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Marketers are up against a lot in 2022: Apple's Mail Privacy Protection and Google's looming ban on third-party cookies have made first-party data more critical than ever. And the best way to gather first-party data is to nurture customer relationships and build trust so you can simply ask them for more information about themselves.

But data isn't the only reason to focus on current customers. Happy customers are far more likely to make repeat purchases, refer other potential customers, and deliver more revenue. That's why marketers should continue "dating" their customers, just as they would their spouse—that is, continue to put effort into their relationship to ensure mutual happiness.

A relationship takes work, and that doesn't stop the moment a couple gets hitched. Good partners put in the effort; they take time to learn about their partner's evolving needs and cater to them. They buy flowers and chocolates, learn their partner's "love language," and set up dates—all to show the other person they truly care.

That's not unlike a customer-vendor relationship, in which companies should be taking the time to adapt to their customers' changing preferences and continue to meet them where they are. Sending personalized emails and thank yous for their loyalty can go a long way. And the more time and effort an organization puts into its customers, the more customers will give back.

Here are three ways to nurture your customer relationships.

1. Never stop communicating

The first step to developing trust in any relationship is to create open lines of communication. Therefore, when a company acquires a new customer, its top priority should be to create an onboarding nurture campaign that establishes those lines of communication. If customers need anything at all, they will already know how to reach out.

The company should also ensure that it is quick and reliable in its responses so customers are encouraged to continue the cycle of communication. That ensures the customer's needs are being addressed in a timely manner. Just as successful marriages are built around communication, so are customer-vendor relationships.

2. Take advantage of marketing automation

A good spouse pays attention and takes note of his or her partner's interests, likes and dislikes, and preferences. Luckily for marketers, marketing automation can gather that data about their customers and help them use it appropriately.

Marketing automation can help marketers understand what product or services their customers may be interested in, how they are using the company's products and services, and much more. That data can then be used to upsell customers on products they should be using— ones marketers have identified based on the data they have gathered.

Anticipating the needs of customers helps drive stronger relationships, just as it would in a marriage.

3. Text

Boasting a 95% open rate, SMS is a great way to get a hold of customers. The rising use of smartphones and the almighty text message as a fan favorite for communication should encourage companies to meet their customers where they are—by texting them.

Mobile marketing gives a company a unique opportunity to deliver content directly into its customers' palms. Businesses can use SMS to send loyalty rewards, reminders, customer appreciation notes, surveys, announcements, and more; and they know that the message is likely to be opened.

Spouses text each other to check in and share important updates; companies should do the same with their customers—all on a channel that is efficient and effective.

* * *

Relationships take work, but those that put in the effort will reap the rewards. By using technology such as marketing automation and SMS, companies can forge open lines of communication and use personalized messaging to deepen customer relationships, which will ultimately improve their bottom line.

Just as spouses should never stop "dating" each other, businesses should never take their customer relationships for granted, because the relationship is both mutually beneficial and incredibly rewarding.

More Resources on Customer Relationships

You Don't Close a Deal, You Open a Relationship

Three Ways to Build Long-Term Relationships With Your Customers

Influencer Marketing and Building Customer Relationships: Ursula Ringham on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

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Never Stop 'Dating' Your Customer: Three Ways to Nurture Relationships

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image of Gregg Ames

Gregg Ames is the CCO of Act-On Software, a marketing automation company.

LinkedIn: Gregg Ames