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Guide to relationship marketing

2021-04-13

By: Amelia Wallace

Looking for a quick guide to relationship marketing? You’ve come to the right place. If you’ve landed here, you’re most likely hoping for a little extra info on what is relationship marketing and how it can help you start to either generate more leads or get customers coming back.

Below, you'll find a nifty guide outlining what relationship marketing is, a few pretty awesome relationship marketing examples and some quick and easy strategies to help you get started — beginning with the basics.

What is relationship marketing?

Relationship marketing aims to build and maintain personal connections with your customers leading to more business whether through word-of-mouth promotion or effective content strategy.

Relationship marketing is a part of customer relationship management (CRM), focusing on long-term customer engagement and customer loyalty. 

Individual sales and customer acquisition are simply byproducts of a successful relationship marketing strategy. Instead, focus on your customers’ interests and needs and encourage meaningful engagement. This way, you create the necessary relationships to make more sales over an extended period of time.

Additionally, relationship marketing’s ability to keep you in close contact with customers loops you in on how they use your products and services — which should influence any changes you make. Relationship marketing not only helps you measure marketing effectiveness, but it ensures you stay connected with customers, and according to Gallup, fully engaged customers will spend nearly 23% more than the average Joe Schmoe.

Relationship marketing examples

To give you some ideas on how to heat up with your relationship marketing, we’ve highlighted some pretty cool (in our humble opinion) relationship marketing examples. Be sure to pay attention to how these brands took things up a notch and avoided doing the bare minimum.

Moosejaw

Possibly our favorite example of relationship marketing comes from the outdoor apparel company Moosejaw. A customer ordered a hoodie for his girlfriend as a Christmas present, but unfortunately, she broke up with him a few weeks before the holidays. The customer returned the hoodie, asking for a refund and wrote under the reason for return, “girlfriend dumped me.” 

A few weeks later, a large package from Moosejaw arrived with a smattering of t-shirts,  stickers and a card that read, “We’re sorry your girlfriend broke up with you, we decided to give you a gift.” We can’t imagine a more personalized response in customer service.

Lay’s

Lay’s is a great example of a company that builds customers’ trust in their brand through interactive content. Lay’s annual “Do Us A Flavor” contest asks customers to submit their ideas for new chip flavors. Once the submission window has closed, participants then vote on flavors through social media, with the winning flavor added to Lay’s flavor lineup  Oh, and the customer who suggested the winning flavor gets a hefty cash prize. 

GE

One strategy for relationship marketing is through content, and GE’s use of content marketing is pretty solid. By conducting extensive research into their customers and what they need — even down to the socioeconomic contexts — GE is able to personalize its content based on specific audiences. For GE, relationship marketing isn’t focused on individual transactions but rather the relationships with customers in each market, therefore setting the stage for valuable marketing investment, especially in countries with lower revenue potential.

BetterCloud

Customer service in itself makes up a huge part of relationship marketing and BetterCloud hits it out of the ballpark with its  “proactive support” system flags. By collecting data on how customers use BetterCloud software, along with any errors or struggles they encounter, BetterCloud is able to proactively reach out to affected customers long before a support ticket is submitted.

Zappos

Zappos makes it clear how customers can contact the brand by placing the customer service phone number front and center on their website. When customers call with concerns, representatives do more than simply take care of the problem — they ensure customers feel heard. For instance, one rep has sent baby blankets to parents who had crying children in the background. Another sent flowers to a customer after she tried to return boots bought for her father who passed away before he could wear them. For Zappos, relationship marketing is about reading between the lines and actively listening.

Benefits of customer relationship marketing

Now, these examples are all well and good, but is relationship marketing really worth the time and effort? 

Boost in customer retention

Customers who feel that their needs are being met and that they’re also being heard tend to stick around. Going past the basics to keep your customers happy is only ever going to be a lucrative investment.

