The Effect of Entrepreneurial Marketing on Small and Medium Enterprises’ Sustainability

Subject: Marketing
Pages: 20
Words: 10615
Reading time:
41 min
Study level: PhD


Chapter Overview

This research starts to present the role of entrepreneurial marketing on SME’s sustainability. It makes a compelling case for the need to embark on the study. The chapter begins with presenting the background of the study, and the importance of SME’s sustainability. The chapter follows with the problem statement, research objectives, research questions, significance of the study, and contribution of the study. In the last section of this chapter, the organization of the next chapters is discussed briefly, to give a general picture of this thesis, to the reader.

Background of the Research

The importance of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to a country’s economic growth has become more evident in both developed and developing countries. According to McDaniel (2002), SMEs play a pivotal role in ensuring that the economy is sustainable. This is achieved in various ways. One of the main areas where SMEs have played a major role in helping to ensure that the economy is sustainable is through the creation of jobs. In both developed and developing countries, SMEs employ a higher percentage of citizens as compared to large corporations and government agencies. They also contribute directly to economic growth by contributing a giving percentage to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country. Husted (2011) confirms that SMEs are the drivers of a country’s economy.

Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest developing economies in the Middle East (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia Information Office, 2013). This country has numerous SMEs that have helped it experience relatively stable economic growth. According to Laszlob (2003), about 90 percent of all registered business units in this country are small and medium-sized Enterprises. They also employ the majority of Saudi Nationals. This demonstrates how SMEs are vital in the country’s economic growth.

As reported by Ricketts (2010) that most of the multinational corporations operating in this country depend on SMEs for their normal operations. They depend on these firms to provide them with raw materials or to sell their products as either wholesalers or retailers. This strong co-relation means that the success of these large corporate organizations directly depends on the success of the SMEs.

The importance of SMEs has raised massive attention among researchers and other stakeholders on how these firms can be made successful. With regards to Gladwin (2010), although SMEs are very important for a country’s economic growth, most of them always fall soon after starting. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it is estimated that the average life span of SMEs is seven years. This means that most of these firms fail to celebrate their seventh anniversary. This is very unfortunate given their importance to the economy of this country. Another major concern has been that although SMEs account for about 90 percent of all the registered firms in this country, their contribution to the country’s GDP has consistently remained below 30 percent.

Maser (2012) says that this is very unfortunate, especially given the fact that this sector employs about 80 percent of the country’s population. This is in sharp contrast with what is happening in developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom where this sector is one of the leading contributors to the GDP (McKenzie-Mohr, 2011). This issue has attracted the attention of many scholars who have been concerned about how to make these business units not only sustainable but also efficient enough to make them profitable in their operations.

Scholars have defined sustainability in various ways and in different contexts, but the meaning comes out as one. According to Laszlo (2003) sustainability refers to the ability to maintain a given resource at a given desirable level for future use. This scholar was defining sustainability in the context of natural resources. The sustainability of SMEs can, therefore, be defined as the ability of the business unit to support its operations in a way that will ensure its continuity.

In this context, the sustainability of SMEs will be looked at from the perspective of being able to support future growth. Maser (2012) observes that growth and development may not translate to sustainability. Some developments may not be sustainable within these business units. However, they form part of sustainability, especially if based on a clear plan that focuses on the current forces, and ability of future growth.

This research focuses on sustainability that can be ensured in SMEs in Saudi Arabia through entrepreneurial marketing. Moreover, this research intends to use both primary and secondary sources of data to come up with findings on how this can be done to ensure that SMEs in this country can gain a sustainable advantage.

Problem Statement

It is clear from the background information above how important SMEs are important to Saudi’s economic growth. As Ricketts (2010) notes, the issue of sustainability is becoming very important among SMEs in this country because most of them rarely celebrate their seventh birthday. This scholar further says that the first two years of a business are always crucial in determining its sustainability. After surviving the first two years, a firm will be considered sustainable if the owner shall have met most of his or her objectives that made him or her start the business in the first place. The period running to the seventh year, and other subsequent years should be characterized with success for the firm and increased contribution to the country’s GDP.

It is of great concern to note that a number of SMEs in this country fail before the second year. This is of great concern because this is a clear sign of the lack of sustainability of these business units. Those that manage to survive these first two crucial years fail to become profitable even after being in operation for seven years or more. SMEs face many challenges in the era of globalization. Ahmad (2012) stated that the lack of ongoing assistance and finances has shortened the life cycles of SMEs in Saudi Arabia. Ahmed adds that it has been established that SMEs are not innovative. Hence, achieving such a “sustainable advantage” is not an easy task without a proper road map or strategy being outlined and put into practice (Raduan et al., 2009).

Kesper (2001) confirms that in developing countries that are characterized by uncertain market conditions and high failure rates of SMEs, mere survival may be equated with sustainability and success. However, SMEs may be termed successful if they have endured the first two critical years of existence and the owner has met the majority of his goals and objectives. Consequently, managers in many corporations are under increasing pressure to address the issue of sustainability (Asif et al., 2011).

As McDaniel (2002) observes firms are hardly able to support their normal operations. Others operate in huge debts that hinder the possibility of development. Some of these SMEs operate without understanding a clear market niche they are serving with their products. This means that they cannot custom-make their products to deliver high value to this market niche they serve with their products. Joyner (2002) also notes that some of these SMEs struggle to capture a very market segment that nearly becomes impossible to satisfy any of the segments.

This can be attributed to a lack of entrepreneurial marketing. Most of these business units lack skills that can take them to the next level, and this has resulted in many years of stagnation at one level, making them barely sustainable. Therefore, this research aims to investigate the effect of entrepreneurial marketing on SMEs sustainability.

Research Questions

This research attempts to answer the following questions

  • What are some of the measures that can be used to ensure that there is sustainability in SMEs within this country?
  • Is there a significant relationship between entrepreneurial marketing and the sustainable advantage of small and medium-sized enterprises?
  • Which dimensions of entrepreneurial marketing have a significant impact on small and medium enterprises’ profit?
  • Which dimensions of entrepreneurial marketing have a significant impact on small and medium enterprises’ contribution towards their serving communities (people)?
  • Which dimensions of entrepreneurial marketing have a significant impact on small and medium enterprises’ contribution towards their environment (planet)?

