Without customers, you don’t have a brand. But many brands find that their customers churn just as quickly as they acquire them. Thus, they are stuck in a seemingly endless loop of getting customers and losing them.
This loop is frustrating and expensive and can run a business into the ground if something isn’t done to fix it.
That’s where relationship marketing comes in
Relationship marketing doesn’t focus on short-term sales as opposed to traditional marketing. Instead, it’s about improving customer experience and building long-term relationships with customers. This can look like keeping in touch with them regularly, taking customer satisfaction surveys, and creating products that customers want.
The goal is to satisfy your customers so that they pay your competitors no mind.
In this article, we’ll explore the importance of relationship marketing, some relationship marketing strategies, and how real-life companies implement them.
Why is relationship marketing so important?
Relationship marketing helps businesses build stronger relationships with their target audiences and create a positive reputation. Here are three other reasons why businesses should implement relationship marketing:
1. Improved customer experience
A 2022 report by Emplifi showed that 86 percent of customers will leave a brand they were once loyal to after 2-3 bad customer experiences. Businesses prioritizing relationship marketing understand this, so they organize one-on-one conversations with customers and prospects, send customer satisfaction surveys, and fix customer complaints. They aim to deliver excellent customer service to ensure that their customers are happy with their product(s) over the long term.
2. Reduced marketing spend
Acquiring customers can be expensive and time-consuming. You must set up search and social media ads, get on cold calls, and host in-person events.
Since relationship marketing improves customer experience, your existing customers will be inclined to do your marketing for you through word of mouth or online reviews, which greatly influence people’s buying decisions. They’ll become your brand advocates and recommend your product to their friends, family, coworkers, or bosses.
Your brand awareness will increase as prospects that didn’t know about you or your offers will become aware and include you in their product options—which will give you a competitive edge over competitors that don’t invest in relationship marketing.
Note: Implementing relationship marketing doesn’t mean you won’t set up ads or host events (as you’ll see below). It just means you won’t have to rely on those methods as much as you usually would because your audience will also help you promote your product.
3. Increased customer retention and sales
Customers stay where they feel appreciated and valued—like their words mean something to the brand they’re patronizing. Businesses that prioritize their relationships with customers are more likely to retain them.
When customers know that you value their input, they’ll be more likely to take your customer surveys and fill out your feedback forms. Their answers will tell you what your customers like—and dislike—about your product, and what they wish your product could do for them that it doesn’t already. This often leads to new ideas for features, products, and services that customers will love. As a result, they’ll be less likely to churn and you’ll generate more revenue.
And if you use a recurring payment system, your existing customers will always have reason to renew their subscriptions and even upgrade their plans as their needs increase.
Strategies for relationship marketing
There are many ways to implement relationship marketing for your business. Here are some of them:
1. Event marketing
Event marketing involves using in-person or digital events like conferences, webinars, and product launches to connect with your customers and prospects. This enables you to showcase your products or brand while cultivating relationships with your attendees.
Statista reports that 72 percent of marketers say they effectively deliver value to their organization by hosting in-person events. And that makes sense because people attend conferences and seminars to network with other people, learn more about the host company, and have a great time. Creating a positive experience at your event can help you appeal to your customers’ emotions, which keeps them loyal to your brand.
Here are some tips for hosting events:
To host the best event you possibly can for your customers and prospects, here are some things you should do:
- Consider your marketing strategy. There are many types of events—conferences, seminars, webinars, networking events, trade shows, product launches, and more— all of which have their unique uses. To get good results, let your marketing strategy determine the kind of event you host.
- Schedule networking opportunities to help your attendees get to know one another and share ideas.
- Partner with other non-competing businesses in your industry to attract more attendees.
- Gather your attendees’ contact information and follow up with them after the event.
2. Public relations
Public Relations is an aspect of marketing that focuses on creating and maintaining a positive brand image with the masses, existing customers, prospects, partners, employees, investors, and other stakeholders. The aim is to make people perceive the company as honest, successful, reliable, and relevant.
PR specialists use far-reaching media channels such as TV, magazines, radio, and social media to disseminate organization-related information and relate with the masses. They decide:
- What information they’ll release
- How the information would be written
- How it would be released
- The channels through which they’ll release the information
This does not come without its risks, though, and that’s PR specialists are trained to prevent crises—and handle them if they happen.
Here are some tips for using Public Relations to market your business:
- Control the messaging you send into the world about your business.
- Create great content that positions you as a subject matter expert.
