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The Ultimate Guide to Relationship Marketing



The Ultimate Guide to Relationship Marketing

Did you know that customer retention has been found to be even more critical to your company’s success than customer acquisition? Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company found as little as a five percent increase in customer retention can result in an increase in company revenue by 25-95%.

In fact, no matter if you’re a team of one or leading a scaling enterprise, you can build customer relationships with your existing audience without the typical costs associated with acquiring new customers. The key is strategic relationship marketing.

Especially since, as Adobe learned, returning customers spend more than newer customers. Why? Because existing customers understand the value of your products and services and they’re invested loyally in your brand. If a customer feels satisfied with their interaction with you, they’re more likely to turn to your business for their needs, again and again.

“But isn’t all marketing relationships marketing?” Not exactly. Some marketing strategies are solely about gaining traffic and conversions to get potential customers into the customer flywheel. From there, you’ll have even more marketing tactics that get that potential customer to make their first purchase like customer acquisition.

The perfect time to start a relationship marketing strategy is when the customer has made a purchase (or several). Your goal with relationship marketing is to get these new customers to become brand-loyal patrons of your business. To do that, you’ll want to take a personalized approach to client retention and become integrated into their lives in a way that feels natural and genuine.

What are the benefits of relationship marketing?

Like many forms of white-hat marketing tactics, there are various benefits to leveraging relationship marketing strategies for your brand. But, when properly executed, the most impactful ways to improve your business through relational advertising include:

So, let’s take a look at some relational advertising examples from firms that adopt a relationship marketing strategy to attempt to retain existing customers. Then, we’ll explore how you can implement a strong relationship marketing strategy today.

1. Capital One

The Capital One relationship marketing strategy

Capital One understands its customers deeply — all the way down to the small inconveniences that plague them most. One of those annoyances is the long TSA line at the airport.

Capital One reimburses all venture cardholders up to $100 when they pay the TSA PreCheck fee. All they have to do is pay for it with their Capital One credit card.

TSA PreCheck expires after five years, and this benefit applies every time the cardholder wants to renew their PreCheck status. Here, Capital One is demonstrating its brand value to its current audience through:

  • Offering a perk that’s universally appealing to their base — free money
  • Mitigating a prevalent issue customers face with a long-term resolution

This benefit speaks to a relevant pain point for Capital One customers and makes keeping an account open with Capital One well worth it in the long run.”font-size: 1.5rem; font-weight: 500;”>

2. Delta

An example of a Delta relationship marketing strategy

Speaking of TSA lines, as the oldest operating airline in the United States, Delta, is no stranger to relationship marketing strategies that preserve the brand loyalty of their customers.

One of their most effective methods remains the airline’s customer loyalty program, the SkyMiles program. Customers who sign up for this program earn “miles based on the amount of money they spend with Delta, which can then be redeemed for future travel purchases like airfare, seat upgrades, and more.

To expand their miles offering, they’ve also partnered with credit card companies like American Express to offer bonus miles and accruement when customers use their SkyMiles credit cards to make purchases. In fact, if you qualify for the Amex Reserve card you will also receive complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club. Within this lounge, you can enjoy unlimited free meals, snacks, and drinks on the day you take a Delta flight.

By employing these relationship marketing strategies, Delta has been able to:

  • Build a loyal customer base that continues to choose them over competitors
  • Seamlessly integrating their business into the lives of their customers through platforms they utilize daily

As a result, their marketing strategy is paying off — they were recently ranked number 1 by J.D.Power for customer satisfaction across North American airlines.

3. Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation

Fairway Mortgage's relationship marketing strategy

Buying a home is one of the most important decisions a consumer can make. During the purchasing process, buyers typically shop around for the lowest rate, but they’re also shopping for a reliable team that will make the process as smooth as possible.

Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation is a great example of a business that takes the relationship marketing approach for its customer retention plan. For example, I received a birthday email from Fairway when I needed to make a lending decision.

