In our Fifth episode of 15 Minutes With we’re talking to Ted Rubin. Ted is a leading Social Media Marketing Strategist, International Keynote Speaker, Business Advisor and Author.

In March 2009 he started using and evangelizing the term ROR, Return on Relationship, hashtag #RonR… a concept he believes is the cornerstone for building an engaged multi-million member database and engaged community, many of whom are vocal advocates for the brand.

Many people in the social media world know Ted Rubin for his enthusiastic, energetic & undeniably personal connection to people. He has been listed as #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 his philosophy… It’s All About Relationships!

We ask Ted what exactly is Return on Relationship and why is it so important for your business.


Graham  00:14

On this episode of 15 Minutes With we’re speaking with Ted Rubin. Ted is a leading social media marketing strategist, international keynote speaker, business advisor and author. In March 2009, he started using an evangelising, the term ROR, or return on relationship. A concept he believes is the cornerstone for building an engaged multi million member database and engaged community, many of whom are vocal advocates for the brand. We asked him what exactly is return on relationship? And why is it so important for businesses in the digital age?

Shelley  00:43

Ted, welcome to the podcast.

Ted Rubin  00:46

Shelly, thank you so much for having me, I’m so happy to join you guys.

Shelley  00:49

A pleasure to have you. And so you are the author of Return on Relationship and we would love to really get started on that and understand what you refer to as currency, measuring return on relationship as a currency,

Ted Rubin  01:02

I was working for a company called Elf Cosmetics. And it was in the early days, very early days of social media 2008. And the way this came about, I’m giving you a little more background here, just so you understand the whole return relationship thing was that I was building the social platforms, I immediately recognised that they were more about conversation than about marketing. I mean, I had an email list, we had banner ads, we had all the things we could be doing. But the owners of the company was so desperate to market to these people that they became my little domain and I protected it, not yet not ready, and they kept pushing. And finally, one day when they push hard enough, they said, why can’t we market to these people yet, and I just blurted it out, I said, because it’s not just about return on investment right now. Because in the end, it’s about return on investment. It’s about return on relationship. Simply put, it’s the value that’s accrued by a personal brand, due to nurturing a relationship. ROI is simple dollars and cents. ROR is the value I like to say both perceived and real, that will accrue over time through connection, trust, loyalty, recommendations and sharing. And I worked really hard to use it to define and educate companies, brands and people about the importance of creating authentic connection, interaction and engagement. Just to wrap up what I just said about return relationship. I like to say that short and simple. If you’re only focused on the money, you risk completely overlooking the people don’t make that mistake. If you don’t know who your people are, and invest in those relationships, you might as well toss your branding, marketing and prospecting money down the drain. I think you mentioned this earlier, when we were talking, I like to say the relations on the most important currency, if you don’t honour them, you’re not going to be able to increase your ROI by wrapping ROR around it.

Graham  02:46

Before we came on, we watched your video on your website, and you talk about brands no longer being owned by brands and brand being owned by the consumer. And I think it’s a really important point that kind of goes along the side of that because there is a drive for businesses that as soon as they’ve got access to someone who they presume wants to listen, the first thing they do is try and force a message down their throat. And it’s generally sent up a sales message. And I don’t think brands have quite understood that they’re not in control of the conversation anymore. Relationships can be broken just as quickly as they can be built.

