Since relationship marketing is a fairly new term, a lot of you might be unfamiliar with what it means, but undoubtedly, all of you have been the subject of relationship marketing. If you have ever received a newsletter, a follow-up email, a customer experience questionnaire, or anything of that sort after completing a transaction between you and business, that was their attempt at implementing relationship marketing. To better understand the fundamentals of relationship marketing, let’s compare it to a more traditional type of marketing.
Transactional marketing is one type of marketing that falls more into the “traditional” category. It is purely based on product and profit and has no follow-up after a completed transaction. Even though each one of those transactions has some kind of relationship at its core, with this type of marketing the company isn’t looking to build a relationship with the customer and/or the customer is not interested in that.
Relationship marketing is a type of marketing that focuses more on building a relationship with their customers rather than just completing a sale and gaining profit.
Don’t get me wrong, relationship marketing brings in profit as well, lots of it, but it is a different kind of profit. Instead of quick and easy profit, which is often very unpredictable and can vary immensely on the quality of the product and its relevance to the current trends, the profit that comes from relationship marketing is stable and lasting and doesn’t fluctuate depending on the quality and trendiness of the product.
How does relationship marketing work?
Relationship marketing has multiple layers. It often starts with your employees. To build a good relationship with your customers, you need to have excellent employees providing a pleasant customer experience to your customers. When a customer has a pleasant customer experience with a company, it leaves them with a memorable impression and with a positive image of your brand.
A satisfied customer will not hesitate to spread the word about your product/company, because everyone appreciates being well treated. By spreading the word with the other people in their environment about the positive experience with your brand, they basically voluntary advocates for your brand.
Anyone that runs a business or is attempting to do so is well aware of how expensive traditional marketing can be, not only that, also it is often not effective enough to pay back the invested capital. That is why more and more companies are turning to relationship marketing since it costs less to keep a customer than to gain new ones. They are sacrificing short-term financial gain for long-term consumer trust and loyalty.
When implementing relationship marketing, you will be implementing a customer-centric marketing strategy.
Instead of pushing product your focus will become the quality of the customer service you are providing.
Building and preserving the relationship
Now that you know the importance of a good relationship between you and your customers, you should also know how to facilitate that relationship. There are many ways to so, but they will of course vary depending on the type of business you are running. Some common ways are:
- Genuine, caring, patient and understanding customer service representatives
- Being open to criticism
- Around the clock customer service
- Dedication to helping your customers
- Discounts and special benefits for long term customers
- Surprise presents, gift cards, birthday messages
- Any other way of showing your customer that you sincerely care about their needs and problems
It often happens that you succeed in establishing a relationship with your customers, but you fail to sustain it. To avoid that from happening you will have to be able to satisfy the growing number of needs your customer has because buying one product is just a solution for a current problem or a need they have, not the basis of your relationship.
So, how to get to know your customers and their needs? By asking for feedback after every interaction they had with your company, asking them to fill out short questionnaires on what they would add or remove to your customer service practices and generally by having regular and good communication with your customers.
When a customer is looking to build a relationship with your brand, they are often looking to buy a part of a lifestyle.
That is why social media influencers have become an essential part of marketing strategies. By buying something recommended by a person they follow, they are wanting to get a taste of that person’s most likely unattainable way of living or they want to have a sense of community that comes by owning a product from certain brands.
A company that has mastered the art of relationship marketing and has profited insanely from giving people a sense of community is, you guessed it, Apple. While many people aren’t fans of the company, its business, its products, and everything that the brand stands for, there is no denying that Apple has one of the biggest and most loyal fan bases. Apple’s fan base is committed to supporting the brand regardless of their business practices or their sometimes-stagnating level of innovation in their products.
They achieved this making their products incompatible with the majority of other hardware and software components from other brands, by announcing every product at grand and highly anticipated events, by giving their customers a luxurious customer service experience at their equally luxurious stores.
Regardless if you are a supporter of the brand or view them as money-hungry and pretentious, there is no denying that they are great at relationship marketing. If you want to test this on your own, just as any Apple user about the brand, and see how big of an advocate and defender of the brand they are. A prime example of brand loyalty.
