A lot of people are familiar with relationship marketing, if not by name, then by practice. The core concept of this strategy is that happy customers are repeat customers. Most American men will recall receiving a Gillette razor on their 18th birthday, and you'd be hard pressed to find someone who never begged their parents for a happy meal. From this type of multi-generational product placement to the relatively simple practice of ensuring employees personally greet every guest, relationship marketing is about building a lasting mutual likeability between customer and company.
Most companies understand the power of relationship marketing, although it can be difficult to implement if the foundation is not there. At its core, a company must first invest in customer satisfaction. No amount of harried clerks hastily mumbling through a standard greeting will change long term customer satisfaction when a company does not take the time and the resources to build a real relationship based on company accountability and customer satisfaction.
Thanks to social media, we can take the next step and actively listen to customer feedback, quickly apply that to our business models and create another level of connection with our market. People in the industry are starting to call this next level of strategy relational marketing.
Relational marketing takes all the principals of relationship marketing and applies it to a world where we can send our customer a birthday gift, but we can also see if he liked it, and thank him back when he thanks us for it. We can be a part of the conversation in a way that we've never been before.
Learning to navigate this new landscape means abandoning the old one-way marketing model so many companies is have built their reputations on. It's time to meet our customers again.