Relationship Marketing Strategies for Customer Retention

Relationship Marketing Strategies for Customer Retention

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Although businesses and organizations must constantly acquire new customers to thrive, it’s important to remember that cultivating loyalty among your existing customers is also key to a company’s success. It costs 5-25 times more to bring in a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, so improving customer retention rates can go a long way in helping your bottom line. 

That’s why business leaders need to study relationship marketing. Relationship marketing is an aspect of customer relationship management (CRM) that puts special emphasis on establishing close relationships with customers. Relationship marketing is all about creating and maintaining engagement with clients over time through email marketing or other strategies that increases their chances of returning to your business in the future. Loyal customers are especially important, as they are great sources for referrals and feedback and are also likely to make repeat purchases.

Fostering these relationships takes a different approach compared to that used for getting new leads, but if implemented correctly, relationship marketing strategies can unlock a number of benefits for businesses.

Why is Relationship Marketing Increasing in Popularity?  

The modern-day consumer has choices like never before. A five-minute visit to Facebook may yield well over half a dozen ads to a variety of products and services. Consumers are practically spoiled with choices, making it difficult for businesses to capture and hold their attention.

Businesses who put an emphasis on customer value – the satisfaction the customer expects to experience when taking a given action in relation to the cost of that action – have a far greater chance of standing out in the market and developing long-lasting mutually beneficial relationships with their customers.

Depending on your business model, focusing on repeat customers, as opposed to pulling in a continuous stream of new customers, is often very beneficial. While not every business utilizes relationship marketing in their day-to-day marketing endeavors, the vast majority of businesses can benefit from this marketing strategy. 

Below are some ideas to keep in mind as you craft a successful relationship marketing strategy.

Relationship Marketing Strategy Ideas

1. Prioritize Customer Service in Your Relationship Marketing Strategy.

As the name implies, relationship marketing is all about relating to your customers in a positive manner. That means offering consistent, personal support. Customer service should be a focus in all aspects of your business model, as it shows that you care about the client’s needs.  Simply making sure the people operating your support desks are friendly, courteous, and helpful isn’t enough. A proactive, personal approach to customer service goes a long way in terms of customer retention, and consumers will appreciate the personal touch.

This approach to relationship marketing can often be difficult to implement, so first consider the typical customer service issues your business faces. In every facet of your operations, you should consider potential customer service issues that might arise, and how you plan on handling them if they do. Once you’ve compiled a list, create a protocol to address these main concerns, whether through email marketing or another outlet.  Taking this proactive approach to customer service will solve some problems from the get-go and present your brand as more user-friendly. 

2. Promote Engagement Through Content Marketing.

While traditional forms of advertising can still be worthwhile, reminding people that your product exists and maybe even striking an emotional chord, content marketing provides a different kind of value to both you and the customer. Compared to paid searches, for example, content marketing generates three times as many leads. When focusing on relationship marketing, much of your content should help your audience get more from your services. If you supply your customers with truly valuable content on a regular basis, they’ll develop a natural interest in and loyalty to your brand. This is especially true if your content teaches people how to get more out of your products and services.

3. Match Your Social Media Approach to Your Audience.

A strong social media presence is key to any marketing approach. As many as 95% of online adults follow a brand on social media, demonstrating its reach. It’s also important, however, to ensure that your social media campaign is in line with your company’s goals and your brand.

B2B businesses should focus on communicating their expertise and professionalism, while others may benefit from an approach based on direct communication and humor. On the other hand, if you’re catering to Millennials, you may be more successful employing humor or other lighthearted tactics.

Keep your audience’s desires in mind when creating a social media marketing campaign as part of your relationship marketing strategy, but also think about the type of company your target audience wants to do business with, and make sure your social media identity conveys the right personality. Additionally, include social media buttons within your email marketing content to make it even easier for potential and current customers to engage with you on those outlets.

4. Keep Email Marketing Top of Mind for Greater Customer Retention.

Social media marketing is growing every year, but email still has an important role to play in relationship marketing. Email marketing gives you the chance to reach customers on a regular, consistent basis. More importantly, it gives you the chance to reach them when they’re less likely to be distracted by other content. Post an update to your Facebook page, and viewers will have plenty of other stories, images, and updates to focus on; there’s no guarantee you’ll get their attention.

On the other hand, when customers are checking their email, they’re less likely to find other engaging media. Use this opportunity to share the type of content you want customers to focus on. The first step is making sure you’re reaching them with an email verifier tool. Then, send carefully crafted emails at a frequency that nurtures customers without clogging their inboxes.Consider sending automated emails at the right frequency for customer retention that’s easier and more efficient. 

5. Implement a Loyalty Program.

Determining the best way to promote customer retention and commitment can be a tricky process, but an effective loyalty program can work wonders. Although it isn’t always easy to craft an effective loyalty program, you’ll benefit from substantial customer engagement if you do.

The most important thing is ensuring that your loyalty rewards program is genuinely attractive to your customers and provides real value. You can use a loyalty program in your relationship marketing strategy to incentivize a variety of behaviors, so it’s important to first think about what your company needs. Depending on your goals for the program, you can reward customers for any number of things. For example, referring friends and family members is a simple and easy request that is easily tracked and rewardable.

Above all, make sure your loyalty program actually corresponds to your overall business identity. For instance, if you sell fairly inexpensive goods or services, don’t offer your customers a reward for spending thousands of dollars on your products.

