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abstract Business-to-business (B2B) professional service firms often develop highly customized offerings for their customers. Customizing B2B professional services is a knowledge intensive process that requires the coordinated efforts of individuals with specialized knowledge and skills. Drawing on customization and social capital theory, we develop and test an intellectual capital (IC) model of customizing B2B professional services that rests on two foundational premises. First, three different forms IC, that is, employees' knowledge of customers, employees' technical knowledge and abilities, and organizational creativity, make firms more effective at customizing B2B professional services. Second, internal social capital (ISC) is a precursor to the intellectual capital that enables firms to effectively produce customized B2B professional services. Analyses of data from key informants of 161 marketing research firms support our theses.
We investigate why some B2B firms are better than others in customizing professional services for clients. Specifically, our model proposes that (1) the three different forms of IC make firms more effective at customizing B2B professional services, and (2) firms' ISC is an antecedent to the different forms of IC. The structural equation modeling results, using a sample of 161 marketing research firms, provide support for eleven out of the thirteen proposed relationships. Consistent with our first thesis, with the exception of the relationship between creativity and customized offerings, IC is positively related to firms' effectiveness in producing customized professional services. As to why the relationship between creativity and customized offerings is not significant, it is possible that firms that are highly creative may lose sight of client requirements, which, in turn, could result in no influence on customization effectiveness. Perhaps, customization may require a more deliberate approach, rather than a highly creative approach.