Relationship Networks – Customer and Supplier Networks

Posted in CRM, eMarketing, Management, Marketing Mix (New Concepts) with tags , , , , , , , on December 19, 2011 by Consultant
Selling and Marketing is no longer the same what it used to be few decades ago. Traditional methods of sales and promotions have long been relegated to history. Technology, Internet as well as globalization have redefined every aspect of Marketing and Sales. Organizations have realised the importance of being in tune with the markets and customers. They are also embarking on investing on relationship with the customers for the Relationship Management aspect is becoming very important for the success of the business. Companies are tuning in to identify and get to know the customer better and anticipate his needs for tomorrow. Customer feedback as well as needs are being seen as vital information to product innovation as well as for customer retention. Especially in the recent times where social networking is gaining ground, customer contact and relationship management is becoming more visible and instantaneous.

Organizations have realised that Relationship Marketing is not related to the marketing function alone. This concept is to be embraced at the Corporate level and implemented through all departments covering both internal as well as external customers, suppliers and other agencies that the Organization engages with.

As far as the Marketing and Sales is concerned, an Organization can be involved in multiple formats including B to B and B to C. Sales and Marketing is always a network of multi layered and multi level partners, intermediaries, vendors and agents etc. Relationship marketing aspect assumes high importance for the success of every transaction through the myriad networks. The Organization’s relationships can make or break its ultimate positioning in the market as well as affect the quality of the transaction with the end customer.

If an Organization is engaged in selling products or services to on B–C model, the dynamics of Relationship Management will be different from a B–B mode. Let us take the case of a Multi National Company engaged in manufacturing of Computers. The company would be sourcing or manufacturing at various geographical locations across the globe for supplies to different markets. It can be manufacturing at Company owned factories in different countries or using contract manufacturing partners to manufacture on their behalf. The products are transported through service providers using multi modal transportation networks and a host of agents handling the cargo movement from end to end. The products finally are sold to a whole seller or stockist or sold by the Company to the institutional buyers. There can also be cases where the company maintains its own third party warehouses and sells to the retailers. In such complex networked supply chain the Organization has got to ensure that the products are supplied timely, as per customer requirement.

The Organizations success in being able to reach its products to the customer organization timely and successfully over a long period depends upon the seamless working of the entire network. This is possible when the Organization is able to build a relationship with every stake holder in the network and make that difference. In such complex networks, the process alone will not be able to sustain the transactions and the relationship or the emotional connect with the people involved is what makes things happen. Organizations will necessarily have to invest in building strong partnerships with principle service providers and partners so that they are able to get the partners to deliver a happy experience to the end customer too.

When the customer is an institutional customer or a business, the complexities of transactions pose a challenge to the Organizations. In all such businesses the Organizations set up dedicated Key Account Relationship Managers and teams at various levels to ensure that they reach out to the customer and build relationship at multiple levels where it matters. Therefore there can be multiple levels of relationship building that one needs to engage with including at the actual user level to the procurement, technical as well as management level at the customer end. The Organizations would have to accordingly formulate a relationship management strategy and process as well as create a team to build and grow the relationship in such cases. In the end the dedicated focus and investment made into such relationships pays well in terms of future business opportunities.

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Relationship Marketing – Company and Marketing Perspective

Posted in Consumer Behavior, CRM, eMarketing, Management, Marketing Mix (New Concepts) with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2011 by Consultant
We are living in the high tech times. Technology and changing economy have changed the rules the way a business is done. Business organizations have to tune in to various markets and know the customers well. The successful companies are those who have been able to anticipate the customer need and innovate future products leveraging on technology. In a global as well as local scenario, customer holds the key to the growth of business and organizations. No wonder that when you open your mail box or your email, you are always flooded with marketing communication from all possible companies trying to build a relationship with you. Take a look at the cards in your wallet and you must be holding quite a few membership cards that make you feel privileged and keeping bringing rewards and prompting you to extend your relationship with them.

