I want to talk here about a theoretical model that I spent a great deal of time working with when I did my MBA, and that is the concept of building a relationships with marketing.
When I graduated in 2009 and started to look for ways to implement the theory I had learnt, this model gave me my first eureka moment when I saw Twitter and Facebook.
This post will be a walk through the theory and then on to the practice… you are all intelligent people, so I know you will find this an interesting journey to take with me.
The theory of building relationships is a 3 step process of Actor Bonds, Activity Links and Resource Ties. (1)
In any business relationship (in fact in most non business relationships too) there need to be a bond between the actors… in other words we need to like, and have some rapport with, a person before we will buy from them. This principle is especially true for businesses that have high credence (the buyer does not understand and finds it hard to evaluate the purchased services, e.g.a surgeon) and businesses that offer high involvement products and services ( i.e. not impulse purchases e.g. houses )… so think about dentistry, this is both High Involvement AND High Credence, so having good Actor Bonds is vital. We need to feel we like the dentist before we commit to the next stage… an activity link.
Once we feel we like someone we will take a first small step towards engaging with them more, and this is called an activity link. These could be things like:
- Reading a website
- Reading a blog
- Reading a leaflet
- Going to the practice for a free visit with a TCO
- Commiting to read a blog every time it is published
- Coming to the practice for treatment
- Purchasing other goods/services
Now this is where Twitter and Facebook come in, they are both ideal opportunities to work on these 3 areas:
- Actor Bonds – where you went on holiday, personal likes/dislikes, interests, hobbies. If buyers can identify with you through this personal information they are more likely to like you.
- Activity Links – Sharing links and other useful resources. Twitter is especially good for this. Once buyers click on the link they engage in an activity
- Resource Ties – Committing to read your blog posts each week OR coming to the practice and spending money
People won’t move directly to the Resource Tie stage unless they have moved through the previous 2 stages, I recommend spreading your Facebook and Twitter posts across these 3 areas fairly equally.
Many practice I see focus FAR too much on the Resource Tie section and don;t spend enough time working on the relationship by developing Actor Bonds and Activity Links.
…. so stop selling and start engaging!
(1) Hakansson, H. & Snehota, I. (eds.) (1995) Developing Relationships in Business
Networks. London: Routledge