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Relationship marketing is the new mantra

NEW DELHI: Marketing is not only about handing out attractive deals to consumers or talking to them in general terms. Now, it is about relationship building, marketing experts felt.

“Marketers are now focusing on building the value of loyalty with existing consumers rather than just giving better deals to attract new consumers”, said Sian Davies, CEO of Henley Centre, a WPP-owned international strategic marketing consultancy, at a CII-organized marketing summit here.

Speaking at a session on `From Brute Force Branding to Relationship Marketing’, Davies pointed out that it is important to pinpoint those customers who are driving value for a category and brand and address them via relationships to better understand their needs.

The other panelists for this session were Harish Bijoor Consults CEO Harish Bijoor and General Motors India MD Rajeev Chaba.

Recognizing that consumers are not as loyal as they used to be, Davies illustrated a research done in the UK that demonstrated how consumer loyalty has fallen from 75 per cent to 66 per cent between 1998 and 2003.

Dwelling on the importance of customer retention, Davies gave insightful examples from the UK on how in a bid to get new consumers, companies often forget or ignore existing consumers. This, she said, puts off consumers and often drives them away.

Echoing a similar sentiment, Chaba highlighted the need for companies to examine lifetime value of a consumer for the company, rather than just ensuring some immediate sale.

This, he said, allows companies to build a relationship with a consumer that “transcends time” and maintains that customer within the brand franchise for an extended duration.

Chaba agreed with Davies that modern-day consumers do not tend to be faithful to any particular brand. “This was a worrying factor for marketers and a wake up call was required for companies to balance company goals with consumer demands,” he said.

Harish Bijoor in his presentation called for marketers to move from a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy to more personal and one to one game plan.

In this connection, Bijoor talked about how marketers in their bid to address a mass audience often go in for “lowest common denominator” strategy, which generally ends up pleasing no segment of the mass

consumer group being targeted.

The panelists in the end converged on the fact that it was clear marketing in a truly mass way is not likely to deliver long-term sustainable business. Consumers need to be wooed personally.

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