BusinessDictionary.com defines “relationship marketing” as: “Marketing activities that are aimed at developing and managing trusting and long-term relationships with customers.”

Relationship marketing should not be confused with transactional marketing. It’s not about selling or promotion. It’s about building customer loyalty by understanding and responding to their needs. And, it’s about showing them that you value their business and trust.

Relationship marketing involves finding ways to make two-way communications between you and your customers easy and beneficial. It requires tracking customer activities and providing information, offers and incentives that are tailored to them.

With more and more marketing tools and techniques at the disposal of business owners, relationship marketing is taking on a greater role as they look for ways to distinguish themselves and create memorable and meaningful customer experiences.

Loyalty programs, referral incentives, even seasonal discounts to current customers all go a long way toward building a relationship that stretches beyond the transaction. Offering rewards, helpful tips and specials enables constructive one-to-one relationships that help you create a great experience for your clients and lay the foundation of long-term brand loyalty.

Not Sure Where to Begin?

How about a good old-fashioned thank you card? Data shows that cards received in the mail get a 100% open rate. Try to accomplish that with your Constant Contact account. People also tend to hold onto cards they receive. It demonstrates warmth that is nearly impossible to convey in “cold” media, like e-mails and Internet marketing. Showing your appreciation is a great way to demonstrate your values while indirectly promoting your business. Services like SendOutCards make is too easy and affordable to ignore.

Looking for a way to reward and promote at the same time? How about branded merchandise? Send your most loyal clients a mug or branded gift card as a sign of your appreciation for their continued confidence. These items also work well if the relationship is just beginning.

Staying consistently active in social media plays a huge role in relationship marketing. You want to welcome new followers, share meaningful and helpful content and reply, by name, to those who take the time to comment. Engage them and build a dialog that creates a sense of community and helps you keep your finger on the pulse of your market.

Build your customer profiles and understand what their shopping habits and emotional buttons are. Do they have families? Maybe there’s something you can offer them that they can all appreciate. It doesn’t have to be related to your business, but that would certainly be a bonus. A restaurant gift card works extremely well by connecting with them outside of the business setting. It’s a great way to make a lasting impression.

Granted, you can’t be giving away $25.00 gift cards to every client or prospect. That’s why it helps to have multiple options at different costs. A thank you card and personal note only costs a couple of bucks. Social media costs little more than your time and attention. Aren’t your clients and prospects worth that?

Don’t Be a Stranger.

Get to know your customers on a more personal level and understand what’s behind their buying decisions. Make them feel special and important. Engage them while listening between the lines about their needs and concerns. You’re not just providing a product or service; you’re providing a unique and positive experience that will distinguish you from your competitors and lead to more referrals.

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