The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, Profitable Network using the Social Web
Recently, I interviewed Mari Smith, author of, The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, and Profitable Network Using the Social Web, which released on October 25, 2011.
As a social media marketer or any marketer for that matter; my belief is that Mari’s new book couldn’t be more timely for marketers. It is the opinion of many industry experts that Social Media is set to excel in 2012. Relationship marketing plays a crucial part in significantly increasing your business – an area you don’t want to miss the mark on.
Mari, is a powerhouse of knowledge, in fact, I often call her ‘The First Lady of Facebook.’ As a social media marketer using Facebook, you most likely read her first book; Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day.
Don’t miss the goodies at the end of this article, they are in true Mari style! 1) The video of this interview; 2) Details on how to get a FREE Webinar series from Mari, which starts November 30, 2011; and 3) How to obtain a FREE chapter and of course, how to purchase Mari’s book.
Now, on to Mari! My interview with Mari consisted of five questions, which Mari answered with insightful detail.
Question 1: Define Relationship Marketing and what’s NEW about this method of marketing.
Mari: The simple definition – traditional marketing is transaction based, its focusing on getting you the sell and quite often a one-time sell as for going for “closing the deal – making the sell” whereas, relationship marketing is not focusing on the transactions, traditional is focusing on transaction and relation is focused on relationships.
At some point, as a marketer, you know you are going to generate sales from your relationship marketing, its just that your focus is shifted; so I think of it as being everything that you do really to make your prospects, your market place, your customers aware of your products and services such that you become the “go to” expert, you become the absolute obvious choice in their minds of whatever product or service that you offer.
And then the NEW part, a lot of people may not realize this or be aware of the fact that Relationship Marketing as a term was something that was made up in the eighties, the 1980’s and had a little bit more of an academic definition and maybe it still does in some circles. It really is a customer’s focus and sometimes, as I even found in my research for the book, there is some correlation to a marriage; whereas traditional marketing might just be a date here or there and relationship marketing is absolutely long term.
Gary Vaynerchuk talks about how he wants people to be buying wine from him not eight days from now but 80 years from now so the new part, as everybody here knows, the incredible uptake of social media or online social networks where consumers and businesses or business owners basically people are sharing vast amounts, inordinate amounts of information about their personal lives and their psychographics, techno graphics, demographics and really revealing an awful lot of information that as a savvy marketer, used effectively, used with respect and appropriately you can actually customize and personalize your marketing messages far more so today than ever before so that’s why I call it “new.”
I think with that “new” relationship marketing, it brings with it a whole new set of skills and the ability to be able to build the muscles of what are called soft skills and really make sure that everybody on your team is trained in those. So hopefully, that’s enough of a definition.
Donna: I think it is and you touched on something there at the end about making sure that your staff is trained on those things and I find in my own contact with people that is not the case and I think it is so critical, don’t you? The training of your staff…
Mari: It really is and I think there are still a lot of companies out there that are adopting what I kind of jokingly call the ostrich approach where they have their head in the sand and they are hoping one day this is all just going to go away or they are just holding out thinking that they will figure out a way to do it. But the thing is, often what those companies will do is they will just assign the social media marketing department to the IT Department, like it’s something to do with the computer so you guys handle it.
Maybe it’s not so prevalent now but I know several years ago I ran into some situations where I got into a bit of a snafu with somebody online that re-tweeted one of my tweets but they call it link-stuffing or link-jacking or tweet-jacking and they basically were taking my tweet, which was recommending one service, and they replaced it with their own link so it made it look like I was recommending their service and that’s not okay with me, you cannot do that. I am rigorous about protecting my reputation and what I recommend. But it turned out that it was the IT Department and they had not gotten any kind of training and they just said to take over the Twitter account and no disrespect, because obviously IT people are great, they are computer people and you might have some “people persons” in their too but it’s important that from the top down that there is a very, very clear social media policy in place and everybody knows what they can and can’t see and that there are some contingency plans in place too so if there is any negative situation, that the company knows how to handle it, how to escalate it up the ladder quickly when it needs to be and also how to decelerate the hassle that anybody might have.
Donna: I couldn’t agree more, I actually come from an IT background, as in working in the department not IT and sometimes the programming type personality isn’t necessarily a good fit for social media without proper training.
Mari: And I know that is one of your passions, Donna, is really the training element of it, the technology training.
Donna: It is Mari, because I enjoy people and I enjoy technology. I always tell people that I started when DOS was king and floppies were still actually floppies so I think I am dating myself on that one so I will move off of that on to the next question.
Question Two: New Business Skills
Donna: You discuss the new business skills that everyone needs and you explain in your book that one should implement soft skills in their marketing. Give us a few examples of the soft skills that you see as critical and why.
