Why relationship is the new currency for marketing

Popular global CMO, Ted Rubin, outlines the 'return on relationship' marketers need to achieve in the the age of social media and digital interaction during ADMA Global Forum

Relationship is the new currency for marketers looking to build success in an age where consumers control the brand, according to one of the world’s most followed CMOs, Ted Rubin.

Speaking at the recent Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) Global Forum in Sydney, the chief social marketing officer at Collective Bias said marketers today must “stop being lazy” and relying on annual marketing cycles, and instead build dynamic, ongoing relationships with consumers based on authenticity and trust.

“Relationships have always been at the heart of our business, but what’s different today is that you can scale these relationships from your bedroom thanks to social media platforms and digital communication,” Rubin told the audience.

One big mistake marketers make is to view social media followers as an audience. For Rubin, every follower is an asset that needs to be nurtured, and a relationship that must continually evolve.

Video: ADMA Global Forum 2013 round-up

“As marketers, we are used to broadcasting and speaking in one direction, and we have a real fear of communication,” he said. In addition, marketers continue to do what they did last year, rather than embrace new ways of connection and experiment, he claimed. “If you don’t change your framework, the future will be very difficult. We have to do things very differently. We don’t control our brands anymore; consumers do.”

Rubin advocated reaching out to people on social channels one by one, and calling them by name.

“Communicate with those that want to communicate with you individually and allow them to share that communication,” he explained. “I engage with those that want to engage with me and let the rest participate vicariously. I want the listeners - they are the people hearing what I want to say.

“Most people on social platforms are not participating. Twitter is actually the third-largest search engine in the world behind YouTube and Google, because people are going there for information. I want those people to pay attention.

“What we have to realise is the social platforms are facilitators of our relationships, not the relationship itself.”

For Rubin, social media drives engagement, engagement drives loyalty and loyalty drives incremental sales. He coined this approach ‘return on relationship’ (ROR).

To build relationships, the first and most important step is trust, Rubin said. This wasn’t achievable before the introduction of social platforms that gave us the ability to reach more people immediately, he claimed.

“If you focus on interaction, consistency, being true to your word, authenticity and being genuine, it will pay off,” he said. “You have to figure out a way to tap into those moments in time where we can connect with consumers.”

Rubin also advised marketers to focus on reputation, not ranking. “A brand is about what you do, reputation is what you remember,” he said.

“Think connection, not network. A network is a series of nodes – you’re down at one end, connected to one person but not connected to the people on top. You want to build communities for your companies.”

Rubin’s steps towards building better marketing relationships

  • Start by listening. Read what people are writing, look at the people who like your Facebook page and go to their pages to find out more. CEOs and CMOs also need to get on platforms and experience them. “You have to understand them for this to work,” Rubin said.

  • Make it about them. You have to learn who they are and know the people in your audience. “Don’t assume you know all about the passions of your consumers,” he added.

  • Ask ‘how can I serve you?' For Rubin, it’s about tapping into the traditional ‘small establishment mindset’ where you get to know people one by one. “Relationships are like muscle tissue; the more you engage them, the stronger and more valuable they become,” he claimed.

  • Aim for ongoing engagement; don’t just focus on who ‘likes’ you then walk away. “Starting a conversation on social and then just walking away when someone else comes along is like hanging up in the middle of the phone conversation,” he said.

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