My four-year-old daughter loves all things nature. She is obsessed with fish, wild cats and whales. Last week, she was telling me how clownfish and sea anemones work together, “they’re friends Daddy” she said. The sea anemones provide protection to the clownfish from bigger fish. In return, the clownfish get the little fish to play with them and the sea anemones eat them.

“That’s interesting.” I said.

She replied, “yes Daddy, its called symbiosis”.

I nearly fell off my seat. Good to see the National Geographic book we got her for Christmas is being put to good use!

Now, I will be the first to admit it, I needed to Google symbiosis. For those of you like me, symbiosis means ‘any close, long-term relationship between two different organisms’.

The animals are onto something

I see parallels between the animal kingdom and how we interact with each other businesses. By building symbiotic relationships with your customers, you are building trust & helping to create personal connections with your brand.

Let’s face it, acquiring new customers is expensive! Search engine optimization can cost a small fortune, social media costs are rising, as is having a salesperson on the road for 40hrs per week. What are some ways we can tap into our existing base? Let’s look how we can use relationship marketing to drive our businesses profitability.

Be an expert

I’ll take a stab in the dark here, you are an expert in your field. You probably have worked in your industry for 10+ years, acquiring knowledge, tips and tricks along the way. Letting your customers know this, via an educational blog (like this one!), a free e-book or even a podcast displays you have knowledge in your field and positions you as a key person of influence. When the time comes that your customer needs to make a purchase, your name is the first that comes to mind.

Create a positive customer experience

When customers interact with your business, having a positive and consistent customer experience is vital. How are they greeted on the phone, or in reception? Does your foyer area communicate trust & professionalism, or does it look like a bomb site? What is your procedure to deal with customer complaints? Exceptional customer service needs to be ingrained in your company culture. It’s the cornerstone to good relationship marketing.

Technology & systems

Yes, many times technology sits at the opposite end of the spectrum to relationships. Don’t get me started on mobile phones. But your company’s tech and systems play an important role in relationship marketing too. Do you have a good workflow system? Are your accounts and CRM software reliable? Does your logo look the same on your website, business cards and vehicles? Are your email signatures professional? Its all ‘the little things’ done well, that builds confidence in your brand. Confidence that all is under control and your customer’s needs are taken care of.

Show gratitude

One of my buzz words for 2017 was gratitude. Being thankful for what I have really creates a positive mindset. Showing gratitude to your customers is a great way to build your relationship with them. A handwritten note or card, showing gratitude for their business goes a long way. Bonus… when was the last time you got a handwritten note from a supplier in April? Saying ‘thank you’ throughout the year, not just at Christmas, makes you stand out from the pack.


Attending face to face networking events is a great way to build personal connections with customers. Businesses are much more inclined to buy from you regularly if these personal connections are there. That said, networking is like dating. You don’t propose marriage on the first date, nor should you seek a sale at your first networking interaction. This is about building relationships and trust. It’s a long game…

Playing the long game

Rarely, does all this lead to instant sales. Sending out a thank you note one week, probably won’t lead to customers beating down your door the next. Where does it lead?

  • Repeat Business
  • Strong, qualified leads
  • Reduced acquisition costs
  • Easier transition of price increases
  • Valuable customer feedback

It takes time, it takes patience. But its worth it. I’d take the slow burn of long-standing relationships built on trust and loyalty over a quick sale and crickets any day of the week. Slow and steady wins the race!