Relationships are important to any successful campaign or project, no matter how small the marketing budget. Working freelance with small budgets, in London and Australia, I have first hand experience of the role of relationship building and its importance in all businesses. When marketing a product or service, companies need to take a holistic approach, spending time building relationships which will help them grow their brand in the long term.
1) People still work offline
For those working in digital, they can become so used to working online, that sometimes they forget that people still do a lot of business and networking face to face (away from the computer). People like meeting and working with those who they like, get along with and have similar interests. I took over a networking meetup called Search London in October 2010 when there were just 200 members. From this date until end of December 2011, I was living in London and arranged 8 meetups where we saw the number of members more than double increase.
When I moved to Australia, the number of members continued to grow and now it is at 1300 members, a 550% increase. The growth in membership and the fact people have been asking if they can be one of the speakers at Search London while I have been living away from Europe, it has grown organically off line. I have done little to promote the event on line (except for tweets during the event and leading up to it). The real reason it has grown has been because people still like meeting off line to catch up with others who have similar interests. I was also fortunate to be able to run the event while in Australia as some of the people I met at Search London, organised it on my behalf. Would I have been able to achieve this without spending time to build these relationships?
2) Friends are supportive
When I worked in Perth, in 2012, I worked with a local jewel?ery store, Melville Jewellers, helping them with their marketing – using a mixture of both offline and online. This culminated in a launch party to promote the new location of the jewellery store and some of their new products. In Perth, they have a very local focus (for their marketing) where many place advertisements in the local paper to attract new customers. Some companies rely on offline and local marketing so much that they do not have an online presence.
We promoted the event in a few advertisements in the local paper in the lead up to the party to attract new customers. In Perth, people support local businesses over the bigger brands. The visit their local butchers, they support local events, their local surf club, they support their friends. Therefore it was very important to build relationships and use the relationships the owner of the store had even from his local surf club, Cottesloe in marketing the event.
Members of the surf club support one another and many of these members brought along their friends and colleagues to the event. The result was a great turn out and double the sales on the day. There has also been a steady increase in the number of visitors to the shop since the launch party.
3) Relationships last longer than a single campaign
Marketers understandably want to push their product to as many potential customers during a particular marketing campaign through PR, blogger outreach and PPC/display campaigns. Where there is a promotional campaign, this is when marketers get in touch with their PR rep or begin reaching out to new bloggers. Guest posting, where people are looking for that one link in specific anchor text is the type of blogging Google is cracking down on. It is a very short time strategy. In the past it may have worked well to target key bloggers for that one campaign. However, nowadays (especially in light of Google’s updates), it is very important to build relationships with bloggers who want to work with your company over the long term, not just for one dedicated campaign.
Work with brand advocates who can help build and promote your brand across the year and the years to come (if the relationship works well). Two years ago, I worked with a travel client, promoting their services. Now, even though that project has finished, I am working with the webmaster of one of the travel sites I wrote for during this project. This relationship and subsequent site we set up together would not have materialised if I had been focused on just the one link and the one campaign. Relationships with bloggers and brand advocates need to last longer than one single campaign.
4) Key stakeholders need to support their marketing team
It is very important for the marketing department to get buy in from their key stakeholders for any product/service. A good example of this was Australia Post and their new product launch which was the video stamp at Christmas 2013. I went to AdTech Sydney where this case study was presented by the key account person from Australia Post and the account manager from the agency. They shared with the audience how they spent time building relationships with the key stakeholders in the company and explaining to them the new product.
It was crucial for the marketing department to have support of their internal stakeholders as this allowed them to share the idea with the rest of the company. This was important as it was the staff (over 30,000 employees) that would be the advocate for this new product. The social media aspect of the project was about maintenance and answering questions from customers via Facebook. The marketing department spent time to build relationships with the key stakeholders in the organisation and the other employees who would be the best advocates of the new product.
5) People like engagement
There are many platforms the Marketing Department wants to use to help them promote their product/service for a campaign. However, sometimes these platforms (Twitter, Facebook and Google +) are only used when the marketing team want to push out content, telling their customers about the new promotion. People like to be listened to and have their questions answered. They like to interact with one another and do not like to have content thrown at them from a company that has never spoken with them before. Therefore it is important to engage with your customers continuously throughout the year, not just at key promotional times.
Do not turn customers and potential new ones away from you by simply using the social media tools when it serves you. Google + for example ask for all their customers to interact with the other posts shared on their platform otherwise these users will not be allowed to post in the Google+ community. The same applies to personal brands and social media accounts. For example, with Twitter it is important to interact with others, share their posts. I did not see an increase in my Twitter followers until I started interacting and speaking with others and sharing their posts on Twitter. This was not the reason to use Twitter, I used it as a tool to share content I was blogging about at events including BrightonSEO and SMX NYC and meeting SEOs in Europe. Over this 8 month period, my number of Twitter followers increased by 187%.
As highlighted in this post, marketing is most successful when the marketing department (or the sole marketing manager) spends time to build relationships with both the internal stakeholders as well as the target audience. It is important that marketers are allowed the time to build these relationships which will benefit the organisation not just for the one campaign but have a positive halo effect on future campaigns.
Please note: the points above are not an exhaustive list, they are just some of what I have experienced. If you have any others you would like to raise, please leave a comment.