How to Avoid “Warm and Fuzzy” Relationship Marketing

by James on May 4, 2009

Each Friday, for the past three weeks, Deb Rapacz* has posed a relationship marketing power question and explored its implications. Last Friday we published Is the era of warm and fuzzy relationship marketing DEAD? Today I provide some quick tips on how the insights in Deb’s post can help your business; some some hip shots on how to avoid “warm and fuzzy” relationship marketing.

The belief that warm and fuzzy relationship marketing is often used and rarely effective is a conclusion that my experience also supports. When designing a relationship marketing program marketers need to consider three factors, none of which are warm and fuzzy: it’s a commercial relationship, consumers are only interested in what you sell when they need it and relationship marketing isn’t the end, it’s the means to the end, which is relationship equity.

Hip Shots

Relationship Clutter

Design your relationship marketing program so the frequency and messaging reflects consumer interest. When they are engaged be aggressive and give them all the information they need to make an informed purchase decision. When they are using the product be less aggressive and focus messaging on how to use the product more effectively.

“Relationship” as the Wrong Goal

Your best customers are your business. They are responsible for most if not all your profitability. If you want to protect them from your competition you need to create a brand relationship, you need to go beyond being a product with a name. Use relationship marketing to establish relationship equity. This is the value in the relationship that goes beyond functional benefits and this is your only competitive insulation. This is the goal that relationship marketing can help you achieve.

Member Mentality

Relationship marketing is a strategy. The strategy can be executed with a member program but it is more often successful when it’s designed to reward customer interest and value. Needs change. When they do, when a couple have a baby, when a family moves, you want to be there, ready and able to deliver. You don’t want to make it hard for them to engage. Later, when you know who your best customers are, invite them to join a member program. Good customers expect to be rewarded.

Marketing the Marketing vs. Marketing the Brand

On several occasions my team has analyzed the performance of rewards programs. In every case the most requested reward was directly related to the product or service offered by the company. Every time. It’s a commercial relationship. If they are heavy users, they need what the category offers, give them more of what they need, more information about or value related to the product or service they are interested in. Do this and they will reward you with future sales. Waste their time and they won’t. It’s that simple.

Savings and Rewards can Destroy Brands

A smart man I worked with in the past said, “90% of loyalty problems can be traced to the sales process.” Your best customers expect to be rewarded but this doesn’t mean you have to bribe them. They are best customers because they need what the category offers and see value in what you offer. Develop rewards that will add value to the brand relationship, that set your product apart from the competition. Value that’s incremental to functional benefits.

*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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