Relationship marketing is, quite obviously, the practice of marketing by building relationships.
What is a relationship in this context?
It’s any ongoing communication that builds confidence and trust. Maybe it’s your newsletter, or your blog. It could be a few conversations that take place at a social media site. It could be in-person or telephone interactions with a loyal customer. Or perhaps it’s a series of e-mails that you send to someone who opted to sign up for your mailing list. Ideally, it’s some combination of those things.
You can substitute the word “relationship” in relationship marketing with “inbound”, “permission-based”, or “content.”
- Inbound means your customers come to you.
- Permission-based means they sign up to your mailing list or join your membership site, giving you permission to communicate with them.
- Content refers to all the information you create to be available for clients and prospective customers to consume.
While there might be subtle differences in the terminology we use, the mindset is the same: engagement with the clients most likely to buy our products and services, rather than pushing a message out to everyone and hoping our best prospects see it.
This is good for both you and your customer
For your customers, it allows a relaxed and low-pressure environment where they can review options and make decisions. It means a feeling of control over the sales process, and for many people, that feeling of control is a major factor in the buying process.
It’s good for you, because you can show a prospective client how you provide value over a period of time. You don’t expect an immediate sale, and when you eventually do get the sale, it’s because someone has become familiar with your company, liked what she’s seen, and recognized that you’re competent and trustworthy. After that, it’s up to you to provide a stellar experience and prove her right so she returns.
Compare that to the instant sale. You might run an ad with a coupon that draws someone to your store or website, and get the sale right away. But as a first-time customer, what does he really know about you? Will he come back again? Or do you need to keep running ads and offering coupons to get all your sales? Unless you take that first sale as an opportunity to start a relationship, that customer might never come back.
Relationship marketing is the path to repeat customers, and for most small and medium businesses, repeat customers are the backbone of revenue.
Relationship marketing (a.k.a. content marketing) needs a plan and the will to put in the work to make it happen
Just throwing something together every now and again, such as the odd blog post, is not a plan if there’s no purpose behind it. Ask yourself:
- Will my plan give clients what they need?
- Will my plan satisfy my business goals?
Have you thought about your marketing in this way? What are you doing now to foster great client relationships that will nourish your business over the long term?