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What is Relationship Marketing and How Can it Help You Increase Sales?

Take a look at these three case studies to better understand how you can combine content marketing strategy and relationship marketing strategy to sell while you sleep

Don Nicholas, CEO and Founder of Mequoda, has been an entrepreneur since he was 12. As a paperboy for the Sacramento Union, he delivered a morning newspaper to about 75 homes. In the afternoons he went door-to-door in his neighborhood selling subscriptions to his hometown paper. Later, he supplied each of his customers with a recycling box for their newspapers that he picked up once a month and sold to the local mill.

But never did he make a nickel when he was asleep.

Using the principles of relationship marketing to sell while you sleep

About once a month, Mequoda signs a new consulting client. In more cases than not they’ve been subscribing to Mequoda Daily for a few weeks or months, or even several years. They have downloaded our free white papers and read numerous posts. Using the principles of content marketing, we’ve allowed them to do all this for free.

Often, our enterprising prospective clients are reading content we’ve written while we’re asleep or on vacation. When these entrepreneurs call, they already feel that they know Don, Ed, Luis, Kim and I, who all write for the Daily, that they have a relationship with us, and they know what they can expect from each one of us. They trust us, even though they’ve never met us.

Selling content around the world 24/7 with relationship marketing

One of our clients’ websites now generates more than half its traffic from outside the United States. Unsurprisingly, almost half the professionals who now attend their three, four, and five-day event in the United States, now come from beyond these United States. Often in the middle of the night, for us, they search the Internet, read a few posts, download a white paper, and then download a program guide.

They visit the website several times to check out instructors and reread the course details. Finally, having never talked to anyone within our client organization, they register online with a credit card spending several thousand dollars. The customer has built a relationship with the website content as the currency of trust. When they arrive at the actual event, they feel they know the brand, the program, and the instructors. It’s all about using content to build relationships.

Using relationship marketing strategies to sell magazines, books, and videos

Another of our clients operates a website with more than 400,000 email subscribers. She builds relationships with a daily newsletter that shares tips, projects, and the occasional silly video. She writes in a personal tone sharing details of her life and her love of the subject matter. Her voice and tone are that of a trusted friend writing to a colleague with a shared passion. Intermixed with the content is a steady stream of product reviews and special offers. Her followers reward her by spending an average of $12 per year on her magazine, books, and videos. Is this relationship marketing or content marketing? I think the answer is yes to both.

Three core relationship marketing strategies

  • Relationship marketing strategy #1 – Get found: Understand that the first step to building an online customer relationship is getting found. This means giving away loads of free content that’s closely aligned to the content you wish to sell.
  • Relationship marketing strategy #2 – Get followed: It’s hard to sell anything to anyone when there’s no trust, no relationship, no shared experience. Content marketing offers people with a shared interest the opportunity to let you lead them to things they didn’t know, didn’t know they needed, and didn’t know they wanted. Sampling is done best in small quantities where trust can be established over time. While social media is valuable, email newsletters are the all time cost-effective way to build a relationship marketing program where content is the driving force and frequency is daily.
  • Relationship marketing strategy #3 – Get paid: Once trust is established, you get to make the first sale. If you have great products and services, the follow-on sales will get easier and easier. But make no mistake about it, you made the first sale because you built a relationship using free content, frequent contact, and caring voice. You built trust before you ever tried to make a sale.

Three tips for relationship marketing

Relationship marketing focuses on the long-term goal of retaining customers that can be considered as a mix between direct marketing and audience development. You have to make connections with your audience members as you are actively marketing products to them. I’ve read articles claiming that it isn’t about relationships, it’s about marketing; I think it’s about both.

Creating connections, being transparent, striking up communication, and being authentic relates to the emotions of your audience. In today’s extremely social online world, these can set a business apart. While using these traits, you still need to realize that promotions and sales need to happen.

While developing relationships, consider these three relationship marketing components, so you stay focused on making the relationship equality impactful.

  • Relationship marketing tip #1: Talk about features and benefits – Features of a product or service are the concrete facts that may help a sale take place. The benefits are the components that will appeal to the emotions of your audience members. Communicating both features and benefits makes it harder for a potential consumer to say no.
  • Relationship marketing tip #2: Use calls to actions – Every web page should have at least one call to action, if not multiple ones. We use inline text ads, order forms in navigation and editorial, and floaters. Many companies use big red buttons so people know where to go to make purchases. Show your audience where to click and how to order so they are completely aware of the process.
  • Relationship marketing tip #3: Unique selling proposition (USP) – What makes your offerings different than others in your market? Expressing this information to potential customers can make your company the focus over others in your space.

If someone asks you, “what is relationship marketing?” what would you say? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2012 and is frequently updated.

Posted in Audience Development Strategy

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