Mari Smith on The New Relationship Marketing [interview]

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Mari Smith about her new book, The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, Profitable Network Using the Social Web. In this 30 minute interview, Mari shares her views on networking to build relationships, as well as a few tools she recommends to manage and stay in touch with your clients and customer via social networks. The audio is 30:40 minutes and a lightly edited transcript follows. 

Denise: Welcome. You’re in for a big treat today. You’re going to get a big dose of passionate, positive energy as well as important, actionable advice from my friend and colleague, Mari Smith. I’m Denise Wakeman, your host for today’s interview. We have about 30 minutes with Mari so I’m not going to waste any time. We’re going to get started now with a quick introduction and then get to the questions I have for Mari about the subject of her new book The New Relationship Marketing.

Mari and I go back a few years. In 2005 I first interviewed Mari about email marketing. Then in 2007 she presented one of her first Facebook teleseminars to my community. It’s my pleasure to have Mari here again today sharing her expertise. Mari Smith is a passionate social media leader. I’m sure many of you know that. She specializes in relationship marketing and Facebook mastery. She is co-author of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day and author of The New Relationship Marketing.

Mari travels the world to give keynotes at top events and leads social media workshops. She frequently shares the stage with notable leaders and celebrities.

Fast Company described Mari as, “A veritable engine of personal branding, a relationship marketing whiz, and the Pied Piper of the online world.” With her popular blog at and her large following on both Facebook and Twitter, Mari is considered one of the top resources and thought leaders in the world of marketing.

Welcome Mari. Thanks for sharing some of your time with us today. Congratulations on the publication of your new book.

Mari: I am really excited. Thank you so much Denise. You know, it’s been quite a journey as you well know.

Denise: It has been. It’s been fabulous to watch your rise in the last couple of years, the last 3 years I think it’s been. It’s been really exciting to watch you take off and fly.

Mari: Thank you.

Denise: Let’s start with a foundational question. What is relationship marketing and what’s new about it?

Mari: You know, it’s fascinating, when I was doing the research for this book, I discovered quite a bit that I didn’t know about relationship marketing even though I called myself a relationship marketing specialist for about 10 years. Long before social media was a buzz word. Long before Facebook even existed. Maybe when Mark Zuckerberg was still in high school.

I just love the word “relationship” and then combining that with business and relationship marketing came up. Then I discovered it’s actually a term that was coined back in the mid 1980’s by a Professor [Leonard] Berry. It probably had a little bit more of an academic definition then, not necessarily as main stream as much as now. We’re all very familiar with social media marketing and new media marketing. To me, relationship…

Let me give you the definition. It’s super, super simple. Traditional marketing is transactional focused. It’s basically where people are going for the sale and more often than not, they’re going for one sale. They’re focused on the very transaction in front of their nose as a marketer or business person. Whereas, relationship marketing you literally are focused on building a friendship, a connection, a relationship with your marketplace, your prospects and customers.

Any activity that you do that would sustain and maintain that relationship -the goal is to have that person as a customer for life. It’s not just one off transactional, it’s long term relationship marketing.

So if we go casting our minds back several decades and think this is a term that came out in the 80’s-of course my belief is we have always, since the dawning of man, we’ve been doing relationship marketing. We do business with people we know, like, and trust. It’s all about relationships. Who you know and who knows you and who you trust and what companies you trust.

The new element is most definitely these online social networks which over the last 5 years have absolutely skyrocketed. Obviously Facebook in particular. We’ve now got Twitter. There’s also Google+. What’s happening is that consumers are sharing vast amounts of personal information that now as a savvy marketer, you can provide an extremely customized and personalized experience for your prospects and for your customers. You can actually court and nurture the relationships especially with your top clients. You make a list of your top 25 best clients. Then you do your utmost to follow and observe them and gather information from all the different social profiles that they have publicly available. You can always send them gifts in the mail and just send them little tweets acknowledging and really building up that relationship.

You know Denise, we’re very familiar with the term “friend” when it comes to Facebook friend, but we can actually befriend our marketplace, befriend our prospects and customers.

Denise: I agree. It’s the building of the friendship that has really taken on new meaning now, hasn’t it?

