Relationship Marketing: How to Make Life-Long Customers

Posted by Lars Arboleda | Jun 11, 2021

If you’re like most companies, you’re probably spending a sizable chunk of your marketing budget on customer acquisition. Nothing wrong with that! But are you doing enough to make those customers stick around?

Because if you’re not, you’re leaving money on the table.

How so?

For starters:

As you can see, when it comes to growing a company, turning customers into life-long fans and brand ambassadors is the ticket.

But how do you pull that off?

Two words: Relationship marketing.

What is relationship marketing?

Relationship marketing is a long-term strategy that focuses on retaining customers, creating meaningful engagement, and fostering brand affinity.

However, there’s more to relationship marketing than what a standard definition can encapsulate.

Relationship marketing is about showing the human side of your brand.  It’s about meaningful interactions that go beyond features and benefits. It’s about genuine connections.

There’s no such thing as “love at first sight” in relationship marketing. Relationships take work, right? If you want your relationship marketing efforts to succeed, give your customer relationships the diligence and dedication they need to flourish.

Benefits of relationship marketing

If done well, relationship marketing can have far-reaching benefits for your business.

High CLV (customer lifetime value)

Customer lifetime value is the net profit earned from a customer over the course of their relationship with your company. Increasing customer lifetime value is one of relationship marketing’s main benefits. After all, by fostering loyalty among customers through your relationship marketing efforts, you are increasing the likelihood of repeat purchases—leading to higher profits over time.

In addition, your loyal customers are more likely to become your brand ambassadors, creating buzz around your products and services and helping you to acquire customers with minimal investment.

Lower marketing spend

You don’t need a big marketing budget if you have a loyal customer base. Since repeat customers can help bring in a lot of revenue, you are unlikely to find yourself in a mad scramble to acquire new customers to keep your business afloat, thus keeping customer acquisition costs down.

Besides, your repeat customers will be much more receptive to your marketing efforts, allowing you to get more bang for your marketing buck.

You also don’t have to spend much on customer acquisition when most of your loyal customers will be happy to spread the word about your brand.

Makes your brand better

Relationship marketing can help your brand become better at meeting customer needs. After all, it’s much easier to get your priorities straight when you treat your existing customers as your North Star.

Besides, repeat customers are more capable of providing valuable feedback. Remember, these are your ideal customers, and they have the insights you need to improve your solution for the right reasons.

6 Relationship Marketing Strategies to Create Customers for Life

Now that you know what relationship marketing is and why it matters, it’s time to go over relationship marketing strategies that create life-long customers.

1. Know your ‘why’

If you want to turn your customers into raving fans, get clear with your brand purpose first.

Why you do what you do matters to your customers a great deal.

In fact, an Accenture study shows that customers are more likely to buy from purpose-driven brands.

As Start with Why writer Simon Sinek says in his famous TEDTalk, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

The Golden Circle infographic

[Source: SmartInsights]

Sure, customers will buy your products and services partly for their tangible benefits. But a big part of it is driven by a deep need to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

If you want to truly differentiate your brand from competitors and win your customers’ undying loyalty, get out of Maslow’s basement and start appealing to their higher needs.

Unilever’s Dove brand, for example, didn’t become the most preferred brand in the US because of the quality of their products. They pulled it off by showing the world that every woman can be beautiful through their diverse representation of beauty.

Meanwhile, Tesla became a multi-billion dollar company because of Elon Musk’s single-minded purpose: to build affordable and environmentally-friendly cars.

Other purpose-driven brands like Nike, Lego, and Lululemon earned household name status because they gave their customers a purpose to rally around and strive towards.

To get clear with your brand purpose, ask the following questions:

  • What are the values and beliefs that helped your company get to where it is now?
  • What do you want your brand to be known for?
  • What do you aim to achieve with your brand?
  • How can your solution improve your customers’ lives for the better?

Use what you’ve come up with to create and document your brand’s mission, vision, core values, and goals. Incorporate them into your brand guidelines. That way, you can communicate your brand story in ways your customers will care about.

 2. Deliver personalized, relevant customer experience

Relationships are a long-term investment.

Like any relationship, your relationship with customers needs to be tended to regularly. But for your efforts to count, make sure you deliver personalized, relevant customer experiences on a consistent basis. Otherwise, why would they care?

By “consistent” I don’t mean to engage them every step of the way. It sounds pushy and desperate. Would you want to stay in a relationship with someone pushy and desperate? Doubt it.

What you can do to stay top of mind among your customers is to be there for them in moments that matter most.

But you need to have a deeper understanding of your customers to pull that off. Go over your buyer persona or customer profile (if you don’t have one yet, we recommend creating one). What are their unique needs? What are their interests? What motivates them to wake up in the morning?

Once you have that part done, it’s much easier to map significant touchpoints and incorporate them into your customer journey map.

customer journey map

[Image source: Custellence]

You need to operationalize your customer journey map for it to be of any use. So make sure to introduce the initiative to the entire company. You can also ask customers for feedback or insights to help you refine your customer journey map.

Once you’ve gathered all relevant input, you need to develop your milestones and create an action plan (and performance indications) that will help you achieve them.