Research Objectives

The following are some of the specific objectives that the researcher seeks to achieve in this research.

  1. To determine whether entrepreneurial marketing has positive impacts on SMEs sustainable advantage.
  2. To establish how and the extent to which each of the dimensions of entrepreneurial marketing influences the sustainable advantage of SMEs in terms of people development.
  3. To establish how and the extent to which each of the dimensions of entrepreneurial marketing influences sustainable advantage of SMEs in terms of profitability.
  4. To ascertain the extent to which each of the dimensions of entrepreneurial marketing influences the sustainable advantage of SMEs in terms of environmental sustainability (plant).

Significance of the Research

According to Gladwin (2010), conducting successful research involves a series of activities that involves the consumption of time and other resources. Studies have been conducted about sustainability and entrepreneurial marketing in SMEs. Krueger (2007) insists on the need to ensure that SMEs are sustainable. They should be able to remain sustainably profitable in order to be able to experience growth.

Several models have been developed to explain this, and to demonstrate how this can work in various economic conditions. However, Hills, Hultman and Miles (2008) note that theories were developed in developed countries, especially in the United States of America. Some of the common models in practice today were developed by scholars in these developed countries and within the context of their environmental forces.

This research seeks to determine the viability of the current models in terms of their appropriateness to the Saudi economic and social environment. Sustainability will be looked at based on the local Saudi society. The primary data will be collected within the borders of this country to reflect the local economy. This means that the ability of entrepreneurial marketing to provide a sustainable advantage to firms will be determined in the context of Saudi’s economic and social environment. This makes this research very important to the local operating SMEs in this country.

Contribution of the Study

Contribution to theory and knowledge

Saudi Arabia is considered one of the developing countries in the world. As literature survey reflected that there is a lack of studies in the context of the developing economies. This research will focus on determining the relationship that exists between entrepreneurial marketing and sustainability. This study will add to the existing knowledge of entrepreneurial marketing and sustainability studies by examining the relationship between entrepreneurial marketing dimensions and sustainability. Furthermore, this study will examine, particularly, the specific key dimensions that affect sustainability in SMEs. In addition, the study will also provide empirical evidence on entrepreneurial marketing by validating a model of sustainability in SMEs.

Contribution to management practice

According to Ricketts (2010), most of the current business units in Saudi Arabia have failed to achieve sustainability in their operations because of a lack of sufficient knowledge of the best practice in their field. The term sustainability is strange to most of the entrepreneurs in this country. They also do not have any knowledge about entrepreneurial marketing. This has led to the dismal performance that has been witnessed in these businesses. This study will provide a detailed understanding of sustainability and what it means to small and medium-sized entrepreneurs in this country, and other countries having a similar socio-economic and political structure as that of Saudi Arabia.

This research study also seeks to provide knowledge to the entrepreneurs and other business executives managing SMEs on how entrepreneurial marketing can help them achieve a sustainable advantage in their operations. This research will also give expert advice to business executives of SMEs on the importance of hiring skilled employees who understand marketing dynamics and are able to define the best ways of achieving sustainability.

SMEs can also use this information to help them diversify their market offering in order to increase their chances of survival in the market. As Ricketts (2010) notes that most business units have failed to diversify because of a lack of sufficient knowledge in the field of entrepreneurial marketing. With these skills, such businesses will be able to prosper, and this will increase their possibility to diversify. These enterprises will be able to understand how to apply entrepreneurial marketing as an antecedent for gaining the sustainable advantage of small and medium enterprises.

Scope of the Research

The scope of research focuses on the investigation of SMEs sustainability in Saudi Arabia to gain deeper knowledge about which dimension of entrepreneurial marketing will affect sustainability. SMEs are selected because of the highly competitive markets nature and their contribution to GDP. The present study adopts the definition by (Shalaby, 2004) of SMEs in the Saudi context as companies that are employing less than 100 employees.

Research Key Terms

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).

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs)

The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority defines a small enterprise as that which has employed less than 60 workers and a medium one as employing less than 100 employees Shalaby ( 2004).

Corporate sustainability (CS)

Corporate sustainability is defined as adopting business strategies that meet the needs of the enterprise and its stakeholders while sustaining human and natural resources (KPMG, 2011).

Triple bottom line

A phrase coined in 1994 by John Elkington and later used in his 1997 book “Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line Of 21st Century Business” describes the separate financial, social and environmental “bottom lines” of companies. A triple bottom line measures the company’s economic value, “people account” – which measures the company’s degree of social responsibility and the company’s “planet account” – which measures the company’s environmental responsibility. Elkington argued that companies should prepare three bottom lines – the triple bottom line – instead of focusing solely on its finances, thereby giving consideration to the company’s social, economic and environmental impact.

Sustainable development

The WCED (1987) defines sustainable development as ‘seeking to meet the needs and aspirations of the present, without compromising the ability to meet those of the future’.


Viederman(1994) defines sustainability as a vision of the future that provides us with a road map and helps us to focus our attention on a set of values and ethical and moral principles by which to guide our actions.

Literature Review

Chapter Overview

This chapter will focus on the relevant secondary sources of data with respect to the topic under investigation. The issue of sustainability of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has raised a lot of concern among stakeholders both in the developed and developing nations around the world. According to the study by Aras and Crowther (2009), SMEs play a very important role in the economic development of a country.

This study further emphasizes the fact that in developing economies, SMEs are the leading employers. This makes their sustainability an issue that should be addressed with a lot of concern. The sustainability of a country’s economy is always determined by, among other things, its ability to increase the employment rate of its population. This problem has always been solved by having sustainable small and medium-sized enterprises within an economy.

Researchers have conducted much investigation into this field in order to come up with some of the best practices that can be used by SMEs to help them become sustainable. A number of theories have been developed by scholars to help explain the relevance of entrepreneurial marketing in helping achieve sustainability among small and medium-sized enterprises. Most of the available literature was research conducted in the United States and other developed nations such as the United Kingdom.

A few works of literature conducted by local researchers on these issues were also available, though they do not comprehensively address the relationship between entrepreneurial marketing and sustainable advantage among SMEs. This chapter will help give a comprehensive understanding of this topic based on some of the readily available literature.