Ted Rubin  03:19

100%. What’s different now is that we pick and choose where we see ads, how we engage with brands, it’s incredibly easy to turn off advertising. to just ignore it. The problem is a brand has their marketing budget, they reach out, they get Graham’s attention, they get his email address or some other way to communicate with them. And then they start banging him over the head again and again and again. Instead of recognising that they’ve got to continue nurturing this relationship the same way we do when we meet friends, or we meet people in business or anything else. We don’t just, by the way, a lot of people just meet us and move on. And then six months later or a day later, a favour is asked instead of building that relationship, doing a little quid pro quo, doing something for someone without expectation of anything directly in return. And then knowing you’re building a bank of returns, and brands need to understand that they can do the same thing. It’s so easy for us to find a replacement. I am an Allbirds customer, you guys familiar with it? Okay, I love Allbirds. But if they mess up, there’s 20 other choices out there. And one of the reasons I don’t make that move is they don’t do that to me. I feel that they do it really, really well. They provided me with an app, they made it really easy for me to find my content. You know what I’ve already bought in the past order something in the future. I periodically get an email when they have a new product, when something cool is coming out. I might get something that they have a special offer around the holidays because they know I might want to introduce my friends or family to the brand, but they don’t constantly bang me over the head. Whereas I have other brands that I purchase things from and every day I get something from them and every day they’re asking me to buy and I’m already a customer and how many pairs of sneakers do I need? I don’t want to be retargeted. No human being likes being retargeted. No one wants to walk out of the store and be offered a coupon to walk back in. And if they do, you’re training them to get that coupon. My business partner likes to say that they used to be brand loyal to pizza, but not anymore. His wife just wants to get the pizza from wherever they have the coupon from. I mean, I don’t know about you. But I know a lot of people that I don’t necessarily have time for it, but I do it sometimes. Go in, fill up your shopping cart, abandon it, you will immediately get something offering you a discount on the same thing you would just about to buy. Now Amazon doesn’t do it, because they offer a lot more value. And they know their customers keep coming back, because they’re so good to them. Because they really pay attention. And they deliver on time, and they take things back, but you go to, you abandon your cart, they’re going to come after you.

Shelley  05:44

What I love Ted is the comparison between personal relationships and how those are nurtured, and professional relationships or relationships with the customer. Because it makes it easy for people to understand, right? Instead of thinking with this brand hat on, they can actually go oh, well, it’s just the same as in real life, because it is still real life, what you said with all of those vouchers and coupon examples, what’s also really interesting is not measuring the damage that we’re doing with all of this kind of advertising that we’re just bombarding people with, how would you say when discussing with business leaders, or empowering marketing, or any department for that matter, to speak to their leaders to encourage them to take this philosophy on board? How would you do that?

