By Susan Tucker
Growing a loyal customer base is important for everything from your brand reputation, to ROI, to marketing costs, to actually taking your small business to the next level.
Relationship marketing (also known as inbound marketing) is a method to focus on building up brand loyalty. The focus of relationship marketing is on on customer retention rather than customer acquisition. It is not as much about the number of individual transactions but the larger idea of keeping who you have delighted.
Focusing on the Bigger Picture
Building relationships is a strategy that may be difficult for some small businesses. Especially when considering there are many that are very busy managing – and relying on – the day to day transactions. Traditional marketing approaches may show a fast spike in numbers, but the shift comes when an owner stops relying on that instant-gratification-revenue and starts thinking about the long-term growth. While every transaction still matters, relationship marketing focuses on taking these sales and converting the buyers into brand loyalists. Giving the customer an experience rather than a simple sale evokes an emotional response and helps create memories and engender brand loyalty.
Relationship Marketing Strategy
Relationship marketing involves more than one action, rather it requires process and strategy. Evaluate your current marketing practices to find out what you are doing well and where you need improvement. Mari Smith lists twelve best practices in establishing your marketing relationships, and here is the short version.
- Survey your customer database.
- Listen to your customers. Integrate feedback.
- Embrace social media.
- Understand analytics.
- Have rules and contingencies. Define how your brand will interact with the public.
- Generate leads (strong or weak) from all your marketing efforts.
- Know how you will manage your customer relationships.
- Train your staff.
- Learn to change and adapt, the online marketplace moves quickly.
- Don’t let machines replace people. Add personal interaction wherever possible.
- Keep your customers happy. Strive for good ratings.
- Thank your customers. Let them know you appreciate them.
About your Loyal Customers
In a world of so many choices, any customer can shop around. The big question is, do customers really want to spend all that time comparing? Creating a customer relationship has been proven to stop customers from “shopping around” by creating brand loyalty and trust. This trust is frequently influenced by word of mouth from other customers.
When customers feel they can count on your brand they will be more willing to try your new offerings and take a chance on your newest items. Since all of your previous products are items they have enjoyed, the customer will expect your new offerings will be just as enjoyable. You are also less likely to be harshly judged for a single failed attempt. The cost of customer acquisition is reduced with this regular revenue flow and your business will be more secure financially.
Developing a relationship with your customer is the first step in a far reaching strategy to create a loyal customer base. Think beyond a single sale and work to create experiences that will retain your customers for the long term.