SMEs in Developed and Developing Countries

According to Kamyabi and Devi (2011), SMEs are common in both developed and developing economies. These scholars note that in both economies, SMEs play important role in the economic growth of a country. According to Radwan, Jegak, Haslinda and Alimin, (2009), rarely will new firms start as large corporate organizations. In most cases, new firms always start as small and medium-sized firms. This means that in every country, SMEs exist, as new firms enter the market with either new products that did not exist in the market before, or come to create better value of the existing market. In both developed and developing countries, new firms are being created.

In fact Hills, Hultman and Miles (2008), say that they form the majority of registered firms in both developed and developing countries. They also employ a massive number of people directly or indirectly. However, the performance of small and medium enterprises has been different in the two economies. According to Diamond (2005), the performance of SMEs in developed countries has been better than their performance in developing countries. It is important to understand this performance by analyzing the SMEs in both developing and developed countries.

SMEs in developed countries

According to Sandberg and Tsoukas, (2011), SMEs are considered as strong pillars of economic growth. They play a major role in the creation of employment for the country’s population. The report by (Kraus, Harms and Fink, 2010) indicates that about 65 percent of jobs created by the private sector are attributed to small and medium enterprises. In the United States, SMEs have been considered as the pillars that have sustained economic growth. Although the economic performance of SMEs has been considered as lower than the performance of multinational corporations (MNC), they have proven to be sustainable in their operations.

Russo (1997) says that SMEs in this country have performed well on issues such as flexibility to changing environmental factors and innovativeness. This has given them an advantage in market competition. Most of the SMEs in this country have also specialized in specific market segments, which they can offer the best satisfaction. In these segments, these firms would offer the best would offer products of very high quality, a fact that has helped most of them create pools of loyal customers.

Individuals who have knowledge on how these business units should be managed run SMEs in this country, as (Hult, 2011) states. This scholar notes that knowledge in market forces and marketing, in general, has helped managers of these business units prosper in various ways. Another factor that has made SMEs successful in the developed countries is the readily available sources of finance.

Unlike in developing countries, financial institutions in developed countries readily offer loans or grants to small business units to help them sustain their operations. Government policies are also friendly to the SMEs, especially new firms that are just starting operations. Such incentives as tax holidays would always be offered to the small start-ups in order to enable them to experience growth. The economic stability, and buyer behavior have helped boost SMEs sustainability.

Americans like spending, and this creates a very stable market for them. The political stability in this country and the currently stable economic growth has further helped these firms experience sustainable growth and development (Russo, 1997). Their contribution to the country’s GDP is high, making them is considered as very strong pillars in the country’s economy.

SMEs in developing countries (Saudi Arabia)

Just like in developed countries, SMEs play a very important role in the economy of developing countries. The report by (McDaniel, 2002) shows that over 90 percent of registered private business units in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are SMEs. They also employ about 80 percent of the country’s total population. This clearly demonstrates how important these business units are to the country’s economic growth. When analyzing SMEs in developing countries, the picture given about developed countries becomes the opposite. Diamond (2005) observes that the rate of failure of SMEs in developing countries is about four times as high as it is in developed countries.

The sustainability of SMEs in developing countries is always not assured, and this may be attributed to many factors. McDaniel (2002) says that one of the leading factors that affect the success of SMEs in this kingdom is the limited knowledge of the owners or people trusted with the management of these business units. These managers do not know what sustainability is, and how relevant it is to their business units. As Hult (2011) puts it, people who know very little about good governance operate most of these SMEs.

In developing nations, SMEs struggle to get financial support from the leading financial institutions. In Saudi Arabia, Husted (2011) says that the capital market is not friendly to small business units. These institutions do not trust small firms to be able to generate enough income and remit back the amount of money loaned to them. This has affected their performance, as most of them have to rely on the financial capacity of their owners. Saudi society has also played a role in creating a troubled market for SMEs.

The market trusts the brand name when it comes to purchasing most of the items. This means that small brands will find it difficult to fight with some of the already established brands in the market. The market’s trust for the brand name has forced some of the start-ups to close because they find it nearly impossible to penetrate the market (Loucks, Martens & Cho, 2010). The purchasing power and consumer behavior of the local population have also been a factor that has limited the capacity of SMEs to prosper in the market and be able to experience the desired growth.

It is true that SMEs in Saudi Arabia is hardly managing to survive. However, Maser (2012) notes that the future is not that bleak as the government has realized the need to support them as a way of motivating the country’s economic growth. Some government initiatives are meant to support SMEs in this country in order to make them grow. The government has also been keen to sensitize financial institutions on the need to offer SMEs financial support. Fisk (2010) cites Samba Financial Group as one of the leading banks that have developed programs that focus on small and macro business institutions. Society is also slowly getting to appreciate the local brand.

The flexibility of the SMEs also gives them an advantage over the large corporate organizations when it comes to initiating change or introducing new management approaches. With proper management and support from the government and other relevant stakeholders, Joyner (2002) says that SMEs in this country can flourish and be able to increase their percentage contribution to the country’s GDP.


Herman (2010) simply defines entrepreneurship as the qualities that define an entrepreneur. It would, therefore, be careful to understand the definition of an entrepreneur. Maser (2012) defines an entrepreneur as “Someone who exercises initiative by organizing a venture to take benefit of an opportunity and, as the decision-maker, decides what, how, and how much of a good or service will be produced.” An entrepreneur has also been defined as a risk-taker, an innovator, and a creative mind that is able to identify a gap in the market and determine how the gap can be filled to generate economic benefits.

In this research, entrepreneurship is the independent variable. It always happens once one decides to venture into any business activity. As Gladwin (2010) says, entrepreneurship spirit is always exhibited in every human being. The only difference comes when others are willing to take the risks associated with it, while others would prefer playing safe. The fact that SMEs account for over 90 percent of all the registered private firms in Saudi Arabia is a clear demonstration that the spirit of entrepreneurship is high in this Kingdom (Hitchcock & Willard, 2009).

The existence of these enterprises demonstrates the willpower that individual investors have towards creating business units. However, Sharma (2011) says that there is the issue of sustainability. Making the move to start a business unit (entrepreneurship) is very important, but also equally important is the need to ensure that the started business can be able to support itself and experience sustained development (sustainability) in the market.

