Relationship Networks – Customer and Supplier Networks

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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