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Market Troubleshooting: What Didn’t Work During the Pandemic?

What’s in this article:

  • Many companies increased their investment in relationship marketing during the pandemic
  • Not all relationship marketing techniques move the needle or lead to results
  • We look at the techniques used by companies that successfully built new relationships

When our entire lives shifted into the digital realm during the pandemic, the digital tools we had used to communicate suddenly became our lifelines to the world. With inboxes overflowing everywhere, it became increasingly difficult for marketers to cut through the noise and create meaningful connections with consumers.

But even in a post-pandemic world, relationship marketing still has the potential to yield positive results. In its “2021 Marketing and Sales Relationships Survey,” CRM platform-provider Copper interviewed 500 sales and marketing professionals about their strategies and results in 2020. The report shows that modernizing your strategy is the right way to make the most of relationship marketing in the new normal.

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Effective relationship marketing depends on your strategy

While people around the world sheltered in place and stayed safer at home, businesses scrambled to find new ways to display their messages to consumers. Of those surveyed, 70% stated that they increased their investment in relationship building since the pandemic started, and 62% said they maintained their existing customer relationships during that time. That’s on top of the 52% who said they succeeded in building new relationships.

With that rosy picture in mind, it’s important to understand that not all marketers achieved such positive results. Whether or not businesses saw success with their relationship building strategies has a lot to do with their choice of tactics. Those who focused their efforts on cold emailing, for example, learned the hard way that doubling down on ineffective techniques isn’t likely to yield results, even from a captive audience.

About 37% of people said that even though they had sent more cold emails during the pandemic months, their return on investment did not increase. While 63% said responses to their cold emails were either the same or worse than they had been pre-pandemic.

Lean into the hybrid formats developed during the pandemic

If cold emailing just doesn’t cut it (and hasn’t since before 2020), what’s a marketer to do? Take inspiration from the hybrid systems that cropped up during the pandemic. The formats that combine the digital and physical realms are likely to stick around for the foreseeable future, and they should factor into your relationship marketing strategy.

Think of it this way: cold emailing is ineffective because it’s like shouting into the void. It’s impersonal, and what’s worse, consumers are likely to receive countless similar communications from brands and businesses just like yours on any given day. That’s why blending touchpoints is the way forward.

Instead of hoping a catchy email will somehow stand out in the abyss of your customer’s inbox, blend the distant digital necessities with a more personal touch. The businesses that see the best return on their relationship marketing investment are those that take the time to get to know their customers, understand their wants and needs, and do all they can to make the buyer’s journey easier and more enjoyable.

Taking a hybrid approach also makes it easier to cater to every stage of the customer journey, enticing new customers and nurturing existing ones at the same time. It’s a good way to address a curious gap uncovered by the Copper survey; 30% of marketers said they have good relationships with customers but not prospects.

Optimism tints the future of relationship marketing

Despite the challenges of adapting relationship marketing to the new normal, there’s an overwhelming optimism about future business results. About 88% of marketers said they expect their 2022 revenue to exceed 2019 levels, and 73% plan to expand their sales and marketing teams this year.

Those growth expectations demonstrate the promise of relationship marketing when it’s done right. Businesses should join consumers in restructuring their priorities, matching their increased focus on topics like personal health and self-care by operating with empathy, compassion, and respect. From a relationship marketing perspective, that means trading in outdated techniques like cold emailing for modern hybrid strategies that inspire meaningful connections.

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