We are at an incredibly important time in the evolution of “relationship commerce” (buying from people you know and trust).  This is the time when our actions will decide if “relationship commerce” ends up as simply a phrase on a list of buzz words, or becomes an effective – and meaningful — way of doing business worldwide.

The deciding factor will be whether or not enough brands and marketers are willing to go beyond just talking about relationships … to actually building and sustaining those relationships with consumers, peers, employees, and others in their social graph.

How many of us believe in the business value of relationships enough to put in the effort required to turn a one-time contact into an ongoing meaningful interaction?  How many of us even believe that “business value” and “authentic relationships” even belong in the same sentence??  I do, because I have seen this play out time and time again.

As CMO of e.l.f. Cosmetics (EyesLipsFace.com) from 2008-2010, I pioneered a program to develop and utilize blogger relationships to exponentially increase and sustain the e.l.f. brand visibility, and because of the blogger energy, talent, and networks,  the program provided the e.l.f. brand with a unique approach toward not just beauty, but also accessibility, interactivity and consumer engagement.   At that time, the jury was still out on the business value of social media, but the success of this program confirmed for e.l.f. (and a few other previously skeptical businesses) that building relationships with consumers is absolutely of value to the company.

That e.l.f. experience is what formed my ROR (Return on Relationship™) philosophy, and with each conference I attend, each new interaction I have with bloggers, and all the stories I hear and see about the impact of social media in influencing purchases… I see confirmation that it really is all about relationships.    The key to continued success for any brand/retailer/etailer is building relationships and identifying with the customer.

So how do we create those relationships quickly so we can move on to other things?  WE CAN’T.  And if we WANT to move on quickly away from a consumer relationship focus, we might as well not even make the effort.  Relationships take time and effort to build (believe me, with over 60,000 Twitter followers and almost 3,000 Facebook friends, I know!), and we must have a real desire to commit our resources to building and sustaining those consumer relationships.  That’s the only way you will see a high ROR.

To build relationships online, you (as a brand or individual) have to offer value in return.  How?  Following are my top 3 focus areas for building relationships online:

1.     Relevance:

No matter how perfectly or brilliantly worded your message is, it will not make an impact if the content itself doesn’t matter to (isn’t relevant to) your audience.  First think about and first address what matters most to your audience.  Give them a platform to show you what they need, want, are interested in, and expect.  Whatever matters most to them should become what matters most to you!

2.     Engagement:

Start by asking (relevant) questions and proposing (relevant) ideas, and you can begin to engage your followers in such a way to give them the ability and reason to respond. Then when they do respond, interact with them to solidify your relationship, lest it fade away. Directly acknowledge their response, ask follow-up questions and share their insights with others. Follow me on Twitter (@tedrubin) and you’ll see what I mean. The more responsive you are to your audience, the more responsive they’ll be to you. That’s the kind of engagement that builds and sustains relationships.

3.     Service:

Ask your consumers “How can I serve you?” – and mean it!  They will recognize in a heartbeat if you are simply trying to get something from them – and they will not stick around.  I’m not saying you aren’t allowed to want anything from your consumers, simply that there must be a give to go along with every take.   If you truly want to make an impact, aim to always put more energy and attention in your “give” column than in your “take” column.  It will pay off.  It will give you a high Return on Relationship

Consider the impact brands and marketers can have on the global economy … and international relations … if we all commit to seeing each consumer as an opportunity for relationship rather than just an opportunity for a sale.  The sale will be a natural outcome of many of the relationships, and in the process, true interconnections can be formed in a way that brings together great minds, great ideas, and great products.  The possibilities for exponential Return on Relationship™ is endless!

Don’t let “relationship currency” fade into a buzzword list – commit your resources to building consumer relationships as you Think Holistic, Act Personal.


Originally posted at Think Holistic Act Personal

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