What is the ROI of an Awesome Quality Relationship?

Like you, I have a hard time balancing “all the stuff I need to do” as an entrepreneur with things like spending time with my family, detaching from the Internet and screens, and nurturing a creative hobby that doesn’t entail playing Civilization for an afternoon. One of my halfway measures is I take a little time on the weekend to catch up on my reading: I’m three weeks behind on my stack of The Economist, I want to make headway on at least a couple of the books I have going on my Kindle that DON’T have to do with social media, business, or consulting, and catch-up on the handful of truly magnetic posts from my favorite bloggers.

I have mentioned Mark Schaefer a number of times on this blog and have been elaborating on not only his terrific work but also his most recent book, The Content Code. Today I was able to spend a bit more time internalizing his more recent posts and a number of linked articles in conjunction with them. The launching point was a post called “Why it takes so long to achieve social media success” which also included links to a Social Media Examiner research study (2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report) and to an earlier post Mark did called “A different way to think about social media ROI“.  I was so intrigued by this post earlier this week I shared it on my Facebook Business page. Now that I’ve had more time to read both it and the associated material, I’m impressed by a few things:

  • The comparison of social media success to the consistent nurturing of weak relational links. Mark writes that driving rapid response via social media is a mistaken expectation that assumes social media to be the same as advertising. The benefits are different, as are the methods and mechanisms. He mentions that a better analogy would be attending those annual trade shows or networking events (for small businesses, the Chamber of Commerce comes to mind…). At each of these it takes time and consistency to build the relationships that lead to sales.
  • Social media integrated into a strategy and plan can be complex, but that’s the nature of marketing today. Mark mentions conversations he’s had with automotive dealers and how difficult it is to discern for them what it is that brings a customer to Finally Sign On The Line for that new vehicle. First, it can take years, as most of us don’t buy cars that frequently. Secondly, what “tipped the scale,” so to speak? Was it something they saw in an ad in a magazine at the dentist’s office, a spot during an evening TV show, a post on Facebook by dealer or a friend, a newspaper ad, or a recommendation from their brother-in-law? Probably, all of the above over time. This is how social media fits in…it is a legitimate part of the messaging “stew” that leads to a customer relationship and a sale.
  • Content marketing and social media marketing are essentially the same thing. Content makes the social world go ’round. I encourage all my clients to look at the various “content buckets” (H/T [Hat-Tip] to Kim Garst for that concept…) that they create and balance in providing their audience with informative, relevant, useful, entertaining, and shareable posts. Mark calls it “the drip, drip, drip of content.” The importance of these small, consistent things that your audience can consume and share with enthusiasm cannot be underestimated. This builds that relationship and, eventually, loyalty.
  • Measurement is crucial….not easy, and maybe not even quantitative, but crucial. Placing a sale or monetary value on relationship building, which is the strength of social media, is tricky and not possible in many cases. However, that certainly does not mean that it is of no value to your business.  Mark lists a number of tangible benefits that social media relationships have created for his business over the last two years in his ROI post. Here are a few I have experienced in my business:
    • Invited me to speak at an entrepreneurs’ meet-up
    • Hired me to teach a business owners social media class
    • Invitations to speak at a number of chambers of commerce
    • Became a strategic business partner
These are difficult to record on my balance sheet as to their value!  These are qualitative benefits, as they are a measure of relationships, not sales. Yet they are of great value to my business. It would be silly to ignore that, yet most companies do.
Any of these should be considered as you build out your social media and content strategy (and how that fits into your business goals and existing marketing plan…). If you aren’t spending time up-front confirming your goals and measurements, you are at risk of spending a lot of time and resources on processes and even contracts with agencies that will net you little to nothing. If you need help with that critical, high value piece of the puzzle…..well, get help! That’s the kind of service my company delivers and you can’t really afford to invest in a working, long-term relationship-building journey with your customers like this without a seasoned, well-thought out plan.

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