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Customer Relationship Marketing in the New E-World
By Steven Howard, Howard Marketing Services

Relationship marketing is a concept that has yet to be clearly defined by anyone, even though much of today's marketing literature and many marketing consultants and gurus are in agreement that relationship marketing will be a critical success factor for the large majority of organizations throughout the 21st century

Relationship marketing is a concept that has yet to be clearly defined by anyone, even though much of today's marketing literature and many marketing consultants and gurus are in agreement that relationship marketing will be a critical success factor for the large majority of organizations throughout the 21st century especially for those engaged in the exciting and fast-paced world of electronic commerce.

I won't attempt to define relationship marketing here, but I will give you what I consider are the key elements of any relationship marketing program, whether it's for an e-business strategy or for a terra firma organization. These are:

  • Understanding customer needs
  • Relevant product offer at appropriate time
  • Relevant reward at appropriate time
  • Relevant surprise at appropriate time
  • Two-way, interactive communication
  • Forward looking, long-term, bi-mutual engagement

Keeping customers loyal is an art form, not a science. As is true of all good marketing practices. Marketing is, after all, an art, not a scientific discipline.

The most important ways to keep customers loyal are five simple simple to understand I should say, but not always simple to execute actions:

1. Always deliver upon the promises that anyone in the organization makes. Walk your talk. Have everyone in the organization understand that your word is your bond with customers.

2. Ensure that you have product and service delivery consistently at all times.

3. Be able to anticipate future customer needs --- and create flexible and adaptable organizational structures so that you are better prepared to meet these changing customer needs before they occur.

4. Solve future customer needs --- either through changing product features, benefits, or through upgraded service delivery.

5. Cultivate long-term customer relationships by being engaged in two-way, interactive dialogues with your customers that help you anticipate their changing and future needs.

Naturally, you cannot, and probably do not want, to cultivate deep-seated relationships with all your customers. The cost of doing so is probably prohibitive. Even in tomorrow's world of electronic commerce.

On the other hand, you certainly will want to apply these practices to the 20% of your customers who give you 80% of your revenues, or better yet, the 80% of your profits if you are able to calculate profitability on a customer-by-customer basis.

Building and Maintaining Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty needs to be thought of as a two-way street. Many senior managers I speak with these days complain that "customers are not as loyal as they used to be."

Then, when I start to investigate their own policy changes, pricing methodologies, and marketing activities, it becomes very obvious to me that many of these same organizations are no longer as loyal to their customers as they used to be.

No wonder they feel they have lost customer loyalty. They've stopped earning and deserving it through their own practices.

By following the five practices mentioned above, you


Steven Howard is Asia's leading marketing consultant and positioning specialist, with over 22 years experience. The author of two books and numerous articles, you may reach him at www.howard-marketing.com or steven@howard-marketing.com.

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