- What is relational marketing?
- 4 of the latest trends in relationship marketing.
- How to maintain and improve customer relationships.
What’s your top priority for B2B marketing over the next five years? If you’re like most other companies, then your primary focus is on relationship marketing.
For example, improving customer experience by one point can boost revenue by $1 billion.
But even if you’re an SMB, you can still see a generous improvement in your bottom line. That’s because 86% of buyers are willing to spend more for a great customer experience.
It all starts with building strong relationships with your customer base. Let’s review what relationship marketing is and how you can use it for your B2B.
What is Relationship Marketing?
Relationship marketing consists of strategies used by companies to build long-term relationships with customers. Rather than focusing on one-time sales, you’re seeking to create a loyal customer base.
But what is the importance of relationship marketing?
Well, if you’re a SaaS company that relies on customer retention, then this is essential. If you’re not building long-term relationships, then you’ll continue to have high churn rates, which means more time and money invested in acquisition.
The same holds true for any type of B2B company. Retaining customers is vital to consistently grow and expand your operations.
What’s the Difference Between Traditional and Relationship Marketing?
Think back in time to the 1990s. How did businesses treat their customers? Consider an experience you had with a major brand.
Did they go over and beyond to make each experience feel personalized? Or did salespeople feel like…well, salespeople? It was to the point where you’d try to avoid store clerks to shop peacefully.
The top priority of businesses back then was to generate sales as quickly as possible. This made interactions with companies feel impersonal. Remember customers complaining about feeling like just another number (especially when it came to corporations)?
Now, think of mom-and-pop shops as the opposite. They focused more on personalized customer experiences. These companies don’t have significant budgets like corporations, so they focus on adding a personal touch. It’s one of the reasons they went out of their way to remember your name and favorite products/services.
Here’s a breakdown of the differences between traditional and relationship marketing:
What Are the Characteristics of Relationship Marketing?
So what makes a successful relationship marketing strategy? Sure, having the best tactics is key. But you need to create a foundation by implementing the essential characteristics of relationship marketing.
Let’s take a look at what every customer relationship building strategy should consist of:
- Showing genuine concern for your customers
- Building trust and commitment
- Providing excellent customer service
- Prioritizing customer retention (not acquisition)
- Focusing on how a product/service benefits the customer
- Maintaining ongoing communication with customers
- Offering multiple ways customers can get in touch for support
- Rewarding customer loyalty with gifts, discounts, etc.
The ongoing theme here is an entire focus on the needs of your customers. The only way to do this is by regularly communicating with and listening to your clients.
What Are the Benefits of Relationship Marketing?
Imagine being able to retain 60% of the leads you convert into customers. These individuals stick with your business for many years and even refer others to you.
So not only are you generating consistent income from a loyal customer base, but you’re also driving free traffic and conversions to your company.
Simply put, it’s a B2B marketers dream. This is just one of the ways relationship marketing can benefit your business.
Here’s a quick look at some of the benefits of customer relationship marketing:
- It can enhance your customer experience
- You can open two-way communication for valuable customer feedback
- It becomes easier to generate more referrals to qualified leads
- You’ll better understand the needs of your customers
- It’ll help you to come up with new business (and product/service) ideas
- It makes your business stand out from competitors
- You’ll be able to foster loyalty
- You can ultimately boost your revenue via upselling and cross-selling
What Are the Latest Trends in Building Customer Relationships?
It’s no longer enough to learn customers’ names and buying patterns though. With the digital age came a new wave of expectations from customers.
Here’s a look at some of the leading customer relationship building trends that stem from these expectations.
Trend #1. Social Media is a Must-Have
You don’t have to worry about becoming an influencer on social media platforms,but you should at least have a presence there. This way, your customers can reach out to you if they have questions or concerns.
Roughly 63% of customers expect brands to offer support through social media channels. And another 35% prefer social media over other channels.
Trend #2. Self-Service AI Tools Are Also a Must
Today’s customers — both B2B and B2C — want to engage with businesses conveniently. If this means reaching out in the middle of the night, over a holiday, or on the weekend, then so be it.
However, not all B2B companies offer 24-7 access to customer service. This is where self-service AI tools come in. Not only does this help prospects get product information — it also allows your current customers to get assistance anytime.
Chatbots are now becoming an integral part of customer relationship management.
Trend #3. Marketers Address Issues with Identifying (Millions of) Customers
Personalization is the name of the game, but to implement this in your relationship marketing, you need a way to identify customers. This can be challenging when you have hundreds of thousands or even millions of customers.
B2B marketers are struggling to create personal customer interactions because they lack the tools to do so. This is why we have a rise in the use of AI technology.
There are now databases equipped with AI that can provide a complete and unified view of customers using all the data you’re collecting.
Trend #4. Integrating Departments Becomes Normal
Roughly 80% of customers expect consistent interactions with businesses (no matter the department they engage with).
But how can you deliver a consistent customer experience if your sales, marketing, and support teams are siloed?