Relationship Marketing has never been more important for the Organizations as it has been now. In the field where competition is intense and life cycle of products and services is very small, customer relationship has emerged to be one of the key drivers to contribute a large chunk of sales revenue. When we talk of relationship marketing, we are not referring to customer service. Customer service refers to the quality of service on a transactional mode. By Relationship Marketing, we are referring to the level of Relationship that exists between the customer and the company.

In terms of Relationship, there can be several ways of defining or measuring the quality of relationship with the Customer. Understanding of the depth of relationship and qualifying can help the Company in improving its reach to the markets as well as work towards increasing the depth of the relationship with the customer. In the first instance, we have a happy customer who has bought the product or a service and found it satisfactory.

When the Company reaches out to communicate with him and anticipate his future needs, he can be converted to a faithful customer. A faithful customer may be a repeat customer who does continues to buy the product from the company on repeat basis without making an effort to look at alternatives. However, at this stage the customer can be influenced and be vulnerable to competition as well as price sensitivity. Relationship marketing by the Company can help convert this customer from a faithful customer to a loyal customer. A loyal customer is one who has made an informed decision to go with the particular Company, is happy with the product, is loyal to the brand and is likely to advocate the same brand to friends and family because he believes in the Product as well as the Company and values the relationship. Apart from customer service, there are several marketing programmes and loyalty programmes besides brand advertising that the Companies carry out to build the relationship with the customer.

Relationship marketing gets translated and implemented through the marketing strategies, promotional programs as well as through marketing communication programs. When implemented as a part of marketing strategy, the relationship is normally focussed on leveraging the brands and products of the Company with the customer. Besides the marketing activities, the Companies implement internal and external corporate communications too keeping in view the Customers.

Marketing strategies are required to define the relationship marketing strategies for each of the product or service category taking into account the geographies, the customer profile as well as the overall RM objective of the Company. The RM strategy in case of a product company would be different from that of a service company and the element of communication design strategy would need to be different for a product from that of a service. In case of a product, the Customer is likely to respond in terms of brand, tangible and quantifiable performance of the product and the satisfaction derived from post sales service. In case of service, however, there is no tangible product and the customer’s expectations are different when it comes to service that is mainly concentrated around his perceptions and experience.

Therefore understanding the concept of Relationship marketing, the difference between RM and Customer Service as well as the ways and means of implementing or achieving RM objectives through effective marketing strategies is important for all the marketing managers and students who are going to be the drivers to defining, planning, detailing and implementing marketing strategies. An effective Marketing Manager should be able to effectively design marketing policies and strategies that are aligned with the Company’s RM objective and help build the relationship between the Company and Customer, Partners as well as the intermediaries who are critical to one’s business.

Organizations and Types of Relationships

Posted in Consumer Behavior, CRM, eMarketing, Management with tags , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2011 by Consultant
Organizations today live in highly dynamic environments. Essentially the existence and growth of the business is dependent upon several external and internal factors such as highly segmented geographical markets, aggressive competition and shorter life cycle. These and many more factors exert a lot of pressure on the Organizations to innovate both in terms of its product offering as well as in its organizational development and ways of conducting business. Revenue and profits do form the primary basis of its business transactions. However in the long term growth perspective Organizations have got to be able to manage both external and internal relationships on the basis of the values and culture on which it is founded.

Share Holders

Gone are the days when share holders were a community content with the returns they received from the Company and went along with whatever the Managements thought good. Managements today are seen becoming increasingly answerable to the share holders.

Recently we have seen several cases where CEOs of the Companies having been voted out by the share holders for not falling in line with the thought process of the Organization and the share holders. We saw major changes in Hewlett Packard wherein the shareholders took the call to change the management and the strategic approach of the Company to business.

Organizations today exist in a situation which demands that they extend products and services as well as keep investing into building products and technology for tomorrow. If the business needs to exist and grow there is no option but to invest into the future. Therefore the shareholders take the centre stage when it comes to approval of and financing the Organisational business and growth plans. Shareholders today are aggressive demanding that the Organization walk the talk when it comes to the bottom line as well as in terms of its culture. Brands like IBM, HP and GE etc are more vulnerable to the stake holders as well as to the public as an Organization. These and other Corporate are using internet, Multimedia and websites to speak to the investors and extend the relationship with the share holders and investors. Internet platform allows the corporate open up relationship with the share holder community on an interactive basis thus giving the Company the control on how to manage the relationship as well as build investor confidence.

