Once relationship are formed, email marketing is important in maintaining a dialogue. Of course, phone and face-to-face interactions are important too. Many companies use email marketing for lower value customers and traditional channels for high value customers.
Three areas of relationship marketing activities where significant efficiency gains can be made are:
1. Post-sales customer relationship management
Relationships deepen as more and more companies become comfortable with trading in the online environment, and there is more standardisation of communication platforms through use of internet technologies. Buyers and sellers develop closer relationships and often work together in a very cooperative manner to achieve benefits for both parties using the internet. Email and social media marketing can help facilitate these relationships.
Some industries (e.g. telephone, utilities, banking) serve very large customer base (B2C and B2B) and many of these transactions are typically repeated for instance quarterly gas bills. For such companies invoicing cost and the production of printed bills is expensive and therefore there is great potential for cost reduction through the application of electronic billing and automated payments.
The airline industry is making significant changes to its cost base and in doing so improving levels of customer service by introducing self-service bag drops, the online check-in and getting flyers to print their own boarding cards. When linked to customer retention strategies (e.g. frequent flyer programmes) the capital cost for the installations of self-service technologies can quickly be redeemed. Self-service is commonly used by business-to-business technology companies, in particular software companies.
Online product registrations
Warranties are an important cue for buyers of the value of products and services. Moreover, extended warranty schemes can aid customer retention rates and are responsible for a significant percentage of profits in certain industries. But operating such schemes can be very costly. Processing claims against warranties is labour-intensive and time consuming. Organisations can make significant cost savings through online product registration and warranty claim processing.
Online technical support
In B2B markets customer relationship management is critically important. In high-tech industries much time can be spent dealing with teething problems resulting from the installation of a new software package. If the supplier can set up a system that can diagnose problems electronically then operating cost can be significantly reduced.
2. Market research
The cost of process is also reduced as the need for data input personnel is eliminated and there is, potentially, improved quality due to reduction of data input errors.
Online focus groups
By conducting electronic focus groups involving geographically dispersed participants, businesses can reduce information processing costs and factor costs but there are potential issues of generalisability and potential bias.
3. Knowledge sharing
New product development (NPD)
Product development cycles are generally becoming shorter and time to marker much faster. The knowledge required for successfully implementing NPD projects often resides in different parts of the business e.g. accounting, R&D, marketing or production. Consequently, an opportunity exists to leverage the internet to facilitate sharing of intra-organisation knowledge. The internet can be integrated into different stages of NPD for information gathering and transfer, both within and outside the organisation e.g. customers, competitors and channel members.
Online advertising knowledge sharing
The ability to digitise advertising content (e.g. artwork, audio and video files) and share it through online databases among departments within the organisation and with advertising agencies enables streamlining of brand management and considerable savings. In case of Coca-Cola huge efficiency gains were made by making available via Internet over 100 years worth of corporate marketing and advertising icons. This provided easy access for anyone developing new marketing communication projects. Further benefits and efficiencies were gained by centralised storing and updating, and managing and disseminating best advertising practices. The system comprise downloadable video, photographs and marketing and advertising icons. A key benefit of the online knowledge system is that it enhances productivity gains by reusing existing brand knowledge.
Online sales knowledge
Sharing information about sales leads has in the past been an inefficient, inaccurate and time-consuming activity and as a result in duplication of effort. However, prospecting and qualifying sales leads and cross-referencing customer through and internet-based contact management systems can help eliminate redundancy and waste and significantly streamline the sales function. As example of other efficiencies related to the sales function occur at trade shows. The promotional expenditure is the second largest area of spend in a business marketing communications budget and can account for as much as a quarter of the total show budget. Cost efficiencies can be made by using the internet for pre-announcement of the show promotions, cost-promoting with other advertising and communication campaigns, using email customer invitations.
Online service knowledge
The internet can be used to act as a platform to enhance the efficiency of intra-organisational learning through establishing problem-solution exchanges, e.g. online customer conflict-resolution centres.
The internet can be used to find users and update customer databases, which can result in great efficiencies in targeting and the profitability of direct mail campaigns. Online communications offer an opportunity to create highly tailored, fast communications that can deliver high information content at comparatively low cost.
Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.