- Keep up with industry trends through media channels and social media platforms.
- Align your long-term PR plan with your business marketing strategy to ensure that your messaging is consistent across the board.
- Collaborate with journalists and media personnel to further spread information about your company.
3. Social media marketing
Social media platforms are the holy grail of relationship marketing as they give you access to millions of people in your industry—many of which you can convert if you do things right.
You can share informational content on social media, show off your expertise, and engage with your customers and people interested in your offer. The key to succeeding with social media is knowing your audience in and out and providing relevant and useful content.
Here are some tips for using social media:
- Let your social media personality align with your audience’s needs. For example, if you’re a B2B business with a C-suite audience, your posts should be direct and professional. But if you’re a beauty brand that caters to millennials and Gen Zs, you’d probably benefit from a bit of humor.
- Try influencer marketing. Partnering with influencers in the same industry as you gives you access to people that you might not have reached otherwise (or would have reached much later in your journey). If you use the right type of content in your influencer marketing campaign, you’ll drive traffic and conversions to your business.
- Include social media buttons in your blog posts and emails to make it easier for your audience to connect with you
- Do giveaways and share freebies to encourage your audience to engage with your content
- Share user-generated content, customer/client reviews, and testimonials
- Respond quickly to people’s comments on your social media posts
Note: Your social media campaign should align with your larger business goals.
4. Email marketing
Despite the massive reach social media has, it is vulnerable. They can shut down at any time, and popular accounts can also take a blow due to algorithm changes. That’s why you need a marketing channel that won’t be affected by these factors.
Enter email marketing.
Email marketing has an ROI of $42 for every dollar spent. This marketing method works so well because you’re selling to people who are so interested in your brand that they gave you their emails so you can directly communicate with them.
From welcome emails to discount offers to monthly newsletters, you can tell your customers more with an email than you can with a Twitter or Facebook post. You can also add links to your blog posts, YouTube videos, and other content so your subscribers can peruse them at their convenience.
Here are some tips for email marketing:
- Create lead magnets to encourage people to sign up for your email list.
- Send relevant and helpful emails to your subscribers.
- Segment your email list so you can send relevant, personalized emails that encourage your subscribers to take action.
- Use storytelling techniques to grab your subscribers’ attention and keep them checking their inbox for your emails.
- Optimize your emails for mobile. Most people check their emails on their smartphones.
- Use email automation tools to save time and ensure that your emails reach the right people. This is especially important if the emails go out based on triggers like cart abandonment and subscription renewal.
- Run split (A/B) tests on your emails to see what CTAs, colors, and styles resonate most with your audience.
- If you run out of email ideas, try using AI content tools to get a headstart. This way, you won’t have to contend with a blank page.
5. Referral programs
Referral programs are excellent for encouraging customers to promote your products to people they know physically or online. This marketing strategy is often used by online marketing firms, banks, credit card companies, payment processing companies, and magazine publishers, to name a few.
The most popular premise is simple: people who refer their friends, relatives, and others to patronize the company receive cash rewards, gifts, or points that they can redeem on future purchases.
This is just one way of running referral programs. Some companies prefer to use social media to get word-of-mouth marketing or partner with other companies to promote their products and services—and vice versa.
Here are some tips for organizing referral programs:
- Offer compelling incentives.
- Promote your referral program on your social media platforms and emails.
- Don’t be afraid to follow up with your customers.
- Check out what your competitors are doing and think of how you can do something better.
- Use customer referral program software to make things easy. This software will track your referrals and where they’re coming from, and help you distribute rewards.
6. Loyalty programs
Just like referral programs, you can also reward customers for being loyal to you. When you do this, you’re letting your customers know that you appreciate their continued patronage—which helps you retain existing customers, and encourages engagement and repeat purchases for new customers.
Smartphone brands, bookstores, electronics companies, and more use this relationship marketing strategy. And it works.
Some rewards you can give your customers are:
- Bonus reward points
- Cashback offers on new purchases
- Loyalty program cards they can use at your retail outlets
- Free products
Here are some tips for running loyalty programs:
- Ensure that your rewards are attractive and valuable to your customers.
- Your loyalty rewards program should correspond with your products and brand. For example, if your product prices range from $30-$70, don’t offer customers a reward only when they spend $2,000 and above.
- Keep your loyalty reward program sign-up process simple.
- Be clear about what you’re offering and the conditions that come with it.
- Provide multiple ways for customers to earn points or cash. It could be through writing reviews, sharing your social posts, buying a certain number of products, getting free items, etc.