Mari: Yes.

Denise: I think your point there is about following your top clients and really getting to know them on all the platforms where they’re playing, obviously. That’s really a key point here to take away.

Mari: There’s a whole new SCRM (Social Customer Relationship Management) system because for the longest time we’ve had-CRMs have been around for a while and a lot of different CRMs. But, what’s really making a stride in-there’s a big need in the marketplaces for these SCRMs. And some of them are even automated. There’s a nice one I like called Batchbook. It’s at You can actually hook in the Twitter account, Facebook account of people in your database. Then you can see it at a glance what’s happening with their profiles.

Denise: I’m glad you mentioned that. I was going to ask you about that because you had mentioned at BlogWorld this past weekend –you mentioned “Social Customer Relationship Management” system. I looked at Amy Porterfield who was sitting next to me. I asked, “What is that? I haven’t heard that term before.” I’m glad you mentioned it.

Mari: Batchbook-it actually goes to Batchblue, there you go. They’re called Batchblue or Batchbook goes to the same place. Super simple one. Let’s just give people one other one and make it real simple. I use Gmail. I forward all my email and do all my mailing to and from Gmail. I like to do little plug-ins and add-ons. There is a wonderful one called Rapportive. Anybody that you are sending email to or receiving from, you’ll see over on the side on the right where normally the ads are, you’ll see all their social profiles. It’s really cool; even as you are emailing people you can see at a glance and take in information on what’s happening.

Denise: Excellent tip. Rapportive. Batchblue and Rapportive. Two great ways to keep in touch with the people you are connected with in terms of your clients and prospects. Excellent.

This leads me into my next question is that in your book you talk about soft skills as new business skills that everyone needs. What are some of the skills that we as business people and marketers need to know about and need to develop?

Mari: Right, right. We’re probably familiar with-we don’t necessarily call them this – but hard skills are the technical aspects and more left brain, knowing what button to click, what link, what resources, tools, apps, devices, you name it. Those are the hard skills. The soft skills, though, are the people skills. I think now more than ever, because we’re talking about relationship marketing here. We’re talking about how people are more transparent. They are sharing more, being more vulnerable that when you can develop skills such as empathy, to me that’s one of the-top of the list for me. Businesses-a brand can be empathetic. An individual obviously, a business owner.

To me that means listening between the lines. Reading through what’s not being said. As you know with a tweet going by 140 characters or less, somebody might be having a bad day or things can be really easily misconstrued. The worst thing you can do is take something personally and do a knee jerk reaction. Oh dear, and then you send something out and now it’s in ink not pencil, the Internet.

Denise: It lives forever.

Mari: Yeah, it’s etched in stone. Then you go, “Darn it. I didn’t mean to say that.” You delete it but you never know where it might be archived somewhere or someone had taken a screen shot. It’s really important to exercise the muscle of emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman is just a brilliant expert in that area. He has written many books around it. It’s just really being able to use your emotions intelligently and to have a thick skin but also be sensitive to other people’s needs, etc.

For example, a lot of businesses and business owners fear having a social profile on some of the major networks (for instance a fan page on Facebook). I speak to entire industries that talk about how they really are resisting getting a Facebook fan page set up for fear of negative comments. But, if you can just really take that as an opportunity to step in and demonstrate stellar customer service right out in the open. Like I say, have the empathy and compassion, give back with no agenda, have someone in charge of your marketing if you are a brand or business or if you have assistants that have brilliant people skills, that’s ultimately what it’s all about.

You know Denise; I think in many ways, the people skills are more important because you can always train someone in the technical and the hard skills. Getting someone in to be the voice and face of your social media, depending on the size of your company, you can’t really teach someone passion and really good people skills. That’s what’s crucial.

Denise: No, and that of course, comes to the point of having the right team and staff to be able to do that especially if you’re talking about a company. A lot of people in my network are solo professionals, service professionals-small business owners. So, they don’t have a big staff. How do you get the right team? I know you have staff but how do you create that team so that they can have a positive impact on your relationship marketing?

