What is Relationship Marketing?

Here’s a definition that I found at Hubspot:

Relationship marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on cultivating deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers to ensure long-term satisfaction and brand loyalty. Relationship marketing is not focused on short-term wins or sales transactions — rather, it is focused on delighting an audience and your customers for the long-haul.

I like that definition, but for me, relationship marketing begins before a prospect becomes a customer. It’s never too early to start building relationships.

Relationship marketing is how my grandfather built his business and it is how you can build yours.  When my grandfather owned his television and radio repair shop in Jersey City, New Jersey, he relied on repeat customers. Most businesses do.  Repeat business means that customers were happy with previous engagements and repeat business can build a business exponentially – just ask McDonald’s.

Relationship building is so important in the digital age since human interaction happens so much less as people are glued to their screens. If you can engage and nurture prospects and customers, you’re way ahead of many of your competitors. When you focus on building relationships with your prospects and customers, you’ll also be building trust and loyalty.

That’s what relationship marketing is all about.  As I’ve said before, there are only three ways to build a business:  1) find new customers, 2) get more business from repeat customers, or 3) increase the amount spent per purchase from your customers new and old.  Controlling your expenses can help build your bottom line, but 1,2, and 3 are the only ways I know to increase revenue.

What are the benefits of relationship marketing?

  1. You grow loyalty within your network of prospects, email subscribers, social media followers, and customers. Once you’ve established yourself as the “go to” guy or gal, you are more likely to get business and repeat business.
  2. You sell more since you’ve built the trust that is so essential to a good business relationship. People will be more inclined to buy from you, and they’ll buy more and more often. It makes up-selling and cross-selling so much easier.
  3. You’re more likely to get referrals from your customers, which will lower your customer acquisition costs, and give you a step up in building relationships with the referrals you’ve received. 84% of consumers say that they are most influenced by a friend or family member’s recommendation when they are considering a purchase. Your referring customer adds to your credibility and you are one step closer to new sales!


Relationship marketing is primarily about building your business through repeat business, but the constant concern of most marketing is finding new customers.  You have to start relationships before you can build relationships.  

Relationship marketing helps people grow to know, like, and trust you. As that happens, you can expect that your customers will increase the amount that they spend per purchase.  All of this is based on trust, and trust is built over time as you create positive experiences for your prospects and customers.

Create Positive Experiences

When prospects and customers have a positive experience with a business, they’re more likely to buy or buy again from that business. So, how do you create positive experiences for prospects and customers?

  1. Use content marketing to give your prospects and customers a positive experience with your business. The fact that you’re reading this says that you are interested in this topic. If I can give you helpful information that you can use in your business, I’m giving you a positive experience with my business. Content marketing is an important component of my business, and I hope it is for you too.
  2. Offer excellent customer service. If a customer reaches out to you after a purchase with an issue, respond asap. And don’t send them some formulaic crap email – make your customer service a human interaction – you with them, and make it a positive experience. If your engagement is email to email, make sure that your email is personally written by you.
  3. Use social media to build relationships with prospects and customers. Find out what social media works best for your business and use that channel or mix of channels to go one on one with your base. You’ll find more on social media marketing here.
  4. Are you growing an email list? Email marketing has been proven to be the most effective way to do marketing. The return on investment from email marketing is off the charts. You’ll find more on email marketing here.

An email list is one of the best ways to build relationships.  When people opt in to your email list, they’ve agreed to begin a relationship with you.  They’re open to your continued presence in their email box (but they haven’t authorized you to be a pest).  If you will provide them with valuable content in your emails, you will build your relationship with them.  If you constantly hound them with junk, they will unsubscribe.  

Most marketing is transactional – close the deal, make the sale, you’re done. But when you build a relationship, you build your business through happy, repeat customers.  Relational marketing can take more time than transactional marketing, but the benefits far outweigh the longer time that it takes to close the first deal and make the sale.

The reason for this is that trust is built over time and when trust is in place, a customer is more likely to continue to buy from you.  With relationship marketing, you build an enjoyable experience into the sales process that helps to emotionally bond your customers to you in such a way that their loyalty produces even more sales.  This happens partly from the value of your products and partly from the emotional experience that you create through your marketing.

Long-term relationships are built on trust.  Trust is earned over time as you demonstrate over time that you are trustworthy.  The Swedish furniture manufacturer and retailer Ikea builds trust by selling inexpensive, but quality furniture with excellent customer service. Dell builds and markets computers at many different price points; they maintain their #2 position (behind Apple) through excellent products an excellent warranty, and excellent customer service.

Destroying Trust

Trust is destroyed by sleezy practices and lousy products.  To build trust, it is essential that everything you do is “white hat.”  Black hat marketing practices can get you banned from Google and Facebook and worse, get you in jail.  Craigslist harvesting of email addresses is one form of black hat marketing and be assured that Craigslist has a team of lawyers who crack down on those who try this.  Let’s talk about some other black hat practices.

Buying email lists is another black hat technique.  Only send emails to those who have opted into your list.  Furthermore, don’t trick people into signing up.  Offer a good lead magnet, and let people know what your business is about.  Anything sketchy at the opt-in phase will lead to distrust either sooner or later (probably sooner and they’ll unsubscribe).

Email subject lines should be honest and germane to the content of your email.  This goes for call to action buttons also.  Plagiarizing content is another no-no.  You can get ideas from others (I do all the time), but put it in your own words.  Article spinning is a form of plagiarism – this is also a no-no.  If you don’t know what article spinning is, good – then you won’t be doing it.

Any black hat practices put your business at risk – don’t do it!


Building Trust

Relationship marketing requires trust, and here are some ideas about building trust.

As you create your own content, do your own research.  Write for your target audience. Good grammar builds trust; if you want to write in English, but English isn’t your first language, it might be a good idea to have someone else look over your copy before you post or email it.

One of the essences of trust is an emotional bond that is formed through regular interaction.  Good branding like Nike (the swoosh) or Starbacks (the topless mermaid) helps to create that emotional bond.  When people associate a brand with quality, enjoyment, or a host of other emotions that increase value, branding contributes to sales.  Branding helps make sales easier and bigger, if done correctly.

As an internet marketer, your best emotional connection happens when a consumer buys your product and it is useful to them.  When their use of your product has created a sense of value beyond what they paid, you’ve likely won a fan.  That’s why over-delivering is such a powerful force in marketing.  This practice alone will help you attract new customers and keep existing ones.

Did you know that just a 1% increase in customer retention can increase sales 20% annually? Your existing customers can also help your business through referrals.  

Since you’ve built a relationship with your customers, they are likely to be a good test market for you when you are ready to introduce new products.  Wouldn’t it be nice to get helpful feedback BEFORE you go to market?

Here are some tips from for relationship marketing:

  • Keep open, honest lines of communication with customers.
  • Invite feedback.
  • Be social.
  • interact and engage with customers and prospects via social channels.
  • Provide exceptional support and service.
  • Integrate customer feedback into product/service improvements.
  • Monitor what’s being said about your brand online and respond accordingly.
  • Offer a customer loyalty program.
  • Go out of your way to show customers that you value them.

Is there anything you would add to this?  As always, I welcome your comments and questions, your likes and shares.


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