We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Ted Rubin. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Ted below.
Ted, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. What’s been the best thing you’ve ever seen (or done yourself) to show a customer that you appreciate them?
In 2013 I circulated a Facebook Post where I announced that my title at Collective Bias, the company I helped build from the ground up and was a partner in, was soon to change from CSMO (Chief Social Marketing Officer… a title I originated a few years before) to CHO. But I didn’t explain further, and it got everyone guessing what CHO stood for.
It was a great exercise. People guessed all KINDS of things, such as:
Chief Happiness Officer
Captain Human Optimism
Chief Hosiery Officer (huh?)
Chief Highsocks Officer (you had to be there… I also have a hashtag originated for me, #tedsockie)
Chief Happy Hour Officer
Chief Handshake Officer
Chief Human-Relations Officer
Chief Heart Officer
Chief Humor Officer
Chair Head of Organization
even Captain Happenin’
Now while some of them came close, no one guessed it, and by around 30 comments they were begging me to tell them what CHO stood for. So I had to give in and tell them; Chief Hugs Officer. Now why would I move from social marketing officer to hugs officer? Well, think about it—part of your job as a marketer is to love your customers and make them feel appreciated, right? And what better way to make someone feel appreciated than to give them a hug—even if it’s a virtual one!
Brands do well when they invest in their customer relationships. We’ve all seen examples of it. Successful brands do it in a variety of ways, from delivering excellent customer service to developing customer appreciation outreach programs and finding ways to give more one-on-one personal attention. They strive to foster more and better relationships. They understand the importance of finding new and better ways to do this because without those efforts—without nurturing that human connection—they’re just another company with something to sell. What makes a company attractive is how the customer FEELS when they interact with the company, not just when they consume or use what that company has to offer. Their experience with you is what they share with their friends. Make it a great one, and you’ll get more business. Take every opportunity to make consumer outreach with your brand remarkable. You will not hit the mark every time, but if this is part of your brand DNA, the benefits will be extraordinary.
So what do you think would happen if all CMOs were suddenly transformed into CHOs? It shifts your mindset a bit, doesn’t it? When the word “hug” takes the place of “marketing,” it immediately puts thoughts of relationship in mind: “My job is now to make our customers , employees, bloggers, and anyone else we deal with, feel good—to let them know how much we love them; not as a by-product of marketing, but as the prime ingredient.”
Can you see why giving “customer hugs” should be the prime directive of everyone in your company? It’s not enough just to give lip service to customer relationships. There’s already enough of that going around, and it produces lukewarm results. For brands to do it right they need to make it part of their culture. It should be more than a campaign—more than a concerted effort—it needs to come first.
So think about that. Hugs first, marketing second. Change your title, put a sign on your desk—do whatever you have to do to shift that mindset, and a whole new world can open up for your company. Metaphorically “HUG” your customers, prospects, employees and vendors. Try it—and you’ll begin to see the real benefits of Return on Relationship, ROR (#RonR).
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers?
My Personal philosophy and a quote I do my best to live by… “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
I am a leading Social Marketing Strategist, International Keynote Speaker, Business Advisor and… Author, Connector, Provocateur. In March 2009 I started using and evangelizing the term ROR, Return on Relationship™, hashtag #RonR…. a concept I believe is the cornerstone for building an engaged multi-million member database and engaged community, many of whom are vocal advocates for the brand. I built these for e.l.f. Cosmetics as the Chief Marketing Officer between 2008 and 2010, OpenSky where I was Chief Social Marketing Officer until the end of April 2011, and for Collective Bias (whose Advisory Board I joined in January 2011) where I became Chief Social Marketing Officer, and an equity partner. I worked closely with Collective Bias since it was founded by John Andrews who I met through the blogging community when he was leading Emerging Media at Walmart. I left my position as Chief Social Marketing Officer of Collective Bias on August 31, 2013. I remained a principal shareholder until the November 2016 seven-figure acquisition by Inmar.
➡️ My comprehensive background here… LinkedIn.com/in/TedRubin ⬅️
In the words of Collective Bias Founder John Andrews… “Ted, you were the vision, heartbeat and soul of Collective Bias, thank you for building a great company. From innovations like cb.Socially to the amazing relationships you built with the blogger community, clients and employees, you drove the epic growth. You will be missed!”