Mari: Absolutely because I really see that there are two separate sets of skills. Ideally, the people who are the front persons for effective social media marketing are skilled with both, they have pretty good strength with both sets and number one is what most people are familiar with as the hard skills and that is the technical side of it more of the left brain, knowing what buttons to press, how Twitter works, what happens when you click the “like” button and where does that go and all the technical and mechanical pieces of using the online world for your marketing.
The other set is the soft skills which are everything to do with people and at the top of the list for me is empathy and empathy is really listening between the lines, listening for what is not being said and whatever size company you are, a small business or right on up to a major household brand, regardless, even major household brands are having people, staff, be their voices and often their voice or their face or at least speaking on behalf of the company and so being able to recognize often in a moment of frustration, a customer might have had a bad experience and might choose to write something negative on your blog or Facebook page or tweet to the company and its really easy to get emotional and give a knee-jerk reaction and respond in a manner in which absolutely does not make the business or brand look good. So there is this concept that when emotions go up intelligence goes down; so if you see something go by you take it personally and snap back and tweet something back or Facebook something back and you give them a piece of your mind and that is absolutely not the way to go and never, ever respond to anything when you are emotionally charged, you need to have a process where you either hand it off to someone else, take a deep breath, go for a walk or do something where you can respond very, very level headedly and intelligently.
Because here’s the thing, one of the big fears in embracing social media marketing, all these relational tools, is a fear of negative comments and I have seen major companies actually refuse to set up a Facebook Fan Page for example, because they are concerned about getting negative comments. But when you can recognize that whether you are B to B or B to C, business to business or business consumers as most people know and really come from the approach of being P to P, that’s people to people regardless of the size of your company its run by people and you are dealing with your consumers or business owners which are run by people so as and when negative comments come along you have a decision to make whether it’s true Spam or are these people really trying to annoy you, are they trolls and just trying to get attention, in which case you should delete all Spam, all solicitation and totally ignore and block and ban all trolls.
The other possibility is that it is a true customer or prospect who has had possibly a less than positive experience with your brand, product, service, staff and you have a golden opportunity to step right in there and provide tremendous, stellar customer service right out in the open and in such you turn that person right around and make them into a customer for life with people watching, ‘My God, did you see how that company handled that, they admitted they were wrong and sent a coupon in the mail.’ You tell them to check your e-mail, we left a voice mail, we are mailing you a special gift, go above and beyond and completely “wow” them, so that’s empathy.
Then there is compassion, giving with no agenda is huge, our dear friend Mike Stelzner, Social Media Examiner founder, he is huge on that and does really well. You give gifts and you give value and answer questions and you help people out with no expectation and that specific person to whom you are giving the gift, you are giving the service will be the one to turn around and do business with you. What is happening, as many social media professionals talk about, you are building up social equity, you are building up your presence in the market place as someone who adds value and what happens is that others notice that, you are giving to Bob over here but its Jean that ends up observing and going, ‘Wow, I really like how that person or that business helped Bob out and I’m going to find out about their services.’ So it’s really coming at the whole thing from a real people aspect.
Donna: People know when you are not genuine and when what you are doing has, like you were saying, a hidden agenda. You were speaking about adding value and that is something that I really admire about you Mari, and you mentioned Mike Stelzner – you both definitely add value and you do so many things that are free. You go above and beyond. I know that is one of the many reasons why people admire and follow you, because you do exactly what you preach.
Mari: Thank you so much, I appreciate it.
Question Three: Building Solid Relationships
Donna: Question number three is on building solid relationships; whether they are personal or they are business, they take a lot of time and finesse and it’s challenging time-wise, especially when you are a sole proprietor as many are and I am one of those. As you state in your book ‘we become an always own society’ and you talk about ‘optimizing your routine’, can you give us an example?
Mari: Yes, absolutely because there is a great book that I read many, many years ago by David Allen, he is America’s foremost productivity expert and it’s called “Getting Things Done” and there is a whole culture, sub-culture community around GTD, the GTD community, getting things done. There was one specific piece of that book that leapt off the page to me where David Allen talks about how we are living in an era now of knowledge work, it’s all about knowledge work and that knowledge work is never done.
Let’s say you are writing a blog post and you are doing research for it and you keep perfecting it and perfecting it and something changed and so you want to change this out or swap this out or do this image, that link and at some point you have to go, you know what, it’s good enough, I am going for 80% and we are just going to get it out there, it’s been proofread, the facts are correct and I will save the rest for another blog post, talking to myself here because I have a terrible habit of doing that. But then, also given that, obviously time is a great equalizer, we only have 24 hours in the day and so does everybody on the planet and so when you can work with, for example, a checklist and really have structure around your day, which always starts with self-care, putting yourself at the top of that list, I am also a work in progress in that area, it’s a daily process to really manage my energy and manage my commitments and manage my priorities so I am not ended up completely burned out at the end of the day – and a lot of that come with systems and with team. Because there is literally only so much one person can do and as you are growing your business and depending on the size and your vision and your dream and how big your business wants to go, I just can’t recommend strongly enough to look at all the places you could possibly outsource. That way every piece of your day is really utilized doing the tasks, activities, managing projects that you really love, love, love to do, it’s really the best use of your time and talents and strengths.
