive advantage +
Value creation There is a significant positive relationship between level of value creation and competitive advantage +
Innovation There is a significant positive relationship between level of innovation and competitive advantage +
Resource leverage There is a significant positive relationship between level of Resource leverage and competitive advantage +
Opportunity focus There is a significant positive relationship between level of opportunity focus and competitive advantage +
Risk management There is a significant positive relationship between level of risk management and competitive advantage
Performance There is a significant positive relationship between level of competitive advantage and performance +

Proposed Methodology


This study adopts a quantitative research approach. The researcher uses information gathered from the survey to generalize findings from a drawn sample back to a population, within the limits of random error. Holton & Burnett (1997, p.71) asserts that one of the real advantages of the quantitative method is the ability to make use of smaller groups of people to make inferences about larger groups that would be prohibitively expensive to study.


The importance of sorting out the target population of a study cannot be underestimated. The study will make use of employees who currently work in the service sector of Saudi SMEs as the target population.


The study will examine the relationship between EM dimensions, competitive advantage, and SME performance with a particular focus on the Saudi service sector.


The study is quantitative in nature 400 samples will be selected from the larger population of employees in SMEs organization to serve as its sample of the study (Hair et al, 2010). Determining sample size and dealing with non-response bias is essential and a common goal of survey research is to collect data representative of a population. The study will select the required sample through random selection so that every employee will have an equal chance of being selected.

Data Collection

The study will make use of a questionnaire in exploring the data. The questionnaire will be adopted from previous studies. Respondents were asked to indicate their level of agreement on a five-point Likert scale ranging from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree.”Reliability and validity will be tested prior to its administration. However, a pilot study will be carried out to measure the quality of the instrument. The following examples of measurement are presented below from the previous literature:

Table 2. Examples of Items Measurements for entrepreneurial marketing dimensions.

Variable Items Original Source
  • As a manager, I tend to talk more about opportunities than problems.
  • I do not believe we have to be proactive in my company to be successful.
  • I believe that a change in the market creates a positive opportunity for my company.
Becherer et al. (2008)
Opportunity Focus
  • My management approach looks beyond our current customers and markets for more opportunities for our company.
  • Often, I pass on opportunities that do not fit the resources my company has.
  • I am good at recognizing and pursuing opportunities for my company.
Calculated Risk Taking
  • I will only implement plans if I know that they will work.
  • I value an orderly and risk-reducing management process much more than using leadership initiatives for change.
  • My management style is to “play it safe.”
  • My management style values innovative strategies, even though I know some will fail.
  • I believe innovation is not that important in my company.
  • When it comes to problem solving, I value creative new solutions more than solutions of conventional wisdom.
Customer Intensity
  • I expect all departments in our firm to recognize the importance of satisfying our customers.
  • I encourage my employees to strive for innovative approaches to creating relationships with our customers.
  • My company does a good job for our customers but customers do not seem to have a special relationship with the company.
Resource Leveraging
  • In my company I seldom ask employees to work extra hours or perform activities that are really not part of their job description.
  • I would rather rent or lease than purchase resources we need for my company.
  • I use networking and/or an exchange of favors to our advantage in my company.
  • I have been able to leverage our resources by bartering or trading.
Value creation
  • I believe the primary value my company creates for customers is through our products/services.
  • I make sure that my company creates value for customers with excellent customer service.
  • I make sure my company does an excellent job of creating value for customers.
  • The technology in my company is a great source of customer value.
  • My company’s customers do not feel we create any more value for them than our competitors.
  • Providing superior customer value is not a major goal of my company.
  • I make sure my company’s pricing structure reflects the value created for customers.

Data Analysis

The SEM is a family of statistical models that seek to explain the relationships among multiple variables (Hair et al., 2010). SEM serves a similar purpose as multiple regressions but in an improved manner. It takes into account the modeling of interactions, non-linearity, correlated independents, and multiple independents, each measured by multiple indicators. Moreover, the advantages of SEM over multiple regressions include that SEM is more accurate. The use of confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) by SEM will reduce the error effect when each latent variable has multiple indicators and consider all constructs within the model as stimulus analysis rather than coefficients individually.

There are two other important reasons why SEM is preferable to other methods of statistical analysis for the present research. Firstly, multiple observed variables are used to represent a latent construct in the proposed model, and SEM is considered the best tool to examine such latent constructs (Schumacker & Lomax, 2004). Secondly, along with all those multiple observed variables representing a latent construct, multiple latent constructs are also incorporated to form the proposed model. This type of complex relationship among the variables (observed and unobserved) can only be used in SEM (Byrne, 2010). SEM technique, therefore, has become valuable in confirming theoretical models to utilizing a quantitative approach.


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