With e.l.f. Cosmetics from 2008-2010, OpenSky from 2009-2011 and Collective Bias, I became known for my active use of Twitter where I have in excess of 1,000,000 followers throughout my network, and grew 100,000+ followers for e.l.f. Cosmetics Twitter handles in 2009, over 200,000 for OpenSky in 2010, and well in excess of 2MM for Collective Bias in 2013… all with deep engagement and interaction.
Many people in the social media world know me for my enthusiastic, energetic and undeniably personal connection to people. Between 2011 and 2018 I was named the most followed CMO on Twitter according to Social Media Marketing Magazine; one of the most interesting CMOs on Twitter according to Say Media, #13 on Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers, and number #2 on the Leadtail list of Top 25 People Most Mentioned by digital marketers, and most recently to the leadersHum Global Power list of the Top 200 Biggest Voices In Leadership for 2022. Return on Relationship, ROR, #RonR, is the basis of my philosophy… It’s All About Relationships!
My book, Return on Relationship, was released January 2013, How To Look People in the Eye Digitally was released January 2015 and The Age of Influence… Selling to the Digitally Connected Customer in 2017. I released my latest book in December 2021, along with business partner and Retail Thought Leader John Andrews, titled Retail Relevancy.
At e.l.f. Cosmetics my responsibilities included communicating with and building e.l.f.’s client base (membership increased from 600k to in excess of 2.4MM during my tenure), leveraging brand equity through strategic marketing programs (with many major brands and publishers), and creating/developing/managing a major thrust into social media initiatives and partnerships and building the most highly respected social media presence in the cosmetics industry at the time. In addition, the merging of traditional PR and the ability of social media to create/spread PR opportunities was leveraged to full effect under my tenure… a first for many companies and something which many are yet to understand.
I believe the key to continued success for any brand/retailer/e-tailer is identifying with the customer. I am quick to point out “listening is finally getting the respect it deserves through Social Media… listen and adjust your message to make it relevant to your consumer. Brand loyalty declines due to lack of relevance… a direct result of not listening.” “Number one is always try to understand who your customer is and pay attention.” And in that vein you batter start to understand that SIMPLICITY is the new EDLP (Every Day Low Pricing… made famous by Walmart)! Make it easy for them… and they will buy from you again and again and again. Frictionless fulfillment is the retail of the future.
Your Brand/Business is what you do; your Reputation is what people Remember and Share.
I have a deep online background beginning in 1997 working with best selling author, entrepreneur and agent of change Seth Godin at Yoyodyne, which was acquired in Q4 1998 by Yahoo!
I served as a Social Marketing and Engagement Advisor to Big Fuel Communications until they were acquired in May 2011 by Publicis Groupe, Aptaris until they were acquired by dunnhumby in May 2018, GoodXChange until they were acquired by 5th Element in June 2018, OpenSky until they were acquired by Alibaba in September 2018, and have been an Advisor to Brand Innovators, Dynamic Signal, Photofy, SheSpeaks, Spaceback, and many more. See his LinkedIn Profile here… LinkedIn.com/in/TedRubin.
A native New Yorker, I hold a Bachelor of Science in Business and Economics from Cornell University. I am divorced, have two daughters who recently graduated from Law School and Grad School at Harvard Law School and Columbia University, and I live in Pompano Beach, FL.
I feels very strongly that… Relationships are like muscle tissue; the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become. AND that A Network gives you Reach, but a Community gives you Power! There is #NoLetUp! in life.
Return on Relationship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDPJcdqjTK0
The Dad That Doesn’t Quit: https://www.facebook.com/591878400/videos/10153898067108401/
How did you build your audience on social media?
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.
In today’s digital world it’s all too easy for us as brands and individuals to let our relationship-building muscles atrophy. We get caught up in a multitasking whirlwind of emails, social updates, text messages, so many different communication platforms, where it’s easy to let a connection or a conversation fall through the cracks. We’re super-connected, yet somehow disconnected at the same time. This puts us at risk of losing the very relationships that help us prosper as companies and people.
It is time to rebuild our one-on-one communication skills and muscles that we’ve forgotten in our rush to new technologies. These skills scale via social because most participate vicariously via the few who interact publicly. BUT don’t let that lead you to believe that having one-on-one conversation are no longer necessary… they are now more important than ever. MAKE THE TIME.