Starting an unsustainable business is a waste of time and resources because it will take a short while before the business unit is forced out of operations. This means that entrepreneurship needs to be supported by sustainability for it to be realistic (The EU-GCC Chamber Forum, 2010). This means that there must be sustainable entrepreneurship for a business enterprise to thrive. SMEs that have succeeded in this and other countries have achieved this.


Marketing is defined by Laszlo (2003) as a management approach that seeks to create a positive interaction between a firm and its customers with the view of creating loyalty to a given brand or products. Marketing has faced massive transformation over the years. The research by Maser (2012) shows that marketing has become a core management issue that would define the ability of a firm to be sustainable. For SMEs, it is through marketing that they can make their products conspicuous in the market. Marketing also offers the opportunity to use new creativity in convincing the market that their products are the most appropriate in the market.

Entrepreneurial Marketing

The importance of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship is generally recognized. The entrepreneur has become a hero in recessionary times. And the ability to operate, and often also to grow, a business in a challenging business environment is important for society. So there is a need for scholarly studies of entrepreneurship and its intersections with other academic disciplines, such as marketing (Hills & Hultman 2011).

Entrepreneurial Marketing (EM) is a concept that was established at the interface between two sciences – marketing and entrepreneurship – almost thirty years ago (IONIŢĂ, D. 2012). As recently noted, the past decade has witnessed far greater use of the term EM, reflecting a growing sense of legitimization among EM scholars (Hills & Hultman, 2011). Even though the term was used in the first EM national research meeting in 1982 (William Brannen), extensive use has occurred only recently (Kraus et al 2012).

A common definition By Morris, Schindehutte and Forge (2002) for EM is “proactive identification and exploitation of opportunities for acquiring and retaining profitable customers through innovative approaches to risk management, resource leveraging and value creation.” This definition is comprehensively covering the main components of entrepreneurship (innovativeness, risk-taking, opportunity and proactivity) and marketing (customer focus, resource leveraging, guerilla marketing and value creation).

Kraus, Harms, et al (2010) have to define EM that combines marketing definition with elements of entrepreneurship, is: “EM 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.” Other authors have also defined EM in relation to its relevance to small businesses or to SMEs.

For example, Becherer et al (2006) defined EM as effectual action or adaptation of marketing theory to the particular needs of the small business. According to Bjerke and Hultman (2002), entrepreneurial marketing is the marketing of small firms growing through entrepreneurship. While some authors argue that it can be described as marketing activities with an entrepreneurial mindset, irrespective of firm size or age (Kraus et al. 2010), it is widely accepted that the concept is particularly appropriate to the small business context (Jones and Rowley 2011).

Entrepreneurial marketing literature, in general, observes that new ventures face several specific marketing challenges that cannot be dealt with by conventional marketing practices requiring them to adopt non-conventional, EM practices. (Mort et al 2012). This means that such a business unit must embrace entrepreneurial marketing as an approach that would give them a competitive edge over their rivals. It would enable them to come up with unique techniques for managing the stiff market competition.

Entrepreneurial Marketing Dimensions

It is important to understand some of the dimensions of entrepreneurial marketing. Joyner (2002) says that the entrepreneurial marketing dimension has always been considered to have three main dimensions of being proactive, taking calculated risks, and innovativeness. However, this can be expanded as shown below.


Entrepreneurial marketing encourages proactive decision market in all business strategies within a firm other than being reactive (Morris, Schindehutte& Forge, 2004). This involves making decisions and strategies, not because something negative has happened and there is need to make a corrective measure, but because a need has been identified and the move is meant to satisfy this need. SMEs must understand market forces and other external factors that affect their normal business operations. Maser (2012) says that being proactive is an important strategy that helps business units develop creative strategies for various issues within organizations.

This means that the management waits for an unfortunate incident to motivate action within the firm. This reactive approach to management has been the reason why many SMEs in various parts of the world have failed. The need to react should be identified early enough to avoid the unfortunate incidents from taking place. Measures should always be put in place to ensure that the firm has the capacity to develop new and better approaches to handling various activities during its normal operations.

Bateman and Crant (1993), argue that proactivity is a personal behavioral construct that exhibits a “relatively stable tendency to effect environmental change”. Frese and Fay (2001) bring this further in proposing that proactivity will have a positive impact on the individual as well as organizational performance. Given all this, it is to be expected that proactivity will enhance organizational performance, also in terms of the working environment. Proactivity, in a working environment context, can be defined as a continuous organizational process that aims to anticipate, improve and evaluate occupational health and safety practices (Andersen et al., 2010).

Proactiveness reflects entrepreneurial willingness to dominate competitors through a combination of proactive and aggressive moves, e.g., introducing new products or services ahead of the competition and acting in anticipation of future demand to create change and shape the environment. Moreover, having a proactive orientation involves discovering and satisfying the latent, unarticulated needs of customers through collecting customer- and competitor-based information (Keh et al, 2007). Proactiveness is concerned with the implementation of something new, doing what is necessary to anticipate and act upon an entrepreneurial opportunity.

Calculated risk-taking

According to Tsai and Hung (2009), risk cannot be avoided in any business venture. The most defining factor of an entrepreneur is the ability to take risks. Entrepreneurial marketing, therefore, involves creativeness that borders risk-taking in an attempt to achieve a positive difference in the market. However, Bornstein (2007) warns that any risk taken within an organization should be a calculated risk. This means that the management should be able to identify some factors that make a certain venture a risky one in the market. It should then determine how this risk could be mitigated, and some of the opportunity costs related to the venture.

When this detailed evaluation is conducted, a firm will be able to determine the worth of the initiative. The risk would only be taken if the management has a detailed understanding of all the underlying issues related to the initiative, and a detailed description of measures that can be taken to mitigate the risks. One of the main problems with SMEs in this country is that sometimes they take uncalculated risks. Husted (2011) says that there are cases where SMEs undertake new projects without any clear feasibility study. Such projects may involve massive investments that account for a massive share of the firm’s revenues. When such projects flop, firms get seriously affected, and some may even be forced out of operations (Motwani, Levenburg & Schwarz, 2006).

