Top 5 Tips for Adapting a Relationship Marketing Model

In the age of consumer marketing, which focused on advertising benefits and features of a product, this automobile ad would have been strategically placed in a men’s magazine. There is enough text in this ad for a short story and a message being pushed to the male reader (and his ego). With a consumer marketing mindset, the brand’s arching goal was to strategically pinpoint the people who would need, use, and ultimately buy their product. For an individual, consumer marketing meant being talked at, not with.

Flash forward to 2013, not only do consumers have endless options but they can, and do, voice their feelings about a brand, experience, or product to the world. Word of mouth is king, making anybody and everybody its subject. Thus, the emphasis has shifted from a monologue to a dialogue. The aim is to communicate a genuine message that is reinforced by an ongoing relationship. Over time, relationship marketing is achieved when brand loyalty is earned through consistent positive engagements with a product, service, or company. A new mindset is required to drive success. Marketers must participate in reciprocal conversations based on consumer feedback to complete the relationship marketing process.

Here are 5 tips on how to take your marketing message and transform it into a relationship marketing model.

1. Quality not Quantity in ROI. Don’t stress about the number of followers but the quality of the followers; sheer numbers do not equal influence. Facebook’s VP of Global Partnerships Blake Chandlee articulates  “it’s not about the size of the community. It’s how engaged that community is and how that aligns with the brand’s strategy.” Due to the impact of word of mouth, retaining a few influential consumers who will broadcast your message is worth much more than dozens of random followers. Once you hone in on these influencers show them just how important they are. When Virgin America announced that they would be offering fleet-wide Wi-Fi, they gave free flights to some of their top influencers! Tweet that! With a mentality of relations per impression, rather than cost per impression, you can retain key consumers and perpetuate the highest level of satisfaction.

2. Core values = Lasting Relationships. We live in a competitive world so showing off values as an extension of your brand gives you an edge. Clear values operate as a call to action in consumers’ decision-making process giving them an additional reason to buy from you. Core values essentially lend themselves to brand affinity. If you share your values that dictate who you work with and how you work, instead of basic business goals, people will gravitate to you. Once your values match up, you and your consumer will be on the same team. Clif Bar is a great example of a company that flaunts its aspirations. Clif Bar showcases their 5 core aspirations: “To sustain our planet, community, people, business, and brands.” From bike to work initiatives to community gardens, Clif Bar finds new ways to actualize their objectives. Achieving core values provides continual opportunities to show the consumer how you are fighting the fight for your mutual cause. And by investing in your brand, they too are advocates in that battle. Thus, the choice to buy your product can transcend into a choice for a cause; an ideal.

3.  Get consumers involved. Our society is accustomed to personalizing experiences so brands that exercise this same practice are experienced at a profound, authentic level. By collecting data, monitoring feedback, and constantly engaging with consumers it’s easier than ever to hear their demands and act accordingly. This tactic works on any level – from global powerhouses to smaller entrepreneurial ventures. When Beijing’s Slow Boat Brewery wanted to craft a new beer they turned to their fans for inspiration. After allowing the community to cast votes, Beijing’s first crowd-sourced brew was bottled into a reality. What better way to secure future profits than by letting the consumers create the product? Other ways to involve people would be via Facebook or Instagram to start a contest or polling your followers on Twitter.

4. Customer service is KING. On a digital platform this means constant consumer engagement to show your unwavering commitment to anyone who looks via Twitter, Facebook, etc. It is the equivalent of a Yelp page for your business. With 24 hour feedback customer service can backfire in a matter of minutes. From United Airlines refusal to pay for one man’s damaged guitar to a Subway customer discovering the famous footlong sub was in fact only 11 inches, there are plenty for examples where customer service turned into a media heyday. In hindsight everyone recognizes that buying a new guitar easily out pays incredible press damage. To protect your company from this kind of backlash it’s crucial to have a strategy, dedicate a team, and realize that once you join the social media world there is no escape. A perfect example is Nordstrom, where the employee handbook famously explains that the “number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service” with the only rule being “use best judgment in all situations.” We can learn a lot from this simple advice.

5. Make your message sticky. This last goal is particularly difficult. We live in an age where the art of subtraction, not addition, is valued and content is created for the sole purpose of sharing. Twitter only allows 140 characters! You need to know what you want to say in order to say it in a short, concise, and informative manner. Any outgoing message needs to be sticky and succinct. Chunky requires too much effort to read and/or share. People already feel like they are starved for time so brevity is respected and thus retweeted. Red Bull, a brand with an extreme edge, knows that talk is cheap. Their Facebook updates appear in video form and routinely feature athletes doing unthinkable things. It doesn’t require a Red Bull addict to share a video, just someone who thinks heli-skiing is rad.

Adopting these principles will result in modern relationship marketing. The producer has made a better life for the consumer and the consumer now has a vested interest in cultivating this positive relationship. A conversation has been initiated and maintained leaving both parties feeling mutually satisfied.

Emily is an intern at Attack!, an experiential marketing agency. We help brands reach target consumers in live settings by driving trial and conversion. With offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, we partner with clients to design and deliver memorable brand experiences.