Tips & Guides — 29 Apr 2022
Top Relationship Marketing Strategies
Today, technology has made it easier than ever to connect with customers. That’s a bonus for businesses, but on the flip side, sometimes the personal touch can get lost in the rush to outperform rivals and stay on top.
We all know customer retention is crucial for success, so it pays to focus on building relationships for the long haul. Personalized experiences based on a deep understanding of customer needs are the way to improve brand loyalty – and that’s where relationship marketing comes in.
Relationship marketing is an approach that puts the focus on customer experience to build trust and loyalty. It’s about creating and maintaining strong relationships and showing customers your business genuinely values their custom and cares about their needs.
The idea is to improve customer engagement at every stage of the buyer’s journey and delight them so much they wouldn’t even think about using your competitors.
Although customer retention is the overall aim, relationship marketing treats existing and potential customers with equal respect.
A relationship marketing strategy uses a mix of tactics to promote long-term satisfaction and customer loyalty. Examples of relationship marketing include proactive customer service, loyalty programs, encouraging feedback, and promoting the benefits of a product rather than just its features.
Affiliate programs are part of relationship marketing, as they depend on developing close relationships with partners to boost brand awareness. Customers benefit from a diverse range of content across channels, which promotes company values as well as products.
Relationship marketing is beneficial for B2B as well as B2C, but surprisingly, only 24 percent of businesses currently use it as part of their wider marketing strategy.
So, we know that relationship marketing is a strategy for creating meaningful relationships and long-term customer engagement. Transactional marketing, on the other hand, is a more traditional approach that concentrates on acquiring the highest number of new sales.
With the emphasis on increasing traffic and conversions, transactional marketing encourages you to look for quick wins. Although the metrics are highly measurable and help you prove ROI, this form of marketing places less importance on the overall customer experience.
If you don’t prioritize great experiences and relationships, customers are less likely to stick with you after an initial purchase. But since customer acquisition cost (CAC) has gone up by about 60 percent in the past seven years, it makes sense to focus on customer retention.
Long-term customers are less likely to churn than new customers and will also praise your business to others. While transactional marketing gets more immediate results, successful relationship marketing is worth a lot in word-of-mouth recommendations. You’ll just have to wait a bit longer to reap the benefits.
Here are the main elements you need for a relationship marketing campaign:
We all know customer service can be make or break, with 50 percent of customers saying they would switch to a competitor after just one bad experience. Excellent customer service is a vital component of relationship marketing, as it demonstrates that you care about people’s needs rather than just wanting their money.
Everyone involved in a customer-facing role should be fully trained in best practices. Representatives must remain polite at all times, even if the customer is being unreasonable. They must know how to placate angry callers and when to escalate problems to a manager.
However, these are basic values that customers expect from a business. Relationship marketing takes things a step further by personalizing the whole experience and by being more proactive. You need an in-depth picture of your customers, their potential pain points, and the questions they might ask.
You’ll need the right tools to deliver great customer service, such as a CRM that puts customer details at your fingertips and a call management system to ensure speedy responses to inquiries.
In relationship marketing, you’re not just encouraging a customer to buy something. You’re aiming to promote your brand values and position yourself as a trusted industry leader so customers want to engage with you on a human level.
You need to make it as convenient as possible for people to get in touch, whether via your website or social media. Thanks to the huge variety of communication channels available, it’s much easier for customers to engage with brands, but there’s also plenty of competition.
As well as maintaining a presence on a wide range of channels, the key is to provide content that holds people’s attention and makes your brand part of their lives. The more they interact with you, the more you’ll understand their needs, which gives you extra scope for personalization.
This could include sharing stories of how your business supports the local community and inviting customers to share their own content. You might even encourage super-engaged followers to join your company’s partner marketing program and promote you on their channels.
As we mentioned, relationship marketing covers all stages of the customer journey, so you should offer value to both new and existing customers. Think about brand awareness rather than immediate conversions—they may not be ready to make a purchase right now, but they’ll remember you when they are.
Social media is ideal for relationship marketing, as there’s so much opportunity for interaction. You can provide regular content with plenty of visuals, show off your expertise, and build an online community of followers. If you partner with influencers, you’ll reach far more users by piggybacking on their popularity.
