As the seasons change, so do relationships. And while spring is often called the season of love—it’s in full bloom, isn’t it?—we’re about building relationships 24/7/365.
Okay, maybe not those types of relationships. Let’s talk about the kinds of relationships that are less bragged about but still very necessary: Let’s talk business.
When it comes to business relationships, marketers not only need to develop and maintain them, they also need to know how to build them in the first place. When talking about business relationships, the first thing you tend to hear about is the obvious—networking! And networking is important, but that all-inclusive word for meeting and chit-chatting with numerous different people in varying fields to help expand your reach—doesn’t cover the specifics.
Networking and building business relationships is a multi-step process that has to be tweaked and adjusted based on industry, personality, and end-goal. Let’s explore what you have to know when it comes to creating and nurturing those relationships in PR, marketing, and in the B2B space.
Relationships in PR
In PR, building relationships with media contacts, influencers, and the companies or people you work for is 50% of the job. This is where expressions like “it’s not about what you know, but who you know” ring the truest. When it comes to public relations, the better your relationships are, the more likely you are to get your news published, your articles read, and your executives on the front page.
The top PR agencies have and maintain strong relationships with a variety of media, including top-tier publications, trade publications, podcasters, and influencers. By offering these media contacts great, well-crafted pitches and stories, the relationship between PR and Media becomes symbiotic. For the PR rep and the company they are representing, they get a win for their client with a strong media placement. For the media contact, they get a great story or interview to share with their reader base.
While a strong industry knowledge, strategic thinking, and creativity are all important aspects of B2B PR, without emotional intelligence and the ability to cultivate and maintain strong relationships—both with the clients PR professionals represent and with media contacts—PR pros, well, aren’t pros.
Relationships in Marketing
While PR relationships are largely built between PR professionals and media contacts, the business relationships you want to develop in marketing are mostly with potential customers.
But before you can do that, you need to know your brand inside and out. This means that a marketer’s first business relationship must be with the company leaders. At Zen, this means that we need to get to the Bullet Points & Blessings level with our clients.
What does Bullet Points & Blessings mean?
Give us a few bullet points on XYZ topic and your blessing to run with them, and we’ll get to work.
This is to say that we have a strong enough relationship with the company and a strong enough understanding of the brand that we can turn a few bullet points into an elegantly written blog post, a compelling PR article, snappy and attention-grabbing social posts, and more.
So, assuming the marketer is at the Bullet Points & Blessings level with the brand and company leaders, now it’s time to build relationships with potential customers.
The first step? Figure out who your target audience is. What demographic do they fall into? What media do they consume? What platforms do they use?
Once you know where to find them, do your research. Social media is a great way to connect and build relationships with potential customers, and it’s also a treasure trove of data that your target audience is freely sharing. Use hashtags to narrow down Twitter and Instagram posts about topics related to your industry or product, and see what your target audience is saying. What pain points do they have? What features do they want?
Build a marketing strategy that responds to consumer concerns, that highlights the features people value, and that ties into the tone and interests of your audience. You can use social media to speak directly to potential customers and then build out those conversations and use them as inspiration for blog posts and FAQ pages on your website.
Related Reading: Ultimate Guide to B2B Social Media Marketing
Once those prospects convert, it’s time to deepen the relationship.
Enter: relationship marketing.
But what is relationship marketing?
It’s a customer relationship management (CRM) strategy that not only emphasizes customer retention but also satisfaction and lifetime customer value. Basically, it focuses on keeping your current customers vs. strictly trying to acquire new customers.
There is some conjecture over who should be responsible for CRM strategy. Our stance is that marketing should largely be in charge of acquisition, and retention should be a sales focus. But, we can’t deny that there is immense value in loyalty. So regardless of who is in charge of CRM, B2B marketing should be tuned into the retention results.
Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company found as little as a 5% increase in customer retention can result in an increase in company revenue by 25-95%. Yes, you read that right. Returning customers tend to spend more than new customers, so their future purchases may outpace those of first-time customers.
Related reading: Acquisition or Retention? The Results Are In: B2B Marketers Need to Focus On New
When you take care of your clients, they take care of you. The goal: Get your customers to become brand-loyal patrons of your business. In order to do that, personalize your approach in a way that feels organic. Check in regularly with targeted emails (Hint: This may be best accomplished by your sales department.) Establish an emotional connection. Build a community. Create a demand for your product.
Related post: The Demand Generation: What It Is and Why You Want to Be A Part of It
And then—create some sales collateral. Ask loyal customers to review your products, provide direct feedback for testimonials, or to participate in a case study. In many cases, loyal customers will happily offer their two cents, and in others, offering a small incentive—like a discount on a future purchase—may be just the thing to motivate them to express their opinions about your products.
That sales collateral, and the good reputation you build through your loyal customer base, will be valuable tools in marketing for acquisition.
Relationships in B2B
As a business owner, contacts are important. Whether you’re starting out or already established and looking to scale up, fellow business owners make for great business relationships. They can advise you. They can steer you in the right direction. And, most importantly, they can relate.
As a B2B business owner, you’re always either looking for more customers, investors, partners, or publicity—or a combination of the four. Establishing strong business relationships can help you get there.
When it comes to customer outreach, relationships are even more important in the B2B space than in B2C because the buyer’s journey in B2B is a multi-year relationship, whereas for B2C it’s generally much shorter. This means that not only do you need to build and nurture a strong relationship for a long time before ever making a sale, but you also need to continue to show your investment in that relationship after the sale. This post-sale CRM marketing will help you gain the strong reputation and sales collateral that you need to impress new prospects.
While marketers largely hand off the long-term relationships to their sales counterparts—and that handoff has to be seamless, by the way—the brand voice and messaging set in place by the marketing team must be carried through during the handoff. And whether the sales team, marketing team, or business leader is sending out the long-term communications for existing customers and/or long-term prospects, the communication has to be personal, targeted, and tactful. Anything too formulaic, impersonal, or off-brand will feel inauthentic to your audience and may even set them back in their journey and relationship with your brand.
No matter which industry or segment you’re looking to build business relationships in, be honest and keep the lines of communication open. After all, business relationships can breed great partnerships—and eventually, even great revenue. That’s the real power of relationships in business; not only are you scratching each other’s metaphorical backs, but you’re potentially exposing your business to a wider audience and a wider reach.
Looking to build a relationship with Zen? Reach out to us today!