I have talked many times here about my relationship based marketing approach. Somehow my career has always consisted of B2B marketing. In this world relationships matter a lot. Not that they don’t matter in consumer marketing, but with a target audience of 4,000 versus a target audience of 4 million I can build relationships in ways that consumers marketers can’t.
To understand how relationship marketing works in the business world, imagine you are a business owner and you need to hire a person. You can on one hand take open bids (resumes) for the position, sort through the top few which give you the best proposal on paper, spend an hour with each, and then make your decision.
Now throw someone into the mix that you have a previous non-working relationship with. You are familiar with their work because you have spent time with them. You might have a few employees who know this person and provide validation to their work. Your company might work with someone who they have also done business with that can provide an unsolicited recommendation.
Each of these are relationship points for this person. They present a stronger case for hiring than someone who you have no relationship points with. When it comes time to make a hire, yes you may be required to look at the others, but the weight of the relationship often holds true.
The same is the case in business. Let’s say you have a project to bid out. You have to take a certain number of RFPs because that is policy. One of the companies you choose you have a non-working relationship with. You know their work because you talk about it over drinks. Some of your other friends in the business have used them. You have seen work they have done with an organization you partner with from time to time. When price points are close to equal, as they often are, relationship wins 9 times out of 10.
As a marketer you have to find ways to create these relationship points without trying to sell them anything. Become involved with groups of your targeted audience. Become familiar with which of their associates you have done business with in the past and leverage those connections. Increase relationship points in every single way without going for the kill. Classic marketers talk about having 2-3 touches before a sale. Find 20-30 touch points before the sale, and all of them relationship based.
This increases the marketing cycle a lot, believe me. What you will find though that while your cycle is long, you tend to pull more people into cycle. Each relationship point development might in turn be a relationship point for 3 other potential clients. Additionally as you build relationships you increase the chance of repeat sales and up sales.
In the mix of all of this is social networking. My two personal favorites are twitter and linkedin are great for relationship building. Twitter allows me to keep in touch with what is actually going on in the lives of people I have on a target list. Linkedin is good for establishing those secondary relationship points. You can find who your target works with, where they have been, and people who recommend them.
Can you mix traditional marketing with relationship marketing? Absolutely. But more on that another day.