What is Relationship Marketing?
First, it is nothing new. Relationship Marketing (in its basic forms) has been around since the beginning of human history. Truly successful businesses have always benefited from developing and nurturing healthy relationships within their target market.
Dictionary.com defines it as, “a marketing strategy in which a company seeks to build long-term relationships with its customers by providing consistent satisfaction”.
Wikipedia explains, “Relationship marketing was first defined as a form of marketing developed from direct response marketing campaigns which emphasizes customer retention and satisfaction, rather than a dominant focus on sales transaction”.
What's New About Relationship Marketing?
The new part is the science behind today's relationship marketing. This science focuses on how we need to act differently than we might want to. Instead of only designing process for the sake of productivity, there is focus on purposefully using modern technology to build relationships with our customers. The focus includes a balance between process and people to keep up relationships with customers in this fast paced age of computers, internet, commuting workers/students, overpopulation, social media, hustle, and bustle.
For the first time, it is possible (if not the norm) to do business with someone you have never met in person, know absolutely nothing about (first hand), and may never meet again. Combine that with the automation made possible by the industrial age and the ensuing drive for the highest level of process productivity possible at the lowest cost available & you end up with a world of industries that have starved themselves right out of relationships with their customers.
Unfortunately, your unique selling proposition can now include an element known as "Relationship With Customers". That almost sounds crazy, but it is true. When a business in an industry with a norm of not relating to customers steps away from the crowd and relates, it becomes unique. That unique trait of relating with customers becomes a unique selling proposition and a very valuable asset.
What You May Do About It.
As with any business new process or tactic, it is always best to seek out, understand, and apply the best practices. If there aren't any best practices available from the experiences of others, you need to develop and document them yourself. Luckily, many best practices are readily available for this task. I've gathered a few below and share them with you in hope you'll let us know the outcomes.
Understand and Use Social Media Tools
- Create doors of opportunity (for your customers to knock on and walk through) by ACTIVELY USING tool like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pintrest, LinkedIn, and Google+ etc.
Regular Polls & Surveys
- Keep an updated database to make sure you understand the needs in your target market. Include a detailed understanding of the obstacles to satisfaction of those needs.
Listen to Customers
- Put systems in place allowing you to “hear” and “understand” your customers chatter, whispers and shouts. Knowing what is on your customer’s mind.
Act on Customer Feedback
- When required action is within the realm of your mission and vision, incorporate customer feedback as much as humanly possible. Make the customers partners by helping them invest in improving what you offer and how you offer it.
Train the Staff
- Regularly hold off-site and in-house training & focus groups with your staff. Train them on all aspects of customer relations and the higher purpose/nature of relationship management. Include your entire staff in this. If your company is large, tailor sessions to the various levels and departments of the organization. Consider cost-benefit of bringing in outside voices, speakers, & trainers.
Actively Communicate Interest
- Let your customers know you truly value them and want them to better their lot in life. This doesn’t mean offer hollow platitudes. It means fashioning your entire enterprise in a way that allows you to sell a needed service and/or good to your customer in a way that they in-turn may profit and benefit. You're doing them a huge solid by selling them something that helps them succeed in some greater way. You should be paid handsomely for it.
- Sell long-term cures instead of short-term treatments for symptoms. If there is no cure, reinvest some profits to work with your customer’s to find one while you sell treatment for symptoms.
- Don't be afraid that you are failing to "sink the hook" when you go for long term cures. The "cured" costumers will refer you as the solution and you will keep finding new solutions for other problems. You will never run out of problems to cure.
Go for the Long Haul
- Offer services that “help” your customer’s instead of ones that “enable” them. Long term success in relationship marketing is not much different from long-term success in any other relationship. You must keep the relationship healthy.
- To do this, understand the difference between “helping & enabling”. One will bring you new customers & relationships the other will eventually bring you reduced conversions, profits, and lawsuits.
Click here to read about the difference between helping & enabling.
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