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Ted Rubin’s Return on Relationship: a roadmap for online reputation management?

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by Jennifer Bridges  @JenBridgesRD

Ted Rubin speaking to an audience.

Marketing strategist Ted Rubin is well known for a business philosophy he calls Return on Relationship (ROR), and as it turns out, ROR and online reputation management (ORM) have a lot in common.

Ted defines ROR as “the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through connection, loyalty, recommendations, and sharing.” Add the Internet to that equation and you get a pretty good description of why online reputation management is so important to businesses.

Ted believes businesses should measure ROR in addition to ROI. While ROI might measure short-term profitability, ROR is a better predictor of long-term success. Similarly, your business’s reputation—increasingly defined online—is vital to ensuring growth and profitability.

As such, you can leverage Ted Rubin’s 12 ROR principles to develop a roadmap for effective online reputation management. Below, we’ll show you how to get started.

1. Listen

“If you want to be heard above the growing social media ‘noise’ you need to first listen to your consumers so when you do speak, you get it right.” – Ted Rubin

When individuals feel that a business is really listening, they trust it more. Therefore, you should be actively gathering customer feedback online:

  • Set up a Google Alert: Go to Google Alerts and set up alerts for your company name, company name plus “reviews”, your product names, and key terms in your industry. Google will then send you an email whenever someone mentions these terms online.
  • Use social listening tools: Another great way to find out what people are saying about your brand outside of the search results is to use tools like Mention, SocialMention, ReputationDefender Local, and Buzzsumo. These give you visibility into social media and online reviews.
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2. Hear

“… to build relationships you need to go well beyond data gathering and actually hear, and react to what your consumers are sharing.” – Ted Rubin

Have a strategy in place to respond to social feedback and online reviews: To prove to your customers that you understand what they are telling you, you need to respond appropriately. Making sure each response is timely and thoughtful is also an easy way to turn a negative review into a positive one.

3. Know the people in your audience

“Short and simple: if you are only focused on the money, you risk completely overlooking the people. Don’t make that mistake!” – Ted Rubin

Routinely audit key engagement metrics in your analytics data: You need to understand your target audience to build connection and trust. Therefore, you’ll need to do some research, and a great place to start is on your website. Bounce rate, time on page, and behavior flow are some of the metrics you should be watching regularly for any signs of mismatches between what your customers are looking for and what you’re providing them.

4. Make it be about THEM

“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!” – Ted Rubin

Conduct online surveys: Make it easier for customers to share their thoughts with you via online surveys. You can use the information you gather to find out where your customers are encountering problems when dealing with your brand. Is your website too complicated? Is your marketing messaging inconsistent? Once you identify what customers are looking for, then you can make the appropriate changes to things like price, convenience, functionality, compatibility, and customer experience.

5. Be consumer oriented

“We marketers like to think that social media, and face-to-face interaction, is primarily a set of tools for our marketing purposes, but in reality, social media is also a strong set of tools our consumers use to share and influence opinion about our brand.” – Ted Rubin

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Actively solicit online reviews:  Because the consumer’s voice is the core of your online reputation, you need to amplify it by actively soliciting online reviews. Use these reviews to uncover valuable insights into what works and doesn’t work for your customers. If you’d like to simplify this process, you can try our ReputationDefender Local product, which lets you send “please review us” requests by text message, email, or an iOS/Android kiosk. Just remember to follow some common-sense guidelines. Don’t offer compensation for reviews, as this is unethical, and in some cases, illegal.


6. Ask “How can I serve you?”

“Taking the ‘ME’ mentality one step further, when we are advertising instead of building relationships, we are focused on what our consumers can give us instead of how we can best serve them.” – Ted Rubin

Serve your customers by providing free, useful resources that will help them in some way:

  • Share your expertise: Establishing yourself as an authority is a great way to boost your reputation as well as gain new customers. For example, say you run a painting company. You could start by answering industry-related questions on Quora and Reddit. Alternatively, you could write an ebook about painting preparation shortcuts, post step-by-step painting instruction materials on your website, and/or share your painting tips as a guest on a home-improvement podcast.
  • Create useful content: The content you create has to have a real value to the consumer. It can’t just be a sales pitch wrapped in fluff. People know when they are being sold to.

