There’s so much buzz about relationship marketing, and if you’re not familiar with the strategy, it may sound irrelevant for your business, or too time consuming. The latter is true in the short-term: you will have to devote time to building relationships, however you’ll end up saving time when your customers keep renewing without you having to do any hard work. It’s about building trust and it should pay dividends if done well.

Determine your target market

Hopefully this is something you’ve already done. If not, relationship marketing isn’t going to work. You’ll find it far easier to hone sales and marketing campaigns towards specific groups or audiences. Trying to appeal to everyone is wasting resources. Look at your current customer base and see what they have in common. Then create a typical customer profile. If you’re unsure, conduct some market research at a business event or set up a focus group. You can use the profile to target audiences on social media and for email campaigns.

Key questions and active listening

Think about how you’d act on a first date. You’d (hopefully) ask key questions to find out about the other person, but more importantly, you’d actively listen and make a mental note of the responses. It’s similar with relationship marketing. While you shouldn’t get too personal, it’s useful to find out your customers’ interests and what motivates them. Rather than steering the conversation around your products and services, find out about their organisation’s general goals and challenges. Chances are the customer will end up steering the conversation towards how you can help them, without you having to. All this data will help you nurture the relationship. And remember to leave your ‘super sales’ persona behind. Be authentic and natural.

It’s better to give than to receive

If you’re not into relationship marketing, your customers may cringe when you contact them, as they know you’re only getting in touch to try and sell them something. You may find them avoiding your calls, and if you’re bombarding them with sales emails, they may opt out from your mailing list, which is the last thing you want. With relationship marketing, it’s never about the hard sell; in fact, forget about selling altogether (yes, I’m serious). It’s about giving. And we’re not talking free lunches (although that can be a nice way to get to know your customer). It’s more about how you can assist businesses with any goals. This might take the form of advice, free resources, or putting them in touch with one of your suppliers. Customers will then see you as someone who has their best interests at heart – not someone who just wants to make a quick sale. If you know your product or service isn’t the optimum choice to meet a customer’s needs, rather than pushing it on them anyway, be up front and recommend a competitor. That’s not utter madness; it’s a way of getting people to trust you and your judgement. It will also make it more likely they recommend you to others. Forcing a sale will only bring negative feedback. Remember, relationship marketing is about the long haul.

Connecting

Once your relationship is established, engage regularly with your customers. You may not have the resources to schedule frequent visits, so why not make time for Skype chats? It’s more personal than an email and gives the opportunity for a more relaxed conversation. Another important way of connecting with customers is on social media. Follow your customers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Engaging with their posts will:

  • Help build the relationship
  • Keep you in their thoughts
  • Expand your reach to other potential customers

Being active on social media is always a positive marketing strategy, particularly if you offer free tips and information, rather than trying to sell. Have you noticed how few businesses use LinkedIn for overt sales posts? Even on Facebook and Twitter companies are realising that it’s better to share expertise to build trust, which in turn generates enquiries. Useful information such as case studies, white papers, eBooks, tips, troubleshooting guides, blogs, infographics, etc., should bring in more solid leads than continuously posting about your products / services.

Keep your promises

Establishing an in-depth connection is about trust. This means you must keep your promises, however inconsequential they seem to you. By not ringing a customer at an agreed time, you’re inferring you place little importance on their business. Your goal should be to ensure that your customers always feel highly valued, and that you’ve always got time for them.

Relationship marketing is not about the short term. It’s about building a foundation of knowledge and trust. Your customers will be far more likely to keep coming back, plus they’ll be inclined to recommend you to others.

An excellent place to start your foray into relationship marketing would be a business event such as our Yorkshire Business Market. Our event takes place at the Harrogate Pavilions, on Monday, 30th April.

Find out more about Yorkshire Business Market