Journal of Educational and Management Studies  
J. Educ. Manage. Stud., 10(2): 30-39, June 25, 2020  
ISSN: 2322-4770  
License: CC BY 4.0,  
The effect of marketing activities on gaining a  
competitive advantage with the mediating role of  
relationship quality; case study: Ansar Bank of Mashhad  
Saeed Jafari Titkanloo 1 , Mahdi Ramzanpour2, Aria Fakour2 and Seyed Reza Nasri2  
1Assistant professor, Faculty of Management, Imam Reza International University, Mashhad, Iran  
2Master of Business Administration, Imam Reza International University, Mashhad, Iran  
Email: s_jafari_t@imamreza.ac.ir  
ABSTRACT  
Original Article  
The banking industry is experiencing an increasingly competitive atmosphere. The emergence of  
financial institutions and their entry into the competition arena have disrupted the existing  
security margin for banks. They have also challenged the guaranteed market share of many  
banks. Therefore, the purpose of the present research was to investigate the effect of marketing  
PII: S232247702000004-10  
activities on gaining a competitive advantage with the mediating role of customer relationship  
quality at Ansar Bank, Mashhad, Iran. An applied research model with a descriptive survey design  
was used in this study. The statistical population of the research consists of the customers of the  
branches of Ansar Bank in Mashhad. The statistical population was selected using simple random  
sampling with the distribution of 400 questionnaires. Expert opinion was used to measure  
validity. Reliability measurement was performed using Cronbach’s alpha which was calculated to  
be 0.93. Structural equation modeling (SEM) and LISREL were used for data analysis. The results  
suggest that marketing activities have a positive and significant effect on relationship quality  
and acquiring a competitive advantage. They also indicate that relationship quality has a  
significant effect on gaining a competitive advantage. Furthermore, it was revealed that  
marketing activities have a positive and significant effect on acquiring a competitive advantage  
with the mediating role of relationship quality.  
Rec. 20 February, 2020  
Acc. 29 May, 2020  
Pub. 25 June, 2020  
Keywords  
Competitive advantage,  
Relationship quality,  
Marketing activities  
allocation for the construction of their branches,  
designing attractive interiors and exteriors for their  
branches and most importantly careful recruitment  
and training of their employees. Marketing activities  
are some of the strategies capable of growing a  
Over recent decades the quality of a relationship  
has been considered to be an important topic in the  
area of business. Establishment of relationships with  
customers seems to be a necessity for organizations  
if they want to acquire a competitive advantage. To  
influence marketing activities and scientific research  
in various fields and industries the concept of  
relationship marketing has received attention.  
However, in the field of financial institutions and  
banks it has rarely been studied (Haghighi et al.,  
2012). In today’s competitive environment,  
INTRODUCTION  
Fierce competition is characteristic of the banking  
industry in the present age. In this regard, the most  
innovative products and services are replicated by  
competitors. This reduces the ability of banks to keep  
their sustainable competitive advantage. The  
emergence of financial institutions and their entry  
into the competition arena have disrupted the  
existing security margin for banks. They have also  
challenged the guaranteed market share of many  
banks. Financial institutions have been able to  
outperform banks in many areas to satisfy their  
customers and acquire a greater market share by  
relying on their marketing activities. These areas  
include offering modern banking services, extensive,  
creative and purposeful advertising, proper location  
To cite this paper: Jafari Titkanloo S., Ramzanpour M., Fakour A., Nasri S. (2020). The effect of marketing activities on gaining a competitive advantage with the  
mediating role of relationship quality; case study: Ansar Bank of Mashhad. J. Educ. Manage. Stud., 10(2): 30-39. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.29252/scil.2020.jems4  
30  
J. Educ. Manage. Stud., 10(2): 30-39, 2020  
relationship quality is deemed to be one of the most  
If from the perspective of a customer the values  
offered by a company compared to the values offered  
by its competitors are closer and more in alignment  
with his own expected values and requirements, then  
the following can be concluded: the company has a  
competitive advantage over its competitors in the  
market in one or more indicators. This competitive  
advantage makes the company better than its  
competitors in satisfying the customer and winning  
his heart.  
