Ted Rubin: The Return On Relationship In Your Small Business


It’s no question that in 2019, your business’ presence on social media is crucial. We’re living in a digital world, and if your company doesn’t have a social media strategy, you’re not only missing out on a marketing opportunity that’s proven to be well received but also a huge way to create organic relationships with your audience.

The digital world is messy for businesses, and small and medium businesses have to compete with large corporations that have a big marketing budget. So how does a small business stand out? According to leading social media strategist, author, speaker, Photofy.com CMO, and provocateur, Ted Rubin, the answer is focusing on your business’ return on relationships.

Networks give you reach,” he says, “[but] community gives you power.”

Having a large network of acquaintances and followers on social channels is great, and that network gives you reach; however, having a community that engages, interacts, and knows you and your business is key: “Networks reach; Communities care,” says Rubin. And we want our customers to care about our business. That’s how money is made, but we also need to make sure we prove that “we” care about our customers as well. And this concept goes back to your Return On Relationship (or #RonR).

Developing meaningful relationships isn’t just something we do with friends and family, it’s important to consider in the world of dollars and sense as well. ROR > ROI (return on investment). Why? Because ROI satisfies for a fixed period of time and is income related, while ROR will have almost a halo effect. For example: You run two campaigns that have the same ROI. If one was completed with better customer service or relationship management, it’s more likely to create strong, long-term relationships and customers.

How do you measure return on relationship?

Analyzing the return on investment is pretty straight forward. You follow the numbers. But, not everyone pays as close attention to the measurement of return on relationship.

According to Rubin, #RonR is common sense: Awareness equals revenue. Authenticity leads to loyalty and advocacy. Each of these attributes is measurable and leads to increased sales and profits, which is also measurable. “I like to say that ROR is the value that is accrued by a person/brand due to nurturing a relationship,” he explains, “ROI is simple dollars and sense, but ROR is the value that is perceived and will accrue over time through loyalty, trust, recommendations and sharing.”

Why is this important? “Because it’s happening whether a company is paying attention to it or not,” he explains. ROI is measured by numbers; it’s easy. ROR is easy to measure as well. People do business with people they like. “There’s not only the common sense part of it and judgement… it’s also measured through organic engagement, community management, sentiment monitoring—how do people feel about your brand—and more. But it comes down to one word: Value.” How do your social efforts create value for you as a brand and your audience? How do face to face interactions add value to your customer? What prompts them to come back to your social channels, website, or place of business?

And, you can measure ROR in terms of money as well. Typically, a customer who regularly absorbs content that references a brand is a more valuable customer than one that doesn’t. They may spend more on average, visit more often and make more frequent purchases, or remain a loyal customer for a longer period of time. And that is a return on relationship.

Ted’s tips on developing strong customer relationships

1. Attract traffic rather than drive traffic.“When you drive something, you’re working much harder than when you’re attracting it,” says Rubin. It’s so much easier to do business when your customer already likes you—through traditional word of mouth or personal experience or social media—than if you’re trying to make them like you. By having good social presence and interacting with your audience, you’re more likely to attract traffic that is loyal.

2. Like them before they like you. A small business owner has more incentive to be liked than the customer. Don’t wait for customers to like you, like them first. Seek them out on social channels without the intent of converting them to customers. Develop a relationship with your ideal customer online, and you’ll most likely attract them to be a customer. Give without the expectation of receiving anything, and you will receive.

Listen to them. Listen in the store, listen online. What are they posting about? What are they interested in? What is happening in the town? Don’t jump in with a sales pitch, but reach out and connect with them about what they connect with.

3. Look people in the eye. Before digital media, the best salespeople, the best leaders look people in the eye. When people feel as though they have your full attention, that they’re the only person in the room, they are incredibly more likely to do business with you and your company.

And looking people in the eye goes beyond IRL interactions… Look People in the Eye Digitally. Everyone wants to know you care about them, are listening to them.

If you know you are meeting with a client, a business acquaintance, a networking opportunity, find out a little information about them before your meeting. We have an unlimited amount of information at our fingertips. Utilize it. Rubin explains he physically takes notes on his phone after each interaction so he can bring it back up in conversation. And he says people are astounded and impressed. Make notes about your customers and clients about their likes, dislikes, family, etc… whatever you can pick up or they share.

4. Always call people by their name. Dale Carnegie, the author of what Ted refers to as the “best social media book ever written,” How to Win Friends and Influence People,” (written in 1936) says… “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Some things never change.

5. Compliment them. Do you like a good, genuine compliment? Everyone does. Make a habit of complimenting your customer. Help them take bags to the car. Once you begin doing these behaviors out of habit, it becomes involuntary, and, it goes a long way when building a return on relationship with your audience.

6. Rally like minded people. If you and your product or service could appeal to every kind of person, it’d be amazing. But the reality is that you have a certain demographic, a niche. And instead of trying to change people’s minds and appeal to the masses, try to rally like minded people. Those are your people.

That doesn’t mean stop trying to appeal to other demographics, but there are some people that will never agree with you. Pick a demographic that’s attainable and don’t only market to your current demographic. You’ve already rallied them; they’re your customer base. Instead, focus some marketing efforts on trying to rally similar demographics and building community support there.

7. Last but not least… change your mindset from that of Targeting to one of Matchmaking. No one wants to be a target, but everyone likes a good match. A match is something more lasting, even if it’s not permanent. If I’m matched with a service, brand, or marketing campaign that genuinely addresses my needs, then ideally that’s just the start of a longer relationship. I gain confidence that the brand is interested in me as more than a statistic, and the brand has a much easier path to learning more about me. It’s a collaboration, rather than a one-sided, transaction-based relationship. If we want consumers to feel connections with brands, then we can’t make them feel like they’re being hunted. Let’s change the conversation, and shift from a Targeting mindset in favor of a Matchmaking mentality.