The power of risk-taking including willingness to use substantial resources for exploiting opportunities with using Business strategies Based on the results may be very uncertain (Morris et al 2004). Firms that have adopted entrepreneurial marketing processes take calculated, rational, measured risks. Firms that have adopted entrepreneurial marketing processes are not gamblers but risk accepters who understand that innovation in the current social, technological, and economic environments is inherently uncertain and requires rational betting on long shots. One method for managing risk is to work in alliance with other parties, which these firms believe will both provide complementary capabilities and help shift the risks to other parties (Miles and Darroch, 2004).


Another defining characteristic of entrepreneurial marketing as Herman (2010) observes is innovativeness. This author defines innovativeness as the ability of a firm to come up with new creative ways of handling normal business operations. It entails going beyond the conventional strategies in the market. Innovativeness as a dimension of entrepreneurial marketing has been identified as one of the best ways through which SMEs can gain an advantage in the market over other established corporate businesses (Motwani, Levenburg& Schwarz, 2006).

It involves determining new better ways of managing customers in a manner that is not currently used by other existing firms. Bornstein (2007) mentioned that small firms are always more flexible. They have a greater capacity to develop new ways of dealing with the issue of customer management. They can easily change from one customer segment to another. They can also create their own unique marketing niche and strive to deliver unique products to this niche as a way of gaining a competitive advantage in the market. This innovativeness needs some understanding of the market forces and the way they can be manipulated to generate specific outcomes.

Opportunity focus

In marketing, there is always a need to identify windows of opportunity and use them to create a competitive advantage (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1997). Opportunity-focused marketing is considered one of the strong factors that make entrepreneurial marketing uniquely powerful. This is because the concern goes beyond awareness creation and convincing customers about a brand or a product. It also involves identifying an opportunity in the market and making the most out of it for the benefit of the firm.

Recognition and pursuit of opportunity are marketing actions critical to SME success. The market potential is generally evaluated by the degree of fit relative to the capabilities and resources of the firm. It is the ability of the firm to select the “right” opportunity that determines success (Becherer et al., 2008). Although opportunity can arise randomly, entrepreneurial marketers are known for proactively searching for new opportunities. Being forward-looking and having the will to become pioneers makes entrepreneurial firms able to serve unsatisfied needs and capture emerging opportunities before their competitors can. Innovation and creativity are crucial tools that help entrepreneurial firms to turn opportunities into realities (Kilenthong et al 2010).

Resource leveraging

Large corporate organizations have a resource advantage over SMEs. This forces SMEs to find better ways of gaining a competitive advantage using their limited resources in the market. It is through this that they can remain sustainable. Entrepreneurial marketing involves putting an effort to market a product or a brand despite limited resources that a firm may have at its disposal (Raduan, Jegak, Haslinda & Alimin, 2009).

Customer intensity

Entrepreneurial marketing emphasizes customer intensity. This involves increasing focus on customer satisfaction as a way of making them loyal to a brand or a product. This can help SMEs gain a competitive advantage over other established entities (Bell & Morse, 2008).

The dimension of customer intensity builds on what is often viewed as a central driving force of marketing in the organization: a “customer-centric” orientation employing innovative approaches to create, build, and sustain customer relationships.

Many studies suggest successful organizations are those that place a greater emphasis on customer intensity. However, it has also been suggested that extreme customer orientations might inhibit the breakthrough of innovations that create markets and disrupt equilibrium, since these radical changes are out in front of customers (Becherer et al., 2008). Customer orientation has its roots in early services marketing literature in which the importance of customer-focused employees was a tangible sign of quality for the firm and its services. Since then, the concept of customer orientation within firms has been investigated by a number of authors and researchers; indeed, some authors view customer orientation as the pillar of marketing (Jones and Rowley, 2011).

Value Creation

When a customer makes a purchase, he or she would want to get the best value that matches the expenditure. Entrepreneurial marketing focuses on creating the best value out of every purchase a customer makes. This will increase customer loyalty that will enhance the sustainability of a business unit (Corley & Gioia, 2011).

The focal point of entrepreneurial marketing is innovative value creation, on the assumption that value creation is a prerequisite for transactions and relationships. The task of marketers is to discover untapped sources of customer value and to create unique combinations of resources to produce value (Morris et al 2002). Because of the superior ability to identify and exploit opportunities, it is arguable that firms that adopt entrepreneurial marketing processes are better able to identify attractive entrepreneurial opportunities and exploit them by leveraging innovation to enhance the offering’s benefits and/or decrease the offering’s costs, resulting in a superior value for the customer (Miles and Darroch 2004).


Sustainability has been defined differently in different contexts. Hult (2011) defines sustainability as “The careful and efficient stewardship of resources by businesses, communities, and citizens. It is the practice of meeting our needs in ways that are respectful of future generation and restorative of a natural, cultural, and financial asset.” This is a broad definition, but it brings out the meaning of sustainability as the process of using resources responsibly, conscious of the need to use them again in the future. In the context of SMEs, sustainability would ability of a firm to use its resources, including human resources, efficiently in order to generate profits, but in a way that is conscious of the need to protect the environment.

Sustainability is a relatively new concept, but it has gained massive relevance in the recent past because of its focus on stability. Sustainability can be looked at from different contexts. Different models have been developed to help explain sustainability under different environmental conditions. As McDaniel (2002) observes, “Economic model, for example, looks to sustain natural and financial capital whereas an ecological model looks to biological diversity and ecological integrity.”

This definition gives two perspectives of sustainability that are very relevant to SMEs. The first focus is on economic sustainability. SMEs need to ensure that they are economically sustainable. This can be achieved by giving focus to natural and financial capital. This means that a firm can be able to achieve sustainability if it uses both natural and financial capital diligently to ensure that it is available for future growth (Hills & Hultman, 2011). The other aspect of sustainability brought out in this definition is the need to protect biological diversity.

According to Laszlo (2003), sustainability has majorly been looked at from the perspective of environmental protection. One of the earliest pillars of sustainability to be developed was the planet. This pillar seeks focuses on the need to ensure that environment is protected from any form of degradation to ensure that it is able to support the future generation. As Husted (2011) says, development projects that are not focused on protecting the future generation are not sustainable.

