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5 steps to relationship marketing

The 5 Steps to Relationship Marketing

Do you struggle with getting insights, feedback, customer loyalty, and retention? Today’s blog post brings you the five actionable steps that will help you create meaningful relationships and unlock incredible opportunities with Ashley Freehan. We’ll explore connection marketing and all it entails, or as Ashley refers to it, relationship marketing. 

What is relationship marketing?

Relationship marketing is all about deliberately emphasizing the development and nurturing of profound connections, rather than solely focusing on generating content. Although marketing is often associated with content creation, relationship marketing shifts the emphasis toward building meaningful relationships.

In the modern world today, there has been a notable shift in people’s preferences. They seek more genuine connections and authentic content. This change has made relationship marketing even more relevant and effective. By prioritizing relationships, we can establish strong bonds not only with potential, current, and past clients but also with fellow photographers and other vendors in the industry.

How does it benefit businesses? Now, the approach of serving first, putting the needs of clients and collaborators at the forefront, is important in relationship marketing. This mindset creates a powerful foundation for fruitful partnerships. By making this subtle shift in your marketing strategy, you can avoid appearing overly formal and instead foster a more relatable and approachable brand image. Some specific steps and systems can help you create content that resonates deeply with your audience, forging stronger connections and yielding greater success in your business. 

Guide to Effective Relationship Marketing

Building strong relationships with people and businesses in your industry or target market is the foundation of a powerful relationship marketing strategy. You may incorporate it into your daily life as an entrepreneur by understanding its significance and following a thorough technique. Let’s have a look at the basic steps for setting up relationship marketing in your organization.

1. Commit to the process

To start, it’s essential to commit yourself to the relationship marketing strategy. Dedicate at least an hour every week to creating and engaging with these connections. Like any other aspect of your business, it requires consistency and effort to yield results. By setting aside this intentional time, you can foster meaningful conversations and cultivate long-lasting relationships.

2. Brainstorm your potential connections

Identifying whom to connect with might seem challenging, but it’s quite an important step. Don’t limit yourself only to those in your direct field of expertise. Look beyond your niche and consider collaborating with complementary businesses or individuals. For instance, if you are a photographer, seek connections with fellow photographers for referrals and also with vendors like wedding planners, venues, or dress shops, who serve the same target audience. Additionally, explore networking opportunities with groups that your ideal clients frequent, such as mom’s groups or OB offices for family or maternity photographers.

3. Connect with complementary vendors

Once you’ve identified potential connections, reach out to them professionally and sincerely. Networking events, social media platforms, or even local gatherings can be excellent avenues to establish initial contact. When approaching these businesses, focus on building mutual trust and understanding. Keep in mind that the goal is not just to gain leads but to form authentic relationships that benefit both parties involved.

4. Engage with your network

One of the keys to nurturing relationships is consistent engagement. Stay in touch with your network through various channels like emails, social media interactions, or occasional meetups. Engage meaningfully with their content, show genuine interest in their work, and offer support whenever possible. By being proactive and responsive, you will strengthen the bond and position yourself as a reliable and respected partner.

5. Follow-up

Following up is a vital aspect of relationship marketing. It demonstrates your commitment and reminds your connections of your value. Reach out periodically to check in, congratulate them on their successes, or share valuable resources that align with their interests. A well-timed and thoughtful follow-up can lead to collaborations, referrals, or other mutually beneficial opportunities.

6. Repeat

Relationship marketing is an ongoing effort —it’s not about making a single connection and moving on. Rather, it involves nurturing and expanding your network continuously. Repeat the steps of connecting, engaging, and following up regularly to strengthen existing relationships and forge new ones.

Understanding and connecting 

Understand your audience’s origin and points of contact too because it is vital in building strong client experiences. This can stem from various sources, including word-of-mouth, mom groups, websites, or social media. The first encounter shapes their perception of you. Emphasize the value of creating connections and relationships, as they hold incredible power. Being aware of these entry points allows you to effectively engage and cater to their needs. 

Engage in conversations with business owners easily by complimenting them or using compliments for their business style as an icebreaker. Whether it’s through social media platforms like Instagram, reaching out and starting that conversation can lead to meaningful connections. Keep in mind that collaboration should be a mutual benefit for both parties, not just a one-sided affair. When seeking to connect with someone for business purposes, ensure that the partnership is authentic and makes sense for both businesses involved because genuine collaboration fosters stronger and more fruitful relationships in the long run.

Do a collaboration

In collaboration, explore the potential benefits and how such partnerships can be mutually advantageous. One way to do this is by establishing connections within your industry or related fields. For example, Ashley sought to engage with other local photographers and initiated a connection with a like-minded artist on Instagram. The relationship grew from simple online interactions to regular coffee meetings, where they began jointly planning their social media strategies. This collaboration proved immensely valuable, as it provided companionship and support to them.

Moreover, Ashley emphasizes that in industries like photography, there is plenty of business to go around, making cooperation even more rewarding. Collaborating with others in the same field not only generates innovative ideas but also opens doors to new opportunities and widens the network. However, it’s worth noting that even if a valued collaborator moves away, the experience gained from such connections can inspire and encourage the search for new partnerships.

