The Myth of Relationship Marketing
It isn't the failproof sales tool many think
Relationship marketing is all the rage these days - a sure-fire way,
many claim, to win and keep customers in an ever-more competitive retail
climate. The problem is, it isn't working. In fact, it's creating a massive
backlash, an upsurge of frustration among consumers who are tired of marketers'
empty promises, intrusive and time-consuming questions, and overall insincerity,
argue the authors of a recent article in the Harvard Business Review.
They predict relationship marketing will meet an untimely death if manufacturers
and retailers don't closely study what their customers really want. They
must learn, in short, the relationships they seek must work both ways.
Consumers are fed up with many tools marketers use to forge bonds with
them, the article says. They don't like being asked for information that
is put to no apparent use; they're tired of "sales clerks who hound
them with questions every time they buy a battery." They hate having
their mail boxes clogged with competing offers for products and services
they don't want. They deeply resent companies that sell information about
them to other companies. They feel victimized by companies who feel free
to call them during dinner, or nearly any other time, but don't have enough
interest in them to respond to their complaints or requests for information.
And they're sick of hearing marketers' cheerful vows to correct problems
- promises forgotten as soon as they hang up the phone.
The article calls for a massive overhaul in marketing research methods.
Companies need to get out in the field and to study the way consumers buy
and use products, the authors argue.
In the meantime, though, retailers can draw some lessons from the litany
of consumer complaints the authors outline:
- Don't annoy customers by asking for information you don't need.
- Eliminate from your mailing list people who have never bought from
you and probably never will (this, of course, will save you money also).
- Keep your communications with your customers direct and to the point,
not flowery or evasive. "We want consumers' money - let's tell them
that, and let's tell them why the deal's a good one," the authors
- If you tell a customer you're going to do something, do it, and soon.
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.