Mari: Right, in fact there’s a whole chapter in the book dedicated to that where I talk about measuring, charting out your different team members and whatnot. Not just team members but people who influence you, mentors, coaches, people that you hang out with most in your personal and business world. You know, for me over the years it’s been trial and error. Many of our fellow online marketers and business owners have over the years used a model where you have virtual assistants. They can be onshore, they could be offshore. I’ve tried both.

At one point in 2009 I had 7 VA’s. I was tearing my hair out, quite honestly. I ended up realizing that now I’m in the business of managing people. I wasn’t really that great at it. I always just assumed that these people are self starters, that they can read my mind, they don’t need much training, they don’t need me to delegate much. A couple of months and then they’re going to figure it out. With all due respect, what ended up happening was I just was not being that effective. They weren’t being that effective. I ended up firing them-letting them go. Letting them go was one of the most difficult things. They say you’re supposed to hire slow and fire fast. I had it the other way around. You like someone and well sure, come work for me. Then, I find a job for you.

Long story short, fast forward to now for the last year and a half, I’ve been very, very blessed to have two pretty much full time assistants work for me. They’re both local in San Diego and they work sometimes from their own home office and sometimes from mine. They’ll come with me to different events. I actually had them both with me at BlogWorld last week, which was awesome.

For me, what happened is I just realized hiring and firing wasn’t really one of my strengths. What I ended up doing is utilized the services of a recruiter. I had her interview me and really get all the things that weren’t a good use of my time that I could delegate and literally created a job description. She put the ads up on Craigslist. We had several hundred applicants. She short listed and did the pre-interviews and set them all up for me. So, I just had to go and show up at restaurant one day or café and did four back to back interviews and hired one gal, Lori. Her friend Susan was looking for work as well. I ended up getting a 2-For deal.

But, here’s the thing, on this point about team and delegating, I never delegate my voice. If anyone ever sees me speaking on any of my social networks it’s always me. If you see in my profile saying me or I, speaking in the first person, it’s me.

What I do get help with, and this is perfectly duplicatable for other people, my Facebook fan page. I’ve really positioned my fan page as a destination for people to get help with Facebook. People like it that way it’s simple, it’s focused, if they’ve got any questions feel free to come there. There are just not enough hours in the day for me to personally answer all the questions. I’ve identified several what I call super fans. I call them MVP’s (Mari’s Super Valuable Peeps). I promote them. I promote them at every opportunity in exchange for them sharing their knowledge and answering questions.

In fact, I recently discovered a really cool app that’s for free and it puts a reader board, it puts a tab with a reader board. I call it my top fans. It collects points where every time they like, comment, share, post on your wall they get points. I have a couple guys who are just awesome. By the way, the name of that app is Add it to your page. That’s a great way to leverage anyway.

You’ve got to control it though because I have had a few people, they went crazy with their posting and answering. Somebody would just ask a question and two seconds later they were answering it and promoting themselves. I can’t have it be that way. I had to kind of moderate it a little bit.

Anyway, that’s one way to leverage and grow.

Denise: So, it’s really about making sure you are very clear about what a team member can do for you. Setting those boundaries and then monitoring it to some degree.

Mari: Yes.

Denise: Because they’re representing you.

Mari: Truly. Absolutely. It can be kind of scary. With email, one of the main things Lori does for me is she is managing my inbox pretty much all day every day. She’s my gatekeeper, if you will. We call her the director of customer happiness. We like to come up with fun roles in our company-our titles. People will write to me at my main email address. Lori will respond and she will never ever ever write it’s me. She won’t even pretend to be me. I just think that’s not right. She will say, “I got your email to Mari. I wanted you to know that. I’ll be talking to her about it,” etc.

Denise: Excellent. I want to go back to your comment about taking advantage of the platforms that are out there to really connect, engage, and build relationships with that a company needs to do to basically survive in this economy. Do you think that businesses are missing out if they are not on the social platforms? Now we have Google+ pages that popped up yesterday.

Mari: Right.

Denise: Another place to be. What’s your take on that?

