Thursday, January 28, 2010


Since marketing began as a serious field of management science, word of mouth has been recognised as a powerful means of attracting new customers. And of course if the service was bad, a deadly way to lose business fast.

Good business and good referrals were built on good relationships. The corner store owner greeted you by name – not because he was embarking upon a marketing strategy, but because he knew you – and had a relationship with you built up over the years. Relationships flowed naturally – simply because people cared.

But that was the good old days.

I recently was sent an article titled “Relationship Marketing for the 21st Century”. It delved deep into the new high tech marketing tools available in using relationship marketing as a business method of expanding a client base. Of course it refers very closely to the new generation social media mechanisms such as Facebook, Blogs Twitter and so on. And goes on to name your local sports club, chamber of commerce and so on as redundant.

What it did not touch on at all was relationships itself. How to build strong relationships. Healthy ones based on trust, commitment, values and service. Just the means of marketing.

I realised sadly, that they had missed the point. They had taken what was a issue of immeasurable wealth to society and turned it into a gimmick. Forgetting that relationships forge communities together. Ignoring that relationships are earned, they have thrown out the real meaning and encouraged us to go cheap.

While I have no doubts that for a while people will actually consider strangers on Facebook as “friends”, it will not take many years for us to grasp the emptiness of it all. The lack of depth to our relationships and how cheap our approach has been. Sort of like a junkie trying to find instant happiness in a drug. It just does not work over time.

I, at the very beginning of my career in Real Estate, made myself a promise. That I would care for my clients. That I would have real, honest and fruitful relationships with them. That I would put myself in their shoes and never compromise on making sure that I assisted in every way to get them what was best.

An issue I have mentioned previously, is how many potential sales I have turned away in the economic downturn – rather than simply taking a mandate and selling their home, I have been able to advise people on altering the home to rent out sections, or assisted them in going under debt review and therefore holding on to their most valuable asset.

Did I lose sales and commissions? Yes – without a doubt. But the relationship I have with them cannot be bought with social media networks and viral marketing. Will they use me one day when the economy has turned – I believe so.

Will I continue to belong to business organisations, get involved in school activities and hang around where the fundi’s are considering old fashioned. Yes I will. You see, I get involved in school bodies to help, not make money. I belong to business organisations to learn and maybe to assist others along the way. I just cannot stoop to the level where everything I do is centred around me and my need to do “Relationship Marketing”

Relationships market themselves. People talk. My job is to just build those relationships through what I do and how I do it. The rest follows naturally. And when I send a birthday card to my clients it is because I care. And if I care long enough, consistently enough and sincerely enough my clients will do my relationship marketing for me.

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