Since the implementation of Iran's Third Five-  
Year Development Plan, the liberalization of the  
banking system by creating private banks was put on  
the agenda. The entry of banks and private financial  
institutions has led to an increase in the number of  
banks. Furthermore, some technologies such as  
credit cards, internet banking, mobile banking, etc.  
have been significantly developed. Hence, the  
competitive market in this industry has been  
important factors for the success of organizations  
(Noruznia, 2016). The concept of relationship  
marketing was first introduced in 1983 by Berry.  
Since then many empirical researchers and theorists  
consider the fundamentals of the marketing theory to  
be based on the following factors: a long-term and  
profitable relationship with customers (De Wulf et al.,  
2001), retaining current customers, developing and  
maintaining trust and commitment between sellers  
and customers (Gaur and Xu, 2009) and extending  
the use of loyalty marketing strategies to establish  
profitable and long-term relationships with  
customers which leads to higher growth (Ferguson  
commercial banks implies the short life cycle of  
innovative products and services because they are  
immediately  
Consequently, banks are more inclined to gain and  
maintain sustainable competitive advantage  
replicated  
by  
competitors.  
a
completely transformed. Therefore, there is a  
growingly tight competition among banks for  
offering suitable banking services tailored to  
customers’ needs and expectations (Sohrabi, 2016).  
Accordingly, to gain a competitive advantage an  
organization must pay attention to its external  
position and internal capabilities.  
Competitive advantage  
Competitiveness is  
a process where every  
institution tries to outperform and outgrow its  
competitors. The attainment of competitive  
capabilities in today’s world has become one of the  
fundamental challenges of different countries at the  
international level. The concept of competitive  
advantage has different meanings and definitions  
which will be mentioned here. A competitive  
advantage is a distinction in the features or  
dimensions of any company that enables it to provide  
better services to its customers compared to its  
competitors. It is also the extra attractiveness of the  
company offers compared to the competitors from  
the perspective of its customers (Hosseini & Shams,  
2014). Porter defined a competitive advantage to be  
the values offered by a company to its customers in a  
way that these values are greater than customer  
costs. Given the above definitions and other available  
definitions, it can be discovered that a competitive  
advantage shows that the direct relationship of the  
desired values of a customer, the values offered by a  
company and the value offered by competitors  
determine the requirements and dimensions of a  
competitive advantage.  
Two things must be considered when creating a  
competitive advantage. First, this is a continuous  
process that leads to the excellent and competitive  
performance of an organization. The organization  
can, in turn, use its competencies to create a  
sustainable competitive advantage that is valuable  
for its customers and always stay ahead of the  
competition. Second, due to increased environmental  
complexity and competition level, a competitive  
advantage will either be easily replicated by the  
competitors or will soon lose its attractiveness in the  
view of customers and should be replaced with new  
advantages. Hence, an organization must consider  
finding new competitive advantages (Davis, 2010).  
Sustainable competitive advantage is one of the most  
important topics in strategic management theories.  
This is because the existence of a competitive  
advantage in an organization enables it to  
outperform its competitors. In the short run, it  
guarantees profitability and in the long run, it  
guarantees organizational survival and growth.  
Moreover, the concept of competitive advantage is  
thought to be an eternal issue in strategic marketing  
literature. A competitive advantage in marketing is  
31  
Jafari Titkanloo et al., 2020  
important because it causes market share to be  
increased and maintained and leads to the  
attainment of market leadership.  
changing and improving traditional behaviors  
relationship marketing many banks try to grow  
beyond the core products and services provided by  
banks. One of the strategies often used by bank  
managers for this purpose is the strategy of quality  
enhancement using marketing strategies. What is  
usually neglected when improving the quality of  
banks is the establishment of relationships with  
customers. In other words, enhancing the quality of  
the relationships instead of the quality of services. In  
fact, it can be said that today with the arrival of  
relationship marketing and its strategies, increasing  
the quality of relationships through relationship  
marketing is one of the new areas in marketing  
research in the banking industry (Qareh, 2016).  
