Thanks to social media, marketing communications have become more interactive and personal, creating opportunities to engage in relationship marketing to build brand loyalty and increase customer satisfaction. Recently I saw an interview of Mari Smith, author of The New Relationship Marketing. In this interview, Smith shares practical guidance on building and nurturing relationships with your customers online.
The Rise of P2P
Marketers are familiar with B2B and B2C marketing, but Smith suggests a new type of marketing that has evolved as businesses build and nurture relationships with their customers. P2P, or person-to-person, marketing is all about people connecting with people, regardless of the industry or size of the business.
With traditional marketing, businesses focused on one-time, transactional relationships that existed for the purpose of driving that one sale. Now, businesses are building long-term, sustainable relationships with their customers.
Components of Relationship Marketing
Relationship marketing includes social media, blogging, email marketing, direct mail and offline events. The key is to create communications that come from a place of providing service and adding value. Relationship building involves asking customers how you can help them, and not having an agenda when you communicate with them.
Businesses that excel with relationship marketing take the time to listen to their customers rather than simply talking at them. They ask customers what they need and what they would like, as it relates to their business and its services and products.
Lessons from Starbucks
According to Smith, even large businesses can develop listening skills that build relationships and help them add value for their customers. An example is Starbucks’ launch of My Starbucks Idea, a place for customers to provide feedback and make suggestions to the company.
Customers talked, and Starbucks listened. Customers said they wanted free Wi-Fi, and Starbucks gave it to them. This one suggestion, which generated from regular customers instead of the company itself, has helped Starbucks grow its business and provide excellent value to its loyal customers.
Starbucks also excels at personalizing and humanizing their brand. On its social media platforms, Starbucks speaks in first person so customers can get to know the person behind the social media content.
By listening and getting personal, Starbucks has created “mutual like relationships.” Customers love Starbucks, and Starbucks loves their customers – this comes through in their social media communications.
Tips for Small Businesses
Here are a few tips from Smith, so you can start building your relationship marketing strategy right now.
- Create Customer Advocates by highlighting the fans who interact the most within your online communities. Promote them and empower them to become very involved, and they will step in and help you nurture your Facebook Page and other online communities.
- Be patient and consistent. At first, social media marketing can be hit or miss, but it takes time to find the content that best engages your community. Even if you just make one post per day, be sure it is relevant and helpful. And, always be sure to respond to any engagement on your page.
- Include a personal touch by responding to posts using customers’ first names and by dedicating a staff member (if possible) to managing relationships online. This person should be a “people person” who can listen between the lines and who is capable of displaying empathy in an online environment.
- Focus on connecting with quality people who resonate with you and on sharing quality content. If you do these things consistently, overtime, the quantity will come.
Start thinking about how you can build better relationships with your own customers and use social media to keep those relationships strong. You can follow Mari Smith on Twitter and check out her new book on her website.
Image courtesy of devinhenkel.comGoogle+