In a highly fragmented media world, where engagement rates on social media are measured in fractions of a per cent, it’s becoming increasingly important to nurture your clients and leverage existing relationships, especially in traditionally transactional industries. 

Lead generation is also getting tougher. Banner blindness has drastically reduced the effectiveness of paid advertising on social media and online channels, whilst increased competition is driving up the CPC of the more effective keywords. 

Banner blindness relationship marketing
Eye-tracking heatmap illustrating banner blindness -Viewers no longer look at the ads

Ask any small business where they get their sales from and the holy grail is always word of mouth. 84% of consumers cite recommendation as to the reason for buying from a company.

Word of mouth leads are stronger, more engaged, convert higher and are presold, because they already know who you are and what you can do for them. 

Nurturing leads and previous customers also have a significant impact on profitability, by reducing the cost of acquisition for new business

But this doesn’t happen by accident, its a reaction to a relationship that you have nurtured with another client, and based on their experience or dealing with you. And it’s this third party trust that you benefit from as their credibility adds value to your perceived value.

It doesn’t just work for service businesses though, with many of the techniques being adopted further up the funnel, as businesses seek to nurture and cultivate their leads and tie potential leads in before they even make the decision to buy.

This is especially true in the Real estate market, where businesses like Keller Williams are seeking to offer value-added content and services to potential homebuyers regardless of where they are in there buying cycle.

Gary Keller advocates a 33 touch campaign, which seeks to maintain regular, meaningful contact with a database to position yourself top of mind with homebuyers when they decide to buy or sell. 

Keller Williams 33 touch campaign relationship marketing

This could be personal, text, phone or email content, but the key is “meaningful” - the content has to achieve two things. It needs to add value to the recipient, such that they want to receive the contact and it needs to clearly position the agent as trustworthy, experienced and professionally competent.

Keller Williams has gone a step further, viewing it’s subscribers as a tribe with specific needs outside of the core real estate products and services, leveraging big data to offer personalised financial products along with home maintenance and design services.

Have a clear brand identity

Before you run off and start blogging, remember that you are building your reputation, so your messaging needs to be consistent with what you want to be known for. Keller Williams Ireland, for example, promotes a two-pronged approach, which positions its agents as being expert both professionally and “Hyperlocally” so that the audience knows that the agent is the authority in selling in a target market.

Marketing content is split equally between building these two facets of the personal brand.

personal branding relationship marketing

Even in large businesses, there is an opportunity to strengthen corporate reputations by building up personal brands. The messaging from a CTO or CMO on LinkedIn will have more credibility on certain subjects than the Sales team for example and can be used to create a much richer picture of the brand and it’s offering that the standard marketing media. 

Build a relationship - listen to their feedback and comments

Relationships are built on dialogue, to monologue, you don’t get to understand what your customer’s need or want by talking, and this is doubly so in a highly competitive market place.

From Facebook to email, attention heat maps are constantly demonstrating that we’re blind to banners and other ads, as we seek out relevant answers to our own problems. Voice search is now over 50% globally, and questions are now the major search terms used on youtube and Google. 

If you’re not answering the questions that your customers are asking, someone else will be, so you have to constantly adjust your messaging based on customer feedback. Forums’ subscriber groups, comment sections and regular keyword reviews are essential to make sure that you continue to be the solution to your audience's problems.  

Keep regular contact but make it meaningful. People expect it and are willing to accept it.

There is a psychological theory called the “mere exposure theory’ which suggests that we automatically accept and feel comfortable around things we are used too. It’s the reason why certain Chrismas songs remain popular even though you’ve heard them 500 times!

Similarly, familiarity with your content will increase the open rate and ensure that people will be open to your messages, which is essential when you start to add more sales-focused CTA’s further down the funnel.

Add value! This is not about you.

This is the key difference between inbound and outbound marketing. Outbound marketing bombards people with messages they don’t want to see, shouting the advertiser's message to a wide audience in the hope that it might be heard.

Inbound marketing and content, in particular, aim to influence people by providing content that the viewer wants to see. 

content marketing influencer marketing relationship marketing

The main difference is the message. Good inbound marketing adds value to the viewer's life, by providing a solution to a problem. It answers the questions that the consumer is asking, in an engaging and entertaining way, as this ensures that, not only will the recipient get to the end fo the message, but they will remain engaged and are likely to retain 10 times as much of the message

There are multiple markets and make content relevant to them

Regardless of your industry, it’s likely that your customers are not the only people referring you. There is a range of affiliated but non-competing companies that can be nurtured for referrals, but their needs are different, so you might want to communicate with them specifically.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that a small commission will drive referrals, most businesses will generate significantly more from their repeat customers than they will ever earn in commissions, so you need to communicate how they will benefit from being associated with your business, how it will enhance their offering with no risk to their reputation. 

Grow your list, not facebooks!

Social Media is a great way to communicate a simple message to a lot of people, but it’s not a great place to communicate a complex and lengthy series of messages.

You want to be in control of your audience and how you communicate with them. A Facebook follower is not a lead, it’s an opportunity to see, and the level of engagement is very low. Social media is another media platform, now more or less so than TV, Radio or the internet, and as a business, you need to be able to pull your potential users closer and closer with time. 

An email subscriber is an engaged potential lead, so your aim should be to create online content on your site and promote it via social media, rather than placing the content on the media platform itself, and coupled with lead capture as applicable. Ideally, you want your viewers to subscribe to your site or at least to email.

Reward loyalty and treat your subscribers differently

Your subscribers have indicated that they want a relationship with you, to be more than just a casual visitor. You need to respect and recognise that and treat them better than the norm.

Content should be stratified, dependent upon the level of engagement, from short intro pieces on Facebook and Linkedin to more detailed onsite content, and finally exclusive content for subscribers.

This could be a more in-depth article or a different format, such as a webinar or video content. Ideally, you want to create content that is exclusive to the subscribers, as this recognises that they are more engaged.

This is common in the online marketing services space, where freelancers and consultants offer free one to one consulting to their subscribers, which adds significant value ( and obviously increases the potential for lead generation!) but can work in other segments, especially where knowledge is the commodity. 

Make sure this can transfer to a lead flow

Ultimately, this is a business, and your marketing has to work for you. 
Don’t forget that this is a process, and its function is to provide selling opportunities in the future, in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible, so you need to pull people down the funnel. 

Marketing funnel stages
relationship marketing

Whilst your top of funnel content needs to be highly customer focussed, with limited overt CTAs, you should give them the opportunity to drive the engagement further at their pace. This can be as simple as links to relevant, more sales focussed information, more detailed information on applications or more in-depth lead capture.

As your audience comes more engaged, they are more informed and looking to have a closer relationship, CTA’s can be more overt, and more personal contact. 

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