Mari: You know-first of all, to the comment, I think that you are echoing the sentiments of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of businesses, especially small businesses and entrepreneurs and especially those of us who don’t have a company name but then they are also the voice and face of their brand, if you will. They might do both. I really feel that as much as you and I are technologically advanced, we have our finger on the pulse. I always think, “I’m feeling a little bit overwhelmed.” I’m thinking to myself, “Oh my God. Not another social profile to set up and manage.” I can’t even begin to think what half my clients, students, and marketplace must be feeling.

First of all, I will say pick the two platforms that have the greatest overlap of two primary areas; the first area is the one that you love the most. I’ve always been a big Facebook lover. It’s my first love. Even though I really quite like Google I just love Facebook as much as it changes and drives me bonkers at times.

The greatest overlap, the one you love the most, you resonate, you really like the interface, you like the interaction and the people. The second one is where the greatest amount of your target market is. It may be you’re going to have to juggle around with those numbers. Let’s say if you are really really strong in B2B (business to business) and you could do a ton of business on LinkedIn but you just don’t resonate much with the platform, which I’m speaking about myself here. I wish I did. I keep trying. Over the years I have really attempted to fall madly in love with LinkedIn. I’ve been training with all the top gurus of LinkedIn and I just can’t fall in love with LinkedIn. I’m sorry.

Denise: It’s okay Mari.

Mari: I love Facebook and I love Twitter. Because I’m in an industry, like yourself, we’re in these technical media industries-I need to get in the trenches and experiment. The jury, quite frankly, is still out a little bit for me, a little bit on the fence about Google+ even though I wrote a raving post about it a couple months ago excited about it. I think at some point in 3 to 5 years time they might have at least as many, if not more, active members as Facebook. Who knows? They may change if you go backwards and look at where MySpace was and Friendster, for example. Look at where they are now compared to Facebook. I think Facebook is really robust and strong and will be around a long time.

The key thing though is systems – I know you’re a big fan of systems and contact calendars and whatnot-having a very, very systematic approach to what you’re going to post when. The beauty of all these social profiles is that less is more. I don’t buy into this you’ve got to tweet 20 times a day, you’ve got to post 12 times a day on your Facebook. No, no, no.

I also kind of take people with me wherever I go. My peeps all know I’ve been on the road for a week now; my third event in the last 5 days, 6 days in a row. It’s somewhat unusual. I’m not normally that away from my desk. With the book and everything coming out right now, I’m just doing a lot of events. So, I’ll just tell them. I’ll shoot a quick video or say, “I’m at this event right now. I’m going to be posting less.” Ideally, the key here is consistency.

Even if you just post something once a day on your Facebook but you are rigorous about doing it every day-5 or 6 days-maybe take one day off-rather than what people will do like 10 posts in one day and then nothing for 3 weeks. People have short memories. They’re on to the next thing.

Just having that consistent top of mind awareness, choosing your two platforms, you can do more if you can but I would just choose two. It might be Facebook and Twitter for people. Then utilizing systems like Hootsuite. I use Hootsuite pretty much every single day to pre-schedule tweets. I don’t usually schedule anything for Facebook. I do Facebook manually to get better news feed visibility.

Denise: Excellent.

Mari: I’m trying to think back to what was your question originally. Are they missing out? I 100% think that, Denise. Businesses of all sizes in every industry are leaving money on the table if they are not at least integrating one or more of these social networks into their marketing.

Denise: Yes, I agree with that. I think that this is a key point that you made is to pick two platforms that have an overlap and really focus on that. It’s interesting because, I’ve been shifting over to LinkedIn because I’m finding, I’m still very active on Facebook, but I’m finding a little bit of frustration on Facebook in terms of not very many people seeing what I’m posting anymore because of their algorithm whereas I’m finding on LinkedIn-I think the key with LinkedIn is having a group versus just posting status updates. I’m managing a group now and I get much more interaction. It’s interesting to see how it all evolves.

Mari: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. With Facebook, to plus what you said, I have found with the Facebook subscribe, I decided to open mine up. I’m so very, very much in experimental mode. Every now and again when I get spam or something inappropriate on one of my public posts from my personal profile I think to myself, “Oh, ouch. Is it really worth it to have the subscribe thing on?”

