Relationship Marketing: The Business of Delayed Gratification
Updated: Apr 20
Ever heard of the Butterfly Effect? A butterfly flapping its wings and causing a tornado miles away? Wild! I know, sounds like the butterfly must be some radioactive lab specimen with wings of steel, a blindingly bright green aura, and a striking resemblance to the incredible hulk, right? Hahaha... In Chaos Theory however, the Butterfly Effect postulates that a small change in an initial condition could result in a wildly different state of things at a later state, regardless of the seeming lack of connection between both conditions. For instance, a butterfly flaps its wings, and the vibrations, in some unpredictable manner, causes the first cloud formation that produces a thunder strike signalling an imminent tornado... two weeks after the flap. Science and their wild postulations, right? What if at the centre of this insanity, lies a science to properly marketing your product or service?
You've been Hit by The Smooth Criminal
In a world ridden by a culture of impatience (instant gratification), a marketing strategy largely characterized by playing the long game can be quite unsavoury, particularly to tastebuds that prefer meals 'as e dey hot'. The idea is that Relationship Marketing leverages on creating strong and emotional customer connections to a brand, so strong that they become free brand advocates, eventually; there is the catch- 'eventually'. Like all kinds of material relationships, you not only have to mix up all the right grapes and ingredients, there needs to be enough time and room to age well enough so that when you eventually put it on a shelf, you can slap an unimaginably exorbitant price on it, and it will sell, and sell well! This is the notion of delayed gratification, and it is not 'as e dey hot', more like 'as e don ferment wella'.
The digital age has afforded us access to connect with anyone, and that certainly has its benefits, however, it has also created a culture of expecting fast results when we connect, rather than allowing relationships to blossom - I mean when I throw a ball up, it should come down immediately, not next week, this isn't Hogwarts! Although, and interestingly, out of this culture comes 'Transactional Marketing', a strategy that largely thrives on the bid to increase individual sales, and one that actually works quite fine, particularly in realizing quick sales. Its lifespan is however usually shortlived, and will require constant rejuvenation, like promos and other incentives to spark up fresh interests in 'the product', and not necessarily 'the brand'. Its merits are particularly in immediately realizable results, which can be a good thing, but only sometimes. Transactional Marketing puts the sale and not a relationship with the customer first. As a result, much attention isn't given to customer service, customer retention or even proper Customer Relationship Management (CRM), thus leading to 'customer churn' (they leave, and sometimes never look back), at this point, it's usually 'a little too late to say that you're sorry now'- Eminem and Lil Wayne said as much.
Put simply – transactional marketing is short-term thinking, while relationship marketing is long-term thinking.
Another One Bites the Dust
Ever heard that it's more expensive to make a new customer than to retain an existing one? Well, it doesn't stop there, it takes absolutely nothing, more than being nice, to avoid Customer Churn. Churn hurts way more than it sounds, because when customers leave, they don't only stop being brand advocates, but also become horsemen of doom, spreading negative reviews about your brand, consciously or subconsciously. Sad thing is that it can be really hard to clog that apocalypse, so the question is: isn't it best to just avoid it altogether?
Here comes the science to it all, however, unlike what may have been suggested by the preamble of this article, the solution is more of a behavioural science than any other kind of science. It is being deliberate with connections, because not only is it more cost-effective to market to existing customers, but long-term customers are less likely to churn, and the longer you have a relationship with a customer, the more profitable they become. It is also creating emotional connections with customers, highlighting your personality while delivering incredible customer experiences; establishing the essential value your business has to offer, one that transcends revenue, and shoving it in their faces; and finally leveraging on your community by bringing them together, listening to them and their needs, and allowing them to promote you, whichever way they can! It is being invested in your customer's success, because really, their success is your success.
Essentially, the idea is to build a community of love, spreading vibes that gel with people's ever-shifting energy.
Water No Get Enemy
From the foregoing, Relationship Marketing sounds like an obvious strategy, doesn't it? It however is not as easy as it sounds. It usually involves being genuine friends with individually potential customers (or clients), helping them out altruistically, with eyes not on any instant or immediate reward. Rather, it is a focus on a relationship that transcends the product or service you offer, to one that no price change, marketing campaign or discount can compete with. You essentially are not allowed to have foes, you are water!
It sometimes takes years to achieve this, I would know, I do it every day. Your customer ends up buying from you, not because they 'need' or 'want' a product, but because they love your brand, and frankly, your personality. It involves creating a bond so deep with your customers that if one were to talk negatively or criticize your brand, your customers will gladly defend you, just like the ICONS defend Laycon (for the Nigerians), and like Trump supporters defend Trump (for Non-Nigerians).
The joy of that moment when your now-turned friend finally asks to get your product, after a year of holding on to the relationship regardless of the fact that they previously couldn't afford the product, can't be quantified; it is absolutely wholesome. Not to mention when you exceed their expectations with the value you give, and they become free advertising evangelists for your brand, hehe (come and buy what we are selling o!). You might not realize it then, but it was the change you made in the initial condition a year ago, by being genuine friends with them (flapping the butterfly's wings), that led to wildly satisfying result a year later (the hurricane), regardless of the seeming lack of connection between both events.
In all, be nicer, who knows, you just might cause a hurricane somewhere, or somewhen...