Encourage people to like or share your posts with incentivization, such as free offers and competitions. User-generated content, such as photos of people using your product, also gets people involved (as well as making sure you don’t lack for content ideas!)
Another tip is to include social media buttons in all your content marketing and emails to direct people to your pages and make it easier for them to interact. However, be aware that social media users demand fast responses to any comments or inquiries.
Your social media marketing campaign should be in line with your brand personality and appeal to your target audience. For example, you might use LinkedIn if you’re targeting professionals or Snapchat if you want to come across as young and fun.
Despite the huge popularity of social media, email is still a great way to engage with customers. It helps you reach out to them directly, with your message landing right in their inbox instead of appearing among a heap of other content. (Of course, you can’t guarantee they’ll read it, but email does have a pretty solid open rate—and an ROI of $42 for every dollar spent.)
From welcome emails to regular newsletters to special birthday offers, email gives you the chance to say more than you could in a text or social media post. You can share links to your other content, which recipients can choose to discover at their convenience.
Using automation tools is ideal for email marketing, especially if emails are sent based on behavioral triggers like cart abandonment. Some software uses smart targeting to segment your audience and send the right emails to the right people at the right time.
Loyalty programs are a great way to make customers feel special. When you reward them for using your services, they know they’re a valuable part of your business. Reward schemes are also a great way to encourage engagement (and repeat purchases) for new customers.
You might offer a points scheme where people earn every time they make a purchase and get money off future transactions. Frequent flyer rewards would be an example of this. Or you could offer a reward after a certain number of purchases, such as buying five coffees and getting a sixth for free.
Another idea is to reward customers for referrals. When they recommend you to a friend, and that friend signs up to your newsletter or buys something, the customer gets a gift. You could do this by giving customers a set of unique codes to pass on to others, so you can track where the referrals came from.
If you really want to know how your customers feel about the experiences you offer, the best way is to ask them. Encouraging customer feedback is an important element of relationship marketing, as it lets them know their opinions matter. You also have to demonstrate you’re prepared to act on this feedback.
A simple way to manage feedback is to send out customer surveys. These might be CSATs (customer satisfaction scores), polls on social media, or longer questionnaires. Whatever you use, it’s best to keep them short—decide in advance what you aim to discover and create the questions accordingly.
This marketing approach generates more leads than paid advertising, probably because it doesn’t seem so blatant. Even if you know the author is being paid, it still seems less biased than the company tooting its own horn. This is especially true if the writer is a known expert or influencer in the industry.
To build strong relationships, make sure content appeals to your target audience and provides value to them, such as helping them make the most of your services. Creating personalized content for specific customers shows how well you understand them. A diverse range of content on multiple channels will keep people engaged, especially if it’s easily shareable.
When it comes to implementing these customer relationship strategies, you’ll need to bear in mind the following points:
Because relationship marketing involves understanding your customers, you need to collect as much information about them as you can (while staying compliant, of course). As well as gathering personal data such as birthdays, track past purchases, browsing habits, and previous interactions.
To stay on the right side of compliance laws, take advantage of zero-party data. What is zero party data? It’s information customers actively choose to share with your business through things like surveys, polls, and registration forms. Most customers are happy to provide this if they get something in return.
Customer data also allows you to check which of your campaigns are working and to test different options. Smart software with business intelligence makes it easy to track metrics like customer lifetime value, conversion rate, and website traffic.
On the subject of tools, you’ll need CRM (customer relationship management) software to make a success of relationship marketing. These tools, which include solutions like Hubspot, help you catalog customer interactions and manage data to deliver personalized experiences.
By centralizing the data and making it accessible to the whole team, CRMs give marketers and customer service teams instant insights into customer preferences. Whether you’re sending targeted emails or handling an ongoing complaint, you’ll have the information you need.
CRM tools also help you automate your marketing efforts. This might not seem very personal, but it’s the only way to keep up with a large customer base and make each one feel important. For example, it ensures you don’t forget to send birthday greetings or renewal notices.
Customers need to know you care, and that includes being available to answer inquiries at all times. If you’re operating on multiple channels, ensure there are designated employees to handle each method of communication so there are no delays.
It should also be easy for people to get in touch—customer satisfaction will take a hit if they have to scour your website to find contact details. Make it seem like you want to hear from them. Consider a toll-free number to encourage calls.