You want to “growth hack,” then build a reputation for genuinely caring, add value with your content and connection, and the growth will come. A Brand is what a business/person does, a Reputation is what people Remember and Share!
Relationships are like muscle tissue… the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become.
Can you tell us about what’s worked well for you in terms of growing your clientele?
Engagement and making meaningful connections has led to personal and brand loyalty for me again, and again, and again.
Transactions, conversions, closing the deal. All good stuff in the grand scheme, but not what we should be focusing on when building sustainable relationships with customers. The problem is that when a transaction is the only goal, there’s little focus on keeping the customer coming back for more. Ten different people who make one-and-done transactions with your business may look the same in a spreadsheet, but one person who makes ten purchases over time is a much better indication that you’re doing something right.
Building that type of loyalty is far more valuable than focusing on transactions, and it requires frequent, meaningful engagement. I like to think of it as engagement to the “nth power,” a mix of marketing and customer service touches that builds lasting appeal.
Building loyalty starts with offering quality beyond the products or services that your business aims to sell. Customers also expect a high level of service, and this means different things to different people. Every interaction with a customer through social media, live chat, your website, or face-to-face conversation is an opportunity to build loyalty. Engagement throughout your relationship with the customer – whether you call it marketing, sales, or customer service – is the key to moving beyond transaction-based thinking. Here are a few of my tips for exponential engagement:
First Impressions – You don’t necessarily have control of how a customer first connects with your business, but there’s plenty you can do to form a positive first impression. Be helpful, present, and welcoming on social channels. Create memorable marketing materials that read less like a blatant sales pitch, and more like an introduction. Make sure that your employees are trained with the right values, no matter where they’ll be connecting with customers.
A Personal Touch – Data still plays an important role in engagement, especially if you do a lot of business online. However, if you plan to recommend products or services based on a customer’s purchasing patterns, be sure that you’re offering items that customer might actually want to purchase. Sending a broad, non-personalized list of email offers every week is unlikely to move the needle in a positive direction.
Checking In – Transaction-based thinking says the job is done once the money changes hands. Relationship-based thinking says you might want to check in to see whether the customer is enjoying their purchase, and find out if there’s anything you can do to help them make the most of it. This is especially true for major purchases, but it’s a great way to stay top-of-mind no matter what. If you want loyal customers, show them some loyalty from your end, too.
Resolving Challenges – No relationship is immune to the occasional speed bump, but even challenges are an opportunity to build loyalty as long as they’re not too frequent. If a customer has a dispute, hear them out and treat them like a human being. Finding an acceptable, amicable solution builds loyalty in the long run.
Social Fun – It’s not all about doing business. Social media is also a great place to connect with your customers on a personal level. Running photo contests, sharing content from customers, and getting involved in the conversation around your business helps keep customer loyalty strong. Just don’t get too caught up in trends. Being authentic is the name of the game.
Leave a Legacy – On the business side of social, every time you interact in public places on social sites, you leave a bit of evidence about why a customer should (or shouldn’t) be loyal to your business. If your Facebook feed is filled with friendly conversation, promptly answered questions, and quality customer service, you get a head start on building loyalty with anyone who’s paying attention.
No matter how a customer connects with your business, there will always be opportunities to build loyalty if you’re willing to take the extra step and make the effort. These tips for extra engagement are just the tip of the iceberg. If you think about your customers and your relationship with them, you can come up with many more common-sense opportunities to have dialogue. Place your priority on the customer, and look for your own creative ways to build on positive relationships over time. Engagementⁿ may rely on today’s tech, but successful businesses have been using the same basic template for generations.
I cannot say it enough times… A Brand is what a business/person does, a Reputation is what people Remember and Share!
- Website: TedRubin.com
- Instagram: Instagram.com/TedRubin
- Facebook: Facebook.com/TedRubin
- Linkedin: LinkedIn.com/in/TedRubin
- Twitter: Twitter.com/TedRubin
- Youtube: Youtube.com/TedRubinUSA
- Other: ReturnOnRelationship.com PrevailingPath.com RetailRelevancy.com TikTok.com/@tedrubin Facebook.com/TedRubinPage
All images ar mine to use.