You can’t measure “return on relationship.”

In Agency Biz, Just Thinkin', The Marketing Microscope on May 25, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Attention all you metric mavens out there. In this economy and business climate, I understand a little tendency toward desperation. When you’ve got bills to pay, it’s logical to want an almost instant return on any time, money or other resources you invest in your business. But “logical” isn’t always the same as “smart.”

I just read a wonderful post on the subject by Amber Naslund over at her Brass Tack Thinking blog. She talks about the need to build all your networks before you “need” them. Create and grow your relationships when the only payback is the relationship itself, not a virtual filing cabinet with the many ways the other party can help you get money, business, a job or whatever-  preferably soon.  ROI doesn’t stand for Return on Insensitivity.

Clearly, this discussion is relevant given the attention and special status so many of us marketers are conferring on social media as a marketing channel. We smugly congratulate one another on recognizing the need for two-way dialogue and claim to be comfortable with the fact that we don’t lead many of the discussions any longer. Then someone gets impatient with all that warm, fuzzy stuff and talks about “monetizing” the process. Sigh.

I don’t really think this is about social media at all. Remember the marketing people whose obvious self-absorption and thirst for profit drove you crazy pre-Twitter and even pre-Internet? Those are the same people who are now either driving potential customers away with transparent  efforts in “new media” or staying out of the social media discussion entirely since they don’t have the mindset to accept a payback that isn’t guaranteed to happen at all, let alone quickly. (That doesn’t make it a bad investment – just one they can’t understand.)

Yes, I’m very aware that businesses must manage their resources efficiently and don’t like the idea of paying people to “schmooze” or cyber-surf with no apparent end game. But unless you’re the low-price leader and can get all the business you need by sending out price lists, you’d better learn to deal with it. Whether it’s a potential client, employer, strategic business partner or a potential customer, they’re only human – and if they weren’t important back when you didn’t need them, they won’t have much  use for you when you do.  Marketing is suddenly very human. And I find that a very good thing.

  1. Schmoozing is a good thing…..signed Nigerian scammers

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