Many suppliers invest heavily in channel partner programs that incentivize selling and learning. The authors conduct a multi-wave field study to investigate the roles of indebtedness and gratitude in transforming these investments into returns. The results show that indebtedness has negative effects on commitment to the supplier, as well as the reseller's sales effort. Gratitude however attenuates the effects of indebtedness on sales effort and commitment, and thus offers a buffer against indebtedness' negative effects. Indebtedness and gratitude thus play key roles in channel partner programs. In addition, the results highlight the importance of perceived motives as they differentially predict these two states. Benevolent motives are found to increase gratitude, though ulterior motives do not detract from it. Ulterior motives do however increase indebtedness. Finally, the results also reveal how entitlement negatively impacts channel partner programs: It decreases the positive effect of perceived program value on partner gratitude while increasing the effect of ulterior motives on indebtedness. This study thus assesses the simultaneous yet contrasting role of gratitude and indebtedness, as well as the complexity associated with realizing the full benefits of channel partner programs. The findings have implications for suppliers, marketers, and further research.
- Relationship marketing
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