Savvy marketers remember to consider the long-term relationships they’re aiming to build with customers for every strategy and campaign they create. Why is relationship marketing so important? Building and investing the time to create a successful relationship infrastructure with pre-existing customers is much more valuable than focusing only on reaching new users. It’s about building trust. “If people trust you, they’re going to give you their business,” says Business Relationship Advisor Tamara McCleary.
McCleary offers three tips to get your business on the long-term relationship path: be customer-centric, be genuine, and listen.
1. Be customer-centric
When companies are customer-centric, they’re focused on helping customers achieve their goals. “For companies interested in building long-term relationships, it’s no longer about getting their own needs met. It’s a focus on how you can help customers,” says McCleary.
If the focus is on helping customers meet their needs, the business will also grow. McCleary cites Tesla as an example of a brand that adheres to this customer-centric approach. “Tesla is a great example of a car company that really focuses on being customer-centric versus product-centric. Tesla thinks outside the box and considers what they can do to make the driving experience not only more fun and enjoyable, but easier. Tesla gets high marks for user experience, as well as customer service,” adds McCleary.
2. Be genuine
As businesses establish their customer-centric approaches, the marketing, sales, and customer service teams need to be genuine. Relationships are built on trust; trust builds over time. Building genuine, customer-focused relationships places businesses in a valuable and trusted advisory position. “If people trust you, they’re going to give you their business. But it has to be genuine. Over time, people see through false genuine,” warns McCleary.
Relationship marketing is a long-term investment. McCleary notes that this means that marketing is no longer business-to-business or business-to-consumer. It’s human-to-human. Human-to-human marketing is a qualitative concept that requires going beyond data and building trust to strengthen engagement and retention.
Some big brands have hit it out of the park. “I’ve seen how Visa is completely committed to genuine partnerships,” says McCleary. “When customers have an easier time paying for a product or service using their Visa card, and they have trust in using their Visa card, they choose to use their Visa card to buy another business’ products and services.”
Focusing on the customer and being genuine will only take a business part of the way to relationship marketing success. Without listening, the business will miss the mark and its customers will not feel valued; the relationship becomes a broadcast rather than an enjoyable, productive, two-way communication.
In addition to creating a more personalized marketing approach, listening to customers will keep them engaged and help reduce churn. “When a brand is committed to a customer-centric approach, they’re committed to solving a problem and making the experience easier for the customer. That’s why we talk about customer journey so much—we want the experience to be so pleasurable and easy that they keep coming back,” says McCleary. Reduction in churn is a key benefit of relationship marketing: it is less expensive over the long haul to retain current customers than it is to constantly acquire new customers who won’t stick around.
McCleary points to Apple as a great example of a company listening to its customers. “From the Genius Bar customer service model to extended warranties and in-store classes, Apple has invested in their customers’ needs and kept them at the forefront of its business model,” she says.
Relationship marketing and the long game
Companies can build successful, long-term relationships by being customer-centric, authentic, and effective listeners. Over time, long-term relationships will help businesses and their customers flourish.