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Relationship Marketing When Times Get Tough

Connecting with good people in a positive way is what Relationship Marketing, or what I call R-Commerce, is all about. All successful businesses are built on the concept of establishing, building and maintaining profitable relationships in business.

When economic times get tougher it is natural to cut back in any areas where you can save money. This is a good pruning strategy that every organization should go through— even in the best of times.

Business relationships have to undergo the same scrutiny. There are some relationships that your business will have that just don’t make economic sense. Some prospects never turn into customers. Yes, they are all people and we care for all people. Let’s get that one right out of the way! However, from a business point of view, you have to focus eventually on those business relationships which are going to be more profitable. In your personal life, you can focus on other non-business relationships for other purposes. But when it comes to business, this is serious.

So what criteria do you, as a successful businessperson use to cull through the masses? How do you treat people right no matter what, and still retain a profitable business? How can you differentiate from a host of possibilities and focus on those areas which are most beneficial for you in business?

Well, I don’t have all the answers. Sorry. However, here are some brain droppings that I have on this (to borrow from the late great George Carlin’s book title). Let me know what you think but here are my thoughts:

1. Determine What Your Goals Are. This is always the most important first step in business. Stephen Covey taught us how important is it to Begin with the end in mind. How are you going to derive profits in your business? Who is the ideal customer for you? If you can clearly identify the people that are most likely to purchase your product or service, you can filter all those you meet through to the right category. And that leads us to the second step to…

2. Develop Categories For Customers. I’ve read many good business books about database marketing. All those I have read state it is important to put customers into categories. Some of these are often called, Hot, Interested, Met and Discard or something like that. You can’t be everything to everyone. So, you have to focus your attention on those business relationships which involve the most likely prospects to purchase what you have. Think about it— in personal relationships you can’t have 1,000 really close friends. You couldn’t keep up with all of them and be good friends with everyone. Yes, you can have acquaintances and be friendly with everyone. But only a limited number of people can be very close. The same principle applies with business relationships. You can only have a given number of top-drawer customers. You have to determine the criteria and how many based on your business model. This is one of the most important considerations you’ll make in planning your business.

3. Allocate Your Resources. You have to be choosy with how you deploy those assets you and your business have. How much time are you going to allow yourself at select activities? Given tough times you have to make hard decisions about where you spend your time, money and effort. You can’t go to every seminar or convention. During tough economic times, you have to prune some relationships. Focus your time on those that provide the most value for value. This is true in business and in life.

A word of caution: Don’t throw away customers who aren’t profitable today just because you don’t think they ever will be in the future. They could be at some point and you don’t want to lose out on that option. Also, they have friends and can influence others. You want to have a category for everyone interested where you send them a Blog update, audio, video, etc. Give them value to stay in touch but focus your face time with those who will bring the greatest benefit.

Tough economic times require a fresh review of your financial and economic priorities. This is good for business overall. Like a farmer has to let a field lie fallow every so many years, you have to leave some markets. After you leave them for a while you could come back in the future or redeploy those assets. Just know this is the way of nature and it works in relationships as well.

Most important, remember to hang onto those relationships that are best for the long-term. Cherish them and nurture them. They are the relationships that keep a business strong and healthy.

So, what do you think? I look forward to hearing from you. Drop me a note at [email protected]

Terry Brock is an international marketing coach and columnist who helps businesses market more effectively, leveraging technology. He shows busy professionals how to squeeze more out of their days using time-honored rules and practical technology tools. He can be reached at 407-363-0505, by e-mail at [email protected] or through his website at

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