Relationship Marketing — What is it and How Can You Use It?

Does your marketing process create long-term relationships with your customers, or do you instead focus on getting the sale and moving on to the next prospect?

There’s a lot of value in building strong relationships. They enable you to spend less time and money on new customers, and it maximizes the value of the ones you have. And customer retention makes a big difference in your bottom line; a retention increase of 5% can increase revenue 25-95%.

What is relationship marketing and how can you take advantage of it to improve your return on marketing investment? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Relationship Marketing?

Relationship marketing is designed to foster long-term engagement, interaction, and loyalty with customers. You want to develop strong relationships by personalizing your marketing approach and meeting their needs as directly as possible.

This relationship is created at the beginning when a prospect is just becoming aware of your brand, and it is fostered through and after the sale. Excellent customer service is a crucial component, as many people leave a company, not because of an inferior product, but because of a poor experience.

Businesses can use a variety of technologies to facilitate the relationship, from social media outreach to email marketing. The data created from these interactions has to be analyzed so your brand can keep pace with how people are reacting to your messages. The key is to deeply understand your customer —  when you know exactly who they are and what their most significant needs are, you can construct highly personalized marketing that helps them feel connected to you.

Understand Your Current Brand Loyalty

The starting place for any relationship marketing program is to know where you are now. Hopefully you already have a strong brand that engenders loyalty, but if you don’t, you can learn how to create one. Understand the psychology behind what makes customers loyal to your brand, and make a plan to move in that direction. Do you currently have a customer loyalty program? If you do, how well is it working? What feedback are you getting from customers who use it— and who stop using it?

Finally, what does your current customer churn look like? Today’s big data and technology mean that you can see this at a very detailed level without much effort. You can not only see what happened in the past but predict what your churn levels will be going forward. Once you’ve gathered data on where you currently are, it’s time to use relationship marketing to improve loyalty and customer retention.

Use Data to Personalize Your Approach

You already understand precisely who your customers are; now it’s time to be deeply personalized in your approach. People crave a unique experience that feels like you know them personally. Companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu do big business by using individual customer history to recommend future purchases.

A personalized experience helps a prospect bond to your company and trust you more strongly. They believe that you understand their needs,  and they are more receptive to hearing your ideas on how to meet those needs. This trust is the beginning of a relationship, and when you keep your communication consistent, that connection deepens over time.

Create Compelling Content

Part of building a relationship with your customers involves not continually focusing on the sale. You want to bring them into your brand story and help them to see a more personal view of your company. For instance, Marriott advertised in 2017 on Snapchat with “Snapisodes” that highlight a variety of travel destinations. Of course, they hope you’ll book with them when you travel, but the marketing itself isn’t a sales pitch. It’s educational and informative and helps build the relationship young people have with the brand.

As another example, Zappos uses their “Beyond the Box” page as a newsroom of behind-the-scenes content, including a story about an employee determined to live their best life despite cancer.

These stories aren’t direct sales pitches, but they are emotional, compelling snapshots that help readers feel more connected to the brand.

Make Your Sales Process Efficient and User-Friendly

When people are ready to buy, you don’t want to put any obstacles in their path. Be sure you’re aware of the user experience on your website and throughout the sales process. Smooth user experience will reinforce the sale and increase your profitability.

You also need to make sure your behind-the-scenes processes are efficient, from the sale to customer service. Customer service is especially important because a poor experience here can undo all the hard work you’ve put into building your customer relationship. With an easy-to-use sales process and great post-purchase support, you can win a customer for life.

Maintain Your Relationship After the Sale

The biggest goal of relationship marketing is to maintain your connection to a customer after the initial sale. When an existing customer makes a second, third, or further purchase, they often spend more money. You also don’t have to spend all the marketing time and money on winning those subsequent purchases.

Existing customers aren’t just valuable because of the additional buying they do, but also because of the advocacy they can provide for your brand. A happy customer will talk to friends and family about your products and encourage them to buy as well.

A great customer relationship pays significant dividends over the long term. That’s why you can’t afford to focus on single-transaction marketing. Start building relationships today!

Guest Post: About the Author

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

Guide to Marketing Your Small Business

When you run a small business, you may not have as much money in your budget to work with as you would like.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you should cut your marketing expenses when funds are tight.

As a small business owner, marketing is one of your most valuable tools. As such, it is one that should never be neglected. While you may not have the money to run multi-million-dollar campaigns, there are marketing methods that are affordable on even the tightest of budgets.

If you are looking to get the most out of a limited marketing budget, keep reading to discover some helpful tips in this guide to marketing your small business.

