If your goal is to engage and retain customers, relationship marketing should be at the forefront of what you do as a brand. Think about the brands you love most. What about those brands draws you to them? It might be the local mom-and-pop ice cream parlor, where the staff members greet you by name when you walk through the front door. Perhaps it’s a small clothing boutique, where the owner pulls outfits she knows will look good on you and calls you to come in and check them out when you get a chance. A personal relationship is at the heart of what makes us adore some brands over others.
There are approximately 30.2 million small businesses in the United States. If you don’t stay on top of the connection you have with your current customers, you risk another business stealing them away. Relationship marketing may be one of the most important factors of your business, ranking right up there with marketing efforts and customer service.
1. Improve Customer Service
When you develop a relationship with your customers, you’ll have a better idea of what they want and what needs improving. Take the time to converse with your customers. Reward them for taking polls, throw out questions on social media and engage individual customers who take the time to contact you with praise or concern. The more information you collect, the better you can customize your service to meet your target audience’s needs.
Follow up after an order and ask if the customer is satisfied. If they are not, figure out why and go out of your way to rectify any issues. Pay attention and take notes to avoid similar issues with other customers in the future.
Monitor social media posts for complaints. When you see an unhappy customer comment, respond immediately and figure out how to fix the issue.
2. Command Loyalty
When you go above and beyond for your customers, they are going to be more loyal to you. One of the top things that creates customer loyalty is giving them discounts and coupons. Around 61 percent of consumers report using coupons frequently.
Send out regular discounts and coupons to your loyal customers. If you get in a new product, offer it to your customer base first. Make customers feel they are part of an exclusive club. Reward their loyalty to your brand, and they’re more likely to remain loyal.
3. Encourage Follow-Up Purchases
In one study, 80 percent of consumers said they bought at least three times from a company before they considered themselves loyal to the brand. Relationship marketing means building a rapport over time. You can’t touch base once with a new customer and then forget they exist.
Send out regular emails and offers, contact the customer to thank them for their interest, then ask for feedback. The more opportunities you create to engage with your customers, the more likely they are to buy from you again. While you don’t want to hound a new customer until they never want to hear your name again, you do want to stay on their radar.
4. Be More Transparent
In a survey by Sprout Social, about 53 percent of respondents said they’d be more likely to buy from a brand that was transparent on social media. However, if a brand seemed to be hiding something, 86 percent of respondents said they’d buy from the brand’s competitor instead.
When you develop a relationship with your customers, it’s easier to be transparent. Think about your relationship with your closest friends. If you make a mistake, you admit it, apologize and move forward.
At some point in your business, you’ll make a mistake or two. Perhaps you overpromise and underdeliver. Maybe you didn’t figure shipping correctly and it cost more than you thought, so you had to cancel dozens of orders. Whatever the problem is, own up to it. Have a plan in place to rectify the issue. Be honest about what caused the problem, the steps you’ve taken to make sure it doesn’t recur and how you’ll prevent similar mishaps in the future. You may still lose a few customers, but those who are genuinely loyal will forgive you a mistake and stick with you.
5. Drive Your Content
Have you ever felt stuck about what content to offer on your website? A close relationship with your customers lets you deliver a personalized experience. Survey your current customers to find out what questions they have. Your content then builds on answering those questions.
Let’s say you run a heating and cooling company, and a large percentage of your customers want to know if they should winterize their HVAC units before cold weather hits. Your content strategy then becomes an article about the benefits of winterizing, a video of a tech on a job winterizing and talking about their seasonal maintenance checklist and an infographic about winterizing your HVAC unit.
6. Get Referrals
Gaining new customers isn’t an easy task. Even the best marketing campaigns aren’t always successful. Consumers today have so many different businesses from which to choose that it’s like finding a needle in a haystack to locate your specific business. However, if you focus on building a strong relationship with your current customers, you’ll start to gain word-of-mouth referrals, which are much more valuable than pay-per-click leads.
About 90 percent of consumers are more likely to trust a brand someone they know has referred to them. Word-of-mouth referrals result in five times as many sales as paid advertising. First, focus on developing the brand relationship, then ask your customers to tell others what they love about your company.
Making a Connection
At the core of relationship marketing is connecting with your audience. Take time to get to know your customers well, and you’ll be better able to shift from traditional marketing to relationship-focused marketing. The result? Customers who don’t just like your brand, but adore it enough to share information with others.