This scholar says that the current development should be beneficial to the current and future generations. However, when the future generation is not protected by the current developments, such developments can easily crumble when the pressure becomes overwhelming. For small and medium-sized firms, sustainability should be looked at from a comprehensive angle as will be discussed in the sections below.

Sustainability has been defined in the sections above as an effort to protect the future while still ensuring that there is development within the current setting. This is the dependent variable. This research seeks to determine how SMEs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can achieve sustainability in their operations. This means that sustainability is dependent on other factors. If these factors fail to happen the way they are expected to, then sustainability cannot be achieved (Cavagnaro & Curiel, 2012).

In this case, entrepreneurial marketing has been identified as an independent factor that may influence the sustainability of SMEs. In this research, it is of interest to determine the relationship between entrepreneurial marketing and sustainability. For the SMEs in Saudi Arabia to be successful, they must be able to achieve sustainability in their operations. Their future must be assured, based on their current operational activities. It is necessary to understand some of the pillars of sustainability in order to understand the concept.

The Three Pillars of Sustainability

As mentioned above, sustainability has received different definitions from different quarters and under different contexts. However, all these definition agree on the fact that sustainability is based on three main pillars. In the context of business units, including SMEs, the three pillars include people, which the social pillar, profit, which is the economic pillar, and planet, which is the environmental pillar (Ramachandran, Mukherji & Sud, 2006).

The three pillars are very important in ensuring that there is sustainability, and any weakness in any of the three would render the whole system unsustainable. This means that if a firm has excellence economic and environmental policies, but lack clear policy on how to deal with social issues of its employees, the firm will be considered as unsustainable (Chrisman & McMullan, 2000). These three pillars can be presented diagrammatically as shown below.

Pillars of Sustainability.
Figure 1: Pillars of Sustainability.

As demonstrated in the above diagram sustainability is like a house with three cornerstones (Ricketts, 2010). Each of the three cornerstones has its role in ensuring that the house remains stable. Any form of interference of either of the three pillars would always bring it down. This means that the three pillars must always be protected to achieve sustainability. Theories have been developed to help explain how these three pillars relate to one another, and how they can be supported through various operational activities of a firm (Asif, Searcy, Zutshi & Ahmad, 2011). The model below seeks to demonstrate how these three pillars relate to one another.

Sustainability pillars as interdependent entities
Sustainability pillars as interdependent entities.

One of the most common models of pillars of sustainability is that they are depicted as interdependent entities (Sandberg & Tsoukas, 2011). This another says that in this model, it is believed that each of the three pillars has a role to play in ensuring that there is sustainability within an organization, and amongst themselves. This idea is shared by Schindehutte and Morris (2010) who say that the three pillars are interdependent of one another.

For-profits to be achieved, the environment must be supportive of its activities. Society must also be ready to offer to work for it and buy its products when it is taken to the market. The economic pillar also depends on the other two pillars of the natural environment and society. Society cannot exist without the support of the natural environment. Society also needs the existence of business units in order to get jobs and acquire goods and services desired (Ray, Barney & Muhanna, 2004).

Any form of compromise of the two pillars may render the entire system unsustainable, and this may lead to its collapse. Finally, the environment needs direct protection from members of society. It also depends on the profitability of firms in order to be allocated part of that profitability as corporate social responsibility focusing on environmental protection (Morris, Schindehutte & Forge, 2002). For this reason, Loucks, Martens, and Cho (2010) warn SMEs that focusing on profitability alone cannot offer them sustainability in their operations. It reaches a moment when the other ignored pillars will work against the operations of a firm.

Environment as the core pillar of sustainability.
Environment as the core pillar of sustainability.

In another model, the environment has been considered as the pillar of the two other pillars (Raduan, Jegak, Haslinda & Alimin, 2009). According to Kraus, Harms and Fink (2010), the environment offers support to everything in the universe. We depend on it for our very existence. Hills, Hultman and Miles (2008) say that activities we engage in can only work towards its destruction. This scholar further reiterates that the environment can exist without the other two entities.

The second tier is occupied by society. Morris, Schindehutte, and Forge (2002) say that human being has developed a belief that life cannot exist without economic activities which define the business environment. However, this scholar refutes this by saying that society can exist without necessarily depending on the business environment.

However, greed, capitalism, and the need for a better life have forced human beings to focus on business activities (Ray, Barney & Muhanna, 2004). The existence of all other beings without engaging in economic activities is a clear indication that human beings also had the capacity to survive without engaging in such activities (Raduan, Jegak, Haslinda & Alimin, 2009). Although this philosophical approach of reasoning has challenged major criticism from various authors, Loucks, Martens, and Cho (2010) appreciate the fact that most of the activities of humanity towards economic empowerment, have affected the natural environment and reduced its capacity to sustain itself. It is important to understand how each of these three pillars provides the sustainable advantage to SMEs.

People (Social Pillar)

The first pillar of sustainability is the social pillar. According to Ray, Barney and Muhanna (2004), employees and customers form the basis of any business unit. The social pillar of sustainability can best be demonstrated using stakeholder map theory. This theory identifies the stakeholders that have direct or indirect relationships with a firm. This model is demonstrated in the diagram.

Stakeholders Map
Stakeholders Map.

This model identifies people within the business community that plays different roles to ensure that a firm operates normally. The model identifies the stakeholders as internal stakeholders, the shareholders, and external shareholders. Each of the three groups has specific subgroups that should always be considered in the normal operating activities of a firm.

For a business to be considered sustainable, it must have employees who are committed to its duties. As Porter (1985) says, the success or failure of any business unit always depends on the employees. This is because the employees are responsible for the implementation of all policies that are meant to offer success to a business unit. Policies must be put in place to ensure that employees are treated in a way that will motivate them.

One of the important issues that should be observed very closely is the occupational health, and safety of the employees while at work. Employees should feel that the firm takes a lot of interest in providing them with a safe environment. Their health concern should also be taken care of by the firm (Esty & Winston, 2006). The working hours should also be flexible to allow employees to engage in other personal activities that may mean a lot to them.

The wage rate should also be fair, being conscious of the prevailing market rates. As Morris, Schindehutte & Forge (2002) says, employees should be made to feel that they are working within an environment where their interests are taken care of by the employer. By investing in human resources, a business unit would be developing a base upon which it will be able to achieve the desired growth and profitability. Sustainability in this area will be determined by the ability of employees to work happily because they feel they are valued within the firm.

