Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Relationship Marketing

The key goal of marketing is to develop deep, enduring relationships with all people or organisations that could directly or indirectly affect the success of the firm's marketing activities.

Thus relationship marketing paves the way for attaining this goal.
Relationship marketing is the process of attracting, maintaining, and enhancing relationships with key people.

In good times and bad, savvy business people have but one focus --- the customer. They know it's much more cost-effective to sell more services to an existing client than to fund new customer acquisition. Their client list is their most valuable asset, but more than that, they develop long-lasting relationships by keeping in touch -- in good times and bad.

Relationship marketing delivers many benefits to a firm, big or small. Slowly but surely, as you build your client and prospect list, you'll be able to reduce marketing expenses, build referrals, and grow your business in step with your clients' needs.

Your marketing dollars will go further if you use it to build, nurture, and develop your customer relationships. This isn't as difficult as you think. Building these relationships just means treating your customers and clients as if they truly are your strategic partners and showing them that you truly care about them. It's important to try to satisfy them with the right products and services, supported by the right promotion and making it available at the right time and location. Customers can easily detect indifference and insincerity and they simply will not tolerate it. Long-term client and customer loyalty is a long-term challenge that you must strive for every day and with every transaction no matter how big or small.

While a growing business needs to constantly capture new customers, the focus and priority should be on pleasing your existing customer base. Companies that fail to nurture and retain their customer base ultimately fail. You will also spend twice as much to get new clients as you will in maintaining your existing customer base.You will also be limited in your ability to attract new clients if you can't hold onto and satisfy your existing customers and clients.

The bottom line is that one of the key components in marketing and business growth is to spend the majority of your time and effort nurturing customer relationships, so that you get business from existing clients and customers. This is a strategy that will move you forward in increasing your sales without increasing your budget.

  1. Change your Perspective from "Here's what I do" to "What do you need?"

    The cornerstone of successful relationships is to discover precisely what your clients need and want.
    When you meet with them, you listen to their problems and recommend solutions. When you contact them after a meeting, you suggest resources for helping them address the issues you discussed. The solutions and resources you recommend may include your products and services, of course, but you don't stop there. You also offer answers that don't involve hiring you.

    The impact of this kind of generosity on your prospective clients can be dramatic. Instead of considering your calls or e-mails an interruption, they will welcome hearing from you. They will no longer count you as a salesperson or vendor, but rather as a valuable resource and important person to know.

    This requires a shift in your attitude, to being of service instead of selling a service.

  2. Recognize your Vulnerability

    In the midst of a project, you might be in touch with your client several times a week. But it's the time between projects that is crucial to relationship-building. Once the work is done, you drop out of that enviable top-of-mind awareness position. Over time, your client isn't as likely to think of you as their first port of call for a solution to their problem. This is when you're most vulnerable to replacement by a competitor.

    Fortunately, an affordable solution can help you retain those clients you worked so hard to acquire.

  3. Keep in touch

    It's such a simple concept, but keeping in touch often sinks to the bottom of the 'to do' list. The single easiest way to keep in touch is to publish an email newsletter. Ask clients to subscribe and insert a subscription box on your site to capture email addresses of prospects who like the look of what you're doing.

    The secret to a good newsletter is to avoid blatant self-promotion, and instead offer valuable information to your subscribers. With their permission, you have the opportunity to drop into their email boxes every month with news, tips, case-studies, FAQs, and other relevant info that subtly promotes your services, reinforces your brand, educates your clients, and builds trust.

  4. Position Yourself as an Expert

    Words matter. Prospective clients are looking for more an elegant portfolio of sites you've built. Your job is to tell them how you can meet their needs. Your Website is the perfect place to start, but the focus must be on the client, not on you.

    Include white papers, special reports, case-studies, and links to other resources that will educate your clients on the best solution to their needs. Be careful to avoid jargon, overly technical concepts and acronyms. If you're publishing an email newsletter, use it to introduce this new content and bring subscribers back to your site.

    When you are perceived as an expert, you become attractive to prospects who use the Web to research. They see you as someone who has answers to their questions, and who can help solve their problems.

  5. Grow to Meet Client Needs

    Websites are hardly stand-alone entities that need an occasional tweak. For most businesses, they're but one tool amidst many that are used to build brand, increase revenues or minimize costs. And by offering more tools that help your clients reach their goals, you become more valuable. Build affiliations or strategic relationships with specialists whose talents will benefit your clients.
The Payoff

The benefits of a relationship marketing approach go both ways. Your client views you as a valuable consultant, rather than a cost center. Your potential for increased revenues and a long-lasting relationship is real.

There's payoff for you, too, including reduced marketing expenses measured in both time and money. If you can retain more clients for longer periods, you'll trim costly space advertising and other marketing costs.

If you ask, you'll get more referrals from your clients. Priceless word-of-mouth endorsements from satisfied customers will result in new business which magically walks in the door.

You won't even have to request client testimonials. You do include several on your Website... right? Start by recognizing when you receive a spontaneous testimonial, whether it's in an email, thank-you letter, or a conversation. Ask your client if you may use his words and name in your brochure and on your site, with a link to his business. Most often, the answer is yes. Testimonials are a critical piece of successful service marketing and worth their weight in whatever precious metal you value.

Case-studies will be a breeze and add a powerful marketing tool - perfect for your Website or for inclusion in printed marketing materials. Follow a 'situation -- problem -- solution -- benefits' flow to highlight how you solved the client's problem, stressing the benefits the client now enjoys as a result of your work. Use a handful of client case studies in industries you're targeting for new business development. Examples of "just like me" situations help prospective clients understand exactly how useful your services are.

Relationship-focused marketing isn't something that will happen overnight. It requires a change in thinking and some discipline along the way. Your email newsletter won't do much good unless you publish it regularly and the content is valued by your subscribers. But the rewards can be significant. And the truth is that no matter how wonderful you are, clients go away. Their businesses close down, change focus, or are sold.

But if your objective is to build relationships instead of Web application software, you'll be one of the designers in business for the long run.

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