How customer relationship marketing can grow your business

Customer relationship marketing is key to helping any small business owner create valuable ways to reach their customers. To put plainly, customer relationship marketing aims to leverage customer loyalty with marketing efforts, so that you can cash in on your brand’s loyalty.

This marketing strategy is concerned with the long-term customer more than short-term achievements, such as individual sales. The idea is that building strong customer relationships can lead to many more purchases down the road, plus free word-of-mouth marketing via social media and traditional channels like magazines and billboards. Did you know that, the longer a customer stays with you, the more money they spend? A study by RJMetrics showed that, by the fourth purchase, a loyal customer was worth ~300% more than a one-time customer.

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On top of that, customers’ word-of-mouth recommendations are quite persuasive. 91% of B2B buyers and 74% of consumers are influenced by word-of-mouth when making a buying decision. That’s not all, the “free” marketing you receive from great customer relationships stretches to online reviews, too. 85% of people claim they trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation, making your online reputation a very big part of customer relationship marketing as well.

In this article, you will learn more about how customer relationship marketing could help your business reach new heights with the following sections:

  • How relationship marketing is different
  • Examples of companies using relationship marketing
  • 5 tips to improve your relationship marketing strategies

Successful and happy business team

How relationship marketing is different

When you’re a local business owner, customers are harder to come by. You don’t have giant sales teams doing the legwork for you—usually, you’re doing all of the marketing on your own. That’s a ton to manage! That’s why word-of-mouth recommendations tend to be the lifeblood of small businesses. We tend to rely on our friends and family to recommend local services and businesses such as dentists, contractors, and hair stylists. So when a new customer walks in the door, it’s in your best interest to keep that customer coming back for as long as possible.

Relationship marketing vs. customer service

Great customer service is a tenet of any successful company—no matter the industry—but it is not the same as relationship marketing. However, you’ll find similarities. When done right, relationship marketing will include savvy customer service techniques that further foster the customer relationship. Customer service without a relationship-building mindset may fall flat in terms of translating those relationships into sales.

Wondering how you can leverage customer service to create a wonderful and memorable customer experience? Take a look at the way popular beauty brand, Glossier, does it. With their “gTeam,” there are about 30 “editors” dedicated to various social media channels and email accounts that answer customer service requests with personalized service and candid charm. Their mission was to take the “robot feeling” out of digital customer service exchanges, and it’s paying off. Read more about it here.

Glossier Customer Relationship Marketing Example

Relationship marketing vs. automation

Have you ever called a bank or a cable company’s customer support number, only to have to fumble through various steps led by a robot’s voice? With customer service automation, there is no human element, which makes the customer experience much less personal and enjoyable. The truth is, consumers are tired of talking to bots. Further, your business is suffering every time a frustrated customer has a poor experience with a web chat or phone bot—it only makes matters much worse.

A news site, The Conversation, asked a group matching the US demographic about their customer service experiences. The survey found that, at the beginning of a customer service experience, 90% of respondents want to speak to a live agent. And no matter how their customer service journey starts – with IVR (Interactive Voice Response), email, instant messaging, automated chat, virtual assistants (like Siri), or social media – by the end, 83% have reached a real person. That means most people go out of their ways to navigate these systems to talk to a human instead.

Furthermore, only 10% of respondents were satisfied with their experience, and approximately 35% found the systems difficult to use. Just 3% actually enjoyed using an IVR service.

Relationship marketing essentially takes the opposite approach and places great importance on building brand loyalty via these types of customer interactions. You must focus on customer retention when building out your customer service strategy, and that means being wary about automated systems. A chatbot, for example, may not be best for complicated requests, but it could help you field leads. It’s all about how you use AI and to supplement without removing the human element.

RedBull Customer Relationship Marketing

Examples of companies using relationship marketing

You can use relationship marketing in a variety of ways and stages of the customer experience. Some types of marketing campaigns focused on building relationships with customers include loyalty programs, referral programs, information hubs, and more. Below are a couple favorite examples of companies who excel in customer relationship marketing.

Red Bull

The well-known energy drink didn’t become globally popular on purpose. With brand promotion as a big part of its business model, Red Bull has used its marketing savvy to align itself with a type of person, its ideal customer. This type of person? Energetic and a little crazy, of course. Red Bull has brought customers into their world by hosting wild events such as the sensational Stratos Space Jump and the silly Red Bull Flugtag. Most of their marketing ties back to their slogan, “Red Bull gives you wings,” instilling brand recognition and a sense of community in customers.


Home Box Office (HBO) leveraged the dedicated fan base from its wildly popular show Game of Thrones to generate buzz on social media throughout many different campaigns. Fans were fast to contribute their own memes and content. With the show receiving 158,000 tweets per episode, HBO coordinated a social media roast using #RoastJoffrey to play up viewers’ shared sentiments about one of the show’s antagonists. Prompting user-generated content (UGC) not only makes buzz and brand awareness run on autopilot, but it also makes these internet users feel were valued while contributing to a trending topic.


The creators of Vyvanse (an ADHD drug) went the extra mile to make their customers feel valued and understood. Realizing that ADHD can be alienating and confusing at times, the team created a huge online hub that videos, forums, expert articles, and mobile apps to help those who suffer from the condition. Creating a community around your brand is a surefire way to secure brand loyalty.

Improve Your Relationship Marketing Strategies

5 tips to improve your relationship marketing strategies

If you’d like to utilize relationship marketing to turn potential customers into brand advocates, there are a few key ways you can start building great client relationships.

  1. Helpful website content. Like the Vyvanse example suggests, providing extra value to your customers free-of-charge allows them to become more invested in your brand naturally. Build out a great content hub of blog posts, videos, and more to attract potential customers and keep existing ones.
  2. Good customer support. Customer service is just one part of keeping current customers. However, you can use your customer support to take customer relationships even further with savvy techniques.
  3. Email newsletters. A voluntarily-given email address is like a customer asking you to sell to them. Don’t ignore this direct connection to your potential clients. Newsletters are essential for relationship nurturing if you ask inbound marketing specialists. There are many ways you can utilize newsletters to nurture existing relationships as well as convert leads into customers. You may want to look into customer relationship management (CRM) software if you want to make the most of your email marketing.
  4. Loyalty programs. Whether it’s a discount code after referring five friends or a free gift every seventh visit, reward programs are great ways to encourage customers to stay with you. It gives them the incentive to buy, and it makes them feel like they are a part of something.
  5. Storytelling. In your marketing efforts, pay extra special attention to the content. Your copywriter could be one of your most valuable assets. Using storytelling to sell your brand will connect much deeper than a cold message. When trying to explain your product to potential customers, think of relatable scenarios and how your product might specifically improve a person’s life.


Getting more customers as a small business is important, but keeping those customers is even more important. Luckily, customer relationship marketing can help you with both customer acquisition and retention if you execute it correctly. With great customer support and a focus on personalization and storytelling, you can build a loyal brand with customers who spend more with you over time and tell all their friends—online and offline—about their experience. Remember to keep the human connection at the forefront of your marketing campaigns, and you are well on your way to constructing a successful customer relationship marketing strategy.

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