Demand-side strategy, relational advantage, and partner-driven corporate scope: The case for client-led diversification

John K. Mawdsley, Deepak Somaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research Summary: We advance research on corporate diversification by joining insights from the demand-side and relational views in strategy to offer a novel theory of client-led diversification. We propose that client-led diversification results from a combination of the customer-driven opportunities emphasized in the demand-side view and the creation of added value through relational assets that is a central tenet of the relational view. Furthermore, we hypothesize that suppliers’ client-specific knowledge, clients’ relational commitment to suppliers, and growth opportunities in clients’ markets (relative to the suppliers’ own markets) will magnify the client-led diversification effect. We test our hypotheses using a longitudinal dataset on patent law firms and their diversification into new domains of patent prosecution work for their corporate clients. Managerial Summary: Explanations of why firms diversify into new lines of business have largely concerned the redeployment of underutilized resources, with little regard to opportunities or influences stemming from firms’ existing customers. In our article, we show how the changing scope of business needs from a knowledge-based supplier firm's set of existing clients is a central driver of supplier-firm diversification, and this is especially the case when the level of relational assets shared between a supplier and its clients is higher. In a competitive landscape where suppliers compete intensively for the business of clients, our results show how managers can increase the likelihood of capturing additional business from its existing exchange relationships rather than bearing the risks of seeking new exchange relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1834-1859
Number of pages26
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • demand-side strategy
  • diversification
  • knowledge-based services
  • outsourcing
  • relational view

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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