If you Google the term Relationship Marketing, you’ll find a lot of hits on why it’s important to establish relationships with your customers. I agree with that sentiment. But if the world according to your company can be split into two segments: customers and future customers, then I also think that it is important to establish relationships with future customers as well. In particular, future customers who are active on the social web. After all, how are we going to be able to “leverage social media” if we don’t try to make friends with connected people, whose goals align with ours, within our given niches.
I’m really buying into product managers becoming community managers as their product is being built and through launch, so I put together a slide to illustrate how building relationships can lead to a social media ROI.
That’s really exciting to me… Return on Investment, not return on some other clever word that starts with an “I.”.
Smells Like SPAM
But it’s not SPAM… at least not what I’m advocating. I’m promoting the fact that product managers need to make honest and sincere attempts to relate to other human beings within their on-line target audience(s). We’re talking about relationship building, as opposed to “blogger outreach.” Relationship building means finding more than one similar interest with another individual. You know, getting to know them. Then when the product manager has something that may be of interest to their “friends,” they can pass it along in a sincere way.
One caveat is that the product manager faces time limitations during the product development life cycle. If the goal is to get the product out in front of the community once it is ready for consumption, then it doesn’t make sense to build relationships with random community members. The connectors of any given niche community need to be identified up front, and those are the people who the product manager should start following.
This is a theory of mine that I am actively trying to test with products at work. I would love to get your take on relationship marketing, though. Let me know if there are any glaring holes in my process flow or if I’m way off base.