Definitely, of all the channels out there, I’ve never seen one grow as fast. Over 31,000 subscribers in 4 weeks now. Before long, that’s going to overtake my 55,000 fans, which took me three years to get that many fans. It’s like, “Okay, alright. Something to watch here.” Just experiment.

Denise: Yeah, well it’s all a big experiment as far as I’m concerned.

Mari: True, true.

Denise: You mentioned that companies who aren’t participating on social platforms may be leaving money on the table. I did, when I was promoting this call, promise to ask about building a profitable network. Do you have some tips you can share about how business can turn this networking into an increase on the bottom line? That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? We heard that over and over at BlogWorld. If you’re not generating revenue it’s just a hobby. I can’t remember who said that but somebody did.

Mari: I said it.

Denise: You said it. Okay.

Mari: Someone else may have said it too. I’ve been saying it for a while. One of my mentors years ago, Ali Brown, I got that from her. I really agree with that because what often happens is there’s this fine, fine line between going onto Facebook and you are looking at your newsfeed and you’re really organized and you’ve got friends lists and you’re also disciplined and you’re not letting yourself go too far down rabbit holes. Every now and again-especially with that ticker, that’s what that ticker is kind of designed to pull us in and see this real time. “Oh, look at that. John got married. Janie just had a new baby.” You just see these things that people in your network that you have a relationship with and you can’t help but go down these rabbit holes.

Before you know it, a couple of hours have gone by. You get to the end of the day and you’re like, “Well, let’s see. How did I do with my social networking today or my social marketing? Well, I made 10 new friends. Okay, great. How did the bottom line improve?”

It’s like this fine balance between being a strategic user of these sites and befriending people and being a member. A great thing, many years ago when Facebook was beginning to find its footing-obviously I was up way early this morning. My brain is not working properly yet. My point is that when-with a popular social network, when the marketers move in, the members move out. I remember saying that for years in ’07 onwards. I really study and I love human behavior and psychology and I love studying, what’s happening here? This is a whole new way of interacting with people to do business.

The secret to getting results from your social networking is to act like a member, not a marketer. One of the things that I do, when I am sharing any of my posts-all of my posts across all social networks-I don’t make a distinction between here I’m sharing my personal life and here I’m narrating a trip that I’m on. Now I’m marketing something, promoting my own product or service or I’m promoting through an affiliate link. I keep the same tone, the very same tone.

Everyone has to find their own natural way of communicating, obviously. I always say whatever quirkiness you might have in your personality, really work that and own it. I can be a goofball. Obviously I’ve got my accent. I use funny words or whatever. I’ll do the same thing for my marketing.

I think promoting through Twitter and Facebook, a little bit Google+, using affiliate promotions, joint ventures, teaming up with other people, I know we have a history with Mike Stelzner of the Social Media Examiner and the summits that he does. I love to help promote his summits. They’re such great value. I always align myself with people that have the same values so I happily promote them whether they promote me or not.

One of the secrets too, is to be real clear and ask for the sale. I think it’s a complete nonsense when people are like, “Oh my God. You can’t do marketing. You can’t ask for the sale in social networking.” Well, what are you doing then? You’re just sitting around making friends. You have to intersperse your educational content with offers. You can do that if you’re real organized planner type, you can have a promotional calendar that actually integrates with your editorial calendar. So, you know what you’re going to be blogging about when, what you’re going to post on which networks, you might have a theme for different weeks or months. To mention Mike Stelzner’s name again, he has an absolutely amazing structured format where when he’s doing his summit there’s a 90 day window-30 day planning and then 60 day of marketing. The key, though, is to provide such exceptionally good content for free that the members of your different social networks are actually quite, quite happy-in fact, often come to expect that you’re going to be making offers. They’re consuming your free stuff so much they’re like, “Wait a minute, what do you offer-if I were to pay you, what will I get?”

Sometimes it’s so obvious it’s right in front of our nose. It’s like making clear offers, you can use affiliate links, your own links, maintaining that seamless style, making it really obvious how to buy from you on your website, on Twitter, on your Facebook profile, maybe even putting a commerce tab right on your profile and sell stuff right from your fan page.

