A business cannot become a brand without relationship marketing. It is also difficult to grow a business unless it can retain its customers or clients. A company can always acquire new clients but that would simply replace the loss of market share or perhaps fall short if existing customers jump ship. While companies don’t need to seek patronage in the information age, businesses must try to retain as many of their existing customers as possible.
There’s statistics available inferring that acquiring a new client can be six or seven times costlier than retaining an existing customer. Also, retaining existing customers have the amazing byproduct of referrals. It is no secret that word of mouth and referrals are among the cornerstones of success.
The art and science of retaining your existing customers or holding onto the market share is called relationship marketing. Major brands invest millions in relationship marketing. They produce commercials or invest in one-on-one and multilevel engagement programs to make the customers feel cared for. Myriad strategies are set in motion to sustain the existing customer base and it is by the virtue of that foundation a company grows and scales new heights.
Small to medium businesses obviously don’t have large pools of cash or endless resources. They have to make do with whatever is available. In such scenarios, relationship marketing is challenging to say the least. However, it is not undoable. All you have to do is focus on your priorities, strengths and to work on your weaknesses or limitations.
Here are some of the mantras to help you succeed in relationship marketing.
- The omnipotent weapon in relationship marketing is to make your customers feel that they matter. Nothing is more important than the welfare or satiation of the customers. If you can make your audience feel that then there is no stopping you. Have you ever carefully observed the kinds of ads major brands like Nike or Adidas, Mercedes Benz or Renault, McDonalds or Apple produce? They talk about their products, pitch the unique selling points and also try to outdo the competition. But if you observe the language, the context, setting and everything that is up on display in the commercials, it is all about you. The consumer and how the product affects the consumer is of paramount importance. The moment a company succeeds in establishing that it exists to serve the best interest of the customers, it has hit the jackpot. It would be self defeating to think of relationship marketing as just a part of promotional or marketing spree. Everything, from sales to customer service, contributes to relationship marketing. How the salespeople treat the prospective customers or the casual enquirers, how the customer service executives resolve pending problems or to what extent the company is willing to tread to retain a customer, all such realities will have a direct bearing.
- Everyone likes to be cared for. Many surveys have reported that customers who have stayed with a particular service provider for years and have then decided to switch had primarily done so because they felt the company was indifferent to their needs. This fallout can also happen when companies go wrong with their marketing and advertising campaigns. Imagine a scenario where a company focuses too much on promotion while paying scant regard to what the customers want. It would never work. The purpose of any promotion is to make the product relevant for the customer. The messaging has to be useful. The most successful promotional campaigns in the history of modern times have been those that have appealed to the psyche of the customers. Provoking thoughts, connecting at an emotional level, selflessly propagating useful information and busting the myths that people have been harboring while being adversely affected have always been at the crux of successful advertising or promotional campaigns. It is all a part of relationship marketing. At its elementary level, relationship marketing is about the sort of connect that a company can establish with the customers.
- Relationship marketing can become effortless if a company starts to develop a practice or modus operandi of helping its customers or target audience instead of solely serving its own interests. A company needs to churn profits and only then would it survive. However, if profit is the only target then a company would go to any extent to accrue that, at the cost of everything else. If a company starts to present itself as a helpful resolution to existing problems, then one is naturally developing relationships. A very good example is social media. You can try to promote your stuff and you would get confined to a certain number of followers. Share useful content, be of help and try to solve people’s problems, and you would keep acquiring new followers. As your following grows, you can occasionally come up with a promotional campaign and that will have the impact you desire. Bombard people with ads and they will start to desert you. Why would an audience care for anything you have to say unless they want to hear it?
- Personalization is integral to the foundation of relationship marketing. You have to treat every customer or lead as a person and your service or any kind of interaction must be personalized. Gone are the days when ‘dear customer’, rampant emails and coldly pitched deals used to create wonders. Today, customers are looking for that personal touch. They don’t want to be regarded as numbers or stats. They don’t want to be another contributor to a company’s profits. From sales to customer support, you should personalize everything.
- Have a rewards program. Don’t call it a loyalty program. Customers don’t need to be loyal to you. They simply have to like what you have to offer and there should be some connect at some level that would retain them. You could have perks or freebies, financial rewards or some special service to offer. Whatever is the reward program, have one in place and let the customers know of it. You could use it as a surprise as well.