Guess what? Your business isn’t about you. After months or even years of building a brand and chasing down leads, you’re faced with a stack of one-time-only clients and a social media following you know nothing about. Traditional marketing strategies have failed you, but a desire to do better has brought you here. That’s a phenomenal first step towards reimagining a healthier future for you and your business. Understand relationship marketing is the second.
Relationship Marketing Is the Life of Your Business
Life is about relationships.
- Relationships with other people (even the relationship between your mother and father – you wouldn’t be here if they never had a relationship)
- Your relationship with yourself.
- The relationship you have with energy and nature.
- Your relationship with your prospects and customers.
Most businesses use their marketing to relate to things. Things like results, money, toys, sex, etc. You might be asking yourself: What’s wrong with that? The problem with relating to things is that things end by definition. Once you get a result, it’s over. When you get money, you spend it and it’s gone. Once you have sex, well, you get the point.
However, the businesses that choose to relate to people with relationship marketing are the ones that will win. They’ll win because an open and transparent relationship builds trust. A relationship built on trust is long-term.
“Confidence you can sign for. Trust you have to build.” – Kees de Vries
A Case of “The Feels”
First, let’s look at what relationship marketing really is. At its very core, relationship marketing is a strategy designed to market a business or its products and/or services by connecting with the target audience on a fundamental, almost primitive, level. In other words, if you want to make someone remember you, make them feel something.
In some cases it doesn’t matter if you make them laugh or make them cry, you just need to evoke some sort of emotion. It might even be annoying; there are certainly unlikable commercials that have done extraordinarily well as far as embedding a company in the collective conscious of the purchasing public, but few people truly want to buy from a business they associate with dislike. And even fewer people want to buy from a business they don’t trust.
The Benefits of Relationship Marketing
Typical marketing plans tend to focus on attracting new customers, which jives with the popular – but arguably incorrect – idea that a bigger audience is a better audience. Typical marketing plans also focus only on results. Yes, the results are important, but as you now know, once you achieve a result, it’s over, done!
Relationship marketing focuses instead on building stronger bonds and long-term relationships with the customers you already have. Conservative estimates put the cost of acquiring a new customer at anywhere from 4-10 times more than it costs to simply retain an existing one. Some marketing experts say it’s as high as 30. Even more disturbing is the news that 61 percent of consumers who stop doing business with a company they’re dissatisfied with will take their money to that company’s competitor.
The touchy-feely aspect of marketing (aka the part where you get a tingly feeling deep inside when your customers post positive reviews or rave after using your product) is phenomenal, but keeping your business alive because those customers keep coming back and buying more things is even better. You can only do that if you’ve developed a trusting relationship with your customers, and that’s exactly what the open and transparent attitude of relationship marketing is for.
Becoming a Better Partner
A great business relationship isn’t all that different from a romantic one.
To build a relationship you need:
- The ability to listen – Have a genuine interest in what the other person has to say
- Mutual respect
- Flexibility in what you believe and how you act out those ideas
- A willingness to try harder and get better
- Being open and transparent
- Last but not least, just being present for them
How to ruin a relationship:
- Give your significant other gifts they don’t like or can’t use (because you didn’t listen to what they really wanted)
- Talking over them when they’re trying to say something
- Talk to them in a tone they don’t appreciate – “Do this!” “Don’t do that!”
- Be mean / rude
- Treat someone else like they matter more
- Ignore them when they make a request or need something
We’ve seen the best results when businesses craft a marketing strategy that uses feedback and listens (be it via surveys, in-person conversations, or social media posts). If your customers want discounts delivered to their phone, implement SMS coupons. If Twitter is covered with tweets saying the handle on your Gizmatic is simply too long, rush out a Gizmatic 2.0 with a shorter, more ergonomic handle.
Listen to what your customer base wants and then go above and beyond in giving it to them. It really can be that simple.
The Power of Cooperative Marketing
Business is a series of questions that require answers. Who are we as a brand? What do our customers want? How are we doing? What can we do better? How do we reach more people? How do we make the people we already reach happy? Are we truly solving our clients’ problems? Where do we go from here?
There are very few problems that relationship marketing can’t solve, but it requires a partnership. Your marketing consultant can’t win FOR you, they’ll only win WITH you, and the same goes for you and your consumers. Marketing success is symbiotic, and that can be both a good and bad thing: work together and everyone thrives, but try to forge conflicting paths and the health of both parties will falter.
When you try to please everybody you end up pleasing nobody, but that’s the beauty of marketing practices like user segmentation and targeting. Identify your ideal customer and then water the part of the garden most likely to grow. (Some might call that the 80-20 rule)
Embrace changes not because they seem cool to you but because they’re what the people who truly have the power to make or break your business really want.
Above all, give first and take second. It’s a leap of faith both history and statistics have shown pays off in spades. We’ve entered the Relationship Era. Are you in?
To your continued success,