The importance of developing and maintaining enduring relationships with suppliers and customers is a key tenet of relationship marketing. The application relationship marketing has been advocated for public services. However, successful transfer requires understanding of what relationship marketing actually is and how it can be applied to public services. This paper identifies two problems for research designs. The first is the conceptual ambiguity around relationship marketing. The second problem is the diversity of public services. The paper proposes two analytical shifts in research designs: changing the unit of analysis to services and using typologies based on continua.