Justin Roff-Marsh divides the world into two types of customers, customers who are product-focused and customers who are relationship-focused.
One type of customer ‘buys’ a product. (She focuses primarily on product attributes and price.)
And the other type of customer ‘buys’ a relationship. (She is less focused on the transaction, and more interested in a longer-term relationship.)
Product-focused purchases are more transactional. When you choose between Safeway and Trader Joe’s or Home Depot and Orchard Supply, you are choosing based on features and price.
On the other hand, the choice of an accountant, a lawyer, or an interior designer is more likely to be made on the opportunity to form a trusted relationship. These purchases involve too much uncertainty and risk to make them solely on features and price.
Good news for small companies
This is good news for small companies. Although small companies find it difficult to compete against larger competitors on the basis of features and price, they have a natural advantage when it comes to forming close business relationships. They are able to deliver a level of customer intimacy that larger companies simply cannot do.
Even better, customers are willing to pay a premium for these relationships. For an important product or service that has some risk associated with it, customers want to know that they have a relationship with the seller. They want to know that they can rely the relationship when issues arise.
You may intuit that your business is well-suited to a relationship-centric model but are unsure how to attract and profit from relationship-oriented customers.
Shift from Product-Centric Marketing to Relationship-Centric Marketing
Since traditional marketing programs are product-centric, these programs will not help. The alternative is to build a relationship-centric marketing program. Instead of focusing your energy on selling product, focus it on selling relationships.
The good news is that you don’t have to sell a relationship-oriented customers anything to begin cultivating the relationship.
If you implement an automated communications program you can begin to educate potential customers about your industry and best-practices. This program allows you to have consistent and meaningful contact with your potential customers. They receive value from you, they learn from you, and they increase their trust in you.
If you identify potential customers, it doesn’t matter if they are ready to buy. It doesn’t even matter if they recognize the kinds of problems that you know how to solve. If you can introduce them to your automated communications program, you can begin to educate them and cultivate a relationship with them.
Now remember, relationship-centric marketing programs are not about they sale. They are not about optimizing the value of specific transactions. They are about maximizing the lifetime value of the relationships under your management, both current and potential customers.
And guess what, these programs don’t have to be expensive. Here’s how Roff-Marsh recommends you get started:
- Build a central database that contains the details about your current customers, potential customers you have identified, and possible centers of influence.
- Design a program of communications that will establish and nurture relationships with the people in your database. A well-established method is to send an email periodical once or twice a month. Give your articles a do-it-yourself feel. This useful information educates people about what is involved to fix the problem, and indirectly helps them to see the value of hiring an expert (like you) to help them. You will find this approach more effective than constantly writing about your offer and your successes.
- Acquire new relationships that you can manage and nurture. The best way to acquire new relationships is to ask for an email address at every point of contact.
Once you have a large number of relationships with whom you communicate valuable material on a regular basis, you now have the raw material for sales opportunities. As salespeople need more sales opportunities, you can reach out to these relationships and and initiate your sales process.
The creation of a turnkey sales process marks a significant transition in the management of your business.
It all begins with the recognition that “your ideal customers are those who are in the market for relationships (rather than low-margin commodities).”
Now you can take your focus off transactions and apply it to building and nurturing relationships with a growing army of customers who are prepared to pay a premium to work exclusively with you.