Relationship marketing is an aspect of customer relationship management (CRM) that is interested specifically in developing long-term relationships with customers that can then be leveraged for sales, promotions and more.
In other words, relationship marketing is less concerned with the finding of leads and more interested in developing those leads into warm or verified leads. It means having a relationship between your business and your customers.
And this can make all the difference: as explained in the book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.
To illustrate this point, consider the following aspect of most internet marketing: trying to post adverts and promotions on forums.
Before social media, what was the best social tool online for promoting a new product or website? Of course, it was forums. Before social networks, forums were the only place where you could really have a group discussion about your hobby of choice and get an immediate response. Back then every site pretty much had a forum and it was a goldmine for marketers hoping to spread their message.
Today though, forums are much less common. Most sites rely on their comments sections in order to generate that community spirit, while the real discussion takes place on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Forums are much rarer to come by, and most people you speak to won't be regular posters on any forums at all. Social media simply fulfils all their needs for online discussion…
But don't be fooled into thinking that forums have completely lost their value, or that they can't benefit you and your business in any way. For in fact, forums are actually just as powerful when it comes to spreading word of a new product or website as they ever were and that’s because of the role they can play in relationship marketing. Sure, they tend to be smaller and fewer in number, but that just means that the people who do post there are all the more dedicated.
Find a popular forum and you will have found a hive of highly enthusiastic fans who will probably post there on a daily basis and who will gobble up any information they can on that particular niche. These people will probably know each other well, and will probably be highly passionate about the topic they're discussing. Thus ,if they see a link they like, they will be far more likely to discuss it in depth, to share it around the web and to give it tons of free promotion - that's what passion does.
How to Use Forums
In theory then, this is an incredibly powerful tool for promotion, but that's not necessarily the experience you'll have had if you've ever tried using one. What's much more likely to happen is that you'll post your message and link on the forum, wait for a few days, and get 0 responses when you come back to check. Frustrated you'll 'bump' the message back up to the top… and then it will get deleted.
So what are you doing wrong? How do you go about making these incredibly enthusiastic communities work for you?
Your objective then, is to try and reach that status so that they consider you almost a friend and so that they're happy and eager to help you when you start trying to promote something. This means putting a lot of time in up front to get yourself known and to build yourself a good reputation as someone who provides real value to the community.
What to Do
So, for the first month or two, you shouldn't even think about trying to promote anything. Instead, spend the time just enjoying the forum - even if it's only for a few minutes each day. Maybe set a few of the forums to load first thing in the morning, then spend a few minutes posting on each one to start building your reputation and making friends. Likewise keep those pages book marked and if ever you come across something interesting (not your own!) share it with them to build the reputation of someone who posts high quality and useful links.
Because that's essentially what the internet is for - connecting people and facilitating movements. Once you start using it that way it becomes incredibly powerful. Now tell them about your new project and you'll find that those communities fall head-over-heels to help out and the effort will be more than worth it. This is worth a lot more than just one lousy link and it’s all because of relationship marketing.
This is actually how many of the most successful products, brands and channels start out. Just as one example, a very new and very niche YouTube channel called AnimeAjay has managed to reach over 36k subscribers simply because the user was popular on anime forums before he launched his channel.
Then there are products like Ciltep. This nootropic sells incredibly well because the user was a member of a forum where nootropics were regularly discussed and the product began life there.
The way to look at this is as a microcosm of relationship marketing as a whole. The is not simply to reach out to your audience. It’s not even to build trust and authority – which is the general aim of content marketing and is very similar to relationship marketing. Rather, it’s to get to the point where your community and your fans are almost like friends – or at least colleagues!
Respond to comments on your social media, create promotional activities like contests, use live streaming and do everything you can to connect, survey and give back. This is HUGELY valuable to any business.