Today I want to expand on yesterday’s post on marketing relationships. Specifically, I want to delve further into business marketing relationships. Businesses form relationships for a variety of tasks. Business marketing relationships also have various time frames — relationships may be evergreen (they don’t have a defined endpoint) or dissolve once they’ve completed the task. Regardless of these features, business marketing relationships require the same attention and care as any other type of relationship — such as your marriage. In fact, several authors, including myself, have used a marriage metaphor to describe business relationships in studies drawing heavily from the literature on marriage and the family*.
This is a big topic, so I’m going to break it up into several different posts. The first will deal with communication issues. Future posts will deal with additional aspects of marketing relationships, including power and influence, organizational culture, and collaboration.
Just like in your marriage, communication between the firms involved in a marketing relationship needs careful and consistent attention. Jakki Mohr describes communication as the “glue that holds” marketing relationships together**. According to this article, communication needs to be bi-directional (the parties talk to each other — and listen to each other), frequent, and through multiple channels — face to face, phone, email. Since publication of this work, we can add social networks to the list of media channels. And partners do “talk” to each other through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, etc. A colleague and I are currently collaborating on an article almost entirely through Twitter direct messages.
Its not only important how you communicate, but what you say during those communication efforts. Several tasks need to be accomplished during relational communications.
- Directions and instructions – which must clearly outline what each party needs to do and how these tasks might be accomplished. For instance, the alliance between Chrysler and Mercedes collapsed, at least in part, because the firms didn’t clearly understand what each party was responsible for. This created a lot of tension between the 2 firms.
- Trust – you can do this by sharing complete information, answering questions honestly and completely, admitting mistakes, warning of impending problems, etc. For instance, P&G uses graphical information to warn about potentially late deliveries to suppliers. When these warnings are not enough to be able to avoid late delivery, they contact the buyer to advise them of the new delivery date.
- Connection building – this means sharing personal information, listening, and remembering facts about the other person. Sales people have used this tactic forever. They add personal information such as spouses name, kid’s names, significant events such as birthdays and anniversaries, etc to their business information about buyers. These little touches have a huge impact on sales.
*Wesley J. Johnston, Angela Hausman, (2006) “Expanding the marriage metaphor in understanding long-term business relationships”, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 21 Iss: 7, pp.446 – 452
F. Robert Dwyer, Paul H. Schurr and Sejo Oh, Developing Buyer-Seller Relationships. The Journal of Marketing, Vol. 51, No. 2 (Apr., 1987), pp. 11-27
**Mohr, Jakki, Robert Fisher, and John R. Nevin (1999), “Using Collaborative Communication to Manage Dealer Relationships,” Marketing Management, 8 (Summer), pp. 39-45.