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The following post was written by Mark Dengler, President at RMS.

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As summer starts to wind down, I trust that folks are enjoying the sunny and hot weather. However, don’t be fooled by these hazy days. Companies can’t afford to be lazy. Summer is actually an excellent time to work on relationship marketing strategies with existing and prospective customers. It is an opportunity to reach out and touch base with key contacts and connections.

“Relationship Marketing” is a marketing approach that focuses on building strong customer relationships and long term engagement. It is often associated with customer loyalty program development, but can prove very effective in prospecting and enhancing brand awareness. It is built upon communication strategies that encourage two-way interaction and engagement. Obviously, it is critical to be utilizing relationship marketing strategies throughout the entire year, however the summer is a particularly good time to connect with folks. For many, this popular vacation season slows the deadline-focused intensity in companies, and people are more willing to interact.

Over the next couple of weeks, it makes sense to consider implementing the following key marketing strategies to better position your organization for a strong fourth quarter and building strong relationships:

  1. Identify your top customers and make a personal inquiry as to their needs and satisfaction with your product/service. Your senior leadership should be involved with this activity. Simply by asking for customer feedback, you demonstrate to customers their value.
  2. Mystery Shop your organization. It was Maya Angelou who said “people may forget what is said or done, but they never forget how you made them feel.” This quote embodies the heart of customer relations. Companies need to look at their own processes from this perspective, making sure that customers and prospects have a positive interaction experience.
  3. Examine your “listening posts.” What are the ways that customers and prospects inform you of their needs and experiences? Do you have listening posts? Are these being used? Now may be the perfect time to enhance your tools of interaction. Refresh your website capabilities. Implement a customer survey. Conduct some key research in-depth interviews. Find effective ways to “listen” to your customers and prospects so that you can continue to meet their needs.
  4. Focus on informing rather than promoting. Companies that look to position themselves as knowledgeable experts in a particular area are able to build market followers. These followers include both customer and prospects. Establish your organization as a go to source for information. Look to offer free resources such as white papers, webinars, and podcasts.
  5. Optimize social media to depict your organization’s culture and values. In building relationships, people want to affiliate with those that are most like them, hence the term homophily. This is true with organization affiliation as well. Companies need to promote their culture, values and beliefs to help brand themselves. It serves as a means for individuals to identify and affiliate with. With evermore competition, this approach is a way to differentiate your organization and foster strong relationships.

Summer is definitely a great time to enhance your relationship marketing with customers and prospects. And it never hurts to take advantage of the sunny weather in the meantime.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a full service marketing and market research firm located in Baldwinsville, NY. RMS provides an array of research methodologies that result in actionable analytics and recommendations for the client to enhance decision making. RMS is also home to QualiSight, a premier focus group and interview research facility, and RMS ViewPoint, a leading consumer research panel in Central New York. Visit our website at RMSresults.com.

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The RMS social media team recently attended a Social Media Breakfast presentation by Greg Loh, Managing Partner at Eric Mower + Associates. Aside from the great coffee and pastries, our team received an information-packed 90 minutes of social media crisis management gold. Although our social media team prides itself on staying up to date on the latest trends (it must be the researchers in us… we’re curious by nature), Greg provided insightful tips that any reputation management professional would find useful. Social media has been known to fuel fire under public opinion, and the popularity of this communication medium seems to be here to stay for the foreseeable future. The presentation touched on two main types of social media crisis situations and how to deal with them – crisis + social and social = crisis.

  • Crisis + Social

The influence that social media plays during a crisis has heightened over the last decade, with everyday people (not journalists) commonly breaking news stories via social media outlets. A prime example that Greg gave during the presentation was the US Airways plane landing on the Hudson River in 2009, later dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson.” The news of the plane landing on the Hudson River instantly became worldwide news when Janis Krums posted a picture of people entering life boats from the plane. Greg noted that the online world “amplifies and accelerates” a story to make it big news. Given the unpredictable nature of crises, it’s imperative to be cautious about automated social media or any communcation. Even if the crisis is not directly related to you or your company, if your social media activity or automated survey seems insensitive, the public backlash could create a firestorm of bad press for the company. Listening is critical for companies engaging in social media activity.

  • Social = Crisis

When a crisis surrounding your organization originates on social media, Greg recommends that in some instances you should wait before reacting immediately. Of course this does not apply if there is a safety concern or an issue (e.g. a chemical spill) that must be addressed immediately to avoid further damage. For less serious public relations issues, Greg recommends monitoring social media negativity to determine if the content is gaining steam. Often minor social media crises self-regulate through what Greg called the “social media washing machine,” where one story is replaced by the next. When addressing a social crisis, it’s best to focus on incontrovertible facts and third-party support. Unless social comments are highly inflammatory, derogatory, or defamatory, resist the urge to remove critical commentary. By addressing the issue, you have the opportunity to turn a critic into a supporter by finding a solution to their dissatisfaction or disagreement.

To close the presentation, Greg provided a crisis management survival strategy. Essentially, it boils down to figuring out what people want, need, and/or expect in a crisis/emergency situation. The public generally wants to know:

  1. That you have noticed the problem.
  2. That you care.
  3. That you are in control of the situation.
  4. That you are doing something about it.
  5. That you are minimizing damage.
  6. That you are taking steps to make sure it does not happen again.

RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

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