Get a Clear Picture of What You Can Afford

If you know that you have a limited marketing budget but don’t know exactly how much you can afford to spend, now is the time to crunch some numbers. Before you dive into creating a campaign, you need to figure out exactly what you can (and can’t) afford.

Coming up with a marketing budget can be tricky. If this is something that you are struggling with, talk to your accountant. They’ll run the numbers for you and help you determine how much money you can afford to invest in your business’ marketing efforts.

Create an Elevator Pitch

As a business owner, you should be marketing all the time regardless of where you are. That’s where your elevator pitch – a short statement intended to engage someone and pique their interest in your products or services – comes in.

According to a study conducted by Microsoft, the average human attention span is a mere eight seconds. In other words, you only have eight seconds to engage someone and make them want to know more about your business. From there, you only have around a minute to sell them on your service or product and make them want to buy.

In short, you need a killer elevator pitch.

If you are good with words, writing your own pitch is your best bet. If it’s something you struggle with, though, paying a professional writer to help you out is well worth the investment. A solid elevator pitch is something that you’ll use time and time again, and the return on your investment will be huge.

Invest in the Right Swag

When you are working with a limited budget, trying to market your business with wholesale hats or t-shirts might seem out of the question. Hear us out, though.

While the initial cost of investing in branded swag for your business may seem out of reach, there are ways to make this type of marketing more affordable. And using the right promotional items can provide a huge return on your investment.

Buying customized pens or keychains has a smaller upfront investment than buying t-shirts or hats, but think about what usually happens to those items. They end up in junk drawers or trash cans and are never seen or thought about again.

Something like a hat or t-shirt, on the other hand, is likely to be used time and time again. If you buy wholesale blank t-shirts and print your logo on them, every time someone wears one, they become a walking billboard for your business. The number of impressions that can be made by a single hat or tee is huge, so this type of swag offers a lot of bang for its buck.

If you can’t afford to pay for custom-printed apparel or accessories for your business, there are ways to make it more affordable. You could, for example, buy wholesale blank t-shirts and customize them yourself using iron-on vinyl decals. Another option? If you have a friend or associate with a screen printing or embroidery shop, see if they would be willing to customize your blank hats or shirts in exchange for the products or services your business offers.

Embrace Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is huge, and it should be a part of every small business owner’s overall marketing strategy. When you consider the fact that email marketing has an average return on investment of $38 for every $1 spent, there is no denying that money spent on digital marketing is money well spent.

Email isn’t the only option, though.

Search engine optimization, online advertising campaigns, social media marketing, etc. can all help you build awareness of your brand and connect with your target audience. Don’t try tackling it all on your own, though. Working with a marketing agency is well worth the investment. Keep in mind, too, that most agencies offer service packages at various price levels to make it possible for even smaller businesses to afford their services.

Build Relationships

Consumers don’t want to be sold to. They want to have meaningful relationships with companies that provide the products and services they need. Rather than inundating members of your target audience with advertisements and marketing materials, get to know them. Provide them with valuable resources that will help them out without costing them a single penny.

Keep in mind, too, that keeping customers is less costly than acquiring new ones. Make customer retention a primary focus in your business. Keep your current customers happy, and give them an incentive to share your business with their family and friends. Treat people the way you would like to be treated, and you will likely see an uptick in your revenue.

Conclusion

You don’t have to have a multi-million-dollar budget in order to successfully market your small business. As you can see, there are all sorts of affordable marketing methods that will enable you to build brand awareness, gain new customers, and keep existing ones without spending a small fortune. You may need to get creative, but you can market your company on even the tightest of shoestring budgets.

Guest Post: About the Author

Brenda Kimble is a writer and stay-at-home mother of two daughters and a son, plus their beagle named Duke! In her free time, she loves crafting, spending time with her family, and writing for companies. She also enjoys strolling the streets of her quaint neighborhood in Austin, Texas to find the trendiest hot spots for fashion, food, and live music.

Your Complete Checklist for Working Remote

Working remotely can be a challenge for employees with busy families. Noise, interruptions, and other distractions can derail a daily schedule, especially when there are no managers around. Complex or confusing tasks can be more difficult where there isn’t someone right next to you to ask for help.

Physical equipment like desks and computers provide the foundation for working remotely but eliminating distractions and maintaining focus requires a lot more. Noise reduction and proper lighting also help reduce the urge to take breaks. Use this checklist to make sure your work environment is ready for remote tasks.

Comfortable Chairs

Office chairs should be well-padded with armrests and backrests. Chairs should be high enough off the ground that your feet rest flat on the floor. Adjustable office chairs are designed to provide adequate support, so use those in the office instead of dining room or kitchen chairs.

