The Relationship Marketing Manifesto

People drive relationships. Relationships drive business.

A simple question: “What would B2B marketing and selling be like if we were able to understand and quantify all of our company’s relationships?”

Would we prioritize accounts differently? Would our sales teams change their outreach strategies? Would we run marketing campaigns entirely differently? Could we better forecast sales based on relationships? Would our field events take us to different locations? Would we factor that data into our fit, intent and lead scoring frameworks? If we focused our business’ collective energy on helping relationships flourish, would revenue follow?

We think the answer to all of those questions is a resounding, “yes.” If we could put the power of relationships at our fingertips, it would catalyze a much-needed change to traditional B2B sales and marketing.

B2B marketing has become noise.

The practice of B2B marketing has forever transformed because of our access to an abundance of data. Data has single handedly transformed marketing from the Mad Men days of “art and copy” to one of revenue performance and optimization. And with marketing teams responsible for revenue, it means that they’ve used any and all data at their fingertips to build defensive walls against missing business goals. Out of this, a vicious cycle begins to surge…

Marketers need more channels to generate more revenue, followed by more budget to spend through those. With more money gushing out through channels, marketers have turned to the arcane arts of attribution, sacrificing significant amounts of time at the altar of a spreadsheet in exchange for an opaque view into performance. It’s led us to a world where marketers spend too much time analyzing the performance of leads that become customers less than 1% of the time and too little time creating meaningful experiences for our audiences.

To be clear; measurement is vital, but not at the cost of the customer experience. Our audiences have turned into CRM records, their value defined by demo/firmo/technographics, and their experiences being delivered on our terms, not theirs.

Relationships matter most.

Truly successful marketers realize that in order to stand out from the noise, they need to create meaningful connections that lead to authentic relationships. Their obsession with the customer journey puts brand, experience, and authenticity first. Even though it runs counter to everything marketers have been doing for the past decade – they’ve proven it works. Tim Kopp of Hyde Park Ventures refers to this kind of marketing as not Business-to-Business (B2B), but rather Business-to-Human (B2H).

Shifting the focus from B2B to B2H is the key to relationship marketing. Marketers must get back to the root of what they are hoping to achieve; creating a meaningful, mutually beneficial relationship with the human on the receiving end of their brand. Lead scores and conversion analytics have become the primary focus for too many marketers when they should equally be thinking about how to create something magical for their audience (their human audience). We need to stop treating leads like numbers, and start treating them like they have souls.

Businesses don’t buy products – people do.

Today’s buyers want to feel connected to the company, the brand, and the humans with whom they do business. This is terrifying to marketers because responding to this leaves them without a shield of data to defend themselves. But a business that fails to connect with their audience on their terms and their turf will fail to turn them into customers, leaving all that funnel data for naught.

Scott Dorsey, co-founder of ExactTarget and High Alpha, recognizes the importance of investing in these connections. “Marketing is a relationship game,” he says. “Companies need to programmatically build and leverage their relationship networks to win in the digital age.”

Your audience is more omniscient than ever. They know they’re being cookied, they know what phone calls to avoid, and their bullshit detector is more finely tuned than at any point in history. A marketer’s only defense, then, is authenticity and developing relationships. Deeper, meaningful connections require time, care, and investing in relationships. Prospects and customers will only give their valuable time and engagement to companies with whom they have emotional connections and relationships.

Welcome (back) to the era of relationship marketing.

It’s time to acknowledge that the landscape has shifted and adjust the approach to growing business. The tools and tactics necessary to scale relationships don’t all exist yet – and maybe they never will – but the need for them is apparent. What’s old is new again– and it’s time for marketers to be the beating heart of their brands, focused on building meaningful experiences that translate into the ability for your employees to develop authentic relationships.

People drive relationships. Relationships drive business.