Marketing is a subject that draws a lot of students who find it most interesting and challenging. No doubt marketing is a challenge. Students who study Philip Kotler will definitely become proficient with the basic foundations of marketing and concepts. However to be able to take up a marketing responsibility in an Organisation or to go one step further in the profession, there is yet another essential subject that one needs to master which is Relationship Marketing.
For any Organisation and more so for the Marketing person the customer is God. Many academicians have begun to define Marketing as the art of Creating And Sustaining Network of Relationships. This is apt for the modern day marketing function. The beginning and end of selling has to do with establishing and managing a relationship with the customer. Besides the Customer, there are several networks within the Organisation as well as outside the Organisation in the form of Suppliers, Vendors, Sales partners, sales channels, whole sellers and so on.
Organisations will need to choose their marketing and sales strategy based on the kind of product and the market that they are in. Companies like Boeing, Volvo and Ericson etc, engage actively in relationship management with the prospective buyers who may be Government Organizations as well as Defence Organisations to market their products and solutions. You can call their sales persons as relationship managers rather than sales managers. They operate in markets were the lead time for selling is very long. The marketing team has got to build the right contacts, position themselves right and build the relationship with the prospecting customer organizations for a number of years with no active selling happening in the near future. The pre selling process can take several years and the sales contracts can be long drawn spreading over a number of years. Whether Boeing is selling planes to a country or Volvo is selling vehicles to Government and Defence sector is not a onetime transaction. Post sales service and maintenance also plays an important role to ensure future business. When in case of sales to Defence as well as Governments in international markets calls for dedicated and intelligent management of relationship at various levels involving political as well as other considerations.
The industry leaders form associations and groups with similar business interests and engage the Political leadership in helping open doors in international markets with other countries. When the President of a country travels to another country, the visit brings about opportunities for several business relationships including bi lateral trade relationships. The individual countries embassies as well as trade councils often engage in exchange of and trade promotions with other countries where the Governments of both countries are engaged in a favourable relationship.
A Marketing professional needs to recognise that he needs to first create a base and build a relationship with his markets and customer. It is the ongoing relationship that will open doors to and lead to opportunities for business. The more one invests in building the relationship with the proposed and existing customer, the more one gets to engage in business. Relationships build bridges and help prepare ground for long term associations. When in a relationship, Selling happens automatically.
If you look at a typical product selling environment where one is selling through an established channel, you can see the value of relationships in the existing sales cycle. It is the strength of the relationship that will determine how well the product is pushed in the market, how the retailer takes interest in selling the product and building the brand etc. It is based on the strength of the network and the relationship with the dealers and retailers that the marketing and sales managers are able to expand their markets.
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