Relationship marketing is a form of direct marketing – it’s all about targeting specific individuals and groups within your market. The difference, however, is that relationship marketing focuses more on the benefits of personal connections. There are 5 main types of relationship marketing:


The first questions to ask yourself about referrals are 1) who do they come from and 2) what percentage of your income do they make up? Referrals ideally need to be happening on a regular basis and you need to keep track of who gives them. It’s important to make it easy for customers to give referrals. Start by asking people directly and giving them a card with your details. Make sure there is something in it for them, i.e., a reward, offer or discount. Meanwhile, ask each new customer how they heard about you, and if they say they are here because of a referral, take extra care of them. If you can give them the best possible buying experience and results, this will not only reflect well on you, but also the person who recommended you to them.


The most obvious step here is to join a networking group and start making connections. This is a good way to build relationships and even get referrals. Go into networking events with a goal e.g., make x connections and buy x coffees. Don’t forget to bring business cards and vouchers with offers/rewards – cards with your details make it possible for people to contact you later while vouchers give them an incentive to do so. When presenting, try to give your audience a good taster experience of your business; educate them just enough but leave them wanting more.

Strategic alliances

Strategic partners are businesses who have a similar audience to you without being a rival. The way to choose partners to form an alliance with is by looking at what other products/services do your customers buy. If, for example, you run a gardening business, you will almost certainly share customers with an outdoor furniture store. When people pay for your gardening service, you can then recommend the outdoor furniture store to them and vice versa. That’s the main advantage of forming strategic alliances – you and the other business can help expand each other’s database while providing extra value to your existing customers through referrals.

Host beneficiaries

A host beneficiary is similar to a strategic partner, except where strategic alliances are ongoing, a host beneficiary introduces you to their entire database at once. The advantage here is that you get potentially hundreds or thousands of new prospects interested in one go. This means that you need to be organised with letters, emails and gifts/offers for these prospects while you are still fresh in their minds. If you successfully earn their loyalty, this improves the host’s value. You, the host and your new prospects all benefit, so if you form this kind of connection, you need to act quickly to keep everyone happy.

Piggyback mailing

When one of your connections – including strategic partners and host beneficiaries – send out an invoice, newsletter or other form of communication to their database, they may allow you to promote your business on it if you negotiate with them. This is called piggyback mailing – your brand name is being circulated by someone else’s mailing system. This is another reason why you need to form connections and partnerships. If another business owner has benefited from you, they may be willing to do some of your marketing for you and help you attract more customers without having to toot your own horn.

To learn more about the importance of strong connections in marketing, please go to our Business Networking Events page here.

Business Networking Events