Relationship marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) are closely-related business concepts. However, most experienced marketing professionals agree that CRM is an evolution of relationship marketing that enhances key concepts of customer retention.

Customer Retention Basics

Both relationship marketing and CRM are grounded in the long-held belief that customer-retention and building customer loyalty over time is the key to long-term business success. Each concept relates to implementation of business rules that attempt to turn one-time business transactions into ongoing customer relationships.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing emerged in the 1980s and into the 1990s as businesses moved away from transaction-centered operations. It centered on the idea of taking new customers and positioning them into individual customer groups, or market segments, and then marketing to groups based on their place in the customer life cycle. Key points are customized marketing for consumer groups and interactive communications.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer relationship management, believed to have been coined in 1999, initially emerged as a technology-driven business process leveraging database marketing capabilities. While the main emphasis of CRM is still building and maintaining strong customer relationships, it is a much more complex and more universally referenced component of general marketing activities for most companies. CRM attempts to go one step further than relationship marketing by customizing marketing and business solutions to each individual customer, relying on infinite data storage and retrieval capabilities.