In addition to that, the loan consultant was sure to send over some marketing documents with their value proposition and benefits for me as a buyer. Their relationship marketing strategies improved my experience as a consumer by:

  • Retargeting audiences via email on a major life event like a birthday
  • Enforcing their service offering with valuable supporting documents

Their retention strategies show that the company is committed to being responsive, respectful, helpful, and most importantly — closing on time. This is a recipe for success in the mortgage industry as referrals are the “bread and butter of any successful loan officers business.”

4. Fenty

AN example of Fenty beauty and Fenty Savage's relationship marketing  approach

When international singer and actress Rihanna made her professional pivot to a businessperson in the Fashion & Beauty industry, the “Talk That Talk” vocalist had also kept people talking about what would come of her brand, Fenty, once it made its debut.

Well in a market already saturated with celebrity beauty and fashion ventures, Fenty distinguished itself to the point of changing the industry landscape through inclusivity. But how? Amongst many examples of marketing strategy, Fenty’s relational advertising tactics remain supreme.

For instance, the popular Fenty Beauty foundation includes shades such as “Vanilla” capturing some of the palest tones, and “Espresso” embracing some of the deepest. At the same time, her Savage X Fenty lingerie sends messages of size inclusivity and body positivity to their customers through the wide range of sizes (from XS to 4XL) they offer to all. Models and celebrities of all shapes and sizes model the clothing during the Savage X Fenty Show streamed on Amazon.

Customers are also able to sign up with a membership program that allows customers to get first dibs on product launches, exclusive content, and access to VIP-only sales. By applying these strategies for customer retention, Fenty has been able to:

  • Presenting the brand as a solution and product for all through inclusivity
  • Showcasing their messaging globally to connect with consumers across borders

By sending an impactful brand message to their audience, that they back up with their product offerings, Fenty is able to stand out from the crowd and create its own.


.An example of a well executed relationship marketing approach

Relational advertising is ultimately about offering both new and existing customers valuable content regardless of where they are in the buyer’s journey.

GE does a great job of diversifying its content– and the platforms on which it promotes– to ensure its examples of relationship marketing strategy satisfy as many people as possible. For instance, GE created two sponsored podcasts in the sci-fi genre. It seems strange, but GE positions itself as an “inventor of the future of industry,” so it makes sense that the company might dabble in the world of what-ifs in the sci-fi genre.

Additionally, the company has a popular YouTube channel that features historic, innovative stories from the perspective of GE employees. This is because good relationship marketing should appeal to the first-time viewer as powerfully as it appeals to your long-term customers to ensure your customers grow with you over time.

By consistently offering a diverse range of quality content, GE shows its desire to satisfy its long-term customers even at the expense of short-term wins.

6. Domino’s

In the past couple of years, Domino’s has taken its fair share of risks with its relationship marketing strategy for the sake of innovation and improvement. This includes a series of ads called Pizza Turnaround, in which they showcased a series of negative customer reviews, before promising a new and improved recipe.

These self-deprecating ads appeal genuinely to viewers but go against any traditional sales playbook… which is why they work. By admitting an area of opportunity, Domino’s re-invented its brand as transparent and honest — and who wouldn’t want to buy from a company like that?

Domino’s has also done a fantastic job tapping into its digital audience. In fact, 70% of Domino’s sales are now through digital channels.

Ultimately, Domino’s has taken innovative steps to cultivate a loyal, long-term customer base through:

  • Slowly and strategically re-inventing their product and their brand
  • Engaging with their customers on their favorite digital platforms

Plus, the best part is you can too.

7. Panera

An example of relationship marketing from Panera bread.Panera’s commitment to health and convenience has resulted in 40 million Panera loyalty members.

In 2014, Panera issued a statement promising its customers it would remove all artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives from all Panera products by the end of 2016. The company remained transparent throughout the process, publishing progress reports to demonstrate a level of accountability and transparency to its customers.

Undoubtedly, it was a risky decision to admit they’d previously used unhealthy ingredients in their food — but their brand promise paid off big-time in 2016 when the brand could officially say “100% of our food is 100% clean.”

