2016 – A Year for Relationship Marketing

In our previous article we looked at the key marketing trends that the industry expect to see developing in 2016 and how these trends can be used for businesses of any size. The general view is that the changes are all focused firmly on the consumer, something that, surprisingly, marketing has had as a lower priority for many years.

Relationship Marketing is the core strategy for this trend this approach focuses on building brand loyalty through customer satisfaction rather than focusing on transactional sales. Knowledge really is power and by using market research, customer data and buying behaviours we are able to build a picture of the consumer which can then be used to shape future activities


From Traditional to Inbound

As we all become increasingly reliant on the digital world, the way that consumers shop has changed and in doing so the way that we need to sell has evolved. Traditionally a producer or retailer would be able to broadcast a message and hope that the customer would acknowledge this and act on it eg a newspaper advertisement. Today’s consumers want to feel that they have discovered the product and made the choice having heard about it from a friend, researched it online or interacted with the brand on social media. They don’t want to feel that they have been sold to.

The key to success for producers and retailers is to ensure that the information about the product is there, ready to be found. This approach is called inbound marketing and has been evolving over the last decade alongside the rise of digital technology. Inbound marketing refers to activities that draw customers in, leads them to your business and makes them want to find out more. By building this intrigue you are also building a more solid relationship with a customer and putting the foundations in place for all future relationship marketing activities.


Building Content

As a business owner nobody knows more about your product or service. Even an employee of the company should have sufficient knowledge and passion for the brand to be able to talk about it. The first steps for successful relationship marketing is to create a plan for how that knowledge is to be used. Firstly look at what form your information can take such as videos, product reviews, partnership promotions, giveaways, how to guides, factsheets , eBooks, case studies or podcasts. Then look at where it can be used to enable consumers to find it: your website, industry blogs, social media, e-newsletters and partner websites. Once you have a full list of opportunities start to map out a calendar of activities that will resonate with your consumers for example a farm shop might like to create a list of the perfect hamper items in November ahead of the Christmas rush to be shared on their Facebook page whilst in January they could provide a calendar of seasonal vegetables to download from the website.


Taking a (free) Helping Hand

Relationship marketing is dependent on consistency. A haphazard or infrequent approach will result in either a poor impression or no lasting impression meaning that the brand is essentially starting a fresh with every piece of activity.

Fortunately there are plenty of tools to help build a relationship marketing strategy and bring it to life.

  • Customer Relationship Management System – You may already have this as part of an accountancy programme, essentially it is a way to build up a picture of your consumer and their buying habits. Different programmes offer different features but many will let you segment customer groups, plan tasks, review responses and schedule contact.
  • Email Management Systems – This could be part of your website, but many businesses use online options such as Mailchimp which allow you to store contact details, design emails, dispatch them at the optimum time and once the email has been sent it provides the all-important analytics to help you develop future activities. This programme is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and very good value for money thereafter.
  • Social Media Tools – This could be an entire article in its own right. There are so many tools to help with social media. Scheduling through Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, analysing performance through Klout or planning and sharing through Buffer. Most people will have an opinion on the best programmes to use and fortunately these tools are designed to be user friendly and either free to try or free for basic use, meaning that you can test out multiple options before selecting the one that’s best for you and your business.

Making it Work.

For some this may seem like a daunting task, miles away from any current marketing activities. For others it may be second nature. The important point to remember is that the time has come to treat customers as friends. Appreciate the patronage and nurture the growth as securing a repeat purchase has been proven to cost less than gaining new customers.

Building the content and creating a plan is just the starting point. From there successful relationship marketing requires a commitment to regular activity as well as evaluation in order to utilise the knowledge to develop further. It is a big task, but one that will provide the business with not only sales but also the long term commitment and advocacy from loyal customers.