Relationship marketing is a strategy that is aimed at cultivating, maintaining, and growing strong business relationships between buyers and sellers. The idea is that instead of using an approach that attracts the buyer for a one-time sale, the company focuses efforts on earning the business of that buyer for an extended period of time, resulting in a steady flow of sales from the same client. While the term itself was only coined in the second half of the 20th century, the general concept of relationship marketing has been around for centuries.
One of the essentials of effective relationship marketing is to understand the needs and general expectations of the client. To this end, the marketing effort will involve learning all that is possible about the customer. Along with general data that would apply to a specific customer type, relationship marketing involves looking beyond the obvious and identifying specifics about the goals, aims, and circumstances that apply to the specific customer. This makes it possible to identify specific ways that the business can aid the customer in fulfilling those needs, and thus begin the process of establishing rapport.
After the initial rapport is established and the first sale is complete, the next steps in relationship marketing involve deepening the connection that was recently created. This can often be accomplished by introducing the new customer to additional goods and services offered by the business, as well as suggesting additional ways that products already purchased may be used in new and different ways. Maintaining a strong line of communication with the customer is also key to this process. In addition to proactively initiating communications, the successful marketer will also make it easy for the customer to communicate with the business whenever desired.
Depending on the preferences of the customer, a number of approaches can be utilized to grow the relationship. Some customers may prefer email communications, while others find that site visits or telephone calls are more to their liking. One of the easiest ways to derail a relationship marketing initiative is to insist that the customer communicate with the provider by means that are preferred by the provider rather than those that are welcomed by the client. For example, if a salesperson insists on calling a customer each week, and the client finds this to be bothersome or intrusive, sending an email each week may be more to the liking if the customer.
Relationship marketing is not just about generating additional sales. It is also about anticipating customer needs and providing solutions for those needs before the client has the chance to look for resources elsewhere. While this form of marketing can be somewhat labor intensive, many companies have come to understand that maintaining a customer relationship is ultimately less expensive than attempting to regain a lost relationship. For this reason, this more personalized approach can often accomplish what other strategies fail to deliver.