Additionally, the brand focuses on building customer relationships through personalization. For instance, Panera alerts loyalty members about new food offerings they feel will meet members’ “flavor profile” based on past purchases.

  • Making a brand promise and fulfilling this pledge to their customers
  • Improving the quality of their products for customer satisfaction

The company also meets its customers where they are — starting an online grocery business due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Panera even offers home and business delivery, rapid pickup, and catering to improve customer service.

8. Marriott

An example of relationship marketing initiatives from MarriottUndoubtedly, a 35-minute film is not the most traditional avenue a hotel can take when it wants to increase sales — and yet, that’s exactly what Marriott chose to do with their film, “Two Bellmen Three“.

This film enables Marriott to appeal to a younger demographic and build brand awareness on dominant platforms like Snapchat. Best of all, their retention marketing content rarely resembles an advertisement and is typically focused on providing an audience with fun, or helpful, information on various travel destinations.

9. ArmorSuit

Armor Suit's approach to relationship marketing  through warranty policy

ArmorSuit’s warranty policy begins like this — “Most warranties are limited to 30 days or one year, but with our Lifetime Replacement Warranty, our customers can request for a replacement screen protector for a lifetime. This way, you never need to purchase a whole new kit when a replacement is needed.”

This way, you never need to purchase a whole new kit — a phrase you’ll likely never hear in traditional sales transactions. While it might seem ridiculous to offer a lifetime warranty, it makes sense with retention strategies for two central reasons:

  • Maintaining customer satisfaction with their products
  • Building strong relationships with their base for the long term

Now when their customers need other products related to tech, they’ll most likely check out ArmorSuit’s website first.

Next, let’s explore how you can create a strong relationship marketing strategy for your own business.

1. Provide personalized, customer-focused service.

When you’re creating a relationship marketing strategy and engaging with your customers, your primary concern should never be focused on your product or service. Instead, your concerns should always revolve around the customer — So ask yourself:

  • Would the customer want to see this ad?
  • Would the customer be excited about this Instagram post?
  • Does our new product delight the customer?

Additionally, you must create channels for direct support when your customers need help. Perhaps your retention strategies include implementing a Facebook Messaging Bot for service-related concerns. Alternatively, maybe you answer your customer’s questions via Instagram DM. By meeting your customers on platforms they use most, you’re proving your willingness to help them wherever that takes you, a tenet of successful customer retention.

2. Engage with the customer where they are.

The reason Marriott’s strategy works is not only because of the content they create — it’s also where they post that content. Creating videos specifically for Snapchat is a great marketing strategy example because it enables Marriott to appeal to a younger demographic on a platform already popular with that audience.

Research which platforms are most popular for your ideal demographic. By reaching out to them through their preferred channels, you’re demonstrating strategy examples that embody helpfulness and understanding. It’s this sentiment that will encourage users to interact with your brand.

3. Incorporate technology to work more effectively.

Technology might seem counterintuitive to building organic relationships that are personalized, but it can be the key to solving customer pain points. As your company grows, it’ll become increasingly more difficult to connect one-on-one with each customer and continue keeping customers satisfied.

Using an automated marketing system can ensure that every customer receives communication from your business and has the opportunity to engage. Tools like HubSpot’s Marketing Hub can automate workflows and email cadences so that you never miss a customer milestone.

4. Offer incentives and rewards for customer loyalty.

To cultivate a long-term relationship with your customers and create lasting brand loyalty, continue engaging with customers even after they’ve purchased a product. Consider what you can offer them once they’ve become customers — perhaps they can get a discount on additional products, or receive personalized recommendations based on their preferences.

By creating a loyalty rewards program, Panera’s customer relationship marketing continues to incentivize its customers to purchase additional products and slowly forms a more meaningful relationship by gathering information about each customer. They then use that information to offer unique suggestions depending on their individual food preferences.

