How do you get people excited about your businesses? How do you turn random visitors into regulars you know by name? The best customers are those who care about your business on a personal level, but how do you find or create customers like these? Relationship marketing.
Relationship marketing focuses on customer retention and improving satisfaction. According to Wikipedia, “As a practice, relationship marketing differs from other forms of marketing in that it recognizes the long term value of customer relationships and extends communication beyond intrusive advertising and sales promotional messages.”
Relationship marketing tactics include inbound efforts like social media, search engine optimization, creating and distributing strategic content, and more. These efforts also involve the use of various marketing tools and insights like email marketing service providers (MailChimp), savvy point of sale systems (Square), website creation tools (SquareSpace), website analytics (Google Analytics), and digital loyalty programs like Fivestars.
Sound intimidating? Fear not. Follow these five relationship marketing must-dos with the appropriate tools, and you’ll be developing meaningful customer relationships in no time.
1. Be honest and put yourself out there
This is the most abstract point, but equally important: people build trust with those who are authentic, reliable, and honest – The same goes for your business. It’s hard to build a relationship with a company you don’t know well, or trust. You can, however, connect with a business who’s openly passionate, truthful, and hardworking.
According to Cohn & Wolfe, a 2014 study on authentic brands revealed the most important qualities consumers demand of brands:
- Communicates honestly about products and services (91%)
- Doesn’t let customers down (91%)
- Communicates honestly about environmental impact (87%)
- Acts with integrity (87%)
- Clear about – and true – to its beliefs (83%).
With that in mind, here are a few tips:
- Whether it’s on social, in an email newsletter, a press release, a blog post, your company’s “about us” page, or in person, openly and consistently tell people what you care about as a business and why?
- Use a personable tone in your messages – talk to your customers like you would your friends and family.
- Mistakes happen, and if/when they do, own them, be honest about your struggles, how you’re working to improve them, and address negative feedback constructively. Honesty inspires relationships.
2. Get feedback, gain insights, and adapt accordingly
One can never go wrong by simply listening. Relationships grow over time by giving and taking information. Here’s how to build those ties:
- Ask for feedback – Use tools, like SurveyMonkey, Facebook Polls, Google Forms, comment cards, a point of sale transaction survey, or even Yelp to gather feedback. Then, reward and thank customers for sharing their opinions. Want more in-depth tips? Check out our post: 5 Key Steps for Gaining Valuable Customer Feedback
- Gather insights – Use a digital customer loyalty program, email marketing, and website analytics to gather information about your customers’ visit behavior, content consumption, and interactions with your website. These tools also give you the ability to gradually gather more information such as name, demographics, etc.
- Be available and responsive – Provide multiple channels for your customers to reach out, whether it’s on social, over the phone or email.
- Implement feedback – You’ve asked for feedback, now act upon it. Customers know they’re being heard when they witness change.
3. Segment your communication
Communication is key when it comes to cultivating relationships. This also means communicating the right message, to the right customer, at the right time. After all, according to Janrain, three-fourths (74%) of online consumers get frustrated when content appears to have nothing to do with their interests. Here’s what to do:
- Send to the right customer. Whatever your message may be, ensure you’re sending different messages based on your audience and their preferences. Track customer preferences on your customer loyalty, or point of sale system. Email marketing service providers like MailChimp also allow you to collect information about your customers and segment your messages.
- Send your message at the right time. This is where email or text message automation systems comes in handy. If someone is new, or he/she hasn’t been back in a month or two, you’ll need to send a different message to get that person back in the door.
- Send your message through the right marketing channel. Are your customers on Instagram or Facebook? Are the responsive via email or text? Try various channels and monitor your results.
- Send the right message. This goes back to knowing your customer audience. Before you send information about chocolate ice cream to vanilla lovers, ask a few of the people in your prospective audience what they think about your message.
4. Personalize your in-store experience
70% of Americans are willing to spend 13% more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service, according to American Express. Here’s how to make sure your service is top-notch:
- Introduce yourself to customers. As a business owner, make time each week to introduce yourself to new and regular customers, and encourage your employees to do the same. This make take some getting used to, but it can help foster a better environment for communication.
- Keep track of customer information. Introduce yourself to customers, but don’t stop there – keep their names stored in your loyalty program, point of sale, or on a tablet. This allows every employee to greet customers personally.
- Ask for preferences. Document customer preferences in a marketing system or otherwise, and as you do, let customers know you’re asking for their information to provide a more personal experience. The next time they walk in the store, you’ll be able to greet them with: “Want the usual, Jeff?”
- Surprise customers with spontaneous rewards. A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology revealed that restaurant servers who gave customers mints along with a personalized interaction received a 23% increase in tips. Combine personalization with free samples, tips, or a service, just because, and you’ll see just how pleasantly surprised customers can be.
5. Create specific events to build community
Think about any relationship, and you often reflect on the time you’ve spent together. Your relationship with your customers isn’t any different. Here are a few ways to develop memorable moments with your customers:
- Get plugged into the community. Participate in, or set up shop during community or neighborhood events. Attend Chamber of Commerce events to get to know fellow business owners. Volunteering somewhere as a company? Invite customers to join you.
- Host launch parties and events. Whether you’re celebrating your business’s anniversary, introducing a new item on your menu, or participating in Small Business Saturday, throw a celebration, send an announcement to your customers, and share the experience together.
Relationship marketing, along with the right tools, will not only have an impact on your business, but the community around you. Is relationship marketing a focus for your business? Feel free to share any additional tips that work for you.