Connecting With Your Customer Is What Drives Relationship Marketing
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
Businesses are moving beyond a transactional model for their brands. Today’s consumers aren’t looking for a product only -- they want an emotional connection with the brand. The previous generation may have purchased something based on a fancy box or a slick sales pitch, but the new generation wants to know how else a product can affect their lifestyle. How do I feel about this product on an emotional level? What does buying this product mean to me? What relationship do I have with this particular company or brand? I believe that this is the new way to sell your brand and make real money. What’s your business doing to capture emotions?
Out with the old, in with the new.
Let’s take a look at what relationship marketing really means. In traditional transactional marketing, the focus is on the decision-making process. But what you should be focused on is how business can make the sale right now. This is the QVC sales pitch and the Pepsi Challenge rolled up into one strategy. Traditional transactional marketing focuses on closing a sale and putting the customer in the sales funnel. It relies on keeping your product in the customer’s mind and hoping he or she makes the decision to buy your product when the opportunity arises.
Relationship marketing is a whole other animal. It’s a broader, longer-term strategy. It relies on building a relationship with the consumer to lock down sales far into the future. It can mean something as basic as a rewards program (like frequent flyer miles) to keep a relationship going, but relationship marketing means so much more than that. You don’t just ask what your product can do for the customer, but how your customer feels about your product. You’re aiming to make the consumer identify with your brand, not just buy it. Consumer loyalty is built through customers wanting to be the type of person who buys your product. The relationship marketer’s job is to define what it means to be that person.
Companies have used this technique for years. Coca-Cola advertises its beverages with touching messages about family and friends. The bottles themselves tell you that you should share Coke with someone special. The consumer identifies with these feelings, so buying a Coke becomes something more. The consumer feels happy -- even inspired -- when he or she buys the soda.
Other companies are highly invested in creating these feelings in their customers. Under Armour hired a data company to find out how people feel about its products. HP’s CMO Antonio Lucio opined that, “developing an emotional connection is the ultimate objective in marketing.”
How do your customers feel?
Companies are putting all their eggs in the relationship-marketing basket -- and that means they need information. Big Data is making big moves in providing the information that companies need to determine how people feel about their products. Companies are investing in sentiment analysis to mine the web for opinions about their products. Sentiment analysis uses sophisticated web scraping tools to determine how people are talking about your brand. How is it mentioned? What is the attitude of people talking about your company? You can now get this information almost in real time and thoroughly analyze it for trends.
This phenomenon is huge for the companies that can get this data. Being able to manage your brand using real information about how people feel about your products is a major advantage -- and it doesn’t stop there. Predictive analytics allows businesses to act on wide-scale patterns of behavior to make informed decisions about the future direction of their brand. Your next marketing decision might be made using technology that’s almost like seeing into the future. Put the whole thing together, and you’ve got something marketers have always wanted but never really found: real feedback from real people, plus enough information to act on it.
How relationship marketing can help your business.
If you’re not already building an emotional connection with your customers, then you need to start now. The data is available and waiting for you to exploit it. Businesses clinging to an old transactional marketing strategy need to let go and embrace building an emotional relationship with the customer. I would advise hiring a relationship marketing consultant if you’re not comfortable building such a strategy yourself, because like it or not, the new future of marketing is upon us.