Marketing activities  
The competition in Iran’s banking industry is  
growing in intensity. In this competitive atmosphere,  
competitors always want to adopt appropriate  
strategies to attract and retain customers and  
increase and maintain their market share. The cost of  
retaining old customers is less than the cost of  
acquiring a new customer. As a result, the need for  
retaining current customers is very urgent. The  
emergence of private banks and their entry into the  
competition arena have disrupted the existing  
security margin for public banks. They have also  
challenged the guaranteed market share of many  
banks. Private banks have been able to outperform  
public banks in many areas to satisfy their customers  
and acquire a greater market share by relying on  
their innovative strategies. These areas include  
offering modern banking services, extensive, creative  
and purposeful advertising, appropriate location  
allocation for the construction of their branches,  
designing attractive interiors and exteriors for their  
branches and most importantly careful recruitment  
and training of their employees. In general, since  
private banks rely on their own profitability for  
survival and do not enjoy government support like  
public banks do they have been able to disrupt the  
steady state dominating the Iranian banking industry  
and create a competitive atmosphere. In this  
competitive atmosphere, competitors always want to  
utilize the most suitable tools and strategies to  
attract and retain customers and increase and  
maintain their market share (Tabatabai and Akhavan,  
2010). Today, marketing strategies are one of the  
most important strategies for creating a change in  
market share particularly in the area of services  
(Abdekhoda, 2016). Marketing is one of the solutions  
that increase the revenues of banks. Effective  
marketing principles and techniques can be an  
effective tool to improve behavioral paradigms in the  
present competitive atmosphere. This is because of  
their applied approach to financial resources and  
banking utilities in offering performance and also  
because of their applied approach to customer  
relationship types and practical solutions for  
Customer relationship quality  
Relationship quality is recognized as a set of  
intangible values that lead to the expression of  
expected long-term relationships between two sides.  
Henning Torah & Kelly describe the quality of  
relationships between customers and companies as  
follows: “the degree of a relationship’s conformity  
with the needs of the customers involved in the  
relationship”. The relationship between a service  
provider and customers depends on the quality of  
interactions between them (Ghaffari Ashtiani et al.,  
2012). Relationship quality (RQ) is a branch of  
relationship marketing. Due to the importance of  
relationship marketing (RM) in today’s business  
world, relationship quality is necessary for evaluating  
the stability of a relationship and the degree of  
satisfaction from the provision of the demands and  
expectations of a customer (Crosby et al., 1990;  
Haghighi et al. 2012). Relationship quality can be  
defined as a set of intangible values that strengthen  
products and services and lead to the finalization of  
the expected deal between a customer and a seller  
(Al-Alak, 2014). To survive in today’s competitive  
world particularly the service sector, banks must look  
for extra creativity with  
a
greater level of  
effectiveness to attract and retain their visitors. One  
of the methods for the attraction and retention of  
visitors is to increase the relationship quality  
through mutual relations (Esmaeilpour et al., 2012).  
32  
J. Educ. Manage. Stud., 10(2): 30-39, 2020  
Hypothesis 3: marketing activities have a  
METHODOLOGY  
positive effect on gaining a competitive advantage.  
Hypothesis 4: relationship quality has a positive  
effect on gaining a competitive advantage.  
Main hypothesis  
Hypothesis 1: marketing activities have a  
positive effect on gaining a competitive advantage  
through the mediating role of customer relationship  
quality.  
Conceptual research model  
Finally, according to the research hypotheses  
the conceptual research model was designed as is  
displayed in figure 2.  
Sub-hypotheses  
Hypothesis 2: marketing activities have a  
positive effect on relationship quality.  