So for social media, for example, source and content and I am at the place right now where I have always done my own contact sourcing so I have all the different places, Twitter lists, Google Plus circles, Facebook friend list, All Talk, blog subscriptions – those are all the places I would go, still do every single day, where I am looking for specific content rather than looking at my entire Tweet stream I want to go directly to a Twitter list and most people know that. So I am in the process of actually hiring someone to be my chief content curator and I am going to really train them on both the hard skills and the soft skills on how to recognize, as I would, as if I am going through ten pieces of content and I am only going to choose one of those ten pieces and why would I choose that piece, so I am going to train up this person to really think as I would in order to find good content to share with my network because that takes up a huge amount of my daily time and sometimes I don’t always get to it to the degree I would like to. That can all be delegated, you can delegate pre-scheduling but the one part I recommend you don’t delegate is the engagement. I am such a big stickler that nobody ever talks as me, lots of people can talk on my behalf, a couple of assistants can respond to e-mails for me and you will always know that its them and they are not writing as if they were me. It’s the same with my fan page, I have a whole bunch of what I call Super Fans or I call them MVP’s, Mari’s Valuable Peeps and they chip in and they have great Facebook knowledge, they have non-competing service or product they offer usually like one person has a contest app and another one has a custom fan page graphics and they are so generous in adding their knowledge and then I help to promote them in return. So there are lots of different things you can do to leverage your presence and time so that you are really using those precious hours each day getting the absolute most out of your time online.
Donna: And I know you cover what you are speaking of now in your book to a larger degree, which is appreciated because I can relate to what you are saying as I am sure many who are online can. I often spend too much time in a day curating content so I can send out something of value via Twitter or other channels where I think it’s appropriate. I like your idea of getting someone to help curate the content. It takes time to read the content in order to determine whether or not is worthy of sending out.
Mari: it’s true because what is happening now is as each of us grows our platform, grows our reach it really becomes a responsibility. Fortunately though it’s a joyful responsibility and not like a burden because these are networks that we have created and the playing field is leveled as Guy Kawasaki says, I love this line when he talks about the ‘nobody’s are the new somebody’s’ and I wish there were a way to phrase that that sounds much more respectful to everybody but basically everybody has a voice, that’s probably a really good way to say it, everyone has equal opportunity to build a platform. However, as you are building your platform you are building your reach and you really have to think very thoroughly like you and I were just saying here Donna, that you are putting your name to something and when you click that re-tweet button, that “like” button, that plus one button, that is a form of endorsement; so it’s crucial that you are really thinking this through and is this something I really want to put my name to.
Donna: Exactly, I will see things come across, by way of example, in the Tweet stream, a link. I always stop and read what is behind that link, what is that article so I can read it to find out if it is really something that I think those who are following me would benefit from the content within.
Question Four: Creating Five Contact Circles
Donna: Part two of your book begins the journey into your nine steps to significantly growing your business through relationships and step two in your book is the creation of a chart of your five contact circles, can you give us an overview of those you feel are especially crucial to relationship marketing and why?
Mari: Absolutely, so the very inner circle has more to do with personal support and these are people that you just absolutely trust with your life and for most people that will be their spouse and maybe one or two very, very close friends. Out from there are friends and they could be any different context, you might have someone that you play tennis with and that’s about all you do, you might have someone you work beside but don’t hang out with them socially.
The third circle out, the key contacts, is where I like to put a lot of focus. These are people in your network who are more than likely influencers in some way, shape or form. Not necessarily dependent upon the different scoring systems out there because you never know, I know people that have data bases in the millions and they are not even using social media – yet. I mean major companies and major business owners, they are major influencers and they are in my rolodex, my golden rolodex, ideally in your key contacts you would have them on your speed dial on your cell phone so if you needed to call in a fever you could and vice versa in them asking you for a favor. More than likely, as one of the other exercises with the Hollywood Squares, as you begin to meet your people in your Hollywood Squares they would become your key contacts. They are going to really help you to grow your business if you need support and if you need to grow in a certain area. I am very blessed to belong to an internet marketing mastermind which I have been in over two and a half years now and it is a tremendous source of support. There are some very, very big players in there and what happens is that each of us have this incredible level of trust and this incredible level of deep respect for one another and we will jump at the chance to help any of our fellow members. So do the best you can at really working on adding as many people as you see fit – it may only be 12 or 15 or 20 people. You might have great relationships with people with large followers on Twitter. Linked In group owners is another one that have a really good, loyal following in that you have a good relationship with them at some point, if you needed to they would be happy to do a mail out for you to the group or something like that or e-mail list owners.
