‘Rethinking Relationship Marketing’ A Series of Relationship Marketing Power Questions

by James on April 17, 2009

This post was written by Deb Rapacz*, a friend and colleague from my days in Chicago. She may be the only person I know who is more passionate about the importance of Heavy Category Users and Best Customers than I am. Each Friday, for the next few weeks, I will publish her series of Relationship Marketing Power Questions. Then, on Monday, I will publish a post with some quick tips, some Hip Shots that demonstrate how you can use the insights provided by the power questions to help your business.

What’s the basis of this Relationship?

I’m not asking this about your personal relationship with your spouse or significant other. I’m asking if your Customer Relationship Marketing is grounded by a guiding discipline that states your intended effect on the mindset of your Heavy Users? If not, it’s likely misguided, and not working as hard at it could be.

I base this question on my understanding of Customer Relationship Marketing Best Practices and observations of short-comings uncovered while designing and auditing programs across many industries.

Brands spend a considerable amount of time defining their basic positioning.  Senior brand managers often work with agencies, research firms, branding consultants, etc. to get it just right. However, when it comes to applying similar strategic discipline to defining the context of the relationship they wish to have with their Heavy Users, it always seems to be absent.

Why is that? Is it because below the line activities are mostly delegated down to junior members of the team who don’t have the experience or skill set to guide this strategic exercise? Are Relationship Marketing budgets too thin to fund it? Are Relationship Marketing agencies better at managing the particulars of execution, than helping you define the strategic context of your customer relationships? Are the Big Brand Thinkers too busy guiding this process for the primary advertising campaign?

The reason doesn’t matter. If you’re using Customer Relationship Marketing as a tool to secure long term commitment to your brand, your efforts are more likely to produce effective results if you define the desired customer-to-brand relationship.

So, if you’re designing or revamping a Relationship Marketing initiative, what can you do? If customers are important, how can you design an anchor for customer relationships that helps guide the development of a stronger program, which will better help more heavy users stick with the brand longer and more exclusively?

Start by understanding your brand from the perspective of the buyers that matter most, your Heavy Users. I know this sounds basic but I’m continually surprised at how little managers understand about this critically important subset of their buyers. Heavy Users are a breed apart. They are familiar with your brand’s equity, its performance and benefits. They generally believe in your positioning and you have some equity with them. Look to understand them beyond their basic demographic profile.

Synthesize your Heavy User research into powerful insights that will help you craft a statement that describes your intended effect on the mindset of these buyers. I call this the Relationship FoundationSM. This statement captures the way the brand will appeal to the Heavy Users’ deeper emotional responses and connections to the brand. It then becomes a standard that guides relationship communications and their evaluation.

Once you define the basis of your brand relationship, you’ll be in a stronger position to strategically guide:

  • How to further develop Heavy Users’ affinity toward the brand
  • How to guide further knowledge about the brand
  • What to tell Heavy Users next
  • What tools Heavy Users need
  • How to talk to Heavy Users
  • How to balance branded and unbranded content
  • What branded content needs to be shared with Heavy Users
  • What the role of unbranded content is in the relationship

Are you ready to take your customer marketing to the next level?

*Deb Rapacz blends her marketer, agency, and consulting experiences to deliver powerful solutions, which work effectively across all marketing and advertising functions to build a solid base of core buyers. Learn more about Deb and how she help brands achieve success at Reilly and Rapacz.

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