Relationship marketing - Marketing Management

Another major development in marketing thinking and practice in recent years has been the growth of relationship marketing (RM). We emphasize that RM is very much linked with the notion and practice of customer care. We shall, therefore, highlight these links between the two areas where appropriate as we discuss relationship marketing. For many RM represents an even more significant shift in marketing thinking and practice than the growth of the philosophy of customer care, so much so that it is referred to as involving a paradigm shift in the marketing concept itself.

Certainly there is no doubt that the development of RM has had, and will continue to have, major implications for the marketing manager. What follows is an overview of these aspects of relationship marketing. Essentially RM is based on the notion that instead of the marketer looking at the exchange process as one where two protagonists, supplier and customer, each look to maximize the benefit they receive from each transaction or exchange. It is more effective to look at customer and marketer as partners in an exchange, whereby both parties benefit by working together on a basis of mutual trust and loyalty. This deceptively simple statement represents a new and revolutionary marketing paradigm though there are some who dispute this (Zineldin and Phillipson7).

There are different views as to the precise nature and definition of RM. For example, Gronroos8 stresses the element of mutual exchange and trust in relationship marketing: Relationship marketing is a process including several parties or actors, the objectives of which have to be met. This is done by mutual exchange and fulfilment of promises, a fact that makes trust an important aspect of marketing.


Gamble et al.9 put more emphasis on the traditional tools of sales, communications and customer care techniques and again we see the overlap between these areas: Relationship marketing involves the use of a wide range of marketing, sales, communications and customer care techniques and processes to: identify named individual customers, create a relationship between the company and these customers, and manage that relationship to the benefit of both customers and company.

Perhaps one of the most powerful summaries of what relationship marketing represents is that provided by Buttle:

At its best, RM (relationship management) is characterized by a genuine concern to meet or exceed the expectations of customers and to provide excellent service in an environment of trust and commitment to the relationship.

He goes on to indicate what is involved in successful relationship marketing and the commitment of the company, required to generate this success: To be successful relationship marketers, companies must develop a supportive organizational culture, market the RM idea internally, intimately understand customers’ expectations, create and maintain a detailed customer database, and organize and reward employees in such a way that the objective of RM, customer retention, is achieved. This illustrates that as suggested RM has major implications for how we think about marketing and our approach to the practice of marketing. It affects and includes the provision of marketing information, organizational systems and procedures and the elements of marketing strategy. We must then consider the characteristics of an RM approach, and in particular how it compares and contrasts with the more conventional transactional marketing approach. We must also consider why RM emerged as a suggested new paradigm for marketing and the implications of this for the practice of marketing management.


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