15 Elements of a Great Relationship

Face it, we are people and we s#*k at relationships.  

Some of us "people" are also marketers.

Can you name a time when you didn't have one relationship or another—with your spouse, a friend, a neighbor, a coworker, your boss, another family member—on the brink of disaster, causing you stress in your life? We may make friends easily, but keeping them—or keeping them happy with us—is another story altogether.

We figure relationships must be pretty easy to build and maintain. We watch sitcoms, soap operas, movies, and reality shows where people spontaneously make friends, develop unconditional trust in others, and end every argument to everyone's satisfaction. Truth is, TV and movies are not a reflection of real life.

Looking at the ultimate customer-for-life relationship, you'll definitely get a glimpse at how poorly people manage and maintain relationships. About 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce.  About 70 percent of second marriages end in divorce … and I don't want to think about the failure rate in third marriages. You'd think with some practice—a marriage or two under your belt—that the divorce rate would go down, but that's not the case.  We're human. We're ego-centric, and we all listen to the same radio station—WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

Humans (people) are created to tend to their own needs, wants, and desires, but building relationships requires tending to the needs, wants, and desires of others. That is a skill that doesn't come naturally for most people, let alone marketers.

The message here is simple: People s#*k at relationships, and marketers are people.

Even if we think we're good at personal relationships, we find that consumer relationships are much more challenging. 

With intense and unrealistic media influence, consumer expectations continue to get higher and higher. It makes the creation, enhancement, and maintenance of consumer relationships even more challenging.  Then factor in the risks associated with building negative relationships, especially with the advent of social media—where consumers can wreak havoc if they don't like a company—and the critical nature of understanding the elements that contribute to a great consumer relationship are pivotal.

Simply put, the things we want in a personal relationship are the same things consumers want in a relationship with brands, companies, and products—expectations of honesty, privacy, loyalty, forgiveness, etc.

Here's the rub. People, who have a propensity to fail in their personal relationships, are entrusted to manage professional, business, and consumer relationships with other people. The relationships are not business-to-business, or business-to-consumer. They are people-to-people.

Without "relationship training," we're all doomed to relationship failure. 

We've identified the top 15 elements of a great personal relationship—the keys to attracting people into, and maintaining, a great personal relationship.  We've also discovered that the same 15 elements are the keys to attracting consumers into, and maintaining, a great consumer relationship.  They are:

  1. Open, honest, frequent communication
  2. Trust and honesty
  3. Loyalty and commitment
  4. Supportive of the relationship
  5. Understanding and forgiving
  6. Similar beliefs
  7. Attractive to the viewer
  8. Treats you as an equal
  9. Makes you feel good
  10. Spends quality time with you
  11. Easy to deal with, easy to play with, easy to work with
  12. Looks out for the other person—caring
  13. Interested in getting to know you
  14. Does nice things for you
  15. Respects you, your time, and your money

Our greatest and most rewarding personal relationships contain these 15 elements.

These 15 elements can also be effectively incorporated into an organization's marketing strategy to build, enhance, and maintain strong consumer relationships. 

For example, Zappos.com does nice things for their customers by offering free shipping, and forgives customers that order the wrong size or style by offering free return shipping.

With Amazon, you'll see they masterfully incorporate open, honest, and frequent communication in their marketing strategies. Frequent email communication takes place when customers place an order, the order has shipped, and the order has been delivered by UPS or FedEx. In addition, they provide complete product details with pictures as well as both positive and negative product reviews.

These are just two simple examples of how companies can incorporate the 15 elements of a great relationship into their marketing strategies. We'll cover many more in a lively presentation at CRM Evolution on Monday, Aug. 17.

If you've ever sent flowers or an apology card to fix a relationship, you'll want to join us and learn how you can incorporate the 15 elements of a great relationship into your marketing strategies to build, enhance, and maintain your consumer relationships.

Robert Bergman is the director of Social Media Marketing and a marketing professor in the College of Business at Lewis University, just outside of Chicago. Bergman spent 18 years in the business world, working in marketing, sales, business consulting, and corporate training.


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