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Relationship Marketing

By Glenn Gordon
(c) 2002 All Rights Reserved

I have a question for you. Have you recently (or ever)
compared the amount of time you spend in acquiring customers
versus the time you spend in cultivating a relationship with
them? Perhaps time isn't a good barometer; if you routinely
farm out site promotion and search engine positioning
efforts, you may not spend much time there at all. But the
question is still a valid one - how much attention do you
pay to the ones who have already paid you?

I know it's much simpler to view a sale as a completed
conquest and look only at how you can get the next one. But
if you do that you are committing a grave mistake, and one
that will cost you dearly in the long run. The follow-up
sales you don't make are hard to measure; it is much easier
to tally site visits and hits and your current position on
the search engines. But the truth is, you have customers (or
ezine subscribers) who can be either ignored or coddled.
It's your choice. What difference will it make? Only the
future success of your business!

You should realize that your customers need a reason to
maintain any loyalty to you; after all they are probably
already someone else's customer also. You will inevitably be
compared with that other supplier, even if he doesn't sell
the same thing you do. If you don't give your customer a
continuing reason to think favorably of you, when the time
comes for that next purchase he may already have
subconsciously put you in second place (or worse) relative
to his other supplier(s). If that happens it is only logical
that he will first look elsewhere for a product, even if you
are also selling it.

How do you build and maintain a good relationship with your

Practice relationship basics - remember that relationships
depend on communication, and that communication is a two way
street. And don't imagine that a constant bombardment of ads
is constructive of a relationship. It only conveys the
impression that all that matters to you is whether he buys.
Remember, marketing and sales are not the same thing!
Anybody can throw out a product for sale. Instead, you
should set yourself apart by the effort you put into
developing the total picture of yourself and your business
that your customer sees. That's relationship marketing.
You may be saying, "My customers are automatically put on my
ezine mailing list so they hear from me regularly. I don't
have time to do more than that." My answer is, the ezine is
a great start. Now use my favorite tool - the autoresponder
- to its full, time saving advantage to develop and
personalize the relationship. Here's how:

1. Personalize your communications
Make sure you use the personalization feature in your ezine
list manager and your autoresponder to full advantage. You
know, [firstname], how you like to see and hear your own
name. Whether you realized it or not, it's your favorite
word! But don't overdo it. Just as you don't begin every
sentence in a verbal conversation with the other person's
name, use the name sparingly in your emails. Don't start a
strong statement with someone's name - it comes off sounding
like a lecture. Instead, make it flow naturally by placing
it in sentences that are more personal in nature (note the
sentence above where I used your name, for example).

2. Generate feedback
Look for ways to generate feedback from your ezine
subscribers and customers. For example, you can solicit
feedback in form of a personal biographical background or
information about his or her website. Anytime you can get
your subscribers to share something important to them, they
have come another rung on the relationship ladder. It should
go without saying that you need to share yourself to
encourage feedback. Communicate simply as you would if you
were talking to a friend - you will find that your
subscribers will come to consider you their friend! Don't be
afraid to take a stand on issues, again, just as you would
with a friend. It is difficult for your subscribers to
develop a friendship if no personality emerges from your
emails. If you are by nature a more private person (as I
am), you may need to work at being more open in your
communications. Have a friend or spouse read some of your
emails to give you honest feedback as to how your
personality is communicated. Obviously the latitude you have
in expressing yourself is enormous. I receive several ezines
whose authors always start out by writing about their
children's braces or their dog's latest illness. While that
isn't my style, if you have a let-it-all-hang-out
personality, then go right ahead. It communicates who you
are. The personality you project won't be the favorite of
all your readers anyway, but that's not the point.

Use a spell checker and have someone else proof your emails
if grammar and sentence construction give you problems. You
have a message to communicate to your subscribers - bad
grammar or incomplete sentences obscures that message. Even
worse, it says that you didn't consider the message (and its
recipient) important enough to get it right. Don't expect
significant feedback if you don't respect your subscribers
enough to pay attention to details.

Autoresponders also allow you to easily get feedback on
subscriber/customer preferences such as HTML/plain text, or
whether to publish on Tuesday or Saturday. Simply set up
separate autoresponder addresses for each reply, or one
address with different subject lines.

3. Exceed expectations
Assuming you are already doing the basics such as delivering
a good product that does all it claims, and promptly
following up on support issues, nothing builds good
relationships and customer loyalty better than doing little
things that are pleasant surprises.

For example, your customers deserve first rate support and
you should by all means deliver it. But why not anticipate
as many of their questions and potential problems as
possible by including a FAQ/support email in your
autoresponder instant message that immediately follows up
your sale? It will not only save you tons of support time
and effort, it will deliver the message that you want your
customers to have answers at hand before there are

Use another of your follow up messages to offer your
customer another product that is a natural follow-on to the
one you just sold him. It is not only smart marketing; it
says you know what he is likely to need and are not just
pitching whatever else you have to sell.

Another message could ask for a testimonial in exchange for
some item of value. This tells your customer you value his
feedback and are willing to pay for it. Along the same line,
you could solicit input on what items your customer is
likely to purchase over the next 6 months, again offering
some small item in exchange.

Here's the biggest relationship-builder. Before you put your
product on the market, think in advance what other less
costly but closely related products your customer is sure to
find useful. Offer these products as bonuses through your
autoresponder follow-up series. By doing so, you will
immediately set yourself apart from 95% of your competitors.
Nothing I know of matches the pleasant surprise of receiving
unexpected bonuses that are immediately useful and valuable.
It speaks volumes about your thoughtfulness and the value
you place on your customer and his needs. Even if you have
to pay to get these follow-on bonuses, it will be more than
worth it in the long term. One is great; if you can manage
it two or three would be even better. Ideally you could also
continue to provide articles or tips on a continuing basis
that relate to that customer and his needs. Autoresponders
with separate contact lists for each product you sell make
it simple!

This is just a sampling of the kinds of
relationship-building jobs you can set up your
autoresponder to do. Does this kind of approach call for
considerable planning before the sale, exactly at the time
you are most impatient to begin selling? You bet! But you
are sowing relationship-building seeds that will produce a
harvest of profits later on. You are sending a message that
you care about your customers and have gone out of your way
to see that their needs are met. As you build a
relationship of trust and respect by applying methods such
as these, that critical position you hold in your
customer's subconscious relative to your competitors will
move higher and higher. While this is an invisible,
intangible factor, it will translate into future sales and
a growing, loyal customer base. Combined with a continuing
flow of good products, you have a recipe for online
success. It's time to crank up the autoresponder and start
putting in the ingredients. Relationship marketing is the
first and most important one!

Glenn Gordon - Providing
Training, Tips, Tools and Techniques Targeting Success
Online. BusinessBuilder Newsletter subscription All About Autoresponders
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using and understanding your most powerful email marketing
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This article may be freely reproduced as long as the
resource information is included.






Glenn Gordon
1408 Huron Trail
Plano, TX 75075


Copyright (C) 2002 You're In Business