Ted Rubin  06:25

I try to get them to look at it from their own perspective to be a customer of their own brand. You know, I look at a CMOS and I go, Are you subscribing to your own emails? Are you visiting your brand and then surfing the web anonymously, not as your CMO not as who you are. And when I say anonymously, I don’t mean to hide it from your employees? I mean, to hide it from the from the tracking that’s going on in the web? Are you experiencing what your customers are experiencing? I mean, I look at marketers all the time, and ask them to behave more like customers, to think more like a customer. What works for you, you know, how do you feel about bright red subject lines with total nonsense that really isn’t about how do you feel when you get to an offer? That is not what you saw in the subject line of your email, like, um, it’s immediate delete and sometimes I’ll get, look, I’m a human, I’ll get drawn into clicking on something because it’s an interesting subject line or something like that. Then I get there and I go, okay, they suckered me, I’m out, you know, and then I’m not just out, which is the way they look at it, they look at it as I’m just out, okay. He went in, he clicked through, he left there, I’m looking, I’m not only out I’m annoyed. And I’m that less likely to click on their links again in the future. And look, that was a really intrinsic part of email marketing in the past, I like to look at them and say, start thinking about instead of email marketing, think about it as me mail marketing, thinking about about me, what are you delivering to the consumer, you’re the consumer. Brands experiment and a lot of brands are experimenting more than more, but a line that my business partner I like to use, and it’s a big part of our book, Retail Relevancy is that simplicity is the new eDLP. eDLP is everyday low pricing, which is what Walmart made famous, we’re not going to give you sales, we’re always gonna have the best prices. What we’re saying now is simplicity is the new eDLP. Make it easy for them, and they will buy from you again and again and again. And what is easy for the mean, it doesn’t just mean checking out easily. It means make it easy that they don’t have to go looking elsewhere and make it easy that when they want to return, make it simple, that when they have a customer service issue, they don’t have to go searching the site to figure out how to speak to somebody or what to click on. I like to say, you know, people say oh my god, Amazon’s made it impossible for other brands to grow and exist. I think in some ways, it’s just the opposite. I agreed with that for a while. But right now, Amazon has led a pathway to new brands to understand how important ease of use and simplicity is and how important good customer experience is. Mostly, if I’m buying just a general product, I go to Amazon, if I see it in another place, I try to find it in Amazon because it makes my life easy. But I also work with a lot of small upcoming brands. I’m vegan, I get vegan meals from a company called Veestro. I’m going to exercise and I want to hydrate myself without all the garbage that goes into things like Gatorade. So I have a company called Hydrant. Both of these companies, and there’s many more than I use are like monthly subscriptions. But if they make it incredibly easy to change your order, to put off your order, to delay your order. They email me every week before my order with four days ahead of time to say we’re about to ship you we will be doing it next week. If you want to change that. Here’s a link coming right now. I go in and click the link, there’s a calendar, I pick a date I move. Now they’ve learned that from Amazon, they learn these ease of use things. They’ve learned these things. And then Amazon has also provided a platform with their cloud based services with other things to allow other companies to do these things. So yes, they’ve made it harder for certain companies, but I believe they lead the way for a lot of retailers by showing people how important a relationship is. Do you never see an ad from Amazon saying we care about you. No, they care about you. They’re not saying it, they’re doing it. Now granted you again There’s a lot of naysayers. Well, they only care about because they’re making money, fine. But the reason they’re making money is because they do such a good job nurturing the relationship, taking things back, fixing things for you, when there’s a problem. As we all know, there’s a lot of third party sellers on Amazon, I’ve even when it says no returns, I’ve had Amazon take back a product for me, because they look at the lifetime value of me as a customer that I’ve been a customer since 1995. And then every time they raise my prime, I don’t even blink, I just pay it and they see how much I buy from them. And of course, they have analysts that are saying, well, this is a single guy living at home looks like he’s buying a lot of stuff from us, probably the majority of the things we’re going to do right by him. And yes, a lot of that is data. But like I like another thing I talk about is you can’t just rely on the data, you’ve got to apply judgement to your data.

Graham  10:47

And it’s really interesting, because one of our most read articles that we’ve written as a business ourselves is actually titled Convenience is key for customer satisfaction. And it is continuously in the top five pages of our website that are visited. So the hope is the message is getting out there and people are understanding this. And businesses are not just looking at it, but they’re doing something with it. And I think the other thing that is implicit in kind of everything you’ve said, is around the understanding of trust, because the businesses that are getting it right are taking the time to build the trust from their  customers so that when something goes wrong, there’s no issues because implicitly we trust these people, and we know it will be dealt with. And we know that if they’re going to send us a message, there’s going to be some sort of value exchange as a result of it, which is why content is king. And the brands that are getting it wrong are taking trust and setting it on fire at the first opportunity they have for a quick return in the immediate

Ted Rubin  11:41

one of my favourite responses to these kinds of questions. When people ask me, what’s the ROI? What’s the ROI of ROR? What’s the ROI of social is, I like to look back at them and ask them what’s the ROI of trust and what’s the ROI of loyalty. And both of those are the ultimate in anything that you’re building as a business. Trust, because that means people are happy to do business with you and we’ll do it on a regular basis. Loyalty means they’re going to stand by you when things aren’t perfect or when you need someone and I like I also tell brands in social media, when you make a mistake or somebody’s criticising you, I always take a breath and wait a moment. Because usually if I’m getting criticised unfairly, one of my followers will come in and they will stand up for me. So I don’t even have to say it. And I would say that happens 90% of the time, I believe this, brands tend to jump right in, they’re so quick to defend themselves. They’re so worried about something. But again, if you engage with people, if you answer their questions, if you’re there for them, if you build that relationship, that return on relationship will come back as insurance for your brand.

