Purpose - Practitioners argue that the way they treat their employees has an impact on firm success. However, they frequently do not equate this with relationship building. On the other hand, the academic relationship marketing literature does highlight internal relationships as having an important impact on external customer relationships. However, this relationship suffers from a lack of academic empirical evidence. Neither seems to recognize the knowledge of the other leading to incongruence between marketing theory and practice. The purpose of this paper is to bring the two literature streams together demonstrating that the practitioners are talking about, and practising, relationship marketing. Design/methodology/approach - Exploration and comparison of the academic and practitioner literature bases to elaborate on the value of relationship building within organizations. Findings - Competitive advantage can be attained through development of a relationship-building culture which includes building relationships inside the organization as well as customer relationships. In fact, successful customer relationships rely on successful internal relationships. Research implications/implications - A broad research agenda is outlined for understanding the nature of internal relationships and their impact on a firm's success. Practical implications - Organizational success can be gained through building strong internal relationships and the development of a relationship-building organizational culture. Originality/value - Links practitioner cases and reflections to the concept of relationship marketing, demonstrating further how relationship marketing activities provide a competitive advantage.