If you want to work in the living room occasionally, a chair with good leg and back support are still essential. Recliners or beds can be comfortable but may cause neck strain if used for too long.

Adequate Desk Space

Desks come in a variety of shapes and sizes but try to buy more desk space than you think you need. Desks less than 36” wide feel cramped and have little room for documents, monitors, and other essentials. A keyboard tray is helpful for external keyboard use and frees up valuable surface space.

Choose a desk that has drawers and cubbies for storage. While plastic sets of drawers and other desktop organizers can be helpful, they can get in the way. Drawers are perfect for storing documents and writing supplies out of sight, yet within reach. If you’re working remotely from a co-working space, choose a space that has functional desks instead of rows of tables.

Printer and Scanner

Even if your work is entirely digital, a printer provides a chance to take a break from staring at a screen. Print long documents and curl up in an armchair to read them without straining your eyes. If you aren’t printing very often, get a supply of long-lasting printer ink to avoid having ink dry up between uses.

Scanners also come in handy, especially if you ever need to send important personal paperwork. To cut down on the amount of equipment you need, get an HP inkjet printer that has built-in scanning and copying capabilities.

Extra Monitor

Laptop and desktop users can benefit from having an extra screen for displaying data or video conferences. Having an extra monitor reduces the amount of time employees spend switching tabs or windows, increasing productivity significantly.

Laptop users, in particular, need a monitor that can be raised to reduce eye strain. The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration says that the top of a computer screen should be at or just below eye level to reduce neck and back strain.

External Mouse, Keyboard, and Webcam

An external mouse is typically easier to use than a trackpad. It can be used in a more natural position for the arms and wrists, which reduces long-term strain. Get a wireless mouse to reduce the number of cables on your desk.

Laptop users may find an external keyboard helpful. To reduce eye strain, laptop users can put their laptop on a stand that raises it to eye level, and then use an external keyboard to continue typing comfortably.

An external webcam and microphone are vital for video conferencing. Although most laptops now include webcams, they can be challenging to adjust, and their video quality isn’t as good. External microphones can also reduce background noise, including typing. Microphones with on/off buttons are more efficient to quickly mute a noise or a cough than clicking around on your video conferencing app.

Noise Reduction

If you live alone, your work environment may be quiet most of the time. However, construction and other noise sources eventually creep in, and it’s best to have a way to deal with them.

Fans and white noise machines can work great for reducing low noise levels. Outside noise can be muffled with noise-reducing curtains. Shared co-working spaces or coffee shops may require noise-canceling headphones.

Keep in mind that music can be distracting, especially if it has lyrics. If you need to listen to music while working, consider sticking to instrumentals like classical or jazz or music from other cultures if you don’t understand what is being sung.

Proper Lighting

Natural lighting makes your work environment easy on the eyes. Working near a window is best, but you may have to position yourself carefully or get a matte screen cover to reduce glare and eye strain.

Get a sunlight-imitating floor lamp for working in the evenings or on cloudy days. Although most laptop screens are bright enough to illuminate keyboards, working on a computer in dark rooms can cause eye strain or cause you to mistake a comma for a period. If you must work in a room with insufficient lighting, turn your screen brightness down to match the room’s level.

Even with natural lighting, take a 15-minute break every two hours to give your eyes a rest. Also, try 20-20-20 breaks: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to focus your eyes on something 20 feet away.

Powerful Software

Many companies use instant messaging and video call software to keep everyone in touch while working remotely. If you’re expected to use specific software, install it, and adjust its settings before you need to use it.

If you’re a contractor or freelancer working remotely for multiple clients, look for the right combination of applications that allow you to communicate with clients. Some clients may expect video calls, while others want cloud sharing for important documents.

Download browser plugins that enable you to block social media and other distractions during working hours. You can get similar software for your phone, or simply keep your phone on the other side of the room while working.

Buckle-Down and Get to Work

Working remotely presents a unique set of challenges. It requires focus and organization, but it can be rewarding for self-starters who want to free themselves from a daily commute.

Invest in high-quality furniture and electronics for your workspace so you can stay comfortable and keep everything within easy reach. Pay attention to the details like lighting and software. With some discipline and practice, you’ll be able to achieve your career goals without setting foot in an office.

Guest Post: About the Author

Tania Longeau serves as the Head of Services for InkJet Superstore. Tania oversees a team of Operations and Customer Service Reps from the Los Angeles headquarters. Before joining InkJet Superstore, Tania was a team leader and supervisor working for one of the biggest mortgage and real estate companies in the country. She is a happily married mother of one who enjoys spending time with her family and reading in her leisure hours.

