When non-marketers refer to marketing, it is understandable that they equate it just to advertising. Most of the time this is because they feel that the sole objective of marketing is sales. In fact, this misconception is probably more a marketing industry problem, due lack of clarity in our own communication, more than anything else. What we don’t clarify enough is that marketing is a management process to build customer relationships and advertising is just a part of that.
Good management is critical to all aspects of a business, and it is just as important that marketing is included and managed in a smart way if opportunities for, and threats to relationships are to be identified. Business growth results from increased customer relationships – fact.
Every business, of whatever size, needs a marketing strategy to build customer relationships; otherwise, their business will not grow.
Every business, of whatever size, needs a marketing strategy to build customer relationships, otherwise their business will not grow.Click to tweet
Time and time again, when we meet with potential clients for the first time there are some obvious signs that they may not be focused on building relationships with their customers.
Here are some examples: 1) No planned marketing activity online and even if there is a website created – it might not have been reviewed for mobile friendliness, SEO, conversion optimisation etc. 2) Not being on social networks where their customers engage with each other, 3) No specified marketing budget or if so, still investing it all in conventional advertising, 4) Sales figures dropping due to lack of brand awareness or ineffective / outdated promotions.
A less obvious sign is that the brand identity is not unique anymore or has become stale. I say less obvious because it probably requires some research to determine brand perceptions. My final example is signs of a lack of real customer relationships, evidenced by one-off buyers, no repeat sales, high bounce rates online etc.
In the current volatile business environment where the customer really is the king, the most worrying sign alluded to above, would be the lack of engagement with customers. As consumers – nowadays we all expect personalisation, customisation and excellent service so the business that is not providing these is going to lose out in the long run.
The Difference between Strategy and Execution.
If you are a business owner reading this, you are probably aware that you can have all the strategy in the world, but unless it is executed, it will just gather the proverbial dust-on-the-shelf. What is required is a commitment to turning your marketing vision into a reality. If you are a one-man business then this commitment is your responsibility. If you are a small to medium enterprise (SME) owner – then it is still your responsibility. As an owner, you are the one with the vision and a strong sense of self.
Business owners with a strong sense of self can focus their talents on opportunities that are best suited to grow their business.Click to tweet
Here are six thoughts that might help you focus on the execution of your strategy:
- Stay true to delivering your brand promise / value proposition every day and every way.
- Focus on your capabilities. Don’t try to be the ‘best in class’ at everything.
- Leverage the strength of teamwork. Get your working colleagues to strive for the same goals.
- Save money by smarter investing. Cutting costs might lead to a mean and not lean operation.
- Don’t wait for things to happen. Embrace change constantly.
- Remember who you are. Don’t just focus on beating the competitors.
Moving from strategy to execution by just doing it means a focus on marketing tactics. You could argue that big businesses have big marketing budgets and, therefore, better advantage. Well, if the big guys use their budgets in a smart way, yes they absolutely may have an advantage. As the saying goes, though, – In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king – meaning there is nothing wrong with being a big fish in a small pond (sorry about the clichés, but you know what I mean).
SMEs can be more agile when it comes to relationship building.
One of the advantages of being an SME is the ability to make changes to strategies and their execution, on the run. Decisions can be made by a smaller team without the bureaucracy (and politics) of corporations / large institutions. It is imperative, though, that owners focus on what’s important for growing their business and how marketing can help in that regard.
Loosely based on the warning signs outlined above, here are 5 relationship-building tactics that SMEs can use:
- Increase web traffic by providing relevant content to your audience, e.g. blogging.
- Ensure that your business can be found by people through an online search (and encourage reviews).
- Engage with your audience on an authentic and human level. Have a social media programme.
- Build your database with an email marketing campaign. Provide information etc. through a newsletter
- Build a team culture. Reward hard work and dedication – loyalty will follow.
Tips and Timesavers for building customer relationships
Most marketing guides will stress the importance of building customer relationships. Unfortunately though, businesses still focus on short-term gains rather than long-term relationships. Why? – Because generating short-term cashflow is paramount to keeping the day-to-day operations functioning. However, without a marketing strategy to gain customers, the business won’t last.
Here are five tips that may help business owners grow long-term relationships.
- Engage with customers on a regular basis. Use email, but make sure it is relevant and not a sales pitch (people won’t mind communication if they believe that you are interested in them)
- Identify with your customers. Find out what challenges they have in their lives (keep updated through local media, network at relevant events, and listen on social media)
- Try to make a difference to a customer’s life. How can your product / service help them solve a problem that they have (make information accessible)
- Understand that relationship building is a marathon and not a sprint
- Continue the engagement long after the purchase (this will show authenticity)
In the current connected world, information on brands is in everybody’s pocket. Therefore purchasing decisions are becoming more fact-based and in a sense, less brand identity based. Customers will still value strong brands, but more and more that value will be based on a relationship. That relationship will be determined by their engagement with (who / why) and their experience of (what / where /when) a brand.
As Peter Drucker said, well before the advent of the information age, “the sole purpose of a business is to create a customer.”
“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.
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