Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Unmasking the Faceless Consumer: The Importance of Relationship Marketing

I take my car to be serviced at the same place every 10,000km, not because they're cheap, because they are not. I go there because of the relationship and the after sales service. Last year, when my radiator did embarassing things on the highway, not only could I call my service company after hours, but they saved me the expense of double towing and sent a guy to my house after work the next day to replace my radiator. To say this was excellent and convenient would be an understatement. And as a woman, who is on the road a lot, the safety and reliability of my vehicle are doubly important, so this type of personal service is a bonus to me.

Sadly, not a lot of organisations understand that there is a person behind the dollar bills which come with a sale. They take your money, and send you on your way with a sense of longing and undone-ness. It's little things like follow up calls, after sales service, seasonal greeting cards which can make or break the relationship your customer chooses to have with your brand. I was pleasantly surprised to go to my bank one year on my birthday and have the teller wish me a happy birthday and give me a cute, albeit generic branded card. But it was the thought and the consideration that set her apart from her sour-faced counterpart in another bank and kept me loyal.

Now you also have  social media, which in its essence is about getting to know people, how brands use it to manage relationships is an issue which can also set one brand apart from the next.

A lot of brands are using social media to drive sales and let's face it, this is the world we live in. We are constantly searching for new and innovative ways to raise our brand's profile and increase consumer behaviour, and social media has been a catalyst in many instances for doing so.

Yesterday I discussed the social media contest and how it has been used by one brand to build its following. The following which it has now been able to create is now a great pool from which to draw out the eager consumer and this is great for the brand. How they now manage these thousands and thousands of people and engage them will be the second part of their social media story.  I don't want to just be one of the thousands, and yes, it may be a challenge to engage everyone, but this is why you embarked on a social media strategy isn't it? And you should now have the resources to properly manage these relationships, if in fact you are eager to form them.

Yes, we constantly hear ROI ROI ROI,  and we translate this in numerical terms - sales, number of customers, etc, but what about MY investment of my trust and my purchasing power in your brand? Where does my Return on Investment manifest itself? Just in your product? I am more likely to stay true to one brand because of the interactions I have had, or the service which they provide. It's the reason I choose one airline over another, or one telecoms provider, or one restaurant. We all want to feel appreciated and special in some small way and not just as a walking wallet. And be it via a follow up call to see if I am pleased with your product, or a DM or email to help me manage my customer issue, how we treat with the faces behind the cash register is important in building the brand and customer loyalty.

It seems almost trite typing it here but in my experience, especially here, it is like rocket science to some people.

How are you building relationships online and offline?


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