Coming out of there from your acquaintances for most people, it’s funny, friends really Facebook has totally redefined the whole meaning of friends. It’s really no longer the definition it used to be, but for me most Facebook friends are really acquaintances and then you have your community at large which is a vast number of people who are way, way away in your peripheral awareness and maybe you don’t even necessarily who they are. So the cool thing with this exercise I talk about in the book is that you can actually upgrade and, if need to be, downgrade some people. So we often are the absolute average of the five people we hang out with the most and they might be in the intimates in your friend’s circle, for most people it’s their family and they can’t always necessarily limit their time with them but I just really invite people to look and see if you are really, really being influenced and at effect of someone who may be less than positive, less than enthusiastic and supportive of your goals and dreams and your day to day activities and really look to see how you can shift that. You really want to surround yourself by positive people who encourage you and help you to get to where you want to. And you can take some of your key contacts and bring them in and see how you can take them out for lunch or if you are having a party you would invite these people and that kind of thing so you can really maybe stretch yourself to deepen your relationship with the people in your various circles and you can upgrade them as you need to do.
Donna: I did this one (exercise). I won’t go into all the other exercises but this is for everyone to know and they will have to wait and get the book to find the other exercises but this is one of a few exercises that you have us doing and I really love the Hollywood Squares one but I won’t say anything more about the Hollywood Squares, you will just have to read to find out about Hollywood Squares. But I do like the exercises at the end and found them helpful.
Question Five: Build Your Network and Become a Center of Influence
Donna: Question five, which is the last question for you before we take questions and answers from everyone. I would like to cover just one more of your nine steps and that is step number four which is Build Your Network and become a Center of Influence so how would you define a “Center of Influence”, what is it and how do you become a “Center of Influence”?
Mari: It’s interesting, influence is just one of my most favorite words in the English vocabulary and I love to study the origins of influence and so I dug around and did some research. Influence first came about in the 14th century and it had astrological meaning and they thought it was something to do with like an ethereal fluid and that sounds completely woo-woo for most people but bear with me (laughs) an ethereal fluid that flowed down from the stars and through a person and influer means to flow through. So I really like to think of people with influence that if you have a message, the metaphor is like on Twitter that your message is the pebble and you are dropping it into this pond or this lake or this ocean, not an ocean but more like still water like a pond or lake and you drop this pebble and it makes this ripple effect, its flowing out to your various people in your network.
For example, Google Plus and they just added that awesome new visual tool and I don’t necessarily know the usefulness yet of it, I haven’t quite identified that but it’s a fun tool to identify visually and they call them ripples and you can see that ripple effect that your post helps to create or other people’s posts that you go in there and see, so that’s a wonderful way. In a way, it’s kind of measuring influence.
We obviously have different scoring systems out there, Klout and Peer Index which I was just posting about on my Fan Page today and another new one coming online shortly, which I am very excited about, I am not super excited about Klout or Peer Index but don’t tell them that (laughs). I love the people behind it and I always like to give the greatest amount of respect to everybody because everybody is out there running their businesses and I know that some people absolutely take Klout scores as gospel, that it’s THE final word but it kind of worries me when you see a Spam account may have a higher Klout score than a regular person that is trying to make a difference out there. But there is a new one coming online called Kred and its short for credibility, of course the thing they say in a start up today is if you want a successful start up just misspell a word and you will be fine (laughs). Seriously though that system is made by my friend Jody Rich who is the founder of People Browser and he is just a genius with Metrix and they have sought to include in there, in fact I was just checking it out late last night and they are actually including offline influence which I think is fantastic! Imagine if you are the president of some local chapter organization that doesn’t have an online presence, you are a center of influence but that doesn’t translate to online but it does now, quite possibly, with this new system. But influence really comes with having loyalty and having trust, being consistent, adding value, being someone that is absolutely impeccable with their word, with their quality of offerings that they have and for me it goes in addition to some of the qualities like being kind and generous an treating people as equals. So often there is a separation that happens where people put them up on a pedestal saying that person is such a big influence or I am a mere mortal here. I don’t like to perpetuate that, I like to perpetuate equality and oneness in that I know I have influence but so do other people and I like to really relate to people as one of the “peeps”.
Donna: And you do, you are very relatable Mari and easy to talk to. So those are the five questions and we have done well. We have taken 30 minutes for me to interview Mari with these five specific questions.
Thank you Mari Smith for generously taking time to share your wisdom with all of us online tonight.
Mari Smith Video Interview Link
(Note: the interview covers the 5 questions in my interview but does not include a recording of the audience conversation at the close.)
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