It used to be that advertising a new product or service was enough to attract new or existing customers to buy. Now that all consumers are exposed to advertising at every conceivable place, you must engage consumers and clients at a deeper level. How? By getting to really know them and interacting with them. This is relationship marketing.

Caring for your existing customers is one of the key points of relationship marketing. It is less expensive and time-consuming to retain existing customers (if your product and/or service was satisfactory) than to entice new ones. Are you talking to your customers to find out if they were satisfied? It doesn’t matter if you are a high-tech company or a low-tech retail sales store. It is worth your time and effort to reach out to the people who have purchased from you in the past. Ask for email addresses at the point of sale and send out simple surveys. There are affordable (even free) survey services online.

Are you responding quickly to issues and then going above and beyond to make it right for the customer? Responding in person to a complaint can go a long way to improving customer loyalty. Making an error is far less likely to lose a customer than not responding to the complaint in a satisfactory manner.

Use a CRM program to help you manage large databases of customers. This is a customer realtionship management software that can track preferences and personal details, along with contact information, to allow you to tailor your marketing and advertising appropriately.

Don’t forget that you should be maintaining your relationships at all times-not just when you need a sale. Customers are increasingly savvy at detecting sales ploys. Chris Brogan and Julien Smith call this “tending a farm of potential [customers, sales] versus hunting for the short-term.” Be genuine. Be interested.

Use social media as an adjunct to in-person relationships. Find out what your customers’ Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts are. Friend/follow them. Let them know what’s going on in your business, find out what is going on with them. This allows you the possibility of seizing opportunities early and creating a more intimate relationship.

Small business has been hit hard by the economy. We all need to get savvy and stay informed about marketing trends. Care for those customers! For more free or low-cost marketing ideas, check out this article.


by Steven Schlagel