In recent years, with the rise of social media and the recognition that many western markets are mature, we have seen a shift from traditional transactional marketing to relationship marketing.
The focus has shifted from continually increasing sales to new customers to customer retention strategies. This is recognised by the maxim; The longer you keep a customer, the more you earn from them.
This shift has required marketers to develop new working methods, new marketing tools and to think differently.
The transactional focus required marketers to develop knowledge of why consumers purchase and the choice criteria behind it. This leads to marketing plans developing mixes wholly reliant on the sacred four ‘P’s of Kotler’s original marketing mix.
However, today most products require a service element and a marketing mix based on the seven ‘P’s (Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People, Process, Physical Evidence).
The shift to relationship marketing has also meant the marketing profession developing new buzzwords:
- Instead of financial capital marketers speak of Customer Capital.
- They no longer speak of conquering consumers but in retaining them
- They no longer talk of predicting consumer choice and instead focus on classifying the relationships consumers have with a brand and the relationships between individual consumers.
- They look to a relationship between consumer and brand beyond achieving a sale. they talk of long-term customer engagement.
As discussed in last week’s blog entry, the best form of loyalty is not based on transactional criteria such as loyalty cards. It is the creation of internalised loyalty and thus brand commitment.
Brand managers and marketers look to deepen the relationship between the customer and the brand through the creation of emotional connections.
The aim is to move from the emotional high of a purchase to the satisfaction of ownership to the experiential delight of product use and ownership. So products need to deliver the pre-purchase expectations of consumers and deliver an experience which is rewarding.
Many retailers now look to developing more that an opportunity to purchase when a consumer walks through the doors of a store, they should expect a rewarding experience. Philip Kotler talks of the creation of ‘atmospherics’ which provide consumers with fantasies, feelings and fun.
Bonds need to be created through aspirational values with which the consumer identifies. this means that all brands have to be, in some way, aspirational. Aspiration goes beyond materialism or hedonism. Aspiration should not simply be short-term highs but long-term satisfaction. This aspiration should be represented by your businesses vision and mission. Long-term aspiration should be central to your organisational values.
Marketing tactics can be categorized as follows:
- Short-term transactional relationship and functional satisfaction: Product quality, product advantage, trial promotions.
- Short-term transactional relationship and experiential enchantment: Advertising, in-store animations, built-in experience products, storetainment, street marketing.
- Short-term transactional relationship and aspirational fulfilment: Image advertising, co-branding, sponsorship.
- Re-purchase and functional satisfaction: Post-purchase promises
- Re-purchase and experiential enchantment: Collectables and systematic additions tied to events
- Re-purchase and aspirational fulfilment: Fanzines, websites, virtual commuities, ehtical growth.
- Long-term commitment and functional satisfaction: Loyalty cards and programmes
- Long-term commitment and experiential enchantment: One to one recognition and service, product co-creation.
- Long-term commitment and aspirational fulfilment: Inter-community groups, disruptive innovations.
So if you are running a business and looking to survive over the longer term it is no longer enough to focus on the acquisition of new customers or sales growth. You should aim not just to acquire new customers, you should look to continually improve the experiences of existing customers.
The latest advertising from the insurance firm Aviva is a good example. Rather than offering price discounts to new customers whilst existing customers pay more, the price for all customers is the same. And the insurer’s focus has shifted to providing a high level of customer service to both groups.