For Companies that are looking for investments to fuel their growth engines, there exists a need to demonstrate and cultivate the right corporate image and capability besides the past performance figures which alone will not help attract investors. Companies are therefore engage in Public relations as well as corporate communications to reach out to the prospective investor public as well as institutions to build the right kind of corporate image. Image building and relationship building become the long term strategy of the corporate communications of the Organization.

Social Responsibility

In the recent times the social responsibility and attitude of the Companies towards their responsibilities is becoming more and more visible and public. NGOs and specific interest groups are taking the lead in keeping track of and benchmarking social responsibility performance of the Corporate thus making them accountable. The brand image of the Organization is definitely affected by the way it is managing its social responsibility with the community, investors as well as policy makers being active participants as watchdogs.

Organizations have had to engage with the communities by way of participative activities as well as using communication strategies and by maintaining and managing relationship to be able to get across the right perspective as well as the right information. The recent example of GAP having had to withdraw from sourcing clothing from Indian Companies and suppliers who engaged child labour in the production lines is an ideal example which showcased the power of the community and the stake holders forcing the Company to take immediate action and use its relationship to project the right image for itself. The recent oil spill of BP in the west coast is another ideal case for study of how BP manages the relationship with the Govt, with its share holders, with the affected communities as well as manage its social responsibility.

Organizations and Relationship Marketing

Posted in CRM, eMarketing, Marketing Mix (New Concepts) with tags , , , , , , , on December 19, 2011 by Consultant
Traditionally with Organizations the customers belonged to and were the responsibility of the Marketing Department alone. Organizations probably had too many constraints on meeting the demands and were saddled with limited product range that did not require them to look out and reach out to the Customer. However with evolution of technology, mass production processes as well as expanding geographical markets, the Organizations began to realize the need to reorient their understanding of the business and the way to manage the business. To a large extent we can very well say that the Customer Relationship Marketing did not originate only in the marketing department. It developed as an Organizational approach and management thought.

Management experts and Organizations have come a long way in terms of their outlook to the internal and external environment. Today Organizations have begun to understand and recognize the relationship that exists between the Stockholders, the Employees and the Customers who provide the reason as well as the resources for the Organization to exist and grow.

There exists a mutually inclusive relationship between all the three factors. Organizations need to manage the relationship dynamics on all the three fronts. This understanding has further brought about the Management thought and approach to orient and imbibe Relationship Marketing as an Organizational Philosophy.

An Organization does not recognize the customer in the market to be the only stake holder in its relationships. The Company has ongoing relationships both internally as well as externally at many levels and tiers. The Company strives to build excellent and long term relationships with its strategic suppliers as well as the intermediaries important for its business. Sales and Distribution partners including whole sales, channel partners as well as point of sale retailers form a part of the chain which needs to be handled via the relationship platform.

The number of relationships that the Organization is required to manage are spread over several areas. Ongoing Relationship Management with Current Employees as well as prospective employees becomes very important for the Organization as the Human resource is a key resource for its business. Besides the employees, suppliers, as well as the Customers and intermediaries, the Organization has a relationship that needs to be managed with the public, Government as well as media too.

Therefore it should be very clearly understood that Relationship Marketing is a business philosophy and not a marketing strategy. Of course Marketing strategy and plans are built around this Organizational philosophy and value of Relationship Marketing.

Managements have successfully adapted to the concept of internal and external Relationship Marketing and have benefited immensely from it. Internally the concept of internal customer has yielded tremendous advantageous and brought about efficiencies in operations. TQM, JIT, Six Sigma philosophies have been successfully implemented thanks to the fundamental concept of internal customers and customer satisfaction.

Apart from marketing and sales functions which are exposed to the Customers and markets and hence need to be sensitized and oriented towards relationship management, the Organizations have realized the need to sensitize the other departments including Finance, HR, Technical Service, Customer Service as well as the Product Development and legal departments towards relationship Management with he customers. This orientation has benefited the Organizations immensely besides changing the service dynamics for the customers.

