Nothing lasts forever; or does it?

You’ve spent a lot of money promoting your product (or service), sales are booming, and everybody is happy. You congratulate your marketing team on a job well done, and pat yourself on the back for having finally captured your well-deserved market share. You’re at the top of the world and feel invincible.

So the question is: How long will this last? Sales have a tricky way of “trending,” with the usual trend being up a steep hill, then flattening out, and ultimately declining.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. And the alternative isn’t consistently huge budgets for promotions. Into the ring comes your most powerful marketing strategy of all: Relations Marketing, or RM for short. Your RM program is a collection of planned (and often spontaneous) tactics you deploy to build and strengthen relationships with the people you just sold your product to during the intense promotional campaign.

It’s only common sense, actually. Your customer already bought your product, so that critical milestone has been concluded successfully. It is now up to you whether that remains a one-time sale, or whether you can continue selling that same customer more of the same product (repeat business), upgrade his/ her purchase (up-selling) or sell some of your other product lines (cross-selling).

How long you will benefit from this business relationship depends on how well you nourish it through continuously offering value for money, quality in post-sale service, and building a trusting bond with that customer. The longer and more focused you practice RM, the stronger your relationships with existing customers will be. Ultimately, you will have developed a core group of passionate customers that become your most important “ambassadors,” at no significant additional cost. You are now not only selling more to your happy customers, but they are bringing their friends, peers, and families on board as well. Word of Mouth marketing becomes your new best friend!

To become a pro in RM, you’ve got to know everything there is to know about your customers, including the smallest details. Your most important tool to accomplish that is a solid Customer Relations Management (CRM) solution.

This is where you store all the details for each customer such as contact information, particular needs and preferences, whether he/she prefers to be contacted by phone, fax, or email, specific areas of interest, and even a date of birth so you can send him/her a handwritten birthday card. Your linked-in financial system will provide valuable information, such as frequency of buying, the typical budget per purchase, which other customers came as a result of his/her referral, seasonal trends, and a ton of other information that you can use to sell intelligently. You then take all this valuable data and design smart (direct) marketing campaigns for very specific target groups that have a lot in common and will respond to what you’re offering them.

As with anything else in business, you need to have all the systems and processes in place before you can roll up your sleeves and get to work. Your sales team, for example needs to be split into different teams; the “hunters” and the “farmers.” While the former are more aggressive individuals who get a kick out of pursuing new customers, the latter are blessed with skills that build and strengthen relationships with current customers, your Relations Marketers. (But there will be more about that in a future article this month.)

So while the first team brings in the new customers, the second team makes sure they stay on board and keep buying more and more. Also, your internal business process must be up to par and deliver on the promises you’re making to your customers; quality, focused, and individualized service. Hence, if you’re building your long-term business model on mutual relationships, you can’t have a “one process/policy fits all.” Accordingly, if accounting shows that customer Y usually buys during the first week of the month (after he/she cashed the pay-check) you will wait with that promotional email until the 3rd, and not send if off on the 20th when that customer is near-broke and can’t make a purchase. Thanks to endless affordable technological solutions, this has all become possible today.

Successful RM has a lot of pleasant side-effects; positive word of mouth, high customer loyalty, increased profits, and strong brand equity are a few. In essence, your business has probably been practicing RM for ages. It’s now only a matter of putting pen to paper to institutionalize the process, to ensure its continuity as time goes by and people within your organization change – but the power of information stays.

About the Author

Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.

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