There are a lot of companies that are very good at relationship marketing besides Apple but talking about them all would require more than just one article. While Apple has a more “exclusive” way of building brand loyalty, many other companies take the “inclusive” route by making and advertising products to specific demographics like the disabled, overweight or any demographic that often feels left out. Nike and Dove, to only mention a few, are companies who through their relatable ad campaigns are able to connect to those demographics and let them know that they are not an overlooked part of their consumer base and that they are more than welcome to be part of their brand by using its products.
Know your customers
Just like we differentiate transactional and relationship marketing, we also can differentiate transactional and relational customers.
A transactional customer is a person who is only interested in getting the best possible deal when purchasing a product. They don’t mind visiting every store in their area, which costs them money and time, just to scout out the best deal. A salesperson will spend a significant amount of time trying to persuade this type of customer into making a purchase, almost always unsuccessfully. A transactional customer is not thinking about future purchases from your brand, so a good customer service experience won’t have any influence on their final purchasing decision.
A relational customer is looking to make the best choice. While buying something they are looking to get the whole package, a good product, and excellent customer treatment. They are buying an experience, whereas a transactional customer is solely interested in the product. A relational customer is buying with their heart and then later rationalizing the purchase with their brain. Probably the best thing about relational customers is that they come back and do not hesitate to spread the word about your product and the way they were treated by your employees.
Transactional and relational customers each make up about 50% of the customer group, even though it might seem that a higher percentage is made up of transactional ones, which is only due to the fact that they move constantly in the hopes of catching a better deal. People do switch between these two groups based on the type of product they are looking for since we all put different degrees of importance on different types of products.
A crucial part of your marketing strategy should be identifying the relational customers, establishing a good relationship with them and then nurturing that relationship. Every company serves a big number of unique customers, which makes getting to know each and every one of them a difficult task, but by treating every customer the same, you run the risk of making a lot of them feel left out and with a not so favorable opinion about your brand. It isn’t a rare case that a customer leaves, not because of a bad product, but because of bad customer experience.
So do your best to leave your customers feeling good because to most people, how a brand makes us feel is far more important than what we know about it.
How to use it in your advantage
Since you are now familiar with the ins and outs of relationship marketing, it’s time to learn how to implement it in your marketing strategy and to your advantage.
Since relationship marketing is all about gathering feedback information from your customers, analyzing that information, and then using that to build a lasting relationship with them, you will need to use a system that will make that often complicated task easier.
Customer Relationship Management is a system that will help you save time and money. It is an easily accessible centralized information system that manages and analyses customer interactions and works on improving customer satisfaction. It is used not only for new customers that you want to build a relationship with, but also to help reconnect with old customers. Basically, it automates a perfect interaction with the customer.
Now, let’s talk about using relationship marketing to your advantage. If you are a new company or a small company and you are looking to grow your business, one of your main focal points will be marketing. But, let’s face the facts a new/small company doesn’t have the financial resources for a big marketing campaign. This is where relationship marketing can help you. If you already have a not too big, but loyal customer base, they can do a large part of your marketing. By using word of mouth your satisfied customers will draw in new ones by talking about how good your company treats its customers.
If on the other hand you are a large, already established company but you don’t have a long-term returning customers who are loyal to your brand, then you should consider using relationship marketing as a way to connect to your customers, show them that you care about them and their opinions.
With relationship marketing, you can build a less corporate and less intimidating image for your brand regardless of its size.
Relationship marketing might require more time and effort but when done right it pays back in a major way. With a growing and content consumer base, the lasting success of your business is guaranteed along with its growth.
In the past consumers were listening to brands and following trends set by them. Today, the situation is quite different. Brands are focusing more and more on the needs of consumers, and those needs play a big role in the creation of trends.
So, if you are a looking to take your company in the same realm as the world’s currently most known and successful companies then you will have to treat your customers in the same way they do, asking for their opinion, appreciating their feedback and using that feedback in a constructive way, communicating with them and adhering to their needs. In short, you will have to implement the philosophy of relationship marketing.