Relationships Matter – An Open Thank You Letter

I’m not alone in calling Jessika Phillips a soul sister, but my (core) reason might be a bit different Photo of Megan Powers and Jessika Phillips at SMMW19 from others. It’s a little unorthodox to write a thank you letter openly as a blog post, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought there are some killer lessons to be learned from this gratitude.

So, here we go!

Jessika, I’m pretty sure I saw you speak before (I knew) we had mutual friends. Your talk was about relationship marketing and I had to be there to see if your viewpoint was in line with mine. I used to be in sales in the event space — first in a venue and then in audio visual production. I happened upon sales by accident, but I was pretty good at it. One thing I never did, though, was cold call or what I like to call “dialing for dollars.” 

See, I learned early on that I could attend industry conferences and networking events, and meet people who could become customers. I was strategic in which events I went to and with whom I (intentionally) spoke, but I never overtly sold to them. I established a relationship – they would learn what I do – and one day we might get an opportunity to work together (I built a $2.5 million book of business this way, btw).


Of course they matter because that’s how you build trust. A highly respected consultant in the AV space said once that people who claim they are “relationship sales people” are kidding themselves (I’m paraphrasing). Now, of course there was more dimension to the discussion, but I’ll never forget reading that and thinking – nah, not if you do it right.

THANK YOU, Jessika, for articulating the C.A.R.E. approach: “Capture Attention, Articulate Message, Relationships (for repeat and referral business), and Exceptional Experience” in your talks.

I was delighted to hear this was recognized as “a real thing” in marketing also, as I had seen it work for me first-hand in sales.

RETURN on Relationships

About 11 years ago I read a book called It’s Not Just Who You Know by Tommy Spaulding. He talks about “relationship economics” or “relationship capital.” There are many levels to this (too much to get into in a thank you note!), but at the heart of it is what you teach, Jessika. One quote from his book highlights it well: “…it’s never been more important to figure out how an organization can give more than lip service to the idea of building a culture that values authentic relationships, because relationships have become the currency of the modern economy.” 

I know I’ve heard you say a version of this, and it’s remarkable how you not only walk the walk yourself, but you have built a culture in your company NOW Marketing Group where everyone is on board with this concept. And as an event professional myself, I was beyond impressed earlier this month to see how you built this concept and feeling into your conference, Social Media Week Lima (SMWL).

Your company, your event, your personal brand — they have all expanded because of who you are. Because you not only live in authenticity, empathy, curiosity, and gratitude, but you make those around you want to live in these too.

THANK YOU for proving that relationships matter, but also that we need to nurture them.


The Memory Jog slide from Chad Illa-Peterson's talk at SMWL21As Chad Illa-Peterson gave his talk at #SMWL21 on how we all have stories within us, he shared that our stories are our unique selling proposition. He provided some exercises we can do to work our creative storytelling muscles. After one of the exercises he shared I found myself thinking about how, exactly, I ended up in that event center in Lima, Ohio.

In brief (succinctly going back ~9 years)…

    • I worked for a non-profit where I needed to learn more about social media
    • I joined the San Diego Social Media Club 
    • The club had an event at a restaurant owned by a group I had worked for
    • I approached them and won the business (managed their marketing for 6.5 years)
    • Club members talked about an event – Social Media Marketing World (SMMW) in ’13
    • I attended SMMW14 where I made a ton of friends I still have today
    • I met Phil Mershon (SME’s SMMW Director of Events) in ’15 at the Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA) Summit, and shared I had attended his event for the past two years
    • I got to know Phil and helped him with his audio visual production selection for the following year
    • I volunteered on the SMMW Community team, working under Jen Cole in ’17, and a wonderful friendship was formed
    • Jen and I started a marketing podcast with our friend Elizabeth in August of ’17
    • Jessika Phillips was referred to have on the podcast–and our relationship started
    • I got to know Jessika and this extended group of amazing friends over the years
    • Jessika hosted a networking event she invited me to at SMMW
    • I kept hearing about what a great experience SMWL was, but wouldn’t make 2020
    • 2020 happened and #SMWL20 did not
    • Jessika hosted me at #SMWL21
    • I made a handful of new contacts & friends – new relationships… What’s next?


Margo, Ali, and Megan holding Mark Schaefer's Cumulative Advantage booksAnother cool thing that happened at SMWL — Chad gifted me a signed copy of Mark Schaefer’s new book Cumulative Advantage. As I read this book, I can’t help but think it’s these relationships I’ve built over time that are cumulative. Those relationships I built while in sales? They are exactly what led to the success of my own business for almost eight years now! “Success is a collision of events” is one section of the book (in chapter two). I was able to build and maintain a successful business because almost all of my clients came by referral from this accumulation of relationships.

Of course, I wasn’t thinking about it in this exact way at the time, but I built relationships and did good work… Looking back, Mark has also made me realize I took specific actions to “sway serendipitous fate” in my favor. I intentionally built relationships, hoping they would bring me business in the short term, while knowing it was about more than that (even back then).

THANK YOU for bringing this incredible group of people together.

EVENTS In Person – They Hit Different

I nurtured existing friendships. I have a dozen new friends. I have several new podcast guests. And I have some potential for new business relationships. This happened because you brought us together and you enabled me to be there! 

Jennifer Watson on stage at SMWL21Jessika, you also put together a rockstar speaker lineup. I didn’t leave with a long list of tactics to put into place, but almost every speaker got me thinking — truly thinking — about how to move forward on goals I’m setting for myself.