Relationship Marketing and CRM

Posted in Consumer Behavior, CRM, eMarketing, Management on December 19, 2011 by Consultant
Relationship Marketing is being spoken of as one key Business Philosophies of the progressive Organizations who are Customer Oriented or Customer Centric. Companies have realized that to be successful on the long term trajectory of successful business, they need to be closer to the market, get under he skin of the Customer, anticipate his needs and engineer products and services to satisfy the customer and engage his loyalty.

As competition is increasing, product innovation is definitely one of the key important elements that the Organizations need to depend upon to steer themselves ahead in the market. Along with the technical leadership the companies necessarily need to know how to reach out to the Customer.

Engaging the Customer, Understanding the Customer and building relationship has become the need of the day.

No wonder that every individual today is bombarded with calls, emails, personal visits, mailers and all sorts of marketing communications from different companies trying to vie for your attention. From the Credit card Company, bankers to the shopping mall as well as the local restaurant you frequent try to engage you into a relationship that goes beyond a single transaction.

One of the outcomes of the evolution of Relationship Marketing has been the birth of CRM solutions. Besides CRM we have also seen the birth of new departments and disciplines in Organizations namely Customer Service Department as well as Key Account Management. It is very easy for students to equate RM with CRM and that both are one and the same.

Relationship Management forms part of the vision and business ethics that the Company envisages to imbibe as its core value system. When an Organization chooses to build its business blocks around Relationship Management, the Organization is marrying its Profit Making goal with Customer Relationship to build a synergy by which all the divisions as well as the functions of the Organization look at their function and business through the RM lens. This helps build a strong customer orientation and culture of Customer Sensitivity across the Organization at all levels, branches and functions. In any Organization several of its departments are involved with the external customers. Starting with Marketing, Sales, Distribution to After Sales Service, Quality as well as Finance Departments are involved with Customers and their orientation towards the Customer interaction is fashioned by the RM outlook of the Organization.

CRM on the other hand can best be described as an enabler of RM in any Organization. CRM involves process including software and hardware components that automates and helps manage customer engagement. While RM works at a strategy level, CRM helps implement the Strategy. The success of CRM as a concept is widely seen due to the aggressive marketing of CRM solutions by the IT companies who have developed the CRM packages. This has helped the Multi National Organizations to implement standardized process of Customer management on large scale across geographies and markets.

Besides Software driven Packages, there are several services and schemes that are available locally that are tailor made to suit particular industry. In a market place where every company is vying for space in the minds of the customer what helps the company gain that customer loyalty is the RM outlook that comes across via the CRM channel.

Importance of Relationship Marketing

Posted in CRM, eMarketing, Management, Marketing Mix (New Concepts) on December 19, 2011 by Consultant
The recent trend seen in the Organizations across the world is that they are faced with changing times and the changing economies and business is forcing them to change themselves too. Organizations today have no option but to change and evolve. The change has to do with every aspect of business and not limited to any one aspect of its business. Those who are not able to see the trends and change themselves are perishing. Technology has been the single most important change agent. Technology has redefined all aspects of business. What we see today is the definitive shift of power from the Organization into the hands of the Customer.

Customers today know their position and the power they wield. Especially the medium of internet has brought the customers closer to the Organisation as well as to the other Customers. Information, discussions, feedbacks and opinions are now visible and available to one and all almost instantaneously. Social networking is a medium that the Organizations cannot afford to ignore. This is both a boon as well as a bane to the Organizations. Marketing Managers are learning to use this to manage their relationship with the customers at large. Customer redressal too is another important phenomenon that has contributed to the Customer becoming powerful in the market place.

The fact that the information and interaction happens on live basis and the customer reactions can be instantaneous puts a lot of pressure on the Organizations to be on their guard all the time. Any adverse opinion shared or feedback from a dis-satisfied customer can spearhead a word of mouth campaign that can harm the Organisation. Therefore the internet and social network is a double edged sword as far as the Organizations are concerned. When used effectively this medium can help the Organization build a relationship with the customer and strengthen that relationship. This medium helps the Organization to reach out individually to the customer which may not be possible otherwise.

