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The Guide to Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing is about forming long-term relationships with customers. Rather than trying to encourage a one-time sale, relationship marketing tries to foster customer loyalty by providing exemplary products and services. This is different than most normal advertising practices that focus on a single transaction; watch an ad and buy a product. Relationship marketing, by contrast, is usually not linked to a single product or offer. It involves a company refining the way they do business in order to maximize the value of that relationship for the customer. Let’s know-how.

Relationship marketing mainly involves the improvement of internal operations. Many customers leave a company not because they didn't like the product, but because they were frustrated with the customer service. If a business streamlines its internal operations to satisfy all service needs of their customers, customers will be happier even in the face of product problems.

Let’s look at some companies who have successfully implemented relationship marketing.

1. Domino's

In the past couple years, Domino's has taken its fair share of risks for the sake of innovation and improvement -- including a series of ads called Pizza turnaround, in which they showcased a series of negative customer reviews, read by real Domino's employees, before promising a new and improved recipe. These self-deprecating ads appeal genuinely to viewers, but clearly go against any traditional sales playbook, which is why they work. By admitting their mistake, Domino's re-invented its brand as transparent and honest -- and who wouldn't want to buy from a company like that?

2. Marriott

Undoubtedly, a 35-minute film is not the most traditional avenue a hotel can take when it wants to increase sales -- and yet, that's exactly what Marriott chose to do with their film, "Two Bellmen Three". This film, along with other influencer content like "Snapisodes", which mimic TV travel documentaries, enables Marriott to appeal to a younger demographic and build brand awareness on youth-dominant platforms like Snapchat. Best of all, their content rarely resembles an advertisement, and is typically focused on providing an audience with fun or helpful information on various travel destinations.

3. General Electric (GE)

Relationship marketing is ultimately about offering both new and existing customers valuable content -- regardless of where they are in your buyer's journey. Good relationship marketing should appeal to the random viewer as powerfully as it appeals to your long-term customers, to ensure your customers can grow with you for the long-haul. GE does a great job of diversifying its content, and the platforms on which it promotes, to ensure it satisfies as many people as possible. For instance, GE created two sponsored podcasts, which have collectively resulted in nearly 8 million downloads. Additionally, the company has a popular YouTube channel, and a blog that ranges in topics from Arnold Spielberg to 3D printing. By consistently offering a diverse range of quality content, GE shows its desire to satisfy its long-term customers even at the expense of short-term wins.

4. ArmorSuit

ArmorSuit's warranty policy begins like this -- "Most warranties are limited to 30 days or one year, but with our Lifetime Replacement Warranty, our customers can request for a replacement screen protector for a lifetime. This way, you never need to purchase a whole new kit when a replacement is needed."This way, you never need to purchase a whole new kit -- a phrase you'll likely never hear in traditional sales transactions. ArmorSuit's lifetime warranty represents the company's steadfast commitment to keeping its customers satisfied. While it might seem ridiculous to offer a lifetime warranty, it makes sense for building strong relationships with ArmorSuit's customers -- when the company's customers then need other products related to tech, they'll most likely check out ArmorSuit's website first.

5. Panera

In 2014, Panera issued a statement promising its customers it would remove all artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives from all Panera products by the end of 2016. The company remained transparent throughout the process, publishing progress reports to demonstrate a level of accountability and transparency to its customers. Undoubtedly, it was a risky decision to admit they'd previously used unhealthy ingredients in their food -- but it paid off big-time in 2016, when the brand could officially say "100% of our food is 100% clean". Now, they continue to focus on cultivating strong relationships with their customers through personalization. For instance, they alert loyalty members about new food offerings they feel will meet the member's "flavor profile".

Once the marketing strategy has been implemented, it requires constant evaluation to determine its success. There are a number of hard metrics that companies can use to measure whether they are holding onto their customers. The most obvious is repeat sales, which indicates customer loyalty.

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