Relationship marketing

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The relationship marketing or English relationship marketing is dedicated to the establishment and expansion of long-term customer relationships . It pursues the goal of gaining more customers, satisfied customers and profitable customers for a company or a brand. In contrast to general marketing, the focus is not on the company or the product, but on the relationship between the company or brand and customer.

Holistic relationship marketing

Customer relationships are subject to complex influences and can most fully be designed and recorded in a holistic marketing system. This holistic approach combines a qualitative and quantitative area. The qualitative area includes all strategic preparatory work and measures to promote relationships that can be indirectly balanced. The quantitative area comprises the business instruments with direct measurability. Qualitative and quantitative areas are planned holistically, which means that relationship marketing is geared towards the long term and is therefore not determined by short-term tactics.

A more general definition of relationship marketing broadens the perspective to include relationships with other stakeholders in the company: Although the customer is still the focus of attention, the exchange with suppliers , employees , society and the competition is also given greater consideration.

A methodical approach is recommended to include the various aspects relevant to relationship marketing. For example, the relationship equity method can be used. Relationships with existing customers are analyzed, built up and expanded in a target-oriented manner, customized and systematically controlled. This improves customer relationships in terms of number, satisfaction and profitability. Ultimately, the added value is increased.

Basic understanding

Relationship marketing is intended to build long-term customer relationships ( customer loyalty ). These can only develop if the customers' needs and demands are recognized and appropriate marketing measures are developed. This qualitatively oriented relationship marketing takes into account interdisciplinary knowledge, for example from relationship psychology. So-called "soft" factors such as the positive basic feeling in a customer relationship are taken into account.

Dynamically designed marketing

Dialogic communication with customers across all channels is a crucial aspect for relationship marketing and can play a pioneering role in the entire corporate culture . In contrast to classic marketing, relationship marketing no longer takes a management-related position. In a dynamic process, the customer has the opportunity to help shape the relationship. Pointing out only instrumental marketing measures, customers can identify with the company and develop an emotional bond. Relationship values ​​develop that increase the impact and effectiveness of marketing.

Individual customer relationship

Regular and therefore well-established purchasing processes require less information and coordination and can stabilize the course of business. The main advantage, however, is that they create an individual relationship between company and customer that can only be disrupted by competitors with considerable effort. The individual customer relationship makes it possible to enter into a very targeted dialogue with the customer and thus to efficiently design marketing measures.

Business starting point and goal

The revenues necessary to cover costs and to generate a profit can come from new customers or from existing customers. The focus is on acquiring new customers, especially in the early phase of a product / company life cycle, when the customer base is still small or even non-existent, but also in a later phase when the sales potential of existing customers is exhausted. In economically difficult times, with dynamically changing market conditions, with increasing competition, the pressure to grow from the cost side and the fight for market share, the expansion of relationships with existing customers is becoming increasingly important. In addition, acquiring new customers is usually more costly than expanding the business with existing customers.

The economic goal of relationship marketing is to retain customers profitably in the long term. Customer contribution margin or customer lifetime value are e.g. B. possible control mechanisms. The prerequisite for this is on the one hand building up a regular customer base and on the other hand their loyalty to the company, which should reduce / prevent a change of supplier or brand and increase the repeat purchase rate.

Business-oriented marketing measures

Relationship marketing focuses on the entire business relationship with the customer. These are, on the one hand, variants of the classic marketing instruments and, on the other hand, customer-oriented management concepts. Some forms of relationship marketing should be listed here as examples: Product development in cooperation with customers, integration of customers in the value chain, customer-specific product adjustments, value added services, performance guarantees; Price concessions for regular customers, loyalty discounts, bonus programs, price guarantees, price escalation clauses; Customer advisory boards , regular customer service (number), customer magazines , regular customer events, subscriptions; Cross-selling , post sale marketing, customer recovery; Customer clubs, customer cards , complaint management that is friendly to regular customers . In addition, the special treat comes from large customers key accounts by key account manager added.

Increased business efficiency

The benefits of a high-quality relationship with customers are complex: on the one hand, if a customer relationship goes well, the willingness to pay increases, the tolerance for errors and the sales volume per customer increases. Through better knowledge of the needs of the individual customers or through the growing knowledge on the customer's side with regard to the company's internal processes, the support effort decreases. Third, a company can react more quickly to changes in demand and potential for improvement through an intensive customer dialogue. And finally, a high level of customer loyalty - under certain circumstances - can be seen as a barrier to entry towards potential competitors.

Data management / CRM

Effective relationship marketing is made easier by the growing availability of individual data. This customer data is supplied to relationship marketing by software for CRM ( customer relationship management ). The CRM software can access databases with all customer data. The customer-specific evaluations from such high-performance customer databases enable very promising relationship marketing. However, the use of CRM systems alone is not a guarantee of successful relationship marketing. In many cases of the practical application of CRM, the successes fall short of expectations, which is often due to a one-sided application with inadequate integration into the company. Holistic embedding in relationship marketing is required here.


  • Ian Gordon: Relationship Marketing. New Strategies, Techniques and Technologies to Win the Customer You Want and Keep Them Forever. John Wiley and Sons Publisher. 1998.
  • Adrian Payne, Martin Christopher, Helen Peck, Moira Clark: Relationship Marketing. Text and Cases. Oxford: 1999.
  • Manfred Bruhn: Relationship Marketing. The management of customer relationships. Munich: Franz Vahlen GmbH. 2009