The focus of marketing in the past was to reach sales as quickly as possible. In other words, the goal was to make a single transaction with a customer, selling the product or the service and completing the transaction. The primary responsibility of marketing was to attract new customers. The focus of marketing after 1990 moved from instant selling to protecting future sales. Marketing strategy steered towards relationship strategy in the 90’s. The importance of establishing long term customer relations became clear. Relationship marketing, which means establishing mutually beneficial relationships with customers, has become a popular value. Maintaining existing customers, increasing their loyalty, growing the business of the company with existing customers has become more important than acquiring new customers, selling a product to a customer for the first time and attracting new customers. Ensuring the satisfaction of existing customers has also become the duty of marketing. In other words, encouraging the customer to buy from the same company when needed and meeting their needs to gain their loyalty has become just as important as attracting new customers.
Relationship marketing focuses on the customer's “lifelong” value. Combining successful relationships through bonding is a two-way value stream. In other words, when the relationship becomes a part of the institution's value, the customer's profitability increases.
Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. If you were a client receiving services from a patent agency, what would your expectations be? What would you request from the expert if you were in their position? Would you think you got your money’s worth? If we were to define our business as attorneyship solely for the protection of intellectual rights, we can refer to a market close to perfect competition. The characteristics of perfect competition market can be listed as follows:
1. Large Number of Buyers and Sellers in the Market
2. Homogeneity of the Product/Service
3. Buyers and Sellers Having Perfect Knowledge about the Market
4. Free Entry and Exit into the Market
According to the data held by Turkish Patent, there are currently 1056 attorneys registered to the institution. These attorneys work for over 400 registered companies. This data clearly indicates that there are many alternatives for clients to receive intellectual property services. In this day and age, conducting business only in accordance with the instructions from the client means not being able to surpass the services provided by other representative companies, which in return causes the client to question the costs.
Companies must offer their services and products keeping in mind the maximum satisfaction of the client in order to survive in competitive markets. Clients always try to obtain the best possible service for a minimum price. Whereas, commercial companies try to sell more products at a higher price for a higher profit. These two conflicting (contradictory) goals turn into a lifelong unity only when both parties achieve maximum benefit. Otherwise, a foundation for loyalty will not be achieved with the client. The client will always search for a company that provides the best service at a lower price.
The two most commonly used ways of retaining clients without lowering prices (even by increasing prices) are:
1. Providing value added services (that the majority of companies cannot provide)
2. Switching to relationship marketing
Consultancy services come first in value added services. Clients no longer want to conduct business with representatives that only follow their instructions to file their applications or appeals, but with those who also direct them to the most suitable, profitable and the most convenient solution. The clients seek to receive their money’s worth by saving money and time in return for paying for our services. The client wants to be directed in a timely manner, be well informed and notified all-around. The clients want solution partners who will help them when making decisions.
The other most commonly used client retention method is what we call relationship marketing. Companies don’t want to receive services on important subjects such as intellectual property through an “e-mail” from some unknown, unrecognized source. The clients want to have a relationship; they want to work with someone that they are familiar with, that they trust, someone who values their intellectual property rights as much as they do, both financially and morally.
It is essential for the expert to be working for the interest of the client. The experts should embrace the job as if they work for the client's company. They must always contact the client by phone in case of critical, deadline situations. The expert should not avoid taking responsibility when necessary. Making claims such as, I sent an e-mail once and so I did my duty will only protect us legally. In the meantime, claiming legal protection will not prevent the client from stopping to receive services from us and seeking services from competitors. Frequent phone calls, face to face interaction when possible will strengthen ties with the client and will help them understand us better. Informing the client of good news as well as bad over the phone will help the client understand the situation more clearly and enable them to make the right decisions. Rather than making mistakes, failure to stand behind mistakes and trying to find a solution is what makes a client angry. Try to get to know your clients, contact them and share their happiness and sadness. Keep in mind that they are also people with emotions and remind them that you are also human.