Hi, I am a complete stranger.  Give me money!

Let me guess, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Um…no.”

Well, this is exactly what you are doing if you are not building relationships with your audience, list, and prospective customers.  Think about it – would you rather buy from someone you know, someone you feel like you can trust – or a complete stranger?

Relationship marketing creates a safe haven for consumers.  It gives the illusion that the business knows them – their wants, needs, and desires.  A trust is formed.  If a business suggests a product, the customer knows they are suggesting it because they truly believe it will benefit them.

Which would you prefer: to build a long lasting relationship with someone that sends you a coupon on your birthday, an email that your favourite brand published a new product, or that the item you wanted was back in stock – even though you didn’t ask for the reminder?  Or build a relationship with a company that slams your inbox with a newsletter, email, coupon for every item in their inventory, every podcast, or every blog post?

Let’s see how fast you find that unsubscribe button!

The objective of relationship marketing is to create a long-term relationship filled with loyalty and retention.  You want to be the brand name that a consumer loves, believes in, and most importantly – recommends!  Relationship marketing is more of a courtship than transactional marketing.  Things are taken slower, there is more nurturing, caring, and developing before making an offer.  You allow the time for the customer and company to get to know each other.

Understand, you can only build a relationship if the customer is willing to provide the information.  Are they willing to opt-in, answer a few segmentation questions, or provide demographic information in the form of a profile or survey?  This information allows a company to gather details in order to mold a campaign around individuals so that their needs are met and voices are heard.

Why do we care about relationship marketing?  One word – competition.  If your customers have a loyalty to you, they are less likely to price shop when they are ready to buy.  They are less sensitive to price increases if one needs to happen, and more accepting to changes to your blog, website, or business such as appearance, adding or removing features, new ventures, and so on.  They are committed to you – they are not interested in “seeing other people”.

So you may be asking, “Is that it?  Gather a couple of details, show that I care, and I have a customer for life?”  No, if it was that easy – everyone would be doing it and we would all be rich.  There are many elements to relationship marketing beyond customising to the individual customer.

One element to consider is customer service.  You can have the best selection, the most outstanding information, the most informative podcast – but if you have the worst customer service, no amount of relationship marketing will help you.

Customers care about how they are treated, just as much as they care about how well you know them.  Make sure they feel as if their opinions matter, their complaints (and compliments) are validated, and their suggestions are taken into consideration.  If they feel as if it is their company too, they are more likely to protect it.

Lastly take a look at your social media.  Is every post you make about a product, blog, podcast, or something directly associate with your company?  You are getting to know them, how are they supposed to get to know you?  Use social media as a means to help make your relationship stronger with your customers.  Post items they can share, content that makes them think, and give them opportunities to see the company as place of people rather than a vacuum sucking up their money.

Be true to you, be authentic and have fun, it is worth it.