Shelley  12:40

It’s honest engagement, isn’t it? It’s not defensive engagement. And I think people are so clued up to that they can see it instantly is whether a brand is genuine or not. And I think a lot of that stems from, like you said, the trust that’s been built or not built over all of the communications and all of the experiences that have passed and whatever that history might be.

Ted Rubin  12:58

Right, and I mean, again, it’s amazing what you can get for an apology or not even an apology, don’t you have to go that far, I made a mistake, okay, for someone that can’t say I’m sorry, they can, a lot of them can say I made a mistake, or I misread that, or I didn’t get it properly, I misjudged the situation. But unfortunately, very many are afraid to do that. And the brands that can get incredible advocacy from their customers because of that, and especially if they fix a situation that didn’t work out, you know, or or even you made the mistake, but we’re the brand, we’re gonna stand behind it, we’re going to help we know you ordered the wrong thing. You know, Amazon even orders now one of their choices, I ordered the wrong thing, you can still send it back, you know, those things are just really important. And I think it’s what’s allowed all of this digital sales and marketing and online sales and E commerce to happen because of that.

Shelley  13:47


Graham  13:48

And if there was one thing that you could kind of give to the people listening to this podcast as a starting point, or a takeaway to kind of hit the road and start moving in this direction, what is that thing?

Ted Rubin  14:00

I’m going to give you two,

Graham  14:01


Ted Rubin  14:02

they kind of relate to each other. So something that’s real simple, easy to take away and keep in your head is that relationships are like muscle tissue, the more you engage them, the stronger and more valuable they become. And then number two is a network gives you reach, and that’s your outreach, your email list, you get that network, you get a lot of people but a community gives you power. Networks connect, communities care. And when you build a community around your brand, you’re going to exponentially get the value of that return on relationship because the people will be there to support you and support each other. And then if just some some immediate things that people can do is that I think people I think brands think it’s too hard to communicate with customers. It takes too much effort. I think brands need to start empowering their employees to reach out and connect with people to stop worrying about are they going to say the wrong thing? Are they going to answer the wrong thing, you know, train them, train them on how to engage with people without necessarily saying no, or answering a question the wrong way. Just people want to be heard. And when they feel like they’re saying somebody’s there listening to them as simple as I hear you. And let me look into that. And I’d like to talk to my manager and get back to you. I mean, there’s so many ways to do this where you don’t have to give an answer, of course, then you do have to get back to the problem is that happens, and then you never hear back. But if you again, it’s the same thing, when I get put on hold by certain brands, or I’m on a chat, and they say, give me a few minutes, I’m gonna come back there, I know, they’re gonna come back, I know that if I wait there, I’m gonna get some value out of that. They’re training me to have patience with them. And I’ll get value out of that. So I just think companies need to start empowering their employees and allowing them to power the brand.

Shelley  15:37

Ted, it has been amazing talking to you. Thank you so so much for your time. I know that everybody listening, there are going to be loads of questions off the back of this. So I’m sure in future we’re gonna have to have you back to do another episode, but it has been an absolute pleasure.

Graham  15:49

That was Ted Rubin, social marketing strategist, international keynote speaker, business advisor and author. Treating the relationships we have with our customers like we do with those in our personal life is key to building trust and loyalty. Following that with putting ourselves in their shoes and taking a look at our marketing messages ensures we’re not eroding the trust we worked so hard to create and to continue to drive loyalty and remove the need for customers to look elsewhere, we need to ensure we are creating experiences built on convenience and ease of use. As Ted put it, Simplicity is the new everyday low pricing. Thanks for listening to this episode of 15 minutes with and we look forward to having you along on the next one.

More About Ted

His books are as follows: Return on Relationship 2013, How to Look People in the Eye Digitally 2015, The Age of Influence 2017, and the recently released Retail Relevancy, written along with business partner and Retail Thought Leader John Andrews. Learn more about Ted at, and

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