5. Create valuable content that tells a compelling story.

If a customer has already purchased your product, they don’t need to see additional product advertisements to become brand loyalists — instead, they need to feel your business offers value regardless of their purchase intent. Marriott’s film isn’t meant to immediately convert a viewer into a paying customer. Firms that adopt a relationship marketing strategy attempt to continuously provide quality to their customers. So Marriott’s purpose is to increase brand awareness. Therefore, down the road, when that viewer is ready to book a hotel for an upcoming trip, they’ll remember the compelling film they saw once and think of Marriott.

6. Collect feedback regularly.

A relationship works two ways — to truly develop a meaningful connection with your customers, then, you must ask for feedback:

  • What do they want to see from your brand?
  • What do they like about your product?
  • What do they wish you wrote about on your blog?

This information improves your relationship marketing strategy so you best fit the needs of your specific audience.

7. Concentrate on building customer relationships for the long-term

There will always be a time for marketing strategies like Pay Per Click ads that generate the instant sales gratification of proper product promotion– but this moment isn’t one of them.

In order to foster meaningful relationships that cause your customers to truly connect with your brand, you have to create purposeful content and deliver quality service to guide them throughout the relationship. By doing so, you will establish brand trust, show your audience you’re not just in it for a quick buck, and demonstrate your commitment to their success, not just your own.

Play the Long Game With Relationship Marketing

There’s a time and place for quicker marketing strategies wins and they’re paramount in hitting goals and KPIs each quarter. However, your marketing, sales, and service teams work much better together at playing the long game. Relationship marketing won’t score you consistent quick wins that you can measure with hard numbers on a dashboard. But you’ll find that staying the course and nurturing the customer through relational advertising will yield happier and more loyal brand advocates for quarters to come.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness in May 2022.

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The Biggest Ad Fraud Cases and What We Can Learn From Them



The Biggest Ad Fraud Cases and What We Can Learn From Them

Ad fraud is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, the latest data indicates that it will cost businesses a colossal €120 billion by 2023. But even more worrying is that fraudsters’ tactics are becoming so sophisticated that even big-name companies such as Uber, Procter & Gamble, and Verizon have been victims of ad fraud in recent years. 

So what does this mean for the rest of the industry? The answer is simple: every ad company, no matter their size or budget is just as at risk as the big guns – if not more. 

In this article, I summarize some of the biggest and most shocking cases of ad fraud we’ve witnessed over recent years and notably, what vital lessons marketers and advertisers can learn from them to avoid wasting their own budgets. 

The biggest ad fraud cases in recent years 

From fake clicks and click flooding to bad bots and fake ad impressions, fraudsters have and will go to any lengths to siphon critical dollars from your ad budgets.

Let’s take a look at some of the most high-profile and harmful ad fraud cases of recent years that have impacted some of the most well-known brands around the world. 

Methbot: $5 million a day lost through fake video views 

In 2016, Aleksandr Zhukov, the self-proclaimed “King of Fraud”, and his group of fraudsters were discovered to have been making between $3 and $5 million a day by executing fake clicks on video advertisements. 

Oft-cited as the biggest digital ad fraud operation ever uncovered, “Methbot” was a sophisticated botnet scheme that involved defrauding brands by enabling countless bots to watch 300 million video ads per day on over 6000 spoofed websites. 

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Due to the relatively high cost-per-mille (CPM) for video ads, Aleksandr and his group were able to steal millions of dollars a day by targeting high-value marketplaces. Some of the victims of the Methbot fraud ring include The New York Times, The New York Post, Comcast, and Nestle.

In late 2021, Aleksandr Zhukov was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay over $3.8 million in restitution. 

Uber: $100 million wasted in ad spend 

In another high-profile case, transportation giant Uber filed a lawsuit against five ad networks in 2019 – Fetch, BidMotion, Taptica, YouAppi, and AdAction Interactive – and won. 

Uber claimed that its ads were not converting, and ultimately discovered that roughly two-thirds of its ad budget ($100 million) wasn’t needed. This was on account of ad retargeting companies that were abusing the system by creating fraudulent traffic. 

The extent of the ad fraud was discovered when the company cut $100 million in ad spend and saw no change in the number of rider app installs. 

In 2020, Uber also won another lawsuit against Phunware Inc. when they discovered that the majority of Uber app installations that the company claimed to have delivered were produced by the act of click flooding. 

