Getting Realistic about Relationship Marketing

Good customer relationships are the cornerstone of long-term corporate success. The quest to build relationships often proves elusive and expensive because what people want is rarely delivered by the companies that serve them. Instead of investing resources in studying behavior and listening to customer feedback, many management teams waste time and effort watching what other companies are doing and listening to people with little or no management experience.

If you want your company to grow, it’s time to get realistic about relationship marketing and use the lessons learned to improve the quality of the customer experience. This means that the information available about best practices, customer expectations, and case studies has to be viewed through your company’s customer behavior lens. Your relationship with your customers is unique. Their expectations when dealing with your business is different than those when dealing with your competitors. Relationships are strong when expectations are managed well.

Information shared about relationship building is always tainted by the knowledge and experience of the people sharing it. For example:

  • Direct marketing advocates deny the need for a social strategy because they believe they are already connected with customers.
  • ECommerce advocates extol their low cost sales solutions that allow virtual companies to generate revenue with minimal staffing.
  • Brick-and-mortar advocates share their face-to-face customer connections as the ultimate relationship opportunity.
  • Social media advocates promise that the channel reduces the need for all other marketing because conversations drive people to companies.

Successful relationship management needs a balanced approach that includes multiple channels, tools, and platforms. There isn’t a global best anything. Relationships are established one communication at a time. The communication may be a marketing message, transaction, service call, or any other connection between individual and company. The sum of the communications determines the quality of the relationship. Unfortunately, the social media movement has led many companies to replace improving customer relationships with a quest for global dominance through viral marketing. It’s time to stop dreaming and get realistic about relationship marketing.

Connecting with customers today is easier and less expensive than ever before. It is a shame to waste opportunities for real one-to-one relationships when technology to do so is readily available. To improve your customer relationships:

  • Know what your customers expect from your company. Ask people to share what they like best and least about how you do business and then review behavior to insure that what they say matches what they do.
  • Streamline everything to make experiences easy and efficient. Most people prefer easy to exceptional. This is great for companies because easy tends to be very cost effective.
  • Personalize the experience. The combination of technology and information simplifies the process of delivering a personal experience. People need to feel valued. Personal connections show that you value your customers.
  • Deliver on the promise and don’t promise what you can’t deliver. It is better to promise less and deliver because people remember failings more successes. If you clearly define the promises and deliver every time, people trust your business.
  • Take good care of your employees. The people who represent your company need to believe in it to consistently provide high quality customer care. If you are seeking advocates for your business, start with the people you employee. Their feelings are highly contagious.

For information on how you can improve your customer relationships, email Debra at

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