6. Use Relationship Marketing to Learn About Your Audience Through Surveys.

Want to get to know your customers better? You don’t have to play guessing games. Surveys are an effective relationship marketing method of learning what your audience wants from you and what you could be doing better in a direct, accurate way. That said, they also require asking for some of your customers’ time, so keep questionnaires short and to the point, or customers are unlikely to participate. Choose your questions carefully and have specific goals in mind. Each question should move towards that objective. Decide what exactly you want to learn before sending these out through your email marketing.

You can use data from these surveys to improve your customer retention, service, and business practices. Even better, customers will appreciate that you took their feedback into account.

Examples of Relationship Marketing Strategies in Action

Image of a soup and salad meal. Represents relationship marketing from Panera.

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In 2014, Panera Bread issued a statement that it would remove all sweeteners, artificial flavors, and preservatives from their products by 2016.

As a result of Panera’s transparency and willingness to take accountability for unhealthy products in their foods, customer loyalty skyrocketed. Today, they are considered one of the top businesses in the restaurant industry when it comes to customer loyalty.

Logo of Kohl's Yes2You campaign.An example of relationship marketing.

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Kohl’s provides yet another example of relationship marketing done right, utilizing a combination of mobile apps and big data to personalize the shopping experience of their customers.

Their Yes2You program works as such: When customers enter a Kohl’s retail store and log into the mobile app, the software queries a database that contains their past purchases. It also taps into the GPS of their mobile device to ascertain their physical location within the store.

This information is then used to offer exclusive deals and product suggestions by combining past shopping preferences with the physical location of the customer.  

Kohl’s demonstrates that when relationship marketing is implemented effectively, both the business and the customer benefit mutually. In this instance, customers are given a focused and personalized experience. Meanwhile, Kohl’s is rewarded with brand loyalty which in turn could lead to the creation of brand ambassadors and repeat business.

Transactional Marketing vs. Relationship Marketing

Whereas relationship marketing focuses on the long-term strategy of building a close relationship with customers, transactional marketing focuses on increasing the number of individual sales.

Because transactional marketing is primarily focused on acquiring new sales, it doesn’t dedicate as much time to create a great customer experience. As such, transactional marketing can be said to be the exact opposite of relationship marketing.

Transactional marketing is considered to be the more traditional approach, but often fails to see much profit when it comes to customer acquisition costs. Without a strong bond with a brand, customers may only see a one-time value, and will often move on once a purchase has been made.

Many businesses use transactional and relationship marketing in concert with one another.  However, the increasing prevalence of social media in our day to day lives has made developing close relationships with consumers through relationship marketing strategies increasingly important.

How to Implement a Relationship Marketing Strategy

Implementing a relationship marketing strategy takes a multifaceted approach. With the right tools at your disposal and a willingness to take a hands-on approach with your customers, you can implement a successful relationship marketing strategy in your business.    

1. Utilize Customer Data

As Kohl’s has demonstrated, using the data collected on your customers and using it to deliver a personalized experience can be a powerful way to build brand loyalty among customers. For example, birthday emails can go a long way in boosting customer retention and increasing satisfaction. Even small gestures like this – whether you choose to include a discount with them or not – can be effective relationship marketing strategies. This data can be collected from a number of sources – social media campaigns, surveys, etc.

Image of a Mailchimp birthday email, an example of relationship marketing.

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MailChimp does a fantastic job of providing businesses with customizable templates that tailor emails to every individual on your email list, allowing you to personalize each email with their name, business, and other relevant information.  

Show your customers that you care and you will significantly increase your chances of running a successful relationship marketing campaign.

2. Leverage Great CRM tools

CRM tools allow you to find, nurture, and convert leads to help you build stronger relationships with your customers. In relationship marketing, communication and follow-ups are crucial – features that many CRM tools offer.

Additionally, CRM tools allow you to automate your marketing efforts. These means implementing tools such as chatbots and automated email sequences to engage with your customers instantaneously. Doing so allows you to maintain a constant point of connection with your customers during and after business hours.

It is a good idea to look for CRM tools that have email functionality. In the market some top tools include Agile CRM, Hubspot, and Zoho amongst many others.

3.  Establish an Active Customer-Facing Presence

In a world dominated by texting, social media, and email, there are multiple ways you can interact with your customers. One way you can go about doing this is dedicating employees to managing social media accounts, emails, and customer service lines.   

Screenshot of a chatbot on, a modern example of relationship marketing.

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Many businesses save money by implementing a chatbot service, such as, that will interact with your customers quickly and efficiently. Fast and courteous interaction is a substantial facet of relationship marketing in 2019 and beyond

Final Thoughts on Using Relationship Marketing in Your Business

The most effective way to achieve a long-term relationship with your customers is interacting with them on a one-on-one basis. Personalizing their experiences, implementing tools like chatbots and automated emails sequences, and utilizing CRM tools are all steps in the right direction.

Relationship marketing is a uniquely difficult aspect of marketing, and one that requires true engagement with your existing customer base. Relationship marketing isn’t as simple as merely following these points, but the advice here will help you lay the foundation for long-term customer engagement. While it may seem daunting at first, it is also among the most important methods of improving your bottom line and increasing overall customer retention. 

Loyal customers are the best customers; they will sing your praises to friends and family, buy your new products, and let you know when you’ve made mistakes. By showing your audience that you value their loyalty, you create long-term relationships that benefit both parties. Engage in an effective relationship marketing strategy and these consumers can play an essential role in your continued success.

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