Criteo: Claims sues competitor for allegedly running a damaging counterfeit click fraud scheme 

In 2016, Criteo, a retargeting and display advertising network, claimed that competitor Steelhouse (now known as MNTM) ran a click fraud scheme against Criteo in a bid to damage the company’s reputation and to fraudulently take credit for user visits to retailers’ web pages. 

Criteo filed a lawsuit claiming that due to Steelhouse’s alleged actions — the use of bots and other automated methods to generate fake clicks on shoe retailer TOMS’ ads — Criteo ultimately lost TOMS as a client. Criteo has accused Steelhouse of carrying out this type of ad fraud in a bid to prove that Steelhouse provided a more effective service than its own. 

Twitter: Elon Musk claims that the platform hosts a high number of inauthentic accounts 

In one of the biggest and most tangled tech deals in recent history, the Elon Musk and Twitter saga doesn’t end with Twitter taking Musk to court for backing out of an agreement to buy the social media giant for $44 billion.

In yet another twist, Musk has also claimed that Twitter hid the real number of bots and fake accounts on its platform. He has also accused the company of fraud by alleging that these accounts make up around 10% of Twitter’s daily active users who see ads, essentially meaning that 65 million of Twitter’s 229 million daily active users are not seeing them at all. 

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6 Lessons marketers can learn from these high-profile ad fraud cases 

All of these cases demonstrate that ad fraud is a pervasive and ubiquitous practice that has incredibly damaging and long-lasting effects on even the most well-known brands around the world. 

The bottom line is this: Marketers and advertisers can no longer afford to ignore ad fraud if they’re serious about reaching their goals and objectives. Here are some of the most important lessons and takeaways from these high-profile cases. 

  1. No one is safe from ad fraud 

Everyone — from small businesses to large corporations like Uber — is affected by ad fraud. Plus, fraudsters have no qualms over location: no matter where in the world you operate, you are susceptible to the consequences of ad fraud. 

  1. Ad fraud is incredibly hard to detect using manual methods

Fraudsters use a huge variety of sneaky techniques and channels to scam and defraud advertisers, which means ad fraud is incredibly difficult to detect manually. This is especially true if organizations don’t have the right suggestions and individuals dedicated to tracking and monitoring the presence of ad fraud. 

Even worse, when organizations do have teams in place monitoring ad fraud, they are rarely experts, and cannot properly pore through the sheer amount of data that each campaign produces to accurately pinpoint it.

  1. Ad fraud wastes your budget, distorts your data, and prevents you from reaching your goals

Ad fraud drains your budget significantly, which is a huge burden for any company. However, there are also other ways it impacts your ability to deliver results. 

For example, fake clicks and click bots lead to skewed analytics, which means that when you assess advertising channels and campaigns based on the traffic and engagement they receive, you’re actually relying on flawed data to make future strategic decisions. 

Finally – and as a result of stolen budgets and a reliance on flawed data – your ability to reach your goals is highly compromised. 

  1. You’re likely being affected by ad fraud already, even if you don’t know it yet

As seen in many of these cases, massive amounts of damage were caused because the brands weren’t aware that they were being targeted by fraudsters. Plus, due to the lack of awareness surrounding ad fraud in general, it’s highly likely that you’re being affected by ad fraud already. 

  1. You have options to fight the effects of ad fraud  

Luckily, as demonstrated by these cases, there are some options available to counteract the impact and losses caused by ad fraud, such as requesting a refund or even making a case to sue. In such cases, ad fraud detection solutions are extremely useful to uncover ad fraud and gather evidence. 

  1. But the best option is to prevent ad fraud from the get-go

The best ad fraud protection is ad fraud prevention. The only surefire way to stop fraudsters from employing sophisticated fraud schemes and attacking your campaigns is by implementing equally sophisticated solutions. Anti-ad fraud software solutions that use machine learning and artificial intelligence help you keep fraud at bay, enabling you to focus on what matters: optimizing your campaigns and hitting your goals. 

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