What Is Relationship Marketing And How You Can Use It To Grow Your Business

What Is Relationship Marketing And How You Can Use It To Grow Your Business

With relationship marketing, you can turn existing customers into brand advocates. Here's everything you need to know to make it a reality.

How to turn existing customers into engaged brand advocates

New relationships are always exciting—and the business kind are no exception.

Your new customers are thrilled to have found a great solution, and you’re excited about your business growth.

The issue is that many companies (especially the ones in their early stages) think they have more growth opportunity focusing on new customers instead of current ones.

This means throwing existing customers on the back burner as soon as they’ve gotten on board.

Placing most of your energy into acquiring instead of retaining current customers will create an “acquire, churn, and burn” cycle that will cost you a lot.

According to Accenture, businesses lose $1.6 trillion per year when customers churn.

Source: Accenture

Tied in with the fact that acquiring new customers costs five times more than keeping existing ones, it’s a lot of wasted money.

Investing more time in nurturing existing relationships is something that will pay off in the long run.

The key to any happy, healthy, and lasting relationship is providing a human touch—an experience that in the era of chatbots is rather a rare delight.

By using relationship marketing as a driver of the human interactions that delight your customers, you’ll fulfill their additional need for an outstanding experience.

What is relationship marketing?

Relationship marketing can be defined as focusing on marketing to already existing customers, as opposed to marketing to acquire new ones.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do marketing for acquisition, but rather that the two sides require the same amount of focus.

The aim of relationship marketing is creating an emotional, loyal connection between a customer and a company.

The benefits of relationship marketing

These are the main benefits of relationship marketing, which ultimately lead to increased profits:

Increased loyalty: if a customer has constant positive experiences with a company, they are much less likely to “shop around” for other solutions.

Less focus on pricing: if a customer is constantly reassured of the value they are getting from the ongoing relationship, they will care much less about what they’re paying for it.

Word-of-mouth marketing and referrals: according to Nielsen, 83% of customers say that recommendations from people they know are their most trusted decision-making source.

The more of a lasting impression you can make, the more you’re on your customers’ mind, and the more they will recommend you when someone asks.

Easier up-and cross-selling: if you’ve made a lasting impression, customers are much more likely to trust that and buy more from you, rather than risking going for a new business that they’re not familiar with.

Reduced acquisition costs: if you focus on retention, you only have to acquire a customer once, and there are no more costs associated.

Pleased customers will start referring you to other people, which means that you don’t have to spend as much on marketing to new prospects.

Product improvements: there is nobody who’s as intimately familiar with your solution as your long-term customers, and their feedback is a goldmine when it comes to improvements.

Quality customer feedback can be used to identify any shortcomings and fix them before they become complaints.

Not only that, but the result—an optimized solution and experience—will bring on new customers, too.

In conclusion: putting effort into marketing activities that emphasize customer retention and loyalty pay off not only financially, but also for your own development.

Relationship marketing tactics

Create story- and customer-driven content

Many companies create content as an acquisition marketing tactic. However, you can use content to engage your existing customers, too.

Instead of just telling customers what to do with content, the focus should be on getting them actually involved:

  • Ask them to help you with surveys that you will use to write research-based content
  • Ask them to share their experience with a specific issue you’re writing about
  • Do roundup posts of their tips for a certain topic
  • Ask to feature them as a use case

Engage them through a tone, voice, and narrative that is descriptive of the people behind your business and that aligns closely to what you value as a company.

For example, on the Groove blog, we used to do weekly Friday Q&A’s that proved to be great for getting our customers involved with our brand.

Customers and audience asked us questions, and Alex, our CEO, picked one every week and answered them, prompting a conversation in the comments.

When your customers feel like they have a vested interest in your content, they will be more likely to interact with your posts (which gives you valuable feedback and ideas) and share them, too.

Reward loyal customers

People like being rewarded, especially when it’s not really expected.

And, as it turns out, a sticky customer loyalty program can mean a lot to your bottom line.

The psychology and strategy that make loyalty programs so effective can be used by any business of any size, whether you’re an online SaaS or eCommerce site, or a local brick-and-mortar shop.

We’ve written about the different types of loyalty programs before if you’re looking for ideas that will suit your type of business.

Whichever loyalty program you choose, there are two main things to keep in mind:

  • Progress must be easy to track
  • The rewards must be valuable and relevant

Give your customers rewards that are useful to them as well as relevant to your business, and you’ll be increasing value for both sides.

Ask for feedback—and take necessary steps for improvement

Your entire business—present and future—should be based on your customers.

Give them the opportunity to leave feedback and rate their experience.

It’s important to remain open to both positive and negative feedback—if you only focus on one side, improvement is challenging.

And most importantly, let your customers know when you’ve done something they’ve asked for, even if it was ages ago.

An individual customer feeling like they are important and remembered—regardless of how long it’s been—plays a huge role in creating a wow moment.

Humanize your brand and company

In order to build a genuine, personal relationship with your company, customers need to see that they’re dealing with real people, not robots.

You can do this by:

  • Making authorship obvious in your content: adding an author name, bio and encouraging individual tone and voice.
  • Always signing a name and attaching a face to every communication.
  • Being casual (to an extent, of course): don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through when communicating with customers.
  • Following their work, and mentioning parts of it in communication.

People are naturally more attracted to other people than they are to brands.

Proving that there are people behind your brand makes it easier to create a human-to-human connection.

Create a community

If you have enough customers, think about bringing them together in some way.

There is a reason why, for a long time, Drupal’s slogan was “Come for the software, stay for the community”.

Being a part of a community gives people an extra sense of belonging and attention.

  • Organize events, meetups, conferences, or parties
  • Create an online forum about a topic in your area of business
  • Create a Slack channel where your customers can chat about your product or service

A great example of a customer-driven community is the HubSpot community, that consists of chat boards for all the topics HubSpot is tied to:

Creating a community where customers can go and get involved will emotionally tie them to your company.

You’re the one that provided this experience, even if you weren’t directly involved in it—and your customers will appreciate it with their loyalty.


The main goal of relationship marketing is to nurture existing customers to create a loyal, emotional relationship between them and your business.

Engaged customers are at a much lower risk of churning, and will provide a higher lifetime value compared to the ones who are forgotten after onboarding.

Focusing on existing customers as much as new ones will reduce your acquisition costs, improve your reputation, and increase your bottom line.

Which tactics do you use to keep existing customers excited? Let us know in the comments.

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