Alliance MBS Distinguished Professorial Fellow Christian Homburg has been recognised as one of the most prolific researchers in the field of marketing.
Professor Homburg, who joined AMBS in 2018, has been ranked fourth in the world in terms of the number of papers he has had published in both the Journal of Marketing and the Journal of Marketing Research over the past decade.
The list is assembled independently by the American Marketing Association (AMA) and during the period in question Professor Homburg had 15 publications in the journals. He has also just been named as a Fellow of the AMA which says he has established a research portfolio that places him as one of the leading management professors and most productive scholars in the marketing discipline.
Sales and marketing
Professor Homburg specialises in marketing management for B2B companies and pricing strategies and is particularly fascinated by the sales function which, he says, remains a neglected field of research, even though sales departments can be more powerful than marketing functions.
“I know a lot of companies where sales and marketing are still run as separate divisions and where this can lead to significant conflict. One of the reasons is that some companies have too little rotation of staff among different departments, and much of this can be traced back to the old adage that to have a career within a specific company you always need to go through marketing. But it is not enough to simply be good at marketing, you have to be good in the eyes of the customer too.”
However in future he believes that the boundaries between the two divisions will become much smaller, a trend strongly driven by the impact of digitalisation.
“One of the biggest issues that companies face right now when implementing digital change is that too often they still operate in silos. Sales do their thing, service people do their thing. But in today’s world you need far more openness of communication between departments. Digital capabilities are now far more important than classical marketing capabilities.”
Professor Homburg adds that digital transformation is also making the wider selling function far more complex.
“Senior managers approach me to ask how they can make sales functions more effective. This is a difficult challenge given that the internet gives customers instant information and the classical sales role has virtually disappeared. Sales and marketing people now need to be armed with a far more complex armoury of skills which offers a much more personal service built around data.”
He says that marketing students with strong IT skills are particularly well-placed to help organisations with this transformation. “In recent years I have seen really strong demand from companies for graduates with these skills. We are seeing more and more academic people taking on traditional sales functions within organisations. Ultimately, to be successful in sales today you need two things. Firstly, lot of analytical knowledge, and secondly very strong intuition.”
He adds that these changes have only been accelerated by the pandemic. “We can all see that the retail landscape is changing before our eyes as many shops sadly close forever. The internet is the big winner of the pandemic, and for marketeers the big question now is how will consumer behaviour change as a result of Covid-19?
“At the moment it is still too early to tell, but there are two propositions. One is that we will reduce our social contacts, travel less and stay at home far more. The other is that after being cooped up in our homes for so long we will be desperate to go out and spend money. At the moment we simply don’t know which way this will go.”
Professor Homburg, who is also Director of the Institute for Market-Oriented Management at the University of Mannheim in Germany, has a number of varied research projects underway.
These include a study looking at reasons for the under-representation of women in B2B sales, a study into the role of Virtual Reality (VR) in new product development, a project looking at the impact of Internet of Things technologies on consumer behaviour, and a study on wage inequality within organisations and the impact on company performance.
Ultimately he says one of the keys to consistently publishing in top journals is to work on interesting issues.
“To identify truly interesting topics, I regularly talk with managers about their struggles and successes. Even though their tactics with immediate returns are intriguing, it is mostly their strategic choices that make for substantive topics. Managerial relevance should not be underestimated. Talking to managers and studying managerially relevant topics is paramount for publishing with impact.”
He adds that prioritising quality over quantity is also important. “Substantive issues require much research, thought, and time to develop. One thoroughly developed paper easily outweighs the long-term impact of several quick-win pieces. Aiming for interesting and high-quality projects helps me consistently publish in top journals.”