Relationships are only as good as the work we put into them — we have to nurture them. Environments that meetings and events afford us provide the framework, but it’s the people who Chad Illa-Peterson on stage teaching about storytellingtruly make experiences memorable.

THANK YOU for all you do to teach about relationship marketing and for what you do to bring people together. I look forward to speaking with you and Mike Gingerich LIVE on Magnet Marketers on September 28th to explore exactly how events bring us together, and enable us to establish and nurture relationships.

I think this quote by Priya Parker from her book The Art of Gathering puts your event perfectly:
“A gathering run on generous authority is run with a strong, confident hand, but it is run selflessly, for the sake of others.” 


P.S. For those of you who are reading this (who aren’t Jessika)…

If you aren’t yet convinced relationships have a HUGE role in our marketing (nee, business), then you should sign up for this cool relationship marketing managers thing she has going.

Ten Tips for Using Instagram for Business

I had a young college student ask me for some tips on Instagram because her employer has asked her to take over their Instagram account, and she had only used it on a personal level. How we use Instagram absolutely depends on the product, service, audience, etc., but I really think these tips should help anyone who is just getting starting with a business account. They’re in no particular order!

1. Create a hashtag that you’ll use with every post that is reflective of your business–hashtags is one of the main ways your account will be found.

  • Keep in mind whether there are other locations or businesses that yours might be confused with, and use location as part of the hashtag. For example, there are several Harbor House restaurants around the world, so the San Diego restaurant uses both the #HarborHouse and #HarborHouseSD hashtags. The SD one reflects the location, but by also using the other, the restaurant also has a chance of being “found” by a larger group of people.
  • Search on hashtags using to see if the hashtag you want to use is already in use.

2. Look at what hashtags similar businesses, the competition, and industry are using—and use them also. 

  • Also use variations on the hashtags that are a bit more unique. Some are totally over-used, so it makes it harder for your posts to be seen. #SanDiego, for example is one of the most used hashtags (so popular people who aren’t in SD use it!). 
  • See what the “top Instagram hashtags” are: 

3. In your initial post* how many hashtags to use for “maximum impact” is different depending on which expert you listen to, but 5-11 seems to be the range. However, you can then add a comment with numerous other tags, and your post will still be found by all the tags attached to it.

  • This also makes your post more visually appealing to followers in their feed—there’s nothing worse than hashtag overload!
  • Use a notes app on your phone to store your most used hashtags so you don’t have to re-type them every time you post.
    * Instagram now “auto-completes” hashtags (& lists similar ones) as you enter them in the initial post (only – not in comments), so you can see how many times the tags are being used. 

4. Each time you log in to post, I recommend searching on your top hashtags first. This will show you posts your guests or customers might have posted of or about your business. 

  • Go through and like all of them, at a minimum—but make comments on as many of them as you can to show your appreciation. 
  • Repost the good images, and give the initial poster attribution. This gives you more content (“user generated content”), and people LOVE being highlighted for their photography! 
  • NOTE: Some people will include your location in their post (like a check-in), but haven’t used your hashtag, and you do NOT get notifications on those posts, so seek those out in the posts that have used both… it was a goldmine of content once I figured this out.

5. Good community / social media managers are also relationship-builders. In addition to liking posts using your hashtag, you should also be regularly following those people who you think are good, and who might be following your account also. 

  • Make sure to like a handful of posts by those you are following whenever you log in. 
  •  Also make comments on those posts you like—they should be genuine, though—so you don’t need to overdo it. 

6. What to post & how often? Visually appealing photos get the most activity, period. 

  • Colorful product photos, scenery… along with clever words—make your caption brief, and try to use your business hashtag within the sentence structure. 
  • Mix in some videos in your posts if it makes sense for your business—Instagram has them auto-play in the feed. 
  • Do not post a bunch of images all in-a-row because that’s the quickest way to get un-followed! How many will depend on your business–I typically post just one per day (5-6 days per week) for my client’s accounts.

7. Be sure to reply to every person who comments on your posts. 

  • Make your comments personal based on what they have written, and know that you have to use their handle in order for them to get a notification. 
  • To include their handle, swipe left on the comment, and click the arrow–this will add their handle w/o having to re-write it.
  • Many times people will just say “Great!” or post a thumbs-up emoji, and for them it’s okay to reply “Thanks” in one comment using all their handles. 

8. If you’ve noticed you made a mistake after you’ve posted, you can edit your post (yea!)—click the three little dots to the right of the heart and comment bubble, and click edit.

  • You cannot edit comments, so if you need to edit your own comment, you’ll need to delete it and re-write it. 
  • You do have the ability to delete comments that other people have made—occasionally people will spam your posts, so you can either report them (which will delete the comment) or simply delete.

9. The only “hot link” (clickable URL) you can have in Instagram is in your bio.

  • Normally you would want this to be a link to your Website or blog, but if you’re running a contest or have some information that’s particularly important (like a press release), you can always switch it up. 

10. Instagram provides the ability to simultaneously post to different social platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Flickr. 

  • Unfortunately, either the Twitter or Instagram engine gets confused… So, if you’re managing multiple accounts, that post can go to the wrong Twitter account! 
  • As a workaround, I recommend posting to Twitter separately — I copy the initial post after I write it, put it into the notepad file, copy out the additional hashtags in a comment, and then post it to Twitter. 
Of course, this isn’t everything, but hopefully it’s a good start as you get going with Instagram! And perhaps even you veterans learned something new? If you have any additional tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments, and perhaps I’ll use them in a future post.