The marketing departments are able to not only communicate and address the customer individually, with the help of technology and data mining techniques, they are able to understand the customer’s needs and customize solutions as per the specific individual needs of the customer. CRM packages and technology become the enablers to make this happen. Banks, Airlines, Insurance as well as Services like Pizza hut, Macdonald’s are some of the businesses that have developed effective means to recognize and communicate with individual customers and thereby build an emotional connect with the customers.

Product Companies have begun to use social networking sites effectively as a platform to engage with customer on technical and product related discussions and build a community around its products and services. Building relationships in such situations is easier and more effective.

The dynamics in the market is changing, thanks to internet. Marketing Managers can no longer afford to use the traditional methods of engaging and selling to the customers. Marketing today demands a customer centric approach. Customer is no longer an entity without a face. Today’s customer is an informed and intelligent customer who can be reached, who is visible and can be heard and a relationship with him matters the most to the Organization.

Relationship Management holds the centre stage to designing Marketing as well as communication strategies of the organization. It is essential for every student to understand the dynamics of Relationship Marketing in the present context for this subject will be the key differentiator for the Organizations in the market place.

Evolution of Relationship Marketing

Posted in eMarketing, Marketing Mix (New Concepts) on December 19, 2011 by Consultant
Marketing Management has evolved to become a multi faceted and all embracing science over a period of time. Studies in Marketing do not involve the 4Ps anymore. The markets, geographies, the consumer segments have changed leading to multi tier and complex networks and relationships.

Marketing Managers of today are no longer following the same rules of game that they followed two decades ago. Technology has changed the rules of the game and competition has become more intense. Instead of concentrating on selling the product, the marketing effort is now directed to expanding the customer base and relationship.

By widening the customer base as well as expanding the depth of the customer base using relationship marketing, they see the possibility to lengthen the revenue lines. Therefore Marketing professionals to be will benefit greatly by understanding more about Relationship Marketing as well as direct marketing, service marketing and CRM etc.

From times immemorial including the times when trading used to happen through the silk route, the basis of trading was the relationship that was built on trust, loyalty and previous history of transaction. Traditionally if you analyze the jeweler’s business, you will see that the families have always been going to one jeweler for generations together. The same is the case with banker who would extend loan to a well known individual who was personally known or referred by a known person. Even while renting out a house, the owner prefers to let out to a known person or a person referred by a known party where there exists some kind of relationship. Therefore we can say that relationship has always been the basis of business.

However the growth of Relationship Marketing as a discipline and practice got an impetus post industrial era. Until this period the products and services were always produced in smaller quality where things were in short supply and were marketed in the local area. Industrialization led to mass production as well as standardization of the products and services. The businesses started expanding their geographic boundaries and exploring new markets where in it became necessary for them to evolve new methods of marketing. They understood the importance of having to reach out and build a relationship with a customer and make efforts to retain the customer rather than keep spending on marketing to new customers every time.

At this stage we do see significant changes that happened at an Organizational level. Organizations realized the importance of having to put the Customer ahead of its business. Organizational philosophy seemed to have shifted from profits, products and markets to Customer first. Right from product design to manufacturing as well as selling began to be designed around what the Customer wants, his needs, his comfort and satisfaction. Customer focus and relationship became the Organizational focus and lead to many new trends in manufacturing methods the most significant being the concept of TQM or Total Quality Management.

On the marketing front too, the managers had to come up with new channels for marketing and sales for they had to reach out to bigger markets and new customer segments. As a result we saw the emergence of Direct Mailer or catalogue sales was born in the 1960s. Information technology further enhanced the marketing methods whereby database marketing, direct mailing and customer loyalty programs along with marketing services came into being. With the advent of internet we have see several more marketing methods like e commerce, online selling, one to one selling happening. All these marketing channels have been built around the concept of relationship marketing. We as consumers have now are used to being courted by the companies and given individual attention. Most of our purchases of products and services are based on relationships with companies that make us comfortable and valued.