The management should always respect the basic human rights of employees at all times to avoid any disruptive industrial actions from the employees (Ray, Barney & Muhanna, 2004). The social environment also looks at other stakeholders who related to the firm are directly or indirectly. Customers form an important part of the social pillar of sustainability. According to Morris, Schindehutte and Forge (2002), some firms have failed in the market because of policies that do not focus on customer satisfaction. Some firms always strive to achieve quick profitability by providing low-quality products to the market.

As Loucks, Martens, and Cho (2010) observe, such a firm sacrifices sustainability because it will reach a time when the customer will seek alternative products. In this respect, a firm must ensure that customers get high value for their purchases and that they are listened to at any moment that they have an issue to address about the firm or products offered. This will help in creating a pool of loyal customers for the firm in the market.

The government also forms part of the stakeholders whose interests should be protected by business units for it to be sustainable. Government comes in with regulatory policies that firms must always adhere to in their operations (Raduan, Jegak, Haslinda & Alimin, 2009). According to Hills, Hultman and Miles (2008), some SMEs have failed to celebrate their first anniversary because of the crackdown of their activities by government agencies.

Development can only be considered sustainable if it is in line with policies set up by the government or its agencies. Media is also another crucial component of the social environment that should be taken into consideration in the process of creating sustainability (Raduan, Jegak, Haslinda & Alimin, 2009). Firms depend on media to create awareness of their product. Both social and mass media is very important in fostering development within a firm. As Asif, Searcy, Zutshi and Ahmad (2011) note, however, media’s power can work either positively or negatively for a firm.

Hills, Hultman, and Miles (2008) note that Dominos was almost brought to its knees when a section of its employees posted a video they recoded while handling pizzas in an unhygienic manner on YouTube. It took the top management several weeks to convince the market that the posted video was an act of malice intended to harm the image of the firm. SMEs should be well aware of this power held by the media in their development process. There should also be a community relations program that would help foster positive relationships between the firm and the public. In essence, the firm must satisfy all people who are related to it directly or indirectly (Chabowski, Mena & Gonzalez-Padron, 2011).

Profit (Economic Pillar)

The second pillar of sustainability is the economic pillar. As Fisk (2010) observes, the main concern of any business unit is to generate some income that would help it expand its operations. This author says that even non-profit making organizations must have this economic pillar to operate normally. The income could be coming from well-wishers or specific donors. The source of such income must be stable for a firm to be considered sustainable (Asif, Searcy, Zutshi and Ahmad, 2011).

For SMEs, the main source of income is the profit generated from normal operations. This must be stable. A firm must also be able to determine the kind of risks it exposes itself to during its normal operations. It should always take calculated risks that would not hurt its profitability. Fisk (2010) also says that such firms must also have access to the market where they can trade without any form of fear or intimidation. The management must have the capacity to maintain the growth of a firm’s profitability in the market.

According to Ramachandran, Mukherji and Sud (2006), firms should always realize that profitability cannot be achieved through shortened routes that ignore some of the fundamental issues in the society. This has been the main undoing of many business units. They get into the market with a focused mind of quick generation of income (Raduan, Jegak, Haslinda&Alimin, 2009). They get into practices that are not adhering to principles of best practice. This may yield short-term profitability. However, a firm may start experiencing serious economic woes that may bring its operations to a halt.

According to Hills, Hultman and Miles (2008), some SMEs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been faced out of the market because of the inability to give clear focus on how to generate profits in a sustainable manner. It is a fact that the only way through which a firm can remain competitive is to ensure that it remains profitable. However, care should always be taken to ensure that this profitability do not jeopardize possibilities of future expansion. It is through this that profitability may be considered sustainable (Ray, Barney & Muhanna, 2004).

Planet (Environmental Pillar)

The third pillar of sustainability involves the management of the environment, also referred to as the planet. This pillar has received massive attention from various stakeholders. A number of theories have been developed to explain the importance of this pillar (Hills & Hultman, 2011). One of the most popular theories in the contemporary world that has been used to explain this pillar is the Ecological Modernization Theory that was developed in the late 1980s in Europe. According to Hills, Hultman and Miles (2008), Ecological Modernization Theory focuses on the transformations, which take place in various sectors of the economy that, have a direct impact on the environment.

One of the main principles of this theory, according to Ramachandran, Mukherji and Sud (2006) states, is “Increasing importance of market dynamics and economic agents- such as producers, customers, consumers, credit institutions, insurance companies- are carriers of ecological restructuring and reform.” This theory categorizes business units as agents of ecological restructuring and reform. This means that SMEs are direct agents of ecological reform and restructuring.

Depending on the approach taken by a firm, the reform can have serious negative restructuring or a positive reform. Chabowski, Mena, and Gonzalez-Padron (2011) say that SMEs should realize that that they cannot achieve sustainability if they do not use their environment sustainably. This is because the environment has all the natural resources that a firm would need for its development.

Natural resources on the planet earth are limited, delicate, but very important for human survival. For this reason, Fisk (2010) says that care should always be taken to ensure that they are protected from any possible destruction from human activities. Firms are currently under pressure to ensure that their activities are environmentally sustainable. For a business unit to be considered sustainable, Savitz (2006) states that it should use its natural resources responsibly, and in a manner that will make them available for future use. Pollution of any kind should be minimized as much as possible. In fact, Laszlo (2003) mentioned that the rate of carbon emission should not go beyond the capacity of what naturally be assimilated. This author argued that firms should try as much as possible to recycle most of their wastes to reduce environmental degradation.

Entrepreneurship and Sustainability

Entrepreneurship defines the ability to start business unit by bringing all factors of production together, and being able to face some of the risks involved in the initiative (Armstrong &Botzler, 1993). However, it may not be worth the risk if such an enterprise fails after a short period. If this happens, the entrepreneurial process shall be considered to have failed, and the resources committed to it wasted. This means that there is need to ensure that there is sustainability of such enterprises as soon as they start. For this reason, Maser (2012) says that entrepreneurship should be accompanied by strategies that can enhance sustainability.

