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Your Ultimate Guide to Relationship Marketing
Let’s say you wanted to add 100 new projects in the coming year. Which of the following strategies is likely to be easier, use fewer resources, and be less time-intensive?
- Finding 100 new clients and signing them each for a single project OR
- Finding 30 new clients and nurturing them and your existing connections to land multiple projects from each
If you named the second choice, you’re right! Landing repeat work from existing clients is more efficient. They like working with you, and they appreciate what you do. You don’t need to sell them because they’re already sold. You put in the work initially, and if you’re attentive, it will continue to pay dividends well into the future.
That’s the basis for relationship marketing. Instead of focusing on transactional sales, which views customers as numbers on a spreadsheet, relationship marketing treats customers as human beings to be cared for and supported. Transactional marketing emphasizes quick, short-term gains, while relationship marketing plays the long game, nurturing relationships to create strong bonds that can weather stumbles and produce consistent income.
You may not land as many customers when you focus on relationships, but the customers you have will be far more valuable. Best of all, you’re creating an army of brand loyalists that will sing your praises to anyone that will listen. Your existing connections will bring in new customers for you, letting you focus even less on acquisition.
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HOW RELATIONSHIP MARKETING IMPROVES YOUR BUSINESS
HubSpot, the venerable inbound marketing platform, does a beautiful job of capturing the essence of relationship marketing. They define the practice this way:
“Relationship marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on cultivating deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers to ensure long-term satisfaction and brand loyalty. Relationship marketing is not focused on short-term wins or sales transactions -- rather, it is focused on delighting an audience and your customers for the long-haul.”
With this approach, your focus shifts away from wooing new customers and puts more energy into creating raving fans from the customers you already have. This lowers churn, creates more dependable revenue streams, and increases business over time.
You should always devote a portion of your marketing efforts to relationship marketing because it allows your other marketing efforts to be more successful. Your sales teams won’t have to work so hard to maintain your current business level, permitting them to focus more on growth.
To use a farming analogy, you should prune, water, and fertilize the garden you have so that it can produce a bumper crop instead of constantly planting new seeds while your older vegetables wither and die. With relationship marketing, you don’t have to stress about every new plant because your existing garden feeds your family.
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HOW TO BUILD BRAND LOYALTY
There’s a subtle shift in thinking you have to make when moving your focus from transactions to relationships. Instead of creating marketing materials that promote your products, you have to think about what your customers want and then create marketing that supports those needs.
Along with providing stellar customer service, this means personalizing your efforts so that your customers feel you crafted messages specifically for them. Use a CRM to segment your customers into different groups and send out tailored messages to each group. Consider your existing customers first, and then think about new connections.
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Make An Emotional Connection
When communicating with existing customers, give them a peek behind the curtain. Communicate what your company and its people value. Show them your personality. Make it clear how important they are to you and be vulnerable so that they can connect in return.
Get to know your customers and what’s important to them. Then take a stand that they can respect. This sort of purpose-driven marketing can be very effective at creating brand loyalists.
For example, if you know that your customers tend to be concerned about the environment, you could create a campaign to support a specific cause close to their heart. You’ll engage with them on a deeply personal level and create a bond based on shared values.
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Give Them a Reason to Stay
Show your customers how much you appreciate them by offering small incentives as thank yous for their continued patronage. Promoting a loyalty program, sending out occasional discounts, and throwing in little freebies when appropriate can all go a long way toward keeping your customers away from the competition.
More than anything, seek out their feedback and really listen to it. Your customers will tell you how to keep them satisfied if you’re willing to pay attention. They can be a great source of advice for how to improve your offerings overall. Social media is an excellent place to engage with them about their feelings. Keep lines of communication open and be boisterous about your desire to talk about your customer’s concerns.
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Sell Your Story, Not Your Products
As we mentioned earlier, your existing customers don’t need to hear more about why your offerings are so great. You’ve already convinced them. Instead, engage them with content that weaves your products and services into the fabric of their lives.
Create narratives that build them into your story, creating a deeper emotional connection with your brand or company. Focus less on features and more on specific benefits and how they relate to each customer’s situation.
This strategy is effective whether you do business B2C or B2B because you’re always dealing with people no matter who your ultimate customer is. You might sell to enterprise-level companies, but the decision-makers are people, and they’re just as open to building relationships with you as individual consumers.
At Simply Noted, we’ve been focused on relationship marketing for years. We’ve built our business on the belief that a customer in hand is worth two (or more) in the funnel. That’s not to say that we don’t do transactional acquisition marketing, but we devote significant resources to making sure that our existing customers are radically happy. It’s a strategy that’s worked well for us, and it can help build your business, too.