Relationship marketing is best utilized when the first word “relationship” is the focus over the second word: “marketing”.
This is the biggest mistake most business people make when attempting to leverage this all important relationship tool. Notice I said “relationship tool” not “marketing tool”.
It is mostly small business owners and sales and marketing professionals that are interested in how to implement relationship marketing. They are looking for products and services that help them connect with their customers and prospects. Almost always, they want to know how they can best use Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) to create more sales. This is an example of focusing on the word “marketing” before they focus on the word “relationship”.
Because of this, there is a need to re-program their mindset prior to giving suggestions on relationship marketing that actually works.
The name of the paradigm has never been “Marketing Relationship”. That would imply that you are marketing a relationship and that would prove to be offensive to most.
The first rule to keeping your focus on “relationships first” is to become ‘genuine’ in your efforts to connect with people. Make up your mind that you are simply finding, creating and nurturing relationships with other heart beating human beings. You have heard the phrase: “people don’t care what you offer or how much you know until they know how much you care”.
Show people that you care. Reach out for the sake of reaching out. I believe that the best thing to master first in your relationship marketing efforts is the follow-up process. You want your customers to know and feel that you genuinely care for them. Not for their money, not for their repeat purchase, not for their satisfactory survey, but for them as individuals.
When it is time to say “Thank you”. Say thank you. Nothing else. Capture their birthday and send a genuine birthday card without asking for anything. I call this “giving for the sake of giving”. Here is the most controversial thought of all. Don’t ask for the referral. Deserve it.
I have had many debates, particularly with real-estate agents, about this one. They have been taught for decades to always ask for referrals. I’m not going to say that it doesn’t work because it does. I am going to say there is a tactic that works much better. Genuinely follow-up and stay in touch with your customers. Show them that you care and you are not, directly, looking for anything from them. Do this consistently and you will generate 3 times the referrals than you will by asking for them.
I learned this the hard way. Back in 2001, I started a customer follow-up company called Treat em Right Solutions. We offered greeting card and postcard follow-up campaigns for basically anyone who was in sales.
As an example, we would set up a five-touch card campaign for a car salesperson that included a thank you card, a birthday card, a holiday card and 2 promotional postcards that would run over a 12 month period of time. Every greeting card had a promotional coupon and “tell a friend” card in it. We even had survey cards included upon request from our client.
It seemed like a great idea. The only problem is it only provided marginal success for our clients. What we found, over time, was the recipient of these cards would typically throw the inserts away. They would usually keep the greeting card. Their holiday cards would get hung on the front door with all the other holiday cards. Their birthday cards would be held onto because it would be one of very few cards they received on their birthday. In other words, it wasn’t the offers they cared about. It was the sentiment of being remembered.
That company evolved into the service known as SendOutCards. We dropped the promotional offerings and offered an interactive service website that allowed the user to build any greeting card they wanted. We have trained our users to give for the sake of giving; to not ask for the referral; to never forget a birthday; to celebrate people and show them they are cared for. The results over the years have been staggering.
I would like to report that we got it right the second time around but we over-corrected. We went so far as to tell our customers to never send out promotional offerings; only heartfelt salutations. Though this was more effective than always having a promotional offering, we learned there was yet a more effective way.
There seems to be an 80/20 rule in relationship marketing follow-up. 80 percent of all touches should be heartfelt only (Relationship) while 20 percent may contain information or offerings from your company (marketing). We still maintain that asking for the referral is not necessary.
We have also learned the greeting card is a sacred relationship building tool. There should only be giving in a greeting card. Save the promotional or “marketing” stuff for postcards. They are known and accepted as a medium for promotion. If you keep the 80/20 rule, your customers will respect you and even appreciate that you are keeping them informed.
You want your promotional offers to be an extension of your caring attitude toward your customer. Provide your offering as a benefit to them and even recommend other products or services that you may not even offer. You want your customer to always feel you have their best interest at heart.
As we approach the holiday season, I encourage you to begin a true ‘Relationship Marketing ‘effort. Begin by sending a heartfelt holiday card to your valued customers, prospects, family and friends. It could be the first touch of a multiple touch campaign you send them over the course of the next year. Keep the 80/20 rule and show the people in your business and personal worlds that you care.
For information on services to help you with this effort, click here.