The ROI of Relationships

Marketing podcast with Bob Burg

I suspect the title of this post will raise some eyebrows. I mean relationships aren’t about ROI right? They’re about something much deeper. Something you don’t measure in the same way you might, say, the performance of an ad.


photo credit: Angela Radulescu via photopin cc

Well, maybe. Relationships in business are more important than ever and why not think about the return on the time and assets you invest in building real ones.

Relationships can and do feed the soul and make businesses more human and they are quite often the key to great success.

When we work to build relationships we invest our relevance, our influence and our network – all valuable assets. So, why not think in terms of investing these things wisely.

But, if we were to take this ROI notion to heart, we must measure the right thing.

I visited with Bob Burg, best selling author of Endless Referrals and The Go-Giver for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast and right off the bat Bob offered this, “All things being equal we do business with and refer those we know, like and trust.”

I know you’ve probably heard me utter those same words many times and it is the ultimate game we engage in – building trust. In fact, I would argue that trust and respect are the definitive measures of a strong and healthy relationship.

Today it’s so easy to talk about the relationship we invest in with our thousands of Twitter followers or our Google+ Circles, but can that scale in any manner that feeds the soul or the bank account?

One of Burg’s greatest contributions to the art of relationship building comes from his relentless pursuit of the notion of giving before getting. Healthy relationships are almost always built on our ability to add value.

Value can be something as simple as “you make me feel better” to something much more business like such as “you help us get more from our current assets,” but the equation remains the same – those that enter into relationships and potential relationships seeking to give value earn trust and respect and that’s how you produce a return on your investment.

I believe you can start to measure the ROI of relationships based on how much you give. Think about that for a minute. You can measure the success of a relationship based on what you give rather than what you get.

What if that was the standard by which you measured how you engaged your world?

What if instead of just looking for ways to engage potential buyers you looked for more ways to do things like introduce others, make referrals, express appreciation, share other people’s content, promote someone else’s dream or understand what a person was lacking.

Although it may at times seem counterintuitive, and it can’t be done with an eye on reciprocation, this is how you measure the ROI of relationships.

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  • Dave Crenshaw

    “Healthy relationships are almost always built on our ability to add value.” Very informative post, John!

    • ducttape

      Thanks Dave – I would add mutual respect to that as well.

  • Tom Rochford

    We all have much value to give. The new college graduate has the energy and wild, crazy ideas of how to improve the world. Yet the well experienced citizen has the abundance of many rich and rewarding moments to share and encourage the others to try and make things better.
    Know, like and trust and among these the greatest is trust.

    • ducttape

      Amen to that Tom

  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    “I think the key indicator for wealth is not good grades, work ethic, or IQ. I believe it’s relationships. Ask yourself two questions: How many people do I know, and how much ransom money could I get for each one?” ― Jarod Kintz . Great post.

    • ducttape

      Great quote!

  • Brad Patterson @ Evercontact

    “I believe you can start to measure the ROI of relationships based on how much you give. ” I know that too many people in marketing, and especially social media marketing are focused on what they “get”. A lot to be said for those that understand that it really needs to go both ways.

    Great Post, John, and best to you in 2013!


  • Nicholas Redd

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen a major uptick in business after having put together a few short videos. Thanks!

  • Michelle Colon-Johnson

    Great Post! You always see your ROI when you look at it as investing your time on the other person and providing them value. It is a win win for everyone.

  • Copywriter Matt

    Great post! I completely agree. This is how you have to look at doing business online, which is all about building relationships in a transactional world.

  • Gordon Diver

    Great discussion gentlemen. Thanks for sharing and enlightening. My most rewarding business relationships have generally been spawned by true interest in the other’s problems, goals, shared values and how I can assist them.

    • ducttape

      Thanks Gordon – I think you can make that statement about any relationships

  • Sheetal Sharma

    I agree with you John.We invest a lot in building office relationships- be it time, energy or efforts. Nurturing relationships at workplace go a long way in strengthening the bond between the employer and employee which later leads to constructive collaborative style of working.Every leader at top management must spend sometime in cultivating relationships so that ROI can be reaped in future times.I am happy to be part of such culture at Synechron.

  • Brad Slavin

    I wholeheartedly believe in giving in order to get. One has to give freely and share – but at the same time giving value that the other person can use right then and there.

    For me personally it’s about giving great referrals to my network. I like to make introduction and tell each person the “why” in the introduction. I use a app called (I built it) to connect to my Linkedin network where I have all of my business connections.

    I sort them by occupation and when someone needs a referral or when we are out having coffee and the situation arises – it makes it easy for me to find and introduce. Referrals and warm introductions are just a way of life for me – it has been an amazing way to increase my network and my NET(work) worth.