Relationship Marketing Tips



‘Big Data’ can provide very useful insights when you already know who your customers are, but many companies struggle with this initial challenge of customer identification and profiling. With the increasing number of data sources now available, it’s becoming more important for a carefully planned relationship marketing strategy. To help you get started, we share our top relationship marketing tips…

1. Justify Investment

Make sure your customers are interested enough, in enough numbers, to justify investing in systematic loyalty marketing (perhaps with a program, perhaps not). Don’t use yourself as proof, look for existing empirical evidence!

2. Understand Engagement

Look for significant differences in customer value. Are highly engaged customers in your category many times more valuable than light buyers? Is the difference in value enough to justify strengthening the relationship with these heavy buyers?

3. Understand Relationships

Understand what creates relationships between people (as an indicator of what our marketing should be emulating). The psychologists tell us relationships are created through the mutual investment of cognitive resources of:

  • Love
  • Status
  • Information
  • Service
  • Goods
  • Money

These resources line up on two dimensions – they are increasingly ‘Tangible’, and they decrease in a quality called ‘Particularism’. Put simply, this means the resource varies in value depending on who gives it to you. The weakest relationships are formed by the exchange of anonymous, tangible resources; e.g. where everyone gets the same discount. The strongest relationships are formed by the investment of personalised, intangible resources; your favourite beauty adviser invites you to a free makeover with a new treatment she knows will suit you because she remembers your specific skin type. Customers repay intangible, personal investments in kind; with loyalty and recommendations. In a quirk of human nature the weakest relationships are often the cheapest to establish; discounts and ‘gifts with purchase’, to everyone.

4. Establish a Strategy

Establish a strategy that will allow you to become particularist with your chosen customers (typically the high value ones). This requires time and memory because the customer will be looking for proof that you actually know them. This requires enough interaction for you to know who they are when you grant them status, so that it is not a hollow gesture. Airlines do a good job of this and their success at retaining frequent travellers indicates this works in a loyalty program setting. Trying to divorce high status frequent flyers from lounge access, priority boarding and special luggage tags is a tough challenge for rival airlines!

5. Commit to the Journey

Note there is a natural lifecycle to relationship marketing, and it takes time. All customers start as strangers, so discounts and give-aways may be all you can do to attract them. As the relationship develops, continuing with tangible offers only sends the contra message that you are only interested in the transaction and have no real interest in them. No relationship on offer.

It still remains essential to choose the right approach to customer-centricity, and build the right marketing strategy for your brand and customers.


We are Ellipsis, the Customer Loyalty Experts. We help businesses thrive through solving complex customer problems. Please get in touch, we’d love to talk.

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