Supporting, Not Selling: Relationship Marketing 2.0

Supporting, Not Selling:
Relationship Marketing 2.0

So much is changing, so quickly, making it hard to know where to focus our business efforts.

We believe our efforts should be focused on the one person who can guarantee our job security, the customer—the lifeblood of our business, the spreaders of economic activity and our community partners.

Understanding the customer perspective in 2020

Government restrictions, growing economic challenges and rising health concerns are reducing our face-to-face contact with consumers, thus making each of them more important—not just financially, but morally. It is more critical than ever that we understand what our customers are going through today, and how COVID has impacted their perceptions, values, and behaviours.

COVID has changed what people think, feel and do significantly. These are shifts we need to understand so that our relationships with customers remain relevant, relatable, and rooted in facts.

Here’s what the data is telling us:

  • People are worried about the impact of COVID. Close to 80% of Canadians feel that things are going to get worse before they get better.
  • Close to 60% of Canadians are very/extremely concerned about the economy and a third are very/extremely concerned about their personal finances.
  • Relationships are breaking down and mental health is deteriorating. Separation inquiries are at a historic high according to the Canadian Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. And many counsellors and therapists are booked solidly into the foreseeable future.
  • One half of Canadians feel that their life has been put on hold due to the pandemic and that it has permanently changed the way we will live our lives.
  • Over one-third of Canadians feel that this is the wrong time for companies to “advertise to me to buy their product/service.” This is down 26% from the sentiments peak in March of 64%, but still significant.
  • People are still very reluctant to shop in certain environments and participate in activities – 40% are still avoiding restaurants and shopping centres; 66% avoid movie theatres and 74% would not go to a live sporting event.
  • Online transactions and technology use have skyrocketed – online shopping, restaurant takes out, food ordering services have all doubled in usage and the use of technology to stay connected with family and friends has as well. Technology adaptation is accelerating with the 50 plus demographic.

Sources: Angus Reid Institute and Canadian Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

What does this mean for the future of marketing?

While there now two vaccines close to being ready, which will buoy people’s hopes, the onslaught of the second wave is now in full force and the effects of the long winter ahead will likely exacerbate consumer anxiety.

So how do we change the way we do business and talk to our customers to help alleviate concerns, support our economy and keep the doors open when so much seems to be pushing them shut?

Although the concept of relationship marketing emerged close to four decades ago, there are significant ideas imbedded in it that we can embrace today—visibility, credibility and profitability.

Being present through the storm

First and foremost, we need to be seen and heard by our current and potential customers. That means not retreating and going dark in times of adversity, but reassuring customers that we are still there for them. We must remember that share of mind will eventually lead to a share of the market. And that means being mindfully present. Not selling in a shotgun approach and trying to be all things to all people, but leveraging a brand’s differentiating qualities as it relates to consumer care. How can my product or service help the consumer reduce their anxiety, connect with family or create a better quality of life for themselves?

Ray Kroc the founder of McDonald’s Restaurant’s was quoted as saying, “We must continually make deposits into the community trust bank because we never know when we may have to make a withdrawal.” There is probably no more important time than now to build and maintain consumer trust. Everything we do must be impeccable because lives depend on it. And now is a great time for us to acquire new customers and find new ways of doing business. After all, consumers are trying more new things, adopting new technologies and changing the habitual patterns of a lifetime.

Success moving forward

We can reimagine how we talk to and serve our customers to support them—things as simple as delivery, curbside pick-up, instalment plans and money-back guarantees. These are not just good business practices; they are the right thing to do.

And just how do we make money doing this? Consider that in times of uncertainty, certainty takes precedence. If you are transparent, fair and focused on the customer – consistently – you will gain loyalty, repeat business and higher margins. If you are trusted, you can successfully introduce line extensions and practice intercept marketing. The consumer’s goal is to reduce their number of transactions with different parties and hence potential COVID transmission. Caring for the customer is synonymous with profitability. It is protecting the one and only person who can guarantee our job security—you guessed it, the customer.

We’ve heard it time and time again that we are in this together. So, let’s act that way in all we do, not just in our personal lives. Doing the right thing—supporting, not selling to our customers—has never been so important. It is the only path forward to recovery and greater security.