Relationship marketing is not a new concept. The power of relationships in business is something that has remained constant throughout the years. But with the ability to reach your target audience through online channels, the importance of building relationships with your audience has grown immeasurably. Now with social media shining a spotlight on every small business, it is vital that you provide value to your clients while demonstrating integrity and trustworthiness. This ensures you have a loyal, happy customer base and a quality reputation.
What is Relationship Marketing?
Relationship marketing is a strategy that focuses on building brand loyalty through customer satisfaction rather than focusing on transactional sales. Implementing a relationship marketing strategy requires a plan that:
- Provides the right information to your audience at the right time
- Builds credibility, customer commitment and loyalty
- Makes prospects and customers feel comfortable and connected to you.
When everything you do revolves around your community – customers, fans, followers, employees, etc. – the answer is clear. You will have the reputation, loyalty and love that keeps your business alive and thriving. You will have a connection with your audience, and that’s the key to success for your company.
Take the focus away from the dollar signs attached to your products and services, and focus on what’s really going to affect your sales: relationships.
Build a Relationship Marketing Action Plan
The goal of relationship marketing is to move the prospect through various stages of the sales process while building a rapport that becomes stronger and more valuable over time. These stages include:
So how do you help people determine whether they want to do business with you?
First you need to start building a community so you can attract your suspects. To create a healthy community online, use the following tips to set up a foundation for your relationship marketing.
Understand your audience
Identify your niche market and how you plan to solve their problems. Have a clear vision for who your products and services are going to help so you can target them more directly with a message that resonates more powerfully.
Once you know who you are targeting, now engage with your audience. Create your content with your audience’s wants and needs in mind. Listen to their feedback – good or bad – and give them a say in the conversation. Conversation is a two-way street, and there’s a difference between talking to people versus talking with them.
Be present in conversations about your own brand and your industry. A good relationship marketing strategy covers all aspects of a community – from customers to competitors. Find ways to join in on relevant conversations, offering your own opinion, experience, expertise and input. Just be sure you have something worth saying.
Position you and your business as an expert in your industry. Supply information that is useful and relevant to your audience. Content marketing is an ideal relationship marketing tactic because it educates your audience with useful information. Most content marketing is delivered through your blog, social media or email.
When a suspect is researching a solution, you become the go to resource for the information that can help them decide on a solution. If you’ve answered their questions through your content, they are more likely to come to you when they have other questions. This sharing of information begins to build a relationship that is valuable to them.
Connect with your audience by offering something of value that will get them to take action. If action is taken, you now have moved a suspect to the next stage – prospect. Now you can continue to develop the relationship.
At this stage, supply them with more useful and practical information for their business. Create free downloads, pay close attention to what people are asking on social media sites, and set up a blog dedicated to helping visitors find the answers to their most common questions. Your customers want to be acknowledged and appreciated.
As you continue to develop the relationship, some of these prospects will see the value you offer and become customers. Once they do, you continue to strengthen and nurture the relationship, but now based on trust and loyalty.
Build loyalty and trust
Focus on the customer’s needs rather than your own in order to build loyalty, gain trust and keep your brand top of mind. Your business will be judged by the perception of how you treat your customers. By providing superior customer service and helping them succeed, you turn a customer into a long-term client.
When you have reached this type of relationship with your customer, you can then determine if you can turn them into a brand advocate – a resource that speaks highly about your company, shares your information with their peers and works with you to promote your products and services through reviews, success stories and referrals.
Once you have turned a prospect into a customer, you must continue to add value to the relationship so that their connection to you continues to grow. It is far less expensive to cultivate your existing customer base than it is to seek new customers.
The purpose of relationship marketing is to put the human touch back into your business and foster long-term customer relationships. It’s about having actual human beings dedicated to nurturing your online presence and every person that is a part of it. If your online presence is genuine and your brand is “real,” relationships will blossom.
But of all the relationship marketing tips, the most important is to take the focus away from profits, put it back on relationships. Trust that the profits will come as a result. Because when you develop a strong and loyal relationship with your customers, they will speak highly of you and provide referrals to your business.