Relationship Marketing

Relationship Marketing

Explore the Strategy of Relationship Marketing

One of the most expensive and difficult tasks facing any business is acquiring new customers. Earning a potential customer's attention, making a convincing pitch, and then facilitating the accompanying sale can leads to huge expenses when every step is considered. According to business authors Emmett C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy, acquiring a new customer can cost five times as much as retaining an existing customer.

This presents a serious dilemma for many companies. With finite resources, is it better to attract new customers or try to hold onto the ones they already have? According to those same authors, a 2% increase in customer retention can decrease costs by as much as 10%. No company can survive and grow if they are not constantly adding to their customer base.

Many companies separate the two functions and dedicate different areas of their marketing department to work on one or the other. New customers are considered transactional because the goal is to get them to buy, while existing customers require different strategies.

To retain current customers, businsses engage in relationship marketing strategies to continually attract repeat business. While both types of customer must be acknowledged and respected, the goal, ultimately, is to turn every new customer into a returning customer.

What is Relationship Marketing?

Relationship marketing is about forming long-term relationships with customers. Rather than trying to encourage a one-time sale, relationship marketing tries to foster customer loyalty by providing exemplary products and services. This is different than most normal advertising practices that focus on a single transaction; watch ad A and buy product B. Relationship marketing, by contrast, is usually not linked to a single product or offer. It involves a company refining the way they do business in order to maximize the value of that relationship for the customer.

Relationship marketing mainly involves the improvement of internal operations. Many customers leave a company not because they didn't like the product, but because they were frustrated with the customer service. If a business streamlines its internal operations to satisfy all service needs of their customers, customers will be happier even in the face of product problems.

Technology also plays an important role in relationship marketing. The Internet has made it easier for companies to track, store, analyze and then utilize vast amounts of information about customers. Customers are offered personalized ads, special deals, and expedited service as a token of appreciation for their loyalty.

Social media sites allow business to engage their customers in an informal and ongoing way. In the past, it would have been impossible to keep useful records about every single client, but technology makes it easy for companies to automate their marketing efforts.

Branding is the final component of relationship marketing. A company can form a long-term relationship with a client if that client feels like the brand they purchase reflects who they are or who they want to be. Customers are less inclined to switch to a different brand if they think that switch makes a statement about their identity.

Who Employs Relationship Marketing?

Many types of companies have something to gain from developing long-term relationships with their customers. Smaller businesses often serve a steady stream of regulars, and make little effort to draw in new customers. Imagine a small restaurant that sees a steady stream of business from the morning commute.Their daily presence is a large part of the business that restaurant does every day.

Larger companies typically invest the most in carrying out sophisticated relationship marketing campaigns. In some major companies, relationship marketing is a strategy that affects every department with a client facing purpose (sales, customer service, shipping etc). Industry leaders constantly face competition from new companies who claim to provide similar goods with a higher-quality level of service. Holding onto their existing customers is the only way they can maintain their position at the top of their industry. This is true for businesses in all industries, from cell phones to baby food.

How is a Relationship Marketing Plan Developed and Implemented?

Relationship marketing can involve revising major aspects of the way a company conducts business. This can be expensive, time consuming, and have serious consequences for both customers and employees. The only way to carry out a relationship marketing strategy in a thoughtful and effective way is to follow a comprehensive marketing plan.

Companies must first look at demographic and historical data about their customers to understand who they are, what they buy, and how to provide for them over the long term. The company must understand why a consumers returns for repeate business. There is the tendency to think that customers return because the company has served them well, but maybe they return to a store because it is the closest to their house, or the only one in the area that stocks the product they want to buy. Analyzing the nature of customer loyalty is the best method develop a working relationship marketing plan.

With a wealth of customer data in place, the company can begin to segment these customers and develop unique marketing strategies for each segment. A customer who appreciates a product's value has different qualities than one who has had a helpful customer service experience. These customers are loyal for different reasons, and require tailored relationship marketing strategies.

Once the marketing strategy has been implemented, it requires constant evaluation to determine its success. There are a number of hard metrics that companies can use to measure whether they are holding onto their customers. The most obvious is repeat sales, but they can also look at whether customers are spending more, opening up email newsletters, referring the company to friends, or following them on social networks. All of these are indicators of various types of customer loyalty.


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