Denise: Excellent. Excellent. Well, I want to be mindful of your time. We are hitting about the 30 minute mark in a couple of minutes. I know that you’re offering a free 4-part webinar. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that?

Mari: I sure would. I just really love-as we were talking about giving enough value for free, etc. -I wanted to be able to offer a special gift that comes with the book. It’s a 4-part webinar which is on November 29 and 30th and then December 5 and 6. Just over two weeks. That’s completely free. We’re going to be covering some Facebook marketing, some Google+, Twitter and overarching about relationship marketing. I’m going to teach some principles. In the book there’s a 9-step process, a 9-step formula if you will, on how to build that large, loyal and profitable network using the social web. I just put it up there on the honor system, which means whether you buy the Kindle or the Nook or the hardback or wherever you buy the book, whether you buy it now or later or next year, just at some point pick up a copy of the book but go ahead and register for the webinar anyway on the honor system. You don’t need to send back, email, snail mail, tweet me your receipt.  I don’t need to see a receipt.

Denise: “Mari’s free webinar series.” Go ahead and sign up for that. That will take you directly to the registration page for Mari’s webinar. I also recommend that you invest in Mari’s book. I’ve got it on my Kindle. I love it. I really love your use of quotes throughout, Mari.

Mari: Thank you.

Denise: You picked out some really fabulous quotes. I appreciate that.

It’s just now 30 minutes after the hour. I know you’re really busy. I could talk to you for hours about this. We’ll continue this another time. I want to thank you Mari, for sharing some of your tips and expertise about new relationship marketing today. I really do appreciate your time.

Mari: Likewise Denise. I was just very thankful for this opportunity. You’re just one of the greatest out there and I treasure our friendship. Thanks for the opportunity.

Denise: Mari, thank you so much. Again, congratulations on the publication of your book. Thank you for joining us today.

Mari: Awesome. Thanks Denise. Take care. 

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  1. says

    Hi Denise.
    First all it was great to finally meet you at Blog World. I am a big fan of your content and really appreciate the great value you deliver.

    I also was in on Mari Smith’s session. As usual Mari was spot on. Her content rocks. If you take time to listen and pay attention to her your business will make a difference. 

    I was fortune enough that Mari picked one of my Tweets out, so I got a signed book (Whoot 😉

    In my industry/niche I for sure can relate to that empathy is an important skill to have. The tricky part today is that so many of our guests is sharing their feelings real time through their Social Networks. Today we are learning to listen to our consumers in new ways, and we have to be there to provide proper and timely responses. 

    As Mari says Social CRM is something new and different then traditional CRM. It is important for me that I educate myself on this difference and then I share these values with my audience that will allow them to fill in the gaps.

    I totally agree that we will need more emotionally intelligent leaders, was not familiar with Daniel Goleman. But I know Mari is a huge fan of one of the great ones that belong to my industry – Chip Conley. From a personal perspective one thing I strongly believe in is that we need more servant leadership.

    Like you LinkedIn is where I best reach out to my network. I communicate and network with various Hoteliers, and the communications seems to resonate better on LinkedIn at the moment. Though it is no doubt that Google+ will become a interesting player. Of course when I look for more guest type of inputs Facebook is the goto platform. On Twitter my niche seems to resonate best with the Customer Service element. And YouTube provide showcases.

    I really enjoy Maris book, and look forward to the webinars. It is so interesting to see how Social Networking authors apply valuable webinars with their books. Interesting strategy.

    Great interview.


    Are Morch
    Hotel Blogger

  2. says

    I was so privileged to hear this interview live — Denise did a great job of getting to the heart of how important Mari’s book is. And Mari, of course, was Mari, which means that even through a telephone line, we could hear her smile and her genuine caring. What she wants, and what she teaches us how to do in her terrific book, is for all online business people to get it right…to build relationships that matter so that our personal and business success is assured and sustainable. With my own focus on the Power of Connection, I am so proud that Mari represents business women who understand that meaningful connection is at the core of all business success. 

    • says

      Very eloquently put, Elizabeth. Mari is an excellent role model for us all in how to cultivate personal and business relationships while also creating a sustainable business, or made I should say, resulting in a sustainable business. 

      Thanks for stopping by…blog on!