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Unpacking Relationship Marketing

by Randall Craig on March 13, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Marketing, Strategy

Tagged as: , , ,

Have you ever felt that each year, there is yet another set of marketing buzzwords that you need to learn? Service marketing, value marketing, values-based marketing, content marketing, Social Media marketing, and the list goes on. What these terms all have in common is the connection between your organization and its target prospects: the relationship.

While much has already been written about relationship marketing, sometimes unpacking the term in a different way will yield some different (and valuable) insights. Consider, the four Rs of Growth:  Recruitment, Retention, Referral, and Recovery.

Recruitment: This speaks to the task of attraction – developing awareness and preference for your organization in the minds of your targets.  Recruitment is not just about attracting new employees – it’s about attracting new members or clients.

Retention: Too often, organizations fall into the trap of taking existing relationships for granted.  Yet, it is far easier to retain an existing client than to find a completely new one.  Beyond excellence in service quality, the question for a growing organization is simple: what processes exist to recognize and celebrate these existing relationships? And do these processes serve the interests of your clients… or only serve your own?

Referral: Growth by referral, and the development of powerful references, don’t come by accident.  Generating referrals requires three key ingredients:  service quality that exceeds expectations, a strong relationship, and remembering to ask. Too often, we do the first two, but forget the third.

Recovery: There is a spectrum of performance from poor, to good enough, to great, to perfect. And while no organization aims for poor or good enough, sometimes the stars don’t align just right, and the client becomes disappointed or distraught. There are two steps to recovery: immediately fixing the issue, and then examining your processes and systems to prevent a re-occurrence, both for this client and any others. (There is also a third step, which is sharing the episode within your organization, so that everyone learns from the occurrence.)  After working so hard to recruit a client, losing them is the last thing you want.  A strong relationship allows the difficult conversation to take place respectfully and productively, as both parties are seeking to achieve the same goal.

While recruitment, retention, referrals, and recovery are critically important, they are all really just aspects of a deeper requirement for growth: Relationships. And while Relationship Marketing may seem like just another buzzword, it is foundational.

This week’s action plan: Identity the one most effective activity or initiative that you do for recruitment, retention, referral and recovery. If you work on doing these first four Rs well, you will develop the fifth: Relationship.

Marketing Insight:  Too often marketers are concerned with only one of these Rs, Recruitment – the latest campaign, branding, and conversion to sales.  Yet so much of marketing is dependent on Retention, Referral, and Recovery: if marketers only spent a bit more time on these, they might find Recruitment significantly easier.

A request, since I do try to follow my own advice:  There is another “R” word you might consider:  Randall.  You might not know, but I am one of 60 Certified Speaking Professionals (CSPs) in Canada and am in the exclusive 12% of speakers who have been awarded this designation internationally.  I speak  about using digital marketing to rethink how to engage a community and grow.  If you are planning a conference or event this year, or know someone who is,  I would certainly appreciate a referral.  (Here is a page that you might share:  Another R:  Really appreciated.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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