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Ep. 151 – Ted Rubin: It’s always about relationships. For me, it will always be about Return on Relationships

Ted Rubin Headshot

Ted Rubin is a leading Social Marketing Strategist, Photofy CMO… Author/Speaker/Provocateur. Ted was Chief Social Marketing Officer of Collective Bias (an early entrant to the content and influencer marketing space) … and a principal shareholder until the November 2016 7-figure acquisition by Inmar.

In the words of Collective Bias Co-Founder, and content marketing thought-leader, John Andrews… “Ted, you were the vision, heartbeat and soul of Collective Bias, thank you for building a great company. From innovations like cbSocially to the amazing relationships you built with the blogger/ influencer community, clients and employees, you drove the epic growth.”

His book, Return on Relationship, was released January 2013, How To Look People in the Eye Digitally was released January 2105 and The Age of Influence… Selling to the Digitally Connected Customer was released in May 2017.

Ted is currently writing his latest book, along with business partner and Retail Thought Leader John Andrews titled Retail Relevancy.

Return on Relationship, ROR, #RonR, a term he started using and evangelizing in March 2009, is the basis of Ted’s philosophy… It’s All About Relationships!



Most passionate about

  • To answer your question, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not really sure where I’m heading. Everybody who tells you that they know this is just fooling themselves. Everything we are working on today evolves as we go. Certainly, we have goals, but I always need to realign those goals.
  • Right now, I spend most of my time involved with a company called Photofy. It’s a content market company. Once again, my business partner brought me there. We met 11 years ago when John was just ready to leave Walmart, He managed their emerging content and I still worked at e.l.f. Cosmetics. We both believed in those who were the influencers of the time, which were the bloggers, mainly because bloggers created content.
  • John started a business called CollectiveBios, a content creation company that used a community of bloggers to create storytelling content at scale for brands. And I joined John.
  • Brands weren’t necessarily ready for it. They weren’t prepared to let other people create content for them. It took a lot of “banging on doors,” a lot of patience and resilience, and a lot of hard work to break down those doors. Luckily, we succeeded in doing that and built a company that still exists. It was acquired in 2016 for a significant amount of money, and I thank John every day for that.
  • Later on, John joined a company called Photofy as CEO. Immediately, I got an email saying, “Oh, and by the way, you are the CMO.” Photofy is a content creating tool. It empowers businesses of all industries to create and share high-quality branded content and to encourage their employees to create and share visual branded content on the fly.

Ted’s career

  • I have been an entrepreneur all of my life but I was very fortunate to approach Seth Godin when he just started his internet company Yoyodyne. I was intrigued by an interview on the radio in which he said that he always needs smart people who can sell anything. I said, “Well, that’s me…!” I started as a salesperson and ended up building the entire sales team to sell a product that was the first click-through online product, when no one knew what that was.
  • So, I was lucky then, but I was also lucky to find John as a partner. A partner is a great match when he either does things that you don’t know how to do or does things that you don’t like to do. John and I are similar in many ways but we are also different and that works well for us.
  • John is more sensitive. He talks a lot with our employees; he inspires and guides them. I don’t speak a lot; I prefer to use the products I’m selling and then people start asking me, “Hi, how did you do that?” or “Can you teach me…” and so on. I prefer to be bought than to sell myself.

Ted’s best advice for entrepreneurs

  • First of all, believe in yourself. Know that when you feel something in your gut, it’s because your brain is talking to you. It’s not only your heart, like people sometimes mistakenly think.
  • All the time, people talk about “data, data, data.” First, you can make data speak to you any way you want. People don’t realize that gut feeling and judgment are what you know after you have already analyzed this data in your brain.
  • You need to listen to people and you need to listen to your customers.
  • Everyone is so busy with who visit my social profile and who retweet or like or share, so they forget to go to their customers’ pages. Each business owner needs to go to 10 customer pages every day and see what they write, what they care about. You have all this data in front of you and, yet, most entrepreneurs and business owners aren’t listening to their customers.

