When the market takes a downturn, reaching out to your target market using effective relationship-building strategies will help you weather the storm. When the economy turns around, this investment in relationships will place you in an enviable position. Here are few techniques to help you keep your contacts fresh during a downturn.

  • Relationship marketing: It’s more effective than mass marketing. In terms of time and money spent, it is far more effective to identify a specific target audience and build relationships through relevant direct mail campaigns, e-mails, newsletters, periodic telephone contact and networking opportunities rather than mass direct marketing through one-off campaigns.
  • Network the “neighborhood”. Define your geographical target area by zip code or other discernable parameters, and subdivide your target neighborhoods into residential and professional or business segments for messaging purposes. Next, engage your target neighborhoods by participating in networking events. Attend Chamber of Commerce meetings, local civic clubs, professional chapters, special-interest groups and social club meetings.

    Through your networking efforts, you’ll gain an understanding and appreciation of your prospects needs; you’ll also uncover life events, (marriages, divorces, births, etc.) as well as professional events (mergers, acquisitions, corporate relocations and downsizing) among community members that could stimulate relevant financial investment buying opportunities among your identified prospects.

  • Nurture your relationships. Now that you know the life and professional events occurring in your target neighborhoods, create a list of your best prospects and contact them regularly – twice a month at a minimum – with pertinent information on products and services tailored to their particular situation. Develop a personalized marketing campaign that matches your products and services to the appropriate needs (life and professional event triggers) of your target community.

    Once relationships are established through regular interaction, it also opens the door for you by presenting opportunities to ask for referrals that would benefit from your expertise and product knowledge, building an even stronger network for you.

These simple strategies are good reminders of the fundamentals of relationship building when the economy is changing. People do business with people they know and trust. When times are tough, it’s the strength of your relationships that can carry you through.

April Barteau is the director of marketing with ChoicePoint Precision Marketing, a leading provider of database marketing solutions for the insurance and financial services industries. She can be reached at april.barteau@choicepoint.com.