The right tools go a long way, including things like digital voicemail and call forwarding to pick up inquiries when you’re out of the office. This means you won’t miss an opportunity for meaningful interaction.
Despite its many upsides, relationship marketing does have some inherent challenges. These include:
It’s good to reach customers on all platforms, but there are challenges involved. Every channel must be monitored so customers aren’t left waiting for a response. You also need to be confident that all content fits your brand values, especially if you’re using affiliate networks and influencer marketing.
The more channels you have, the more customer data you’ll be able to access, so make sure you have the means to collate and analyze this with intuitive dashboards and reports. Look for software that helps you track campaign performance and monitor links in affiliate content to see what’s working.
According to one report, 46 percent of customers expect companies to respond in less than four hours, while 12 percent expect a response within 15 minutes or less.
Meeting these high expectations can be tricky when you have a high volume of inquiries, especially for small teams, but it’s essential in relationship marketing. Tools like call management and CRMs can help.
The trick here is to make every customer feel like they’re your priority, but it can be hard to keep track of everyone’s details and preferences across multiple channels. Plus, you have to be mindful of data compliance regulations.
To help personalize content, use smart targeting tools to segment your audience. For email marketing, include links to other relevant content (blogs, webinars, listicles) you know the customer is interested in, as well as sending messages based on triggers like browsing patterns.
Although relationship marketing is big on retaining current customers, you can demonstrate the caring nature of your business by trying to re-engage people who’ve slipped off the radar too. The challenge is to find out why they lost interest, and see what you can do to win them back.
Incentives like a free sample or gift can be useful, as can cart abandonment emails. It’s also good to be proactive—for example, sending a message well before someone’s subscription expires, as it’s much harder to get them to renew after the fact.
You need buy-in at all levels of the company if you’re going to make relationship marketing work. Everyone must be dedicated to making customer happiness a priority, and the challenge is to make people understand why it’s so important.
All departments should be on the same page to ensure consistency, so you’ll need regular catch-ups to monitor how things are going.
Introducing new software can be difficult, because it takes time for everyone to figure out how it works and how to get the best out of it. It certainly helps if you choose user-friendly tools with robust onboarding support and provide training to all users. If you’re migrating your in-house partner marketing to SaaS, Affise makes it simple by seamlessly transferring all your data.
Now, onto some all-important best practices…
It’s crucial you’re there when your customers need you and that you listen to what they have to say. That way, everything you do will revolve around them. Whether you’re launching a new product or creating a podcast, ask yourself: will this appeal to our target audience? Are we adding value to their lives?
Encourage feedback, and use it to make improvements. Follow-ups and ongoing support are important in effective relationship marketing—check how someone’s getting on with a purchase or show your appreciation with a thank-you note.
Don’t promise what you can’t deliver, and be honest if you don’t know the answers. Customers appreciate transparency and accountability, so own your mistakes and make a commitment to improving things.
You should always focus on giving customers something of value, not just promoting your company. Make sure your content marketing keeps people informed as well as entertained. You can ask experts to contribute to your articles, and partner with affiliates to increase your brand awareness on trusted channels.
Tell your customers about the good things you do, such as eco-friendly policies or supporting worthy causes. People appreciate this more and more, and they’re even starting to value it above prices.
Use the data you gather to your advantage. Take note of your customers’ birthdays and anniversaries, and send them a special offer. Most people like to receive greetings on their special day, and they’ll be happy you were thinking of them.
You can also incentivize customers to purchase additional products by sending tailored offers based on previous interactions and browsing history. If you’re part of a partner marketing program, Affise’s CPAPI tool is handy for pulling together offers from different sources.
Relationship marketing is all about boosting loyalty, and a rewards program helps you give something back to the repeat customers who support your business. It’s a great way to develop long-term relationships that benefit everyone.
Referral schemes help you grow your customer base through repeat business, but you must ensure the rewards provide real value to your customers and fit with your brand identity.
Relationship marketing is a long game; you won’t see fast results or hard numbers. The aim is to create emotional connections and build trust through a great customer experience. By providing personalized content and listening to feedback, you can show customers you really care about them.
Whether you’re managing a small business or an enterprise, you can turn your loyal customers into brand advocates who will stay with you for a lifetime.
It’ll be worth it in the end: 52 percent of customers say they go out of their way to buy from brands they’re loyal to.
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