Biggest failure with customers

  • It goes back to the concept of not listening to your customers. Here is something really important. Very often, entrepreneurs who experienced early successes feel invulnerable. Like, “I’ve had an early success, so I’m going to have another success. I’ll leave whatever I do with this business and start a new one. I’ll make a lot of money again.”
  • That was a critical mistake. I didn’t do the research as much as I should. I jumped in thinking that if I did it, I would succeed with it. I saw that some other people hadn’t had success with that but, of course, I assumed that I was smarter than they were and better than them, so I’d do better….
  • I bought a license for a franchise. I didn’t talk with the end consumer because I didn’t sell to the end consumer. It was in the early 90s and I just made a critical error. And I fell down on my face.

Biggest success due to the right customer approach

  • Clearly, if we just look at my timeline and how it affected me in my career, it was Collective Bias. We built a company that became the norm in terms of how companies create content using outside people. It built my reputation and it gave me a huge platform to build my personal brand. The company got acquired, so it set me up for the rest of my life.
  • Probably my best success for building a brand was with e.l.f. Cosmetics. It wasn’t my company and there was no marketing budget. My biggest success was to jump into the unfamiliar space of social media agents and the advice of the board, my managers, my colleagues. For a full year, I didn’t let anyone promote the company. I protected it like it was my child.
  • They asked me, “What about our Return on Investment?” It was then that I created the expression “Return on Relations.” I used my Twitter account, which was then among the leading Twitter accounts. In two years, while I was there, we took the company from $5 million to $50 million in sales. It became one of the largest cosmetics companies in terms of social media. It was the right timing as well, when all the big brands were still afraid of social media.

Most recommended technological tool

  • Well, I’m a bit prejudiced, so I believe that Photofy is the best app. I’m a big fan of Instagram, so I use Photofy with Instagram. The great thing about Instagram is that anyone can create content.
  • More than that, I’m going to tell you about the best app and the best ability you can use. That’s your own ability to build relationships and engage.
  • Here’s the last tool I recommend. In the past, when I spoke on stage, I held my iPhone and asked, “What is that?” The audience said, “It’s an iPhone.” I love to say that it includes a word that nobody uses anymore: “phone.” And when you call somebody, you don’t need to use a happy image or a sad image. You can actually laugh or cry or express your feelings.
  • My challenge to any Reach or Miss listener is, for the next 30 days, to pick up the phone every day, call someone you haven’t spoken to for a long time, and say, “I’m just calling to say hello and to see if there is anything I can do to support you.” I promise you, you’ll find a remarkable change in your relationships with people at the end of this month.

Ted’s key success factor

  • I’m going to go back to what I started with. It’s always about relationships. For me, it will always be about Return on Relationships.

Ted’s Mountain

Because we believe that the best way for entrepreneurs to get fast, big, and sustainable success is by leading your (new) market category, and the entire entrepreneurial journey reminds me of mountaineering, or conquering a mountain, I want to ask you: Is there a mountain you dream of climbing or a mountain you have already climbed?

  • My business partner likes to climb mountains. He is a hacker, not a technical climber. He went to the Everest last base camp and wanted me to join him but I didn’t join him on Everest.
  • However, he did take me to climb to the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine. We were there right before they closed the site for the season. It was very cold but he loves climbing and I was there with him. It was a great experience.


From Ted’s album

From Ted's album - Ted Swims


From Ted's album - Speaking


From Ted's album - With his daughters


The best way to connect with Ted

Ted is currently writing his latest book, along with business partner and Retail Thought Leader John Andrews titled Retail Relevancy.   

Return on Relationship, ROR, #RonR, a term he started using and evangelizing in March 2009, is the basis of Ted’s philosophy… It’s All About Relationships!


Ted’s Books

His book, Return on Relationship, was released January 2013, How To Look People in the Eye Digitally was released January 2105 and The Age of Influence… Selling to the Digitally Connected Customer was released in May 2017.

Ted is currently writing his latest book, along with business partner and Retail Thought Leader John Andrews titled Retail Relevancy.

More resources for Entrepreneurs

  1. Don’t Miss – Customer Focus Strategy & Execution: Market Analysis for Fundraising
  2. Hayut Yogev’s Latest postIs the magic that helped entrepreneurs like Jeff Bullas (570K Twitter followers) or Douglas Burdett become leading successful influencers happening again?
  3. Former interview: Dane Maxwell built $2 million companies by starting 16 businesses, and failing with 11


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