How To Write A Business Contract That Will Protect Your Interests: 8 Essential Tips

Drafting business contracts might not be the most exciting task you will have to do as a business owner, but it is absolutely necessary for all small businesses. Here are eight essential tips for small business owners about how to write a business contract that will protect your interests.

#1 Focus on the Most Important Clauses

The first thing you should do is figure out the most important clauses for your business. Then, you will need to focus on these clauses throughout your document. To put it simply, clauses are the sections you will want to include in your business contract. They will always depend on the project you are working on, so there is no definitive answer to what clauses you need.

Nevertheless, every small business owner should think about which terms, requirements, and conditions you would want to discuss in your document and negotiate with whoever you are signing the agreement with. You should also consider which points you are willing to compromise on and which ones not that much.

#2 Use Understandable Language

Though many businesses want to use strictly formal terminology, it is not always a good idea to use too many terms that will make your document sound too complicated. This is why you need to strive to use language that you understand. Reserve some of the legal jargon (also known as legalese) for the final documents but use something simpler on the stage of negotiations.

Remember that you are not a professional attorney, so using a limited amount of legal jargon will prevent your document from sounding like gibberish to you. Opt to use language that you will understand no matter what so that you can avoid misunderstandings and don’t get confused too much.

#3 Think Through All the Possible Outcomes

A common mistake made by small business owners when writing legal documents is that they forget to discuss all the possible outcomes. Just like using too much legal jargon, forgetting to discuss all the possible outcomes can result in misunderstandings between you and whoever you are signing the agreement with.

One of the main aims of any and every contract is to predict all the possible outcomes and address them immediately in the contract when you are writing it – not after you have come to an agreement and suddenly remembered about the possibility of this or that happening at some point. This is exactly why many business owners prefer hiring a professional attorney.

#4 Use a Professional Writer

That being said, it is not always necessary to hire a professional attorney for your contract. Instead, you can consider hiring a professional freelance writer who has sufficient experience writing such documents and has all the necessary skills that you would want a contract writer to have. This might even make the contract writing process more affordable.

Affordability, of course, is crucial for small businesses, so it is a really good idea to consider professional writers instead of attorneys. For example, you could choose a writer with the help of a writing service like Writing Judge to find the best specialist for your document. You can compare writers and check their reputation, experience, skills, and so on.

#5 Talk About Payment Options

In some way, the payment options are a part of the clauses you would want to discuss in your document concerning your agreement. However, your payment options and details need a completely separate section because of their importance. Here are some things to keep in mind when writing your payment options:

  • Do preliminary calculations to make sure everything is right.
  • Be reasonable and don’t overestimate or underestimate your costs.
  • Always remember the possible additional expenses you might have.
  • Clearly state everything you want to discuss your payment options and details.
  • Try to talk about everything you want to discuss and don’t leave out any important details.

#6 Remember About Both Parties

When writing your contract, remember that you are doing it both for your business and for the other party, so write down the obligations and duties of both parties. Think about all the small and big details you would want to discuss including terms, responsibilities, obligations, and so on (both financial and non-financial).

Just like with your payment options and details, remember to be as clear as possible and don’t forget any small responsibilities that each of you will have. Your aim is to avoid ambiguity and be concrete in what each of you will be doing, when you will be doing it, how you will be doing it, and how much it will cost.

#7 Determine the Controlling Law

Determining the controlling state law or rather the clause about the controlling state law of your document is crucial for your agreement. This will, in turn, give you the opportunity to have all the legal proceedings to take place in your home country or region.

Firstly, it will be less expensive for you because you will not have to travel. Secondly, you will feel more confident because you will be in your home territory. In other words, determining the controlling law now will make all of your future procedures much easier because you will have somewhat of a foundation for your actions laid out from the start.

#8 Include Clauses About Confidentiality and Intellectual Property

Last but not least, don’t forget to include a clause about confidentiality and another clause about intellectual property. These two are essential for several reasons, but let’s get to them one by one.

When it comes to confidentiality, there might be some information that you don’t want others to know about. This is usually either something personal about the employees in your company or the personal information of your clients.

And when it comes to intellectual property, there will always be something your business has patented or wants to patent at some point. It is best that you note down your intellectual property in the document rather than figuring out such things already when you have signed the agreement.

Final Thoughts

All in all, writing a legal contract will take a while the first several times you do it, but once you write a contract a few times, you will get more practice and eventually get used to it. Just follow the tips in this article about how to write a business agreement and you will start making progress.

Guest Post: About the Author

Thomas Lore is a 23-year old writer, who is currently working for Pick The Writer. Also, Thomas is a creative and diligent freelance blogger, who is always seeking for new ways to improve himself.