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• Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

I hear the phrase “relationship marketing” more and more these days.  Based on the definition in Wikipedia, it is the marketing effort which focuses on customer retention, satisfaction, and referrals from those satisfied customers.  So, basically, it’s

  • taking care of a customer for the long term,
  • building a relationship based on more than just a single purchase,
  • giving the customer value beyond the value perceived in that one purchase.

Therefore, relationship marketing is the alter-ego of advertising which aims to acquire more first-time customers.  The objective of relationship marketing is to satisfy and retain the customers you already have so that they’ll

  1. continue buying from you and
  2. refer other customers to you by word-of-mouth.

Typically, you hear more about how to get new customers, how to reach more people.  However, in a contracting economy, new customers are harder to get.  Plus, you’ve already done the hard part to acquire the customers you have.  Why not take care of them?

The concept of relationship marketing has been around a long time. It really isn’t new.  But what IS new about the customer or the marketplace?  The modes of communication used to build relationships with customers are new.

Gone are the days when you built relationships with customer by seeing them around town on a daily basis.  How do we communicate now?

Social Marketing, online social groups, Twitter, e-mail, etc, all of which equals information overload.  Because of increasing junk,  customers develop finely tuned filters.  Extraneous information MUST be strained out or they risk overlooking important information.  It doesn’t matter that an occasional baby might be thrown out with the bath water, as long as it’s not THEIR baby.  That’s pretty tough filtering.

As a merchant, how do you cut through the clutter?  How you push your message through the (necessarily) ruthless filters?  Here are some ideas:

1)    Email marketingoffer VALUE!  Offer a free report, offer an e-course on an important subject.  Whatever it is in your niche/industry to offer value to your customer.  If they perceive your e-mails as valuable, and therefore worth their time, they will not delete them.  Constant Contact
is one email marketing service worth trying.  They offer a 60 day free trial to see how it works.
2)    Social Media – There are so many social networking sites out there and so much activity going on that it’s difficult to focus valuable marketing messages.  Here, it is imperative to determine your target audience and focus your message for that specific audience.  If the message is too general, it won’t make it through the (figurative) filter.  Of course, the message must be presented as part of the social conversation, NOT as a marketing message.  A blatant marketing message would get tossed out on its ear before ever being read completely.
3)    Written correspondence – Personal cards, letters, or post cards in the mail have  a greater chance of being read than even e-mail.  As in all other media, you must offer value in the card or letter.  Good wishes, prayers, new sales offer (based on previous known interests), useful information, holiday wishes.  Make the customer feel important, something other than a number or an address in a database.  Birthday cards, holiday cards, get well cards, thank you cards.  Written correspondence on a personal level is quickly becoming a lost art.  Personal mail is appreciated and, most importantly, READ.  Not every message has to have a marketing message.  The biggest challenge with personal written correspondence is the effort required to make it happen.  Send Out Cards is an innovative way to take the heavy lifting out of this marketing channel.

In a receding economy, making the most of your existing customer base is imperative.  Using a couple of simple marketing methods – e-mail and personal cards – can make a huge difference in your business growth.

Category: Referral
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