The Top 3 Components of Relationship Marketing

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Close your eyes and imagine walking into your favorite store. Maybe it’s your go-to boutique for stylish clothes, or the cozy cafe that’s like a second home. It could even be the megastore that serves as your one-stop shop.

What is it that sets them apart from all the others? Why are they special to you?

Is it the quality of the fabrics? Is it the variety of coffees to choose from? The plethora of bulk items that your large family relies on?

While these kinds of positives are important, more often than not, the reason you keep coming back to that favorite store has much more to do with the connection that has developed between yourself and the store.

In the end, how you sell is more important than what you sell.

The importance of retail strategy cannot be overstated. A powerful one maintains great relationships between a business, its employees, and its customers.

(Side note: it becomes even more important when you are dealing with customers online who aren’t privy to the same senses or experiences one would in person!)

That’s why all retail organizations, regardless of size or industry, need to focus on the following three main components of relationship marketing to achieve “favorite store” status in a customer’s mind:

1.   Smooth Data Capture at Point-of-Sale

Today, retail businesses often spend time and money on advertising, with the hopes of reaching potential customers. They’re looking to build brand awareness and bring more traffic into the store.

However, the best marketing opportunity isn’t always online or through direct mail; it could be the shopper right in front of you!

Your current customers provide the best avenue for the growth of your business.  Maintaining great customer relationships that result in upselling are the backbone of a company’s sales growth.

Your current customers have already had an experience with your store, and it’s your job to ensure that they keep coming back. To do this job efficiently, it’s important to glean customer data at the point-of-sale.

·     Did you introduce yourself and then ask their name?

·     Did you ask the customer about their day?

·     Did you mention your store’s monthly newsletter?

·     Did you ask for the customer’s email address?

In a retail strategy, genuine yet pointed curiosity—especially at the register—is your best friend. It not only fosters a positive relationship with the customer, but it also facilitates an effortless capture of customer information that can be immensely valuable for compelling relationship marketing.

2.   An Excellent Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System

In today’s competitive landscape, customer relationship management can make or break your company.

It’s a lot like tending to our own relationships.

If you stopped putting effort into your relationships, they would likely fall apart. But if you consistently listen, and show how much you care, you’ll receive the same in return.

Show your customers that you value them, and in turn, you’ll reap the rewards.

A CRM system is like an encyclopedia of individual customer information. It answers the question, “Who is Jane Doe?” and allows you to use her profile to make the marketing efforts that reach her feel more intuitive and less forced.

·     The most basic yet most important information to gather is called “Identity Data.” It includes things like Jane’s age, gender, address, phone, email, social networks, as well as her job title and the organization she works for. Understanding who Jane is at this level is key to understanding her on other levels.

·     A second level of information is called “Quantitative Data.” Jane’s transaction and communication history fall under this category, as do her online and social networking activity. Once you understand Jane’s past behavior, you can reflect on which marketing efforts worked for her, and which didn’t.

·     A third type of information is called “Descriptive Data.” Having specifics on Jane’s family, career, and lifestyle can help you give Jane a more customized retail experience. It may seem a bit overboard, but this sort of information is what builds a more personalized customer relationship management system. You could send out a survey or prompt the customer to answer a couple questions on the register screen. If your business has an e-commerce component, you can track the movements that customers make while on your website. What’s Jane Doe’s most visited page? Is it blouses? Is it sale items? This info can guide how you market to Jane in the future.

·     The final type of information is “Qualitative Data.” Usually, it comes from questionnaires that ask for a customer’s attitude and opinion about a product or a store experience. This helps you recognize what motivates your customers to buy.

You could get even more detailed with your individual customer profiles. However, the most important component of customer relationship management is leveraging the information that you already have in a strategic way. Just as the right wine and seasoning elevates an otherwise adequate meal to a delicious one, a CRM system should elevate mere data to a robust understanding of your consumers’ behaviors.

3.   Marketing that is Continuous and Uncomplicated

Now that you’ve gathered customer data through both your CRM system and your point-of-sale efforts, it’s time to translate that data into truly powerful relationship marketing.

Contrary to popular belief, your marketing doesn’t have to be complex; in fact, its simplicity can drive its success. Make it easy on yourself and on prospective or current customers by starting gradually.

·     Let customers know about new product arrivals. You can do this through in-store conversations or signage; you can also send out a weekly or monthly newsletter to those in your CRM system. The key is to keep your customers engaged.

·     Invite customers and their friends to an in-store event. Yesterday, I stopped by Whole Foods just to grab lunch, but I ended up hanging around a bit longer than usual. I couldn’t help but notice a knowledgeable man talking to an audience about the benefits of a certain lifestyle. The sheer number of people sitting down to take notes on this man’s speech shocked me. While some had shown up specifically to attend the expert’s lecture, other shoppers were slowly drawn from the entrance towards the booming voice, empty carts in tow.

After learning about the detrimental effects of coffee and the benefits of matcha green tea for a solid three minutes, I meandered back into the bustling aisles to find a healthy alternative to coffee. The short time I spent at the event inspired me to buy a particular item, which leads me to believe that the shoppers who’d stayed for the entire speech may have felt even more inspired. In fact, they probably added a few new items to their usual mix!

If a loud and spacious grocery store can hold this type of event successfully, any store can. If you’re a coffee shop, host a coffee tasting with live music. If you’re bookstore, invite a local author to speak. The possibilities are endless. Not only will it create a sense of community, but it will also drive sales.

·     Treat them to excellent post-sales services. When we feel like a store or company has taken care of us, we’re more likely to recommend them to our family, friends, and even to our social media communities. The Golden Rule is a great moral compass to guide your retail strategy by, but it’s also a great way to inspire some voluntary social marketing.

The secret to an effective retail strategy is to not overthink it. Show your customers how your business can benefit them. Emphasize your company’s unique strengths. Give your customers every reason to buy, and then give them every reason to share their pleasant in-store experience with the world. Incorporate the above three components of relationship marketing, and you’ll be on your way to truly knowing your customer.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you weigh the importance of retail strategy in contributing to the success of your business? Do you agree that leveraging customer data strategically is the most important component of customer relationship marketing?

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