Some authors have argued that incorporating entrepreneurial ideas into management of the SMEs could be the solution to the lack of sustainability. Entrepreneurship involves the use of creativity (Ray, Barney &Muhanna, 2004). It involves going beyond conventional ways of managing businesses. It entails developing innovative management approaches that can help create a completely new method of handling various issues within a firm. These new approaches should be able to offer the firm a competitive advantage in the market over its competitors. According to Ramachandran, Mukherji and Sud (2006), SMEs can only sustain competition from larger corporations if they can devise creative approaches to marketing.

SMEs and Sustainability

At this point, it is now clear why the sustainability of SMEs is very important. According to Joyner (2002), the sustainability of SMEs depends on various factors, which can broadly be categorized as external or internal factors. External environmental factors are forces within the environment that cannot be controlled by SMEs. This means that they must control internal environmental factors to ensure that they remain competitive in the market. The sustainability of SMEs can be achieved by using internal strengths and managing its weaknesses to capitalize on market opportunities while taking care of threats (Bansal, & Clelland, 2004).

In this research, the focus has been on how SMEs can achieve sustainability in the market. The discussion above has identified three pillars of sustainability as people, planet, and profits. The sustainability of SMEs depends on these factors. According to Asif, Searcy, Zutshi and Ahmad (2011), SMEs can be sustainable when they take keen interest in understanding these three pillars of sustainability, and their relevance to their operations. The social environment is important in defining this sustainability. A firm directly depends on the society for various factors. The human resource that helps in the normal operations of a firm comes from society (Ramachandran, Mukherji & Sud, 2006).

Customers that a firm needs to purchase its products in the market come from society. Other stakeholders in the society include suppliers, financiers, and creditors among others. Their perception of a firm will always be shaped by the relationship the firm has developed with them. This perception is important in defining the sustainability of the firm because it will determine if it will support its operations or not. A firm that cannot sustain its employees cannot be considered sustainable (Raduan, Jegak, Haslinda & Alimin, 2009).

This is because the high turnover rate of employees slows the capacity of a firm to meet its strategic objectives. This is attributed to the fact that whenever a new employee is hired, he or she will need to be trained in order to understand the organizational culture of the firm and other operational skills. When such an employee leaves after a short while, then such a firm will be forced to increase its expenditure on employee training, which is not sustainable (Asif, Searcy, Zutshi & Ahmad, 2011).

When customers refuse products of a firm because they believe that the firm is not giving them the value they expect from it, then such a firm may be forced to close its operations, and this factor may affect sustainability. When creditors fail to trust a firm because of management strategies or any other issue, they will be locking a firm out of the capital market. This would mean that the firm would not be able to access loans needed to support its operations. This may also affect its sustainability. As Raduan, Jegak, Haslinda & Alimin, 2009) notes, it is the responsibility of SMEs to understand all members of the society that have direct relations with them, and then foster trust and loyalty as a way of seeking to achieve sustainability.

SMEs should also be keen to ensure that the other two pillars of the planet and profits are not ignored either. According to Ramachandran, Mukherji and Sud (2006), SMEs can achieve sustainability by giving profitability the least focus. Such firms should concentrate on the two pillars first. This would involve ensuring that its operations do not pose a serious threat to the environment.

It should also take into consideration some of the policies set by environmental agencies to protect the environment. When this is achieved, the focus should move to society. The first step in this approach would be to ensure that employees are contented with the way they are managed within the firm (Ray, Barney & Muhanna, 2004). There should be a free flow of information between management and employees. Employees should be given the opportunity to air their views, and bring in new ideas to the firm. This will enhance creativity and innovation in the workforce. With this creative workforce, such a firm should focus on creating value for its customers whenever they make purchases.

This may entail developing products with unique characteristics that would offer customers additional satisfaction as opposed to the competing products in the market (Loucks, Martens, and Cho, 2010). The firm should also relate positively with other stakeholders as identified in the stakeholder’s map. When this is done, the firm can then start giving focus on the profitability of its operations. This can be done by identifying some of the factors that reduce its profitability. The management can then streamline these strategies in order to enhance the capacity of the firm to achieve the third pillar of profitability (Raduan, Jegak, Haslinda & Alimin, 2009).

Marketing and Sustainability

Marketing is one of the internal strengths that a firm can use to gain sustainability in the market. McKenzie-Mohr (2011) notes that the ability of a firm to come up with a positively unique marketing strategy is considered a strength if it can give it a competitive advantage in the market. This competitive advantage will help in increasing the profitability of a firm. Because of this, such a firm will be able to create a pool of loyal customers because of its unique capacity to meet their demands. This means that SMEs can use marketing as a way of achieving sustainability in the market (McKenzie-Mohr, 2011).

Marketing offers a firm to create a name for itself in the market. It offers firms the opportunity to create a strong brand that will differentiate their products from that of the competitors. Through marketing, a firm can also reach out to other members of the society with messages meant to create positive relationships or awareness over specific issues (Raduan, Jegak, Haslinda & Alimin, 2009). This means that marketing is an integral part of the sustainability of SMEs.

Entrepreneurial Marketing & Sustainability

Fisk (2010) states that entrepreneurial marketing is always associated with the ability of a firm to integrate characteristics of entrepreneurship in marketing. It involves bringing in innovation, taking calculated risks, and focusing on customers to ensure that customers get the value they desire whenever they make purchases. According to Maser (2012), SMEs are in a better position to use entrepreneurial marketing than large corporate bodies. This is because they are flexible, and can easily adapt to changes taking place within the market. This means that these enterprises are able to use entrepreneurial marketing to achieve sustainability in their operations.

Ramachandran, Mukherji, and Sud (2006) say that entrepreneurial marketing offers SMEs a unique opportunity to create a marketing niche that can help them gain a competitive advantage in the market. This scholar says that one of the best ways through which SMEs can achieve sustainability is by niche marketing. By identifying a niche that is not satisfactorily taken care of by existing firms, SMEs can develop products to meet their demands in the best way possible. This way, they are able to avoid stiff competition posed by the existing dominant players. This can be achieved through entrepreneurial marketing. This innovative approach to marketing will also help a firm eliminate some of the unnecessary costs, further enhancing its productivity in the market.


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