The first and (perhaps) only thing you need to know about relationship marketing


Business leaders should not be fooled to believing that marketing technology can do things it cannot just because the name implies it.

I have a relationship with a person or entity when we know each other, share something in common, and communicate regularly or from time to time. It is that simple. Marketers and technologist for large businesses twist simple realities into complex strategies. Doing so, they create results directly opposite from what they promised.

Relationship Marketing is like a bomb named Peacemaker. Which of these common tactics actually builds real relationships between businesses and their customers?

  • Frequent shopper discounts (bribes)?
  • Personalized mailings?
  • Follow up surveys?
  • Preferred customer credit cards?
  • Live-chat help desks?
  • Birthday card mailings?

The majority of so-called relationship marketing programs are repeat customer incentives, not that there is anything wrong with that.  But, many big companies, egged on by their technology vendors, pretend that they can mimic the personal relationships that small businesses have with their customers.

With social media via the internet and telephony, companies can build and keep up real relationships with large groups of customers.  They can do it cost effectively, if they can tell the difference between cost-effective and cheap.  To do it right, never forget the true definition of a relationship. Also remember, there are no fast tracks or short cuts to building lasting relationships, in life or in business.

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Tom Groenfeldt July 4, 2009, 11:04 am

John may be correct about relationships, but companies are not about to give up on relationship marketing, so it might be useful to look at ways to get it right, or at least less offensive. One was is to invite customers or members to step outside the commercial relationship (not too far outside, of course). I did a quick look at Nike, because I thought they should be undertaking some effort to build relationships among sportsmen, and women. I didn’t find any running forums or clubs — maybe they feared giving up control — but they have built Livestrong around Lance Armstrong and fighting cancer. You can send in messages which, once accepted, will be spray painted on the Tour de France route with a Chalkbot, sort of like a smart highway line painting machine. I just hope they don’t let Jenny Holzer anywhere near the machine.
There must be other decent relationship efforts – I would think outdoors and sports, cults like Porsche, Corvette or Harley…any suggestions of where to look at companies that do it well and some that fail miserably?