AMiable Solution #407: Mastering Relationship Marketing
Unless you like constantly focusing your attention on attracting new customers and enjoy ignoring the customers you’ve already acquired, then you probably already engage in what’s called “relationship marketing.”
But doing it and understanding it and doing it well are two different things.
Before you can maximize your relationship marketing efforts, you have to first understand what relationship marketing is and why it’s important.
Relationship marketing is a strategy that looks beyond a single transaction, a single offer, a single product, or a single service and focuses on fostering customer loyalty and developing a long-term relationship with customers through excellent customer service and customer experiences.
“In transaction marketing, the customer journey ends with a purchase, but in relationship marketing, the customer journey is the sum total of all experiences each customer has with your company.” –Mark Roy Long, technology journalist and workflow expert, for The Blueprint
To do this successfully requires the involvement and improvement of multiple internal operations. Your customer service must be knowledgeable and respectful. Your accounting department must be accurate and timely. Your website must be practical, attractive, and easy to navigate. Your marketing must be personalized, relevant, and responsive to customers.
For marketing to succeed, it needs to do three things:
· Join forces with customer service. You need your customer service reps to back you up, treat your customers with courtesy and kindness, answer questions with competence and authority, and take good notes in terms of customer inquiries, complaints, concerns, and compliments. In return, they need you to keep them up-to-date on forthcoming products, services, offers, changes, and potential issues. Marketing departments and customer service departments that communicate frequently and openly create a better environment for happy customers.
· Educate your customers. Whether you do this with blogs, social media accounts, videos, newsletters, side notes in your direct mail, or marketing collateral, building up your customers’ knowledge—and your authority—provides valuable and practical insight that customers can not only use to improve their daily lives but also to develop loyalty to your company.
· Study your customers. Regularly conduct polls or surveys to find out what your customers want, what problems they struggle with, what they like about your company and products/services, what changes they wish you’d make, and what choices they’d like you to offer. Show appreciation to the customers who participate and actively incorporate—not just collect—their feedback.
Analyze, too, demographic and historical data to understand who they are, what they buy, and why they buy from you. You might have the best service, but the attraction could be something else: geographical convenience, product/service uniqueness, etc.
That’s a lot. But the pay-off can be, too. According to the folks at Marketing-Schools.org, acquiring a new customer can cost five times as much as retaining an existing customer, and increasing customer retention by just 2% can decrease costs by as much as 10%.
What does relationship marketing actually look like? It could be consistently high-quality services, a referral or loyalty program that offers meaningful or desirable rewards, discounts or bonuses for repeat customers, invitation-only events for loyal customers, or even special thank-you gifts.
You’ll know your relationship-building approach is working by looking at your total sales, but don’t limit yourself to those numbers only. Look specifically for repeat sales, increases in spending, increased website activity, and more engagement with email and social media, etc.
Relationship marketing is not a one-and-done activity. You have to continually commit yourself to the cause and to the customer. Make your actions count.