Marketing Activities  
Customer  
Orientation  
Relationship  
Orientation  
Competitive  
Advantage  
Relationship  
Quality  
Honesty  
Service  
provider  
characteristics  
Figure 1. Conceptual research model  
was collected using questionnaires. In this  
METHODOLOGY  
research, library studies were used for data  
collection utilizing a field survey. The data for this  
study were collected using questionnaires. The  
above questionnaire was prepared based on the  
In order to confirm the face validity of the  
questionnaire, it was distributed to 10 senior  
Ansar Bank managers and also 8 MBA university  
professors. After collecting the questionnaires,  
the comments and suggestions of the senior  
managers and MBA professors were applied. The  
The present research employed an applied  
research model with a descriptive survey design  
for data collection. The statistical population of  
this research consists of the customers of the  
Mashhad branches of Ansar Bank. Using  
Morgan’s table (Morgan and Hunt, 1998), the size  
of the population was calculated to be 384. To be  
more certain, 420 questionnaires were  
distributed and collected. Only 384 of those  
questionnaires were usable which were then  
analyzed. In the present research, the survey data  
33  
Jafari Titkanloo et al., 2020  
final questionnaire includes  
5
demographic  
coefficient of the questionnaire was calculated to  
be 0.95 that indicates the validity and reliability of  
the research questionnaire. Internal validity  
includes construct validity, content validity and  
empirical validity. There are several techniques  
for construct validity, one of them being factorial  
validity which is obtained using factor analysis.  
The value obtained from factor analysis for each  
item must be higher than 0.3. As table 2 shows,  
the factor loading of each item in the research  
questionnaire is higher than 0.3. The content  
validity of this questionnaire was assessed by 10  
questions. 34 exclusive questions are about the  
variables of marketing activities, competitive  
advantage and relationship quality. The questions  
were evaluated using a 5-point.  
Likert Scale ranging from “I complete agree”  
to “I completely disagree”. In this study, 30  
questionnaires were distributed to the statistical  
population to measure the reliability of the  
questionnaires. SPSS was used to measure  
Cronbach’s alpha. The table 1 shows the  
results obtained for the Cronbach’s  
alpha  
coefficient of each variable and the entire  
questionnaire is displayed. Based on the  
Cronbach’s alpha coefficients of the variables, the  
reliability of the questions of every variable was  
confirmed. The overall Cronbach’s alpha  
senior Ansar Bank managers and 8 MBA  
university professors. After their suggestions  
were applied the final questionnaire was  
submitted to the customers.  
Table 1. Reliability and validity measurement.  
Factor  
loading  
scores  
Number of  
questions  
Cronbach’s  
Variables  
Indicators  
Sub-indices  
Items  
alpha  
Understanding  
customer needs  
1
0.80  
0.62  
2
Customer  
orientation  
3
4
0.69  
0.58  
0.67  
0.62  
0.72  
0.59  
0.77  
0.72  
0.62  
0.71  
0.59  
0.62  
0.80  
0.79  
0.64  
0.55  
0.72  
Conflict resolution  
Cooperation level  
5
6
7
8
Relationship  
orientation  
9
Empathy level  
10  
11  
12  
13  
14  
15  
16  
17  
18  
19  
Marketing  
activities  
22  
0.9  
Mutual relations (honesty)  
Specialization  
Service providers’  
Experience  
characteristics  
20  
21  
0.79  
0.89  
0.89  
0.85  
0.74  
0.44  
0.52  
0.44  
0.45  
0.66  
0.47  
0.73  
0.57  
0.38  
0.32  
Personal  
appearance  
22  
23  
24  
25  
26  
27  
28  
29  
30  
31  
Satisfaction  
Trust  
Relationship  
quality  
8
0.85  
32  
33  
34  
Competitive advantage  
4
0.87  
0.93  
Total questionnaire scores  
34  
34  
J. Educ. Manage. Stud., 10(2): 30-39, 2020  
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION  
Inferential statistics  
Demographic characteristics of the sample  
In the present research, 420 questionnaires  
were distributed and collected. Only 384 of those  
questionnaires were usable which were analyzed.  
The questionnaire respondents’ characteristics  
were considered and evaluated using the  
variables of gender, age, level of education,  
deposit term and account type. 85.2% of the  
respondents were male and 14.8% were female.  
