Making Business Relationships Profitable

Investing in relationships, has found its place amongst  marketers. From personal branding to brand marketing, the post recessionary consumer mind-set has become one akin to those of the era after the Great Depression– cautious and savings oriented.

Companies are looking at new techniques and tools to further brand loyalty. Employees are being recruited based on corporate cultural fit. And the proliferation of social media marketing is bringing about a significant change in the way brands are going about developing their consumers’ usage.

So do these relationships pay? It would positively seem so.

In every sphere of life, be it getting a new job, striving in one’s job role, developing business from an existing client, relationships are what is now holding the key. The key to two old and accepted truths– TRUST and TRANSACTIONS.

Pause a moment and review by yourself— your trust is with those who selflessly have been with you, assisting you, aiding you, and even guiding you.

Similarly with brands– those brands who have helped you ride the recent recession by providing you the same quality but with price point support, brands who had re-packaged themselves to give more for less in order to retain you, brands who rewarded you through time for your loyalty– are the brands (be it product brand, service brand or a corporate brand) that you have kept your trust in and who you have referred.

This is the starting point for brands intent on entering the global Muslim community. Investing in relationship marketing.

Strategically, having a short term quantitative i.e. sales volume based approach would be disastrous! Instead, understanding why and how the Muslim consumer opts for his/her brand selection and using that understanding to start a fruitful relationship would enable a brand marketer to create/craft product and service requirements that would be wanted.

As a marketer, and as a Muslim, I often look at the Islamic financial products that are offered. And as the agent/sales person/product developer speaks, I wonder in amazement why is it that they are not asking me what I need? And why are they not clarifying what I ask them. Maybe I’m not a Hi Net Worth (HNW) customer. I’m just one of the, average, potential customers. Yet, time and again, I’ve not found explanations or details answering my queries. In fact I’ve never even been entertained as to what I want. Just “here’s a fabulous product. Oh! Its sharia compliant and you should look at it!”

To cut a long story short, I’ve always left (these types of insurance, Islamic Finance investment product discussions/meet ups) feeling that:
A) The guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
B) They are still charging “interest”- just ‘disguising’ it with jargon
C) What am I getting out of it?

It’s the last query that’s intrigued me! So to check, I went around my friends, family, associates, colleagues… Muslims and non-Muslims. To my surprise, the majority response I got was–” hey they are all the same. Just want your money and then they forget you”! And this response made me sit up and wonder…..

Why is it that there is no focus on the customer benefit?

Consider this scenario:
1. A sales person, knowledgeable and understanding the philosophy of his brand and the intention (objective), starts a dialogue with a potential client. In time he understands his client’s financial needs and advises (just like financial planners do for HNW individuals) accordingly and then “pushes” the products.

2. Through this period, the sales person provides information on the customer’s financial status and needs to product developers. This would enable the product developers to develop, customised products for that customer. Which then the sales person would have no problem in “selling” as it would answer the needs of the customer.

3. Additionally through this period, “trust” has been established between the sales person and the customer. Based on this trust and a customised solution, the customer makes the first value contribution to the brand (and the organisation) i.e. transaction takes place.

Once the first transaction has taken place, it’s a matter of time before that trust delivers more and more value to the brand (and in turn to the organisation). Resulting in a profitable and respected brand. A brand with whom the customer wants to continue having a strong relationship as he finds “value” (of the advice and of the products).

Now, imagine just 10 (for simplicity and example purposes) such strong relationships! The monetary and emotional value would be of huge benefit to an organisation. Not to mention the referrals that such customers would give which would add to the organisation having good, quality customer base.

But as with relationships in life, a long term view,for the investment required,is necessary in order to build TRUST. Once trust is there, the TRANSACTION would follow automatically.

After all it takes years of nurturing a child till he becomes an adult and contributes to society.