Increased customer life-time-value

By building a relationship with your customers, you’ll increase not only customer retention rates but also the lifetime value of your customers. Lifetime value measures a customer’s total sales, as well as their loyalty and advocacy of your brand — e.g., customers become brand advocates or ambassadors (influencers) who recommend your products or services to friends, family members or even work colleagues.

Collect and apply feedback

As you collect customer feedback, you wind up creating a data bank to improve your customer marketing in the future. For example, feedback can be incorporated into content marketing to further nurture customer relationships.

Create customer evangelists

Customer evangelists are those customers everyone wants. They regularly purchase from you — recommend your services to friends, family, coworkers, random strangers on the street, offer praise without any financial incentive and so much more. These customers end up being one of your best marketing tools.

Elevated brand trust

If a customer believes in you and trusts you, they’re more likely to forgive mistakes and still stick around. Building a successful relationship marketing campaign to get to this point though is more than just a rewards program, it’s doing that and more.

Types of customer relationship marketing strategies

Achieving effective relationship marketing is pretty simple. In fact, you may already be implementing some of these ideas below. However, we want to highlight how you can utilize these strategies for relationship marketing specifically.

Content marketing

Content marketing generates three times as many leads as paid searches. When used correctly and efficiently, content marketing connects an audience with your brand on an emotional level and equips customers with helpful information, providing value to you and your customer. And by offering useful content regularly, your customers develop a natural interest in your brand.

Customer service

For a moment, forget that you’re the reader  — remember a time when you’ve been the customer and needed to contact customer service due to a pressing issue? How important to you was it to get a quick response? 

Responding quickly to your customers’ complaints, feedback or questions will show you not only care but that your brand is reliable. Advancements in AI make this a lot easier for businesses with resources like Facebook Messenger bot or ManyChat. Using a pre-programmed chat gives your customers the option of a quick and easy answer (like an  FAQ) or to steer them towards the right representative. Add in the aspect of human follow up and you really raise the bar. Customer service is also a great place to generate feedback from customers to aid in content personalization.

Social media

Social media is a treasure trove for customer feedback. Nearly 95% of online adults follow a brand on social media, which can make sifting through customer comments feel daunting, but you surely want to find those golden nuggets!  Remember, don’t just use social media as your personal pirate chest. Make sure you’re interacting with customers on social media too. Even something as simple as a “like” or quick response can remind folks that there are real people behind your logo. 

Social media is also another opportunity for you to create effective content that strengthens customer relations. For example, if you’re in the B2B sector, keep things professional by focusing on your expertise. Or, if your audience falls within the Millennial age group, you may find using humor goes a long way on just about anything.

Email marketing

Despite what you may hear, email is still an important marketing strategy and shouldn’t be discounted. Emails tend to get more “me-time.” So, while social media can be used to share more “random” pieces of content, emails ideally feature the type of content you want your customers to really notice and focus on (e.g., you launch a new product feature or so forth). Think of emails like the big, creamy Cadbury eggs in a basket full of Easter treats — they’re all yummy to eat, but those eggs are truly satisfying.

Loyalty program

To round out our relationship marketing strategies, let’s talk about loyalty programs. A loyalty program is a real cherry-on-top kind of tactic that \supplements any marketing strategy you currently have in place. It’s a simple way to show customers that you appreciate their business and that you’d love to see them return. A successful customer loyalty program can heighten customer engagement by providing real value. Be sure to outline to your customers how your program works and the benefits included, whether it’s rewarding customers for referrals or racking up points with each purchase made. Offer discounts for feedback and you can even let your rewards programs guide better effective content.

Now that you have an idea of what relationship marketing is, it’s time to establish your own marketing strategy. Know that regardless of which strategy you choose to implement, it’s important to use effective content to draw in your customers and get them coming back for more. But don’t stress if you’re still struggling getting them to engage with your brand, check out our effective content ebook for some great ways to boost your content game.

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Amelia Wallace

Amelia Wallace has been writing content for far too long. Her expertise ranges from home decor to insurance to marketing and beyond. She is an avid movie-goer, retains only the best kinds of useless information, and is the worst to go hiking with since she’s constantly stopping to take photos.

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