Relationship Marketing: Meaning, Levels and Approaches

Meaning of Relationship Marketing

Long-term partnership between marketing expert and customers is called marketing relationship. It maintains satisfactory relationship with customers to earn long term goodwill and maintain it. Creating maintaining and increasing good and strong relationship with customers and stakeholders is relationship marketing.
Relationship marketing includes increasing strong relation with customers, keeping contact and enhancing it. Relationship marketing gives emphasis on establishing valuable relationship and creating delivery network with them rather than personal dealings. Relationship marketing is long term oriented. Its main objective is to continue long term delivery to the customers and measure their satisfaction. All the departments of a company should work as a group with marketing to provide services to the customers. Relationship should be maintained with economic, social, technical and legal sectors. It helps to increase the reputation of the company and its products or services. In relationship marketing, marketers and customers work together to identify customers' wants and needs and meet those by updating them in marketing mix.
According to Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong, "Relationship marketing is the process of creating, maintaining and enhancing strong, valued-laden relationship with customers and stakeholders."
For the last some years, the companies have realized the importance of relationship marketing and are practicing it. Nowadays there are many customers, they are living and spreading all over the world. They want such suppliers who can provide goods at any place, any time and can solve problems and bring improvement in quality of the products living nearby them. Relationship marketing fulfills these wants of the customers.

Levels of Relationship Marketing

Different levels are created while buying goods by the customers. They are: basic level, reactive level, accountable level, proactive level and partnership level.
Levels of Relationship Marketing

1. Basic level

At this level, the seller sells products to the customers. But do not establish relationship with them anyway. They only sell products to them.

2. Reactive level

At this level, the seller of the company sells goods to the customers and encourages them to ask if they have any problems and questions. At this level, the sellers become ready to solve problems of the customers after selling goods.

3. Accountable level

At this level, the seller phones the customers a short time after the sale of check whether the product is meeting the customers' expectations. They solicit for suggestions if any improvement is necessary.

4. Proactive level

At this level, the seller and other employees phone the customers from time to time with suggestions about improved product use. They find out whether the customers are satisfied with the improved products or not. If they are not fully satisfied, they will ask for suggestions and advices.

5. Partnership level

At this level, the company works regularly with the customers to find out methods for delivery of products. At this level, the company takes the customers as partners.

Approaches of Relationship Marketing

Financial benefits, social benefits and structural ties are the approaches of relationship marketing. They are made clearer by the following figures:- 
Approaches of Relationship Marketing

1. Financial benefits

The first approach is to provide financial benefits to the customers to strengthen relationship with them. For example, an airline may give special discount to its regular customers by scheduling regular flights. Hotels may provide special discount to their regular customers. Similarly other business organizations may provide discount or prize to their regular customers. Some organizations provide several facilities to their regular customers by giving them membership of their club. Strong and deep relationship can be established with the customers by giving such financial benefit.

2. Social benefits

The second approach of relationship marketing is social benefits. Relationship with customers can be strengthened by providing social benefits to them. Business company develops personal relationship with the customers for the same purpose by this approach. It confers them social respect and recognition. The company identifies wants and necessities of personal customers, and makes marketing mix accordingly. Besides financial benefits, the social benefit strategy strengthens relationship with customers as well.

3. Structural ties

The other important approach of relationship marketing is structural ties. Its main objective is to involve customers in organizational structure. In order to develop effective relationship with customers, special equipment or marketers supply with special equipment or computer linkage that help them manage their order, payroll and inventory. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) should be developed. The medicine wholesaler, McKesson Corporation had invested millions of dollars to develop EDI to systematize inventories, orders and shelf space of small pharmacies. That means, a company should even spend much capital to establish strong relations with customers, maintain it and involve them in the structural tie.

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