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Forget ROI During COVID-19 Crisis And Focus on ROR – Return on Relationships

It should be an ongoing business initiative, but for many, it comes to the fore because of a crisis

Photo by Daan Stevens on Unsplash

As marketers, we most often target our attention on the holy grail of businesses worldwide: ROI – Return on Investment. One can’t be blamed for the pursuit, our clients expect good ROI on their spend, so that is what we often aim for as a value-add for using our services. 

We are guilty of the pursuit in our own organisations as well: we expect an ROI from our team members – delivering greater value from their services than what we pay. We expect ROI from our service providers so that we increase profits. It’s a basic capitalist model. No issue, right? However, ROI is not always a sustainable strategy. 

COVID-19, the pandemic that has changed many of our most basic perceptions and shown us just how quickly things can go from mainstream to topsy-turvy to downright chaotic – all in the blink of an eye. So, where is your ROI now? To be quite frank, it doesn’t matter at the moment! 

What matters during these chaotic times where both marketers and consumers are surfing the waves of this strange new world, is something deeper – the human connection that we all have with each other – along with the brands we interact with. 

ROR refers to the cumulative value you get from growing and nurturing strong relationships with your stakeholders. It is not about the immediate benefits garnered today; it is the value of these relationships as they take root and flourish in the future that matters most. As we quickly transition from office to home and find new ways to interact; remember at the heart of everything related to communications is H2H – The Human-to-Human approach. 

ROR – Return on Relationship. Deeper than this though is how to cultivate and retain a solid ROR – Return on Relationship. ROR refers to the cumulative value you get from growing and nurturing strong relationships with your stakeholders. It is not about the immediate benefits garnered today; it is the value of these relationships as they take root and flourish in the future that matters most. 

It should be an ongoing business initiative, but for many, it comes to the fore because of a crisis. That being said, it’s never too late. Your business premises may be closed for a while, but your guiding principles and concern for all stakeholders should never shut down at any time. 

We always say PR is an awareness tool and not a sales tool. So, are you using PR intelligently and intuitively at this time to continue developing your ROR? Are you building relationships with your stakeholders – not for gain now, but for greater resonance with clients later? 

Are you supporting your community through specially-curated messaging to share empathy with them? Are you a pillar of support, or at the least, a guiding light at the end of the tunnel? Are you finding innovative and realistic ways for stakeholder outreach? Even on a more fundamental level, are you still communicating, and are you doing so in a way that embraces and supports community values, showing your corporate citizenship (large or small) as one that is caring and civic-minded; or, are you failing in this endeavour? 

The importance of messaging. Your messaging is important. Remember your stakeholders in times of need; and use your communication initiatives to reach out to them, keep them informed, and offer them support – both emotionally and physically – during this time. Your business doors may be closed for a while, but your guiding principles and concern for all stakeholders should never shut down at any time. 

The bottom line is that we can’t forget or ignore our stakeholders. We needed them before the crisis, we need them now, and we need them after the crisis is over – just as we hope they need us. Therefore, it is essential that we remain vigilant in building lasting relationships with them. And that is where ROR comes in. And during a crisis, you need a solid ROR strategy more than ever before.

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Farrell Tan
Written By

A thinker equipped with the foresight of an inspired builder, Farrell has spearheaded campaigns for PUMA, MEPS, Staedtler, Mayland Properties, Martell, Timberland, and Forever 21 amongst others alongside his specialist agency Orchan Consulting I Asia Sdn Bhd. He is the winner of multiple awards including “Best Overall Performer” at Bates Asia/141 Worldwide in 2003 and Prestige Magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40” award in 2011. You can follow him on Facebook and website.

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