Business-to-Business Marketing

by Dawn Deeter

Course Overview:

This course introduces the student to the field of business-to-business (B2B) marketing. In essence, the course answers the questions “what is business marketing, and in what markets does business marketing occur?” A number of topics and areas that are essential for those seeking to understand industrial and business marketing are presented, including organizational buying, sales and sales management, buyer-seller relationships, business-to-business promotional efforts, product development, pricing, and supply chain management.

Timing of Module:

The module will be presented early in the course, after basic concepts regarding buying, selling, and buyer-seller relationships have been presented. This placement will provide students with some of the background knowledge needed to recognize and understand key ethical issues in this context.

Desired Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Students should understand the importance of ethical conduct in business-to-business marketing efforts.
  2. Students should be capable of recognizing ethical issues in a business-to-business context.
  3. Students should be capable of making and defending an ethical decision.
  4. Students should be familiar with the code of ethics established by the American Marketing Association (AMA).


Two hour module, subsequently reinforced throughout quarter using examples and discussion.

Initial Format:

Part I: Active Discussion (+ 30 minutes)

To establish prior knowledge, the instructor will work with students to generate a list of ethical dilemmas potentially faced by business-to-business marketers. The instructor can add to list, as necessary, to raise issues not identified by students.

Issues that should be addressed initially include:

Giving/receiving gifts


Information sharing/access to information (e.g., purchasing agent providing information to one vendor about another vendor)

Statements of opinion versus statements of fact (puffery)

Falsifying documents (e.g., expense accounts, sales reports, call reports, etc.)

Price fixing

Sexual harassment

Fit between personal and organizational moral codes

Part II: Group Exercise(+40 minutes)

Once the list has been developed, the class will be broken down into small groups to work through a short case. This exercise serves to engage students in the ethics discussion. As part of this exercise, students will be asked to develop a set of guidelines for making their ethical decision. Students will be provided a copy of the AMA’s code of ethics to assist in their decision-making.

Part III: Discussion of group output/overview of ethical theory (+40 minutes)

To encourage reflection, the class will reconvene to discuss the guidelines set by the various student groups. As part of this discussion, basic theoretical models will be presented, e.g., teleological (Bentham, Mill) and deontological (Kant). Theoretical models will be related to the guidelines developed in class. AMA code of ethics, including usefulness in decision-making, will be discussed.

Generalizability of guidelines can be addressed as well. For example, the case is focused on one issue, how could these rules help students facing a different issue? I will also bring up “60 minutes rule” as a test of ethical decisions – if Mike Wallace showed up on your doorstep with a camera, would be feel comfortable talking about your decision, or would you rather place a bag over your head?

Session will end with a summarization of guidelines and assignment of paper (see Appendix B).


  1. Learning outcomes 1, 2 and 3 will be assessed via the assignment and grading of a short paper. Students will be asked to read a case, identify the ethical issue, indicate why this issue is critical for business-to-business marketers to understand, and then make an ethical decision. As part of the assignment, students will be asked to document and support their ethical decision-making process using guidelines developed in class.
  2. Learning outcome 4, knowledge of the AM A’s Code of Ethics, will be assessed via exam.


Once the topic is introduced early in the quarter, ethical issues can be highlighted during each class period, as appropriate. For example, ethics in business-to-business research, ethics in advertising, etc., can be addressed as topics are introduced.

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