How ‘Return on Relationship’ (#RonR) Came to Life For Me
ROR: Return on Relationship, #RonR, simply put, is the value that is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship. ROI is simple dollars and cents, ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through connection, trust, loyalty, recommendations and sharing. AND is used to define and educate companies, brands, and people about the importance of creating authentic connection, interaction, and engagement.
For me, and I learned this early on from my parents, especially my Dad, is that it is All About Relationships, and he impressed upon me to “do for others without expectation of anything directly in return.” It’s more about what you build as your reputation and how people think about you. As you continue to practice this, others will notice, and will reciprocate in a spirit of giving. That’s been a huge part of my life and my success despite numerous setbacks. And listening to others is an important part of that. So many times we listen to what people are telling us but we don’t really “hear” what they’re saying. Are you really hearing what I’m saying — actively listening — and truly paying attention? My Mom, who was an educator, would say to me as a kid, “Honey, you need to really hear what they’re saying, not just take notes and listen.” To me, it’s such an important thing.
When I was the CMO of e.l.f. Cosmetics in 2008–2010 I built their brand, and took the brand from online to in-store (specifically as an in-line brand at Target nationwide), leveraging social media and it’s exponential word-of-mouth capability. Much of this was accomplished with something I first started talking about and scaling in 2009… Return on Relationship ROR, #RonR.
Early on I was building an engaged following, growing our presence, and protecting all that was social from any of the promotional proclivities of the founders. Within months, by myself and with the help of a few interns, I had built the most active social presence for a cosmetics brand against the likes of Estee Lauder, L’Oréal, and Sephora… and the very first social aggregated content site for a brand, called ASKelf.com, as an adjunct to elfcosmetics.com. In all fairness, they had legal departments to deal with and I did not, so I drove a truck through that advantage.
Every week the founders and head of email marketing would ask when they could start promoting deals via social, and every week I said… “NOT YET, it’s not about selling here,” can’t claim to have “known” that then, but it all seemed so clear to me. So finally after a few months of this I was called into their office. At the end of the meeting they tried to pin me down to a date for offering discounts via social with all this talk about ROI, and I blurted out… “It’s not about ROI with social right now, it’s about ROR, Return on Relationship,” and I just shut up and sat there staring at them. I didn’t know what they would say, no one to the best of my knowledge at the time was using that term. They stared at me for what seemed like forever, then told me they had another meeting but were very intrigued by ROR and wanted to schedule a meeting for the end of the following week to discuss. I got out of there as fast as I could and immediately tweeted out to my then large number of followers, 2000 of them (at the time had me on the list of most followed CMO on Twitter)… “It’s not just about ROI, we have to start thinking about ROR, Return on Relationship,” and within minutes there were dozens of RT’s and responses.
I spent the next week putting some meat on the bone, and Return on Relationship, as a way to build a business, was off to the races. It then took a lot of time to expand on the ideas (still doing that every day), publishing the book in 2013, and finally getting my hands on the ReturnOnRelationship.com URL shortly thereafter.
If you shift that into the business world, I consider ROR (#RonR) greater than ROI, because ROI will match a fixed period of time, or perhaps be income related, whereas ROR will have a “halo” effect. For example, two projects can have the same ROI, but if one was done with better relationship management, it has the added benefit of a “satisfied” customer or relationship… it’s like “I” + compassion.
What happens is that when people are happy and satisfied, they will share that. There’s a misconception in the digital world that people complain more than they share good things. I don’t think that’s true. I think a lot of people get tired of hearing others complain all the time — but nobody gets tired of hearing, “Oh this restaurant was amazing,” or “OMG I just had the most awesome experience with this brand — you’ve got to check out their products!” People seek out those kinds of references much more so than they seek negative ones. A brand that steps up its engagement game will not only protect and extend its organic reach, but also find a significant competitive advantage. We all love when someone listens to us. When your fans hear from you, their excitement will spread along with your reach and reputation, which is what I call ‘Return on Relationship.’ Your Brand is what you do… Your Reputation is what people Remember AND Share!
Fight quantity, clutter and filters because we know there’s way too much content out there… with quality (content & engagement). With every post, update and comment ask yourself, “Is it adding something meaningful or simply adding to the noise?” Content may be King, but Connection is Queen, and she rules the house. How you engage with people via the content you share is what helps you achieve results.
Relationships are like muscle tissue, the more you engage them, the stronger and more valuable they become.