The Emergence of Relevance Marketing

relevance marketing

Loyalty marketing has been the golden standard for a long time, but is it about to experience a curtain close? If relevance marketing is what it’s expected to be, this new concept may be ready to take over center stage. What does relevance marketing mean for your small business? Let’s find out.

What Does Your Business Mean to People?

In the Harvard Business Review article “Marketers Need to Stop Focusing on Loyalty and Start Thinking About Relevance,” John Zealley, Robert Wollan, and Joshua Bellin all dig deep into the world of relevance marketing, first taking a look back on loyalty marketing. As a tried and true marketing strategy up until this point, businesses built their customer retention strategy on incentives like discounts, rewards, and rebates. According to research from Kantar Retail, “71% of consumers now claim that loyalty incentive-programs don’t make them loyal at all,” instead opting for relevance to seal the deal.

Just How Much Does Relevance Matter?

This article points to research from Accenture that says U.S. companies are losing $1 trillion in annual revenues to competitors simply due to a lack of relevancy. How exactly can you be more relevant? You have to start thinking of psychology over product, promotion, price and place, a shift in the fundamental marketing rulebook. This article goes even one step further and introduces a new platform of “Ps” important to marketers in today’s world: purpose, pride, partnership, protection, and personalization. The article defines these further, summarized below:

  • Purpose: People believe the company shares/advances their own values.
  • Pride: People feel proud and/or dually inspired to use the company’s products and services.
  • Partnership: People feel as if they can relate to the company and it’s a team effort to work with them.
  • Protection: People feel safe using the company.
  • Personalization: People feel like the company consistently tailors their services to their own personal needs.


These new measures look at customers as people. What do they need? And beyond basic needs, what can help them fulfill their potential? Can your business be a part of helping them get to this point? And, most importantly, can you change along with them, offering new solutions for emerging needs as they evolve? People are fluid, and businesses that maintain a static approach to outreach will likely experience a visible (and financially harmful) disconnect at some point.

Incorporating these Ps will take some work on your end, but here are three simple pieces of advice offered in this article to get started:

Walk outside your comfort zone: If your business has relied on the traditional Ps until now (like many other organizations), this shift may feel odd at first. You’ll need to think outside the box. Is there a unique need of your customer base that hasn’t been tapped by competitors yet? This article used an example of Yoplait offering French yogurt in individual glass pots, appealing to customers in this market that want to embrace authentic food traditions, as well as delivering on other recent market needs like all-natural and non-GMO ingredients. The results on this campaign are still unknown, but are there similar small niches in your business that can make you stand out?

Embrace good timing: In the purchasing process, there is always that lucrative “right time” to come onto the radar of a potential customer. Utilizing predictive analytics may help you maximize this sweet spot and create relevant offers to customers exactly when and where they need it.

Extend beyond the status quo: Don’t get stuck in what you know, even if it has worked in the past. To succeed in today’s fast-paced (and ever-changing) business landscape, change with your people. Connect with them in the ways they are connecting (aka online), and alter your offerings to reflect their new needs beyond products and services, even if it’s unexpected for your business. If you can shift on a dime, you will succeed.

Will Relevance Marketing Overtake Loyalty Marketing?

The decision-making process of people today is rapid-fire. With a few clicks and comparative shopping, non-relevant businesses won’t get a second look if another company has something better. Know what people need on a deeper level, and communicate your relevance better than anyone else on the market. What do you think about relevance marketing overtaking loyalty marketing? Has it already happened in your business?


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