The majority of them were 30 to 40 years old  
(65%) and a small number of them were 50 and  
older (5%). The level of education with the highest  
frequency was the undergraduate level (47%)  
whereas the lowest frequency belonged to the  
doctorate level (3%).  
The results from the general questions of  
the questionnaire revealed that nearly 47% of the  
customers who completed the questionnaire have  
been Ansar Bank’s customers for more than 8  
years. The lowest frequency with only 2% belongs  
to customers with less than one year since  
opening their deposit account. Moreover, 12% of  
the customers participating in the questionnaire  
have a long-term deposit account and 54% of  
them have a short-term deposit account and 34%  
of them have short-term and long term accounts.  
Structural equation modeling (SEM) is used  
to show, estimate and test hypotheses regarding  
the causal relationship between observed and  
latent variables. This technique has two parts  
namely a measurement model and a structural  
model. In the first part being the measurement  
model, it assesses the validity (credibility) and  
reliability (trust) of latent research variables.  
Average variance extracted (AVE) is used for  
validity. In the second part, the structural model  
is used to evaluate the causal relationships  
between the latent variables (constructs) of the  
The structural model in the software output  
has been evaluated in the two states of the  
standard error (SE) of the estimate and statistical  
significance (T-Values). First, the model was  
assessed in the state of the SE of a statistic. In the  
state of the SE, the coefficients are converged.  
This means that their measure has been unified  
and it is possible to compare them. Any path  
coefficient in the structural model can be  
considered to be equal to a standardized beta  
coefficient in the Ordinary Least Squares (OLS)  
regression.  
Table 2. Factor analysis results for hypotheses testing.  
Path  
coefficient  
Hypotheses  
Relationships being tested  
t-statistic  
Result  
Marketing activities have a positive  
effect on gaining a competitive  
advantage through the mediating role  
of customer relationship quality  
Main hypothesis  
0.38  
38.08  
Confirmed  
Marketing activities have a positive  
effect on relationship quality  
Sub-hypothesis 1  
Sub-hypothesis 2  
0.86  
0.27  
10.13  
2.43  
Confirmed  
Confirmed  
Marketing activities have a positive  
effect on gaining a competitive  
advantage  
Relationship quality has a positive  
effect on gaining a competitive  
advantage  
Sub-hypothesis 3  
0.45  
3.76  
Confirmed  
35  
Jafari Titkanloo et al., 2020  
Sub-hypothesis 1: marketing activities have a  
between marketing activities and gaining  
a
positive effect on customer relationship quality  
Based on the analysis, it was concluded that  
there is a significant and positive effect between  
marketing activities and customer relationship  
quality. Marketing activities in the dimensions of  
customer orientation, relationship orientation,  
mutual relationships and also the sub-indices of  
specialization and personal appearance of the  
employees of Ansar Bank of the characteristics of  
competitive advantage. The research hypothesis  
stating that a competitive advantage based on the  
internal capabilities of an organization is the best  
source for a competitive advantage is confirmed.  
Hence, the selection of this approach for analyzing  
and investigating the source of competitive  
advantage is a tried and tested method. The quality  
of services received by customers and also the  
quality of their relationship with service providers  
and the company will lead to positive customer-  
related outcomes. Relationship quality is considered  
to be the positive emotions of customers about a  
service provider, their relationship with the service  
provider based on trust and commitment. It also  
consists of their overall satisfaction of the service  
provider. The dimensions of satisfaction and trust  
of the variable of relationship quality which leads to  
customer satisfaction and loyalty have a positive  
effect on gaining a competitive advantage. This is in  
alignment with the results of the studies of Al-Alak  
service providers have  
a positive effect on  
increasing customer relationship quality. This  
result is in alignment with the findings of Al-Alak  
Sub-hypothesis 2: marketing activities have a  
positive effect on gaining  
competitive advantage.  
a
sustainable  
Based on the analysis, it was discovered that  
there is a significant and positive relationship  
between marketing activities and gaining  
a
competitive advantage. Therefore, it can be claimed  
that marketing activities have a significant and  
positive effect on gaining a sustainable competitive  
advantage. A competitive advantage consists of the  
values that a company can provide to its customers  
in a manner that these values will be higher than  
the customer costs. Marketing is one of the  
solutions that increase the revenues of banks.  
