Relationship marketing is perhaps one of the most important pieces to any business strategy, but especially so as we head into the next year.
In a nutshell, relationship marketing is when you, as a business owner, pull your focus away from sales and promotions and focus more on building long-term relationships with your clients.
So, as you can probably surmise, relationship marketing is paramount for success in direct sales. After all, you can't expect to be able to walk up to complete strangers, out of the blue with no previous context, and have them buy from you.
And in the off-chance that you have been able to do that, I'm willing to bet that you couldn't do it enough to sustain your business.
A few years ago, I was in San Diego for a speaking engagement. I had an hour-long drive from airport to hotel with Allen. Allen is a 75 year old retired investment banker from New York, whose only goal now is to “choose when I drive and where I go for lunch.”
What does this have to do with anything? Hold on, it's coming.
I chatted with Allen for the drive and he told me the story of how he started his career at 24 by listening, learning, building relationships with experienced bankers. By modeling what they did and learning the ropes from the greats of his industry.
He went on to say (and I quote him with his permission), “you know, here’s the thing. 50 years later and these are still my people. These are still my friends, my confidants, and my go to guys. You can’t teach relationship building by reading spreadsheets. You have to feel it, and you have to care about it more than your own success. A good business deal, is one where everyone comes out a winner.”
50 Years Later and These Are Still My People
I think Allen should give up driving, and consider a career in motivational speaking.
Now let's break this down a little bit. Who is more likely to say yes to hosting a party for you?
- The person you met by chance (as in, no booth set up or any context) 10 seconds ago at the mall?
- The person you've already talked to several times about different things, bother related and unrelated to your business?
And when it comes to doing your own shopping, who are you more likely to buy from?
- The complete stranger who just sent you a message through Facebook because you're in the same group and she thinks her product will help you?
- The person who has been joking around with you for weeks and weeks and answering your questions in the group without offering to sell you something?
Now, I'm not saying we never buy from strangers. Of course we go into new stores and make purchases from people we don't know all the time.
But in direct sales, this is almost unheard of – at least without some sort of other context such as a vendor event or a booth or a friend (friend) introducing you as her consultant at a party.
It doesn't matter if your goal is to make an extra $100 a month, just enough to stay active and keep your discount, or build a team and get on a cruise ship… relationship marketing is paramount if you want to achieve your goals as a direct seller.
And it starts with a good system for following up with your clients.
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Tips for Relationship Marketing
Provide personalized customer service.
Do you know what mass-messaging does? It sends the message that the people on your list are just numbers.
Imagine if you bought a birthday gift for your mother in October, and then received an email in February asking if you had a mother with a birthday coming up…
Pretty obviously not a message that was meant for you, right?
Or say you bought a graduation gift for your son in May, and then received a message from your consultant about back-to-school ideas in September.
Again, pretty obvious that it's not for you.
Now, are these messages bad? No, of course not. But how likely are you to respond to them and purchase something?
You'd be more likely to purchase another gift for your mother in October when you bought the last one than in February, right? So while the message itself isn't bad in February, it'd be more effective if the consultant personalized it to you and sent it when your mother's birthday is top-of-mind.
Meet your customer where they are.
Do you know where your ideal client hangs out? Do they prefer Facebook or Twitter? Are they on LinkedIn?
When they have a question, do they head over to Facebook and ask their friends? Or do they head over to Google and start searching?
You can have the best content in the world for the most amazing content ever — but if your ideal client never sees it because you want to be on Tik Tok while they're hanging out over on Instagram, then it's not going to do you any good.
And, sure, you could post messages on Instagram telling them to go follow you on Tik Tok… but if they don't already like Tik Tok, then it's really hard to force them to come follow you.
The good news is, almost every one uses more than one social channel. So if they are hanging out on one social platform that you don't like, there's still a good chance that you can catch them on the platform that you do like. But it's up to you to know what that platform is.
Create value even after a customer buys.
Has this ever happened to you?
You meet a consultant who seems really nice and friendly. You two hit it off, you exchange stories and tell jokes. She tells you how to get that waxxy crayon off the wall.
She feels like she really is your friend.
And then you buy from her and poof. She disappears.
Not only does she not follow up with you on your purchase, but she doesn't talk to you at all any more. Because she's too busy talking to new people and trying to get new sales.
Or, when she does talk to you, it's only about some new product that she has available or because she wants you to host a party for her.
But not about you anymore. She never asks about your kids or your job or your day. And when you tell her she doesn't even look like she's listening. And when you asked her if that trick for crayons on the wall would work on the doors, she barked at you for asking.
Nothing will turn off a customer faster than being made to feel like you were just out for the sale.
All that value and help that you were putting out there before to get your customer to buy from you — it needs to still be around after they've bought. If you abandon your customer after they've bought from you, they will feel used and guess what?
That's right — they aren't going to be buying from you again.
Relationship marketing works when the relationships you build are genuine. If you don't plan on sticking around and being their friend, then you might as well just close your groups and go for paid advertising.
Customer Relationship Management Tools
You might be thinking “okay, fine. I need to be able to send personalized content to people. But how am I going to track when someone buys a birthday gift for their mother?”
That's where your tools come in.
Whether you want to use a basic tool like Google Sheets and have to build and set up your own system, or pay for a more robust tool like FIITFU that already has a system set up you just need to adopt it. The exact tool you use doesn't matter nearly as much as the system itself.
Make sure it is a system you will use to:
- Track customer purchases,
- Track customer wish lists,
- Track customer personal interest days (birthdays, family events),
- Remind you about these things,
- Make it easy to send a personalized note or message.
How much more efficient would you be if you knew which customers needed help choosing a last-minute stocking stuffer for their kids?
Relationship Marketing Doesn't Just Happen in Spreadsheets
More than likely, somewhere in your back office is a record of all, or at least some, of your customer orders. You may even be able to download this information.
And it's good information. Tracking these types of purchases is a really good first step to relationship marketing.
But that can't be where it ends. You need to put together a system that makes it easy for you to follow up with the right people at the right time.