Friday, November 7, 2008

Relationship Marketing

One of the hottest trends in marketing over the last decade has been relationship marketing. At first, it sounds like networking, and in a way it is, but not exactly. Here are some examples of effective relationship marketing:

Nike + iPod
T-Mobile + Starbucks
RedBox + Grocery Stores
Keno + Bars
Carpet Cleaning + Veterinarian
Pizza Hut + Family Board Games

These relationships go beyond the expected connection between two businesses and form an entirely unexpected relationship that makes complete sense. WalMart actually built their business around analyzing consumer purchasing behaviors so that they could more effectively market items that "go together" like Celery and Peanut Butter, Ice Cream and Napkins, Basketballs and Socks. The thinking is, by putting one product or service close to another product or service that has a relationship to the product, you will sell more of both by the power of suggestion with very little financial investment or outlay.

Here's an example that I came into contact with this week while consulting another business:

Cake Artist New to Small Town
Cake Artist isn't sure if the new town she lives in can support an artist like herself, with a modern style and higher pricing because of the time and ingredients she uses. Most local people seem to be modest and reserved, but there is a large population of college age students and young professionals just entering the field who would be interested in her product for their wedding day. In order to test the market and attract customers, I suggested teaming up with other area wedding vendors who have storefronts and might need a beautiful cake for display, such as a florist or an event planner. If no such storefront exists, how about teaming up with these people or caterers during the next bridal show and offering samples of the cake as a giveaway at the show. Her cake adds value to the display of the person she's giving it to and it helps her get her name out in a way that appears as an endorsement for her product from already respected people in the industry she's hoping to target.

How can you apply this to your business? What do your customers typically shop for when they aren't shopping with you? What else are they passionate about? How can you harness that power of suggestion by being connected to another product or service that your clients enjoy or are looking for?

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years in the corporate & non-profit world before pursuing her passion for photography. When not behind the computer or camera, she can be found exploring the world with her husband. Follow her on Twitter.


  1. This Christmas, my hair stylist is giving gift certificates for my photography as her holiday gift to clients. I made them especially for her (they look like her logo and branding), with the message "Our gift our gorgeous clients this holiday season..."

  2. I have JUST started to focus on my marketing these past couple months, and I am excited to think of people/places I could work with... Thanks for the reminder that this is VERY effective.

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  4. The T-Mobile partnership didn't end so well seeing as they just got dropped in favor of AT&T. :P

  5. Was there an article that they got dropped? Because when I last visited starbucks, I still had the option of selecting either T-Mobile or AT&T. However, it wouldn't surprise me if AT&T paid Starbucks more for brand placement over T-Mobile. iPhone users are a much better fit for Starbucks than T-Mobile users, and I think Starbuck's original choice to use T-Mobile was simply that T-Mobile was the first to say they'll outfit all of the Starbucks stores with wifi access for free if they'd allow brand placement. I'd be interested in seeing more definitive articles on the subject.

    The overall point is the power of relationship marketing- and this is actually a great example that if you don't choose the RIGHT company to partner with in the beginning, you'll only end up hurting each other in the end!!

  6. Hey Anne:

    LOL! I totally see your point, I was just poking fun at that particular reference.

    Here's a wired article:

    It's all love. :)


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