3. Create an emotional connection with your customers

You can’t build a relationship if emotions aren’t involved.

This also goes for marketing. After all, studies show that emotions, not hard logic, are what drive our purchasing behavior.

Creating an emotional connection is a two-way street.

If you don’t make customers care, they won’t have the emotional investment needed to become life-long customers.

If you’re not emotionally invested in what you do and how you market yourself, you’re not going to care enough to make a sustained effort in creating and delivering experiences that will resonate with your customers.

There’s data to back that up. A recent study says that customers who have an emotional relationship with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value and will likely recommend the company at a rate of 71%, rather than the average rate of 45%

So how do you create an emotional connection with your customers?

Don’t just tell them how awesome your solution is. You need to understand your customers’ struggles (look into your buyer personas again), reflect those pain points back at them, and show how your brand can solve these pain points and make their lives better.

Remember, don’t just appeal to their self-interest. Appeal to their higher aspirations in life or what they want to be.

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4. Consistently gather feedback

Want customers to stick around? keep asking for feedback! Better yet, acknowledge and act on every feedback (positive or negative) you receive.

Consistently asking for feedback shows your customers that their opinions matter in your branding efforts, which is only fitting considering that your customers are an extension of your brand.  Make them feel involved in your brand and they’re more likely to be emotionally invested in it.

Besides, consistently gathering customer feedback lets you discover things about your brand you couldn’t have known otherwise. When it comes to improving your products or services, who better to ask than the very people who love and use them? 

Lastly, by asking for their feedback (and accepting them graciously), you’re letting them know that every action or decision you make as a brand is made with their best interests in mind.

Here are ways to gather feedback from your customers:

  • Conducting surveys
  • Asking for feedback in follow up emails
  • Conducting customer interviews
  • Using a feedback button on your website or app
  • Running chat surveys
  • Reaching out directly 

customer feedback survey template

[Image source: Survicate]

By asking for input or feedback, you can get insights that will help clarify what your brand is about, what your goals are, and get an honest input or opinion on whether your solution is meeting their needs and what you can improve to better address those needs.

5. Reward them

Customers love receiving rewards. Not only because it appeals to their self-interest, but also because they love being valued and appreciated. Keep rewarding a customer for her loyalty and advocacy and chances are you have a customer for life.

Now that I mention “loyalty” and “advocacy,” you can reward customers in two ways: 1) a customer loyalty program and 2) a referral program.

Customer loyalty program

A customer loyalty program is a marketing strategy that incentivizes customers for repeat purchases and continued patronage. They can greatly impact your customer retention efforts, too. In fact, research shows that customers who participate in customer loyalty programs spend up to 18% more.

Referral program

Some of your loyal customers will happily recommend or refer your brand to others without being told.


Two words: social currency. (recommending good brands makes them feel good about themselves).

Like I said, some.

The truth is, most customers will not refer your products and services to others even if they wanted to. There are three likely reasons for this: first, it’s awkward; second, their reputation is on the line; and third, there’s nothing in it for them.

Thankfully, a referral program can help you give them the gentle nudge needed to start sending those referrals.

Setting up a customer referral program involves many moving pieces, but choosing the right incentives is a great start. By giving your customers a robust platform to recommend and refer your business, allowing yourself an opportunity to achieve massive growth with minimal investment. Besides, using a referral program software tool like GrowSurf can streamline the process for you if the going gets tough.

Have questions about GrowSurf?

Talk to a referral marketing expert today.

On choosing rewards

Here’s a relationship-building hack for you: If you want to win your customers’ undying loyalty, don’t just offer rewards that deliver tangible or extrinsic benefits. Aim higher by choosing rewards that align with your brand’s vision and core values.

Because as already mentioned, if there’s anything that creates lasting relationships, it’s shared purpose and values.

relationship marketing example Todoist

By offering rewards that appeal to them, you can increase the likelihood of referrals. Creating rewards that align with your core value also reinforces your customers’ love for your band.

6. Build and nurture a community

If you want to take your relationship with your customers to the next level, build and nurture a community.

Customers, and all humans for that matter, are social beings with an innate need for connection and fellowship. Naturally, they will seek that connection with others who share their interests and values.

So how do you market your brand in ways that foster a strong sense of community?

For starters, don’t focus on the benefits of your product or service alone; focus on the emotions and values they evoke or inspire among your customers.

Here are effective strategies to help you build and nurture a branded community:

  • Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. Because in a crowded market, making a ruckus is the only way forward.

  • Commit to a cause. By contributing to society and inviting your customers to take part, you’re appealing to their need to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

  • Build relationships with influencers. Connecting with the right influencers around your niche not only builds authority around your brand, but also sparks interest and reinforces connections within your community, allowing it to flourish and thrive.

  • Use user-generated content (UGC). Sharing your customers’ stories makes them feel more emotionally invested in your brand. Nothing binds a community better than stories as a shared experience.

Final word

In today’s cluttered digital landscape, a million shiny things are competing for your customers’ attention. That attention, however, is a finite resource. What if their wandering eyes cause them to leave you for good?

.If you want to cut through the noise and keep your customers coming back, start building a relationship with them. You need to care enough for them to care about your brand.

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