This is why businesses are integrating these departments. This way, the data is shared seamlessly and customer interactions are harmonious.
What is the COVID-19 Impact On Relationship Marketing?
The pandemic caused businesses to layoff workers, shut down locations, and prioritize safety over sales. It’s also created uncertainty in the consumer market. People are changing how they shop and spend because their priorities are changing.
So it’s up to businesses to refocus their attention away from sales to customer-centricity. It’s the brands with the most loyal customers that’ll succeed in the end. And to get here, you need to have a spectacular relationship marketing strategy.
This may mean doing things like:
- Letting go of growth goals (for now)
- Improving operational excellence while maintaining customer-centricity
- Using data to enhance communication, customer service, and the overall customer experience
Harvard Business Review has excellent tips for making it through the pandemic with your customer relationships intact:
- Humanize your brand (offer payment deferments, switch to remote vs. laying people off)
- Educate your audience about operational changes (availability, hours, ordering options)
- Assure customers your values are still the same (the reason they shop with you over others)
- Revolutionize how you operate (you’re the same, but being innovative in how you service them through the pandemic)
- Tackle potential future disruptions (plan to adapt to whatever restrictions that may arise due to future outbreaks)
How Do You Maintain Good Relationships with Customers?
Before you can become a customer-centric B2B company, you need to instill the concept into your company’s culture. This means training your sales, marketing, and support teams on relationship building.
And you have to break down the barriers between departments, so there’s no disconnect or inconsistency with customer interactions.
Once you have company-wide buy-in, it’s time to refocus all of your efforts on creating that incredible customer experience. The first step is to listen to your customers.
There are various ways you can do this, such as by:
- Reading through forums
- Reading the comments on blog posts related to your industry
- Asking customers for feedback via a survey
- Reading posts on social media (focus on comments about your brand and competitors)
Use this time to research what your customers like, dislike, and have problems with. Then use that information to restructure your business. Maybe you’ll need to add a few features to your product or build a chatbot to accommodate customer demands.
But most importantly, you need to be available and present in your customers’ lives. This means maintaining ongoing communications via email, SMS, or social media. Keep in mind — two-way communication is crucial to establishing a human relationship with customers.
Tips for Improving Customer Relationships in Marketing
Aside from customer service, marketing (especially your content and messaging) is one of the first points of contact with a prospective customer, so it’s critical to use marketing methods and strategies that cater to your new and current accounts. For example, you can create content campaigns that focus on the needs of both groups.
Segmented marketing campaigns is essential for nurturing leads into customers and customers into loyal fans.
But that’s just the start of it. Let’s take a look at relationship marketing examples you can use today:
- Offer omnichannel support (SMS, social media, email, fax, phone) so customers can choose how they reach out
- Provide real-time assistance with co-browsing and video chat (imagine answering questions as a customer views a product page)
- Focus on mobile users (B2B customers use their mobile devices just as much as the next person)
- Use automated AI chatbots for support
- Segment your campaigns based on customers’ behaviors, interests, and professional requirements
- Ask customers for feedback to understand what you’re doing right (and wrong)
What Elements Drive Brand Loyalty for Customers?
Why is it that some customers become loyal, and others don’t? While you can’t win them all, you can boost the odds of turning customers into brand advocates.
Here are some of the reasons customers become loyal to brands:
- Unforgettable customer service (in a good way)
- Personalized customer journey
- Experienced employees
- Availability on different channels (and quick responses)
- Corporate responsibility (having similar values to your audience)
What Types of Companies Can Implement Relationship Marketing?
There’s no business that can’t benefit from implementing relationship marketing. Even if you’re not using a subscription-based model, having loyal customers can still help your bottom line.
This holds true whether you’re selling a product or service. Building customer relationships can help create recurring income (may not be monthly, but it can boost customer lifetime value).
Plus, these loyal customers will happily refer others to your business.
How Does Sendoso Incorporate into a Relationship Marketing Plan?
Adopting omnichannel marketing, personalized email campaigns, and various other strategies is great for relationship marketing. But one golden egg you don’t want to sleep on is corporate gifting.
With a sending platform, you can create memorable experiences with customers. This can help keep your business top-of-mind when they need your product or service in the future (or know someone who does).
Here’s a look at how you can use Sendoso in your relationship marketing plan:
- Enhance the onboarding experience with a welcome kit (be sure to include educational materials to help them get onboard faster)
- Encourage customers to renew their subscriptions (send a basket of quality wine right before their renewal date)
- Appease disgruntled customers (try a $100 eGift card and ask for feedback to prevent future problems)
At Sendoso, we’re all about building authentic customer relationships. We aim to please our clients by helping them to win-over their own customer base.
This is possible using our sending platform, which will track the progress of your corporate gifting campaigns. Our experts will also handle all of the heavy lifting, including selecting your gift of choice (from our warehouse), wrapping it in custom branded boxing, and shipping it off.
We’ll even include a handwritten note to add a personal touch.
If you’d like to learn how Sendoso can help improve your customer relationships, then schedule a demo today!