7. Use of CRM tools and other technology
As your company grows, it’ll become harder to connect with customers and keep them satisfied without the help of technology.
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools like HubSpot, Salesforce, and other alternatives can automate workflows, store customer and prospect contact information, manage marketing campaigns, and give you insights into customer preferences. This data can positively inform your marketing strategy, especially if you have a large customer base. This ensures that each customer receives updates from your company and can engage with you.
Here are some tips for choosing CRM tools:
- Identify the goals you want to achieve with a CRM tool. It could be tracking leads and lead activity, tracking your customer base, managing customer relationships, or something different.
- Pick a tool that is easy to use. This lessens the time and money you’ll spend teaching yourself and your team how to use the tool.
- Choose a tool that can be used across different kinds of devices.
- Layout your processes so you can choose a tool that can fulfill those processes, even as they change.
- Check that the CRM tool you want to use integrates well with your current tech stack.
- Ensure that your CRM tool of choice has robust analytics and reporting capabilities so you can measure and study your data.
8. Collecting feedback from customers
If you really want to develop a meaningful connection with your customers, you need to ask them for feedback. Doing so shows your customers that you value their opinions and are willing to act on them.
There are so many ways to collect feedback, including:
- Customer satisfaction surveys
- Feedback forms
- Social media polls
- Net Promoter Score
- Direct outreach
These methods can help you collect data that show you what customers like about your product, what they dislike, what they expect to see from your brand, topics they wish you covered on your blogs, and much more.
You’ll know what to keep doing, what to improve on, and what to scrap from your product, to satisfy the needs of your audience.
Here are some tips for collecting feedback from customers:
- Formulate your questions based on the information you aim to discover.
- Promote all your surveys and feedback forms on social media and emails.
- Ask open-ended questions that prompt your audience to provide exhaustive and unique answers.
- If you’re in the e-commerce industry, request feedback on the order confirmation page or some time after someone buys your product.
- If possible, offer a reward in exchange for feedback.
Creative examples of relationship marketing strategies in use
Here’s how some popular companies use relationship marketing strategies to strengthen their connection with their audience and retain their customers:
Starbucks is the most popular coffee company today, raking in over $32 billion in revenue for 2022 alone. They grew to this level by prioritizing customer relationships.
Starbucks uses social media and its app to connect with its customers, send special offers, and build anticipation for product launches. It shares user-generated content—mainly photos and videos of customers drinking their unique Starbucks orders on their social media. This shows Starbucks fans that the company appreciates their patronage.
These things might seem too simple, but they go a long way toward keeping Starbucks’ customers coming for more.
When Starbucks starts selling holiday-themed and seasonal favorites, they usually have long queues of loyal customers waiting to order a cup (or five) of coffee.
In 2017, pop singer Rihanna officially launched her beauty brand, Fenty Beauty. At this time, the market was already chock full of celebrity beauty brands and people were curious to see how Rihanna’s company would hold up. It held up pretty nicely due to the relationship marketing techniques it employed, which focused largely on inclusivity.
First, Rihanna noticed that many makeup brands don’t carry enough foundation and concealer shades to fit all skin tones. So she made 50 foundation shades that suited all skin tones, no matter how pale or dark the wearer is.
Rihanna went on to create her Savage X Fenty lingerie which comes in a wide range of sizes (XS to 4XL). During her Savage X Fenty Show, Rihanna hires models and celebrities with different body shapes to model lingerie pieces.
Fenty also offers their customers a membership program they can sign up for and receive exclusive content, first word about product launches, and access to VIP sales.
These marketing strategies give people confidence that they’ll find their ideal foundation shade and lingerie in Fenty’s lineup.
Coca-Cola has positioned itself as the perfect beverage to accompany meals and provide refreshments during the day. It was able to do that by making customers feel special and appreciated.
Most, if not all, Coca-Cola ads portray its customers as happy people who love to spend time with family and friends. These ads appeal to their target market’s emotions and create positive feelings. They also have stimulating taglines like Share a Coke with a Friend and Open a Coke, Open Happiness.
To take things up a notch, Coca-Cola started making drinks that featured customers’ names on them. This was effective at prompting customers to go buy a bottle of Coke with their name on it.
Build relationships with your customers
Relationship marketing won’t net you quick sales or closed deals, but it is a sustainable way of growing your business in the long term. When your relationship with your customers is strong, you’ll have loyal people who’d advocate for your brand and bring you referrals for years to come.