7. Aim for ongoing engagement

“Your consumers will recognize in a heartbeat if you are simply trying to get something from them – and they will not stick around.” -Ted Rubin

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An occasional Facebook post or quick Tweet won’t affect your online reputation. Brands must constantly reach out to customers—offering informative content, asking questions, and providing venues for discussion and feedback.

  • Publish a blog: You can write about industry trends or kick-start conversations on topics that are important to your customers. This not only lets you steer the conversations that are taking place about your brand online, but it also sets your brand apart from its competitors. (Our signature ReputationDefender service can help you accomplish these goals by creating and strategically publishing content about your brand.)
  • Be active on social media: While you don’t need to post something every day, you should at least post once per week to keep your brand on the minds of consumers.
  • Send out a newsletter: Some things to include are customer reviews, interesting infographics, top-10 lists, how-to articles, and upcoming events.

8. Be authentic: Authenticity will set your brand apart from the rest in today’s highly competitive market

“It used to be that a whitewashed image was the way to get consumers’ notice and buy-in (literally)…but now, if brands filter out any and all slight imperfections, consumers quickly get wary.” – Ted Rubin

Own up to your mistakes on social media: People don’t expect companies to be perfect; they just want you to be honest. Businesses that can do this will build trust, which is the foundation of reputation. By revealing the naked truth about your products, you prove to your customers that you aren’t trying to cover up any flaws or defects. Not convinced? This approach certainly worked well for KFC. Yes, it’s a scary step to take, but once you commit to transparency, you’ll see that it pays dividends.


9. Focus on LESS fabrication, MORE facilitation

“In other words, don’t waste resources whitewashing your brand. Put your resources instead into giving Advocates the tools to tell their truth about your brand…because that is what consumers trust and what they trust, they will buy.” -Ted Rubin

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Leverage the power of reviews to increase customers’ trust in your brand:

  • Encourage positive reviews instead of hiding negative ones: 85 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. As such, sharing positive reviews increases trust in your products. It’s also a great way to encourage additional positive feedback.
  • Use negative feedback to fix problems in your business: If you find any patterns in your negative reviews, take the time to investigate your business processes to see if you can alleviate any pain points.

10. Be real: In today’s market, REAL trumps PERFECT because real is what creates TRUST

“Give consumers ongoing chances to interact with you and your brand, so they can see that you always tell the truth.” – Ted Rubin

Use negative feedback to show you care about your customers.

  • Quickly and publicly acknowledge your mistakes and offer a satisfactory resolution: Make sure that you own up to any errors on your part and offer a resolution. This will not only satisfy your current customers, but it will also speak volumes to potential customers about how much you value them.
  • Tell your side of the story: If you encounter a review that is simply not factual, explain what actually happened in a calm and professional manner. By providing a voice of reason, you can effectively negate the impact of the review.

11. Integrate customer service with your social presence

“Make sure your social team and customer service team are on the same page and communicate regularly and easily.” – Ted Rubin

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If customer complaints fall between the cracks and go unanswered, customers will perceive that you don’t value them, which can significantly impact your online reputation.

  • Assign key stakeholders and responsibilities: This ensures that someone is monitoring every social media channel for customer support issues. Document specific social media procedures for each department to eliminate confusion about which group owns what task. This way, no communication goes unanswered, which reduces the risk of incurring bad reviews.
  • Invest in social media management software: This increases customer satisfaction, which leads to positive word of mouth. Our ReputationDefender Local service lets you manage all of your social media accounts in one place. You can schedule and publish content to one or multiple platforms and engage with customers individually or in broadcast posts.
Source: Rose Kemps

12. Focus on the relationship before the sale

“When a brand adopts the marketing philosophy that it is all about relationships, they automatically begin paying more attention to the consumer needs and preferences to learn who the consumers really are. Consumers who feel valued by a brand will in turn assign value to the brand by buying the product/service and passing recommendations on to their networks. The sale then becomes a natural part of the ROR instead of a ‘hard sell’ effort.” – Ted Rubin

Just like ROR, ORM is cyclical in nature: By following the suggestions listed in this article, you can keep your online reputation in a virtuous cycle, highlighting the positive and downplaying the negative.