Relationship marketing is the technique of cultivating deep, long-term relationships with engaged customers. It’s all about ensuring their satisfaction and continued interaction with your brand or service over time. Achieving this requires a long-haul strategy that emphasizes customer experience and lifetime value over any individual transaction. In other words, relationship marketing and personal relationships require that same crucial ingredient: hard work. Maintaining connections with valuable customers requires constant attention, and if tiny mistakes accumulate without being addressed, the relationship will falter. Here are some important tips for what you should do — and avoid — to better support existing customers.
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DO: Generate and provide social proof
Social proof is a strong marketing force with direct impact on sales. 82% of Americans claim they look for endorsements from friends and family before making a purchase, and 91% of 18 to 34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. You can encourage the social proof effect using referral programs that push customers and influencers toward becoming your brand ambassadors.
DON’T: Let a relationship go cold
Common wisdom says that it’s harder to start fires from scratch than to use warm coals. That’s true in relationships as well. For customers to come back to your business, they should see value in an ongoing relationship and remember positive experiences from past engagements. Keep refreshing their memories of strong customer service experiences with regular contact through available channels. Otherwise, the curve of forgetting may kick in as customers start to forget the quality of their experience.
DO: Associate your brand with a customer need
Savvy marketers are always seeking ways to keep their brand in the customer’s thoughts. More specifically, when a customer needs a product you provide, they should immediately think of your company. Maintain an active presence through:
- Social media announcements
- Content marketing
- One-on-one relationship management
DON’T: Become just another repetitive contact
Sending an email every 90 days without fail doesn’t mean you care about a customer relationship — it just means you know how to set calendar reminders. A better approach is to check in on contacts and nurture relationships in varied and interesting ways. Have you developed an interesting content piece that customers might be interested in? Send a link! Has your contact found a new job or started a business initiative? Send an email congratulating them. If your brand emphasizes in-person engagement, ask to meet for coffee or lunch if you notice they’re in your city from far away. These approaches can help you stand out and personalize communications in ways customers will remember.
DO: Value small talk
Relationship management is about human touches, even if within a professional context. There’s always value in going beyond rote greetings with a simple “How’s your business coming along” or “How’s your family?” Contradictory though it may seem, a customer who knows you’re invested in more than their sale is more likely to give you their business.
One technique which can assist you here is to share mutual needs. Feel free to discuss your own business needs and ask about theirs. You never know when this relationship might bring in new networking opportunities, or when you can build customer trust with a valuable recommendation.
DON’T: Prioritize short-term gain
Relationship marketing is a long game, so don’t get distracted by short-term gains. Prioritizing a long-term relationship might involve reinvesting in marketing expenses or customizing deals, but the rewards can benefit your brand and the customer alike. A mere 5% increase in customer retention can equal up to 95% increase in profit. Sustainable rewards like that are worth taking a little extra time and avoiding risky shortcuts.
DO: Proactively seek out feedback
Soliciting feedback on a product is better than waiting for answers. If you know that problems exist within 24 to 48 hours of a sale, it’s easier to address the issue and figure out how to avoid it in the future. As customers won’t necessarily deliver these insights unprompted—especially if they’re disappointed with a product or service—use surveys, phone calls, or even check-in emails to see how they’re managing with your product.
DON’T: Treat your customers as disposable
The most reliable relationships are built on trust. If you’ve completed a sale, follow up with check-ins to make sure your customers are satisfied and whether they need any additional tools. Prioritizing long-term relationships is partly about showing clients that you’re still accessible after a deal goes through, especially if you’re offering a service.
DO: Be authentic
Customers can usually tell when your marketing efforts are honest and transparent, but overselling yourself creates barriers to meaningful relationships. Studies have consistently shown that consumers prefer to make purchases from authentic brands. 86% of people say authenticity matters when they’re deciding whether or not to support a brand.
Being authentic can take different forms for different industries. For a company like Apple, it’s about staying true to their uncompromising vision of tech and design. For McDonald’s, it’s about never going off-message about fast, affordable food. For other industries, it might be more about charity dollars spent, or steps taken to mitigate environmental impacts. Above all, transparent communications can go a lot further with your customers than concocting brand narratives that are at odds with the reality of your product or service.