Effective marketing principles and techniques can  
be an effective tool to improve behavioral  
paradigms in the present competitive atmosphere.  
This is because of their applied approach to  
financial resources and banking utilities in offering  
performance and also because of their applied  
approach to customer relationship types and  
practical solutions for changing and improving  
traditional behaviors. The positive and significant  
relationship between marketing activities and  
gaining a competitive advantage matches the  
results obtained in the research paper of Maleki  
Main hypothesis: marketing activities have a  
positive effect on gaining  
a
sustainable  
competitive advantage through relationship  
quality.  
According to the sub-hypotheses of this study  
and the Baron and Kenny method, we can deduce  
that marketing activities (independent variable)  
have a positive and significant effect on gaining a  
competitive advantage (dependent variable)  
through the mediating role of customer  
relationship quality (mediator variable). This  
confirms the main research hypothesis. The  
dimensions of marketing activities including  
customer orientation, relationship orientation,  
customer-employee  
relationships  
and  
the  
characteristics of service providers that focus on  
customers as well as a permanent and effective  
relationship with them will lead to the  
understanding of customer needs. They also lead to  
cooperation and empathy with customers and help  
resolve conflicts with them. This enhances  
relationship quality, establishes and improves a  
permanent and effective relationship with  
Sub-hypothesis 3: customer relationship  
quality has a positive effect on gaining a  
competitive advantage.  
Based on the analysis, it was concluded that  
there is a positive and significant relationship  
36  
J. Educ. Manage. Stud., 10(2): 30-39, 2020  
customers and results in the satisfaction and loyalty  
of customers.  
As it was stated in chapter 2, bank services and  
innovations in the fierce competition arena of banks  
are quickly replicated and have a short life cycle.  
However, focusing on customers and making them  
and deposit plans. But now the greatest amount of  
attention is given to customers and the creation  
and maintenance of a permanent relationship with  
them. Therefore, given the positive relationship  
between marketing activities and sustainable  
competitive advantage attainment it can be  
recommended that by focusing on customers and  
discovering their needs and expectations and trying  
to meet their needs and demands in a quick, precise  
and high-quality manner and by guiding them and  
showing empathy to them we can gain a sustainable  
competitive advantage over other competitors.  
The purpose of this study was to gain a  
sustainable competitive advantage in the  
competition arena between banks. This can be  
achieved through marketing activities and relating  
dimensions which result in customer relationship  
quality enhancement. Therefore, it is recommended  
to consider customer orientation and train  
employees to help them acquire the necessary  
experience and specialization and also pay attention  
to their personal appearance. Employees must also  
learn to respect customers. All of this will help a  
bank gain a sustainable competitive advantage over  
other banks.  
the center of attention and establishing  
a
permanent and effective relationship with them will  
bring about their satisfaction and loyalty. So we will  
be able to gain a sustainable competitive advantage.  
We will also be able to increase our market share. In  
the short run doing this guarantees profitability for  
an organization and in the long run guarantees  
organizational survival.  
CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS  
Based on the results inferred from the  
research  
hypotheses,  
the  
following  
recommendations can be offered:  
Employees must possess the required  
experiences and specialization. They must have a  
suitable personal appearance. They should also  
fulfill the banking operations requested by a  
customer in a quick, precise and high-quality  
manner. Employees should treat customers  
respectfully. These will help establish an effective  
and permanent relationship with customers and  
attain their satisfaction and loyalty which belong to  
the dimension of customer relationship quality.  
Customer relationship quality can affect  
Employees are recommended to establish a  
more intimate and effective relationship in the next  
visit by a customer compared to the last visit to  
their branch. Furthermore, by remembering and  
calling a customer by his last name and welcoming  
him in an intimate manner, employees they will  
create the foundation for the loyalty of the  
customer.  
competitive  
advantage  
attainment.  
Hence,  
employees are recommended to place customers in  
the center of their attention and focus on customer  
acquisition and retention.  
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