Beyond collaborating with fellow photographers, reaching out to complementary vendors can also be highly beneficial. Ashley shared a similar arrangement with a wedding planner who targeted the same ideal clientele. Their monthly dinner meetings allowed them to strategize together, exchange insights, and capitalize on shared clientele interests. The power of connection and collaboration in this way is undeniable. Building a support system with peers in the industry fosters growth, creativity, and a sense of camaraderie. It changes the competitive landscape into a space of mutual support and encouragement, where everyone can thrive.

Networking tip

Connecting and engaging with others is an important aspect of building meaningful relationships, especially for introverts who may find large group settings overwhelming. For introverts, smaller, one-on-one conversations are often more comfortable and conducive to forming deep connections.

When it comes to networking, focus on quality rather than quantity. Instead of attending big networking events, consider reaching out to individuals in your industry with genuine interest and curiosity. By approaching them as fellow professionals and expressing a desire to learn from their experiences, you create opportunities for meaningful connections.

For instance, if you’re in the wedding industry, seeking to connect with venues and wedding planners, don’t simply inquire about getting on their preferred vendor lists. Instead, arrange one-on-one meetings, offering to bring them coffee and discussing their venue and the experiences they provide for couples. Show genuine care and interest, without necessarily promoting yourself. By doing so, you can forge valuable connections and even find yourself included on preferred vendor lists, as a result of your authentic approach.

Building meaningful relationships doesn’t always require large networking events; sometimes, a single genuine interaction over a cup of coffee can lead to significant professional connections. So, for anyone seeking to establish authentic relationships and enhance their network, adopting this approach of personal engagement can be an effective and rewarding strategy. By valuing quality over quantity, introverts and extroverts alike can cultivate deeper and more meaningful connections with others in their industry.

Follow-up tips

The first step is to start by committing to spending at least one hour a week on relationship marketing. This dedicated time will allow you to focus on building genuine connections. Second, brainstorm a list of people you’d like to connect with. These could be potential clients, collaborators, or industry influencers. Think about why you want to connect with them and what value you can bring to the relationship.

Begin reaching out and engaging with your identified contacts. Use different platforms, such as email or social media, as some individuals may not regularly check specific channels. Know that, not receiving an immediate response doesn’t mean they’re uninterested. Follow up with a different approach and remain persistent. Finally, don’t get discouraged if some connections don’t work out initially. Keep moving forward and continue connecting with others. The key to relationship marketing is consistency and patience. The deep, meaningful connections you’re seeking may take time to develop, but they will be worth the effort.

Relationship marketing is a long game. The community you’re building will eventually provide steady leads, but this might take six to twelve months or more. Be patient and stick to your commitment, dedicating time each week to this process.

Standing out in the process

Maintain a positive outlook and persevere through challenges you might encounter on your relationship marketing journey. It may seem daunting to face numerous rejections, but maintaining a steadfast attitude helps. Focus on connecting with others and serving them genuinely, that way you increase the likelihood of fostering meaningful connections in return. So, maintain a service-first approach to attract like-minded individuals. To stand out in a competitive market and secure a position on a preferred vendor list marketing efforts, you have to conduct thorough research and identify your unique selling proposition or brand position. Understand what sets you apart from competitors to create a distinctive presence.

Ashley was a photographer in the wedding industry who transitioned to brand photography. In her case, what made her stand out was her genuine care for building deep relationships with clients. She offered complimentary engagement sessions because she believed that understanding her clients’ true smiles and personalities would lead to better wedding day experiences. Such personal touches not only differentiated her from others but also showcased her dedication to providing exceptional service.

Discover your unique selling points and that requires listening to feedback from clients. Clients’ favorite aspects of working with you can provide insights into your strengths. For example, if clients appreciate your proactive communication, emphasize this trait while establishing relationships with potential partners.

Effectively standing out also involves actively engaging with preferred vendors. Communicating your values and how you treat clients helps build trust and confidence. Share your commitment to exceptional service, your approach to capturing special moments, and any other distinctive features that make you an asset to couples’ weddings or projects. You have to know that the process may take time and consistent effort. So, having a well-defined brand position, supported by positive client experiences, will bolster your reputation among vendors and clients alike.

Confidence in your unique qualities will help you present yourself authentically and attract more opportunities for collaboration. Recognize the uniqueness that sets you apart, this uniqueness can be harnessed to create a distinct approach and message that resonates with others. 

Final advice

Just circles back to step one in the strategy and that is a commitment because, with anything you learn as a business owner, anything that you implement even in your personal life, Ashley is a fan of the book Atomic Habits and so believes it is important that when you are creating a new habit, that you commit to it and make it a standing appointment in your schedule so you don’t miss.

Even if you sit there for just an hour journaling or channeling your intentionality toward relationship marketing—even if you don’t know where to start, even if the steps feel a bit out of reach, still do one thing every week for an hour to focus. Who can you reach out to this week? Who can you connect with? What kind of people do you want to put yourself in their world? If you commit to the process, you’ll see hundred percent results that might not be there today but will pay off in the future.

You can find Ashley Freehan on Instagram here and on her website here.

steps to relationship marketing

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