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.

Getting Real and Being Real – Is it all Rainbows and Unicorns?

It’s difficult, I think, for folks who have never experienced any turmoil or adversity in their lives to understand just what it takes to persevere. I had a boyfriend during an extremely stressful time in my life who had never experienced any loss — of a job or otherwise. He couldn’t relate, and all he could do was to tell me not to be stressed.

I just watched a vlog – Day 118 on his road to 300 – by Demian Ross. He had a different plan for the video, but it took a turn to a really personal story for him. A REAL story about the real, not-so-positive-life-turn for him a couple of years ago.

This video got me thinking about my own situation and low times for me in the past. Things are not always rainbows and unicorns, and it helps to share realness, because it shows people they aren’t alone.

Social media does tend to be this place where we show the good. People will assume all is well and perfect if all you ever show appears perfect. Clearly, everything is not always good!


In 2001 I was laid-off from a dot-com. I made it through three layoffs, but couldn’t escape the fourth. Three months earlier I had to be out of an apartment I was renting because our lease was up, and my roommate and I were both moving on. I was in the process of buying a condo, but hadn’t closed yet, so I stored my stuff and was living with my boyfriend for what was supposed to be a few weeks. Well, the sellers ended up taking it off the market!

Needless to say, it seemed I was “lucky” I didn’t get that condo, but now I was jobless AND homeless. It was the beginning of 2.5 years of my belongings being in storage, and me living with friends and family. I was unemployed or underemployed for most of that time before things finally came together for me. It was a daily struggle of trying to make ends meet. Of relying on others to help me.

People I’ve worked with since then can’t believe I went through that–that I managed to get to where I was, despite that. At the time friends would say to me “I don’t know how you’re doing it”… my response was I had no choice! I was simply dealing, continuing to look for work, and taking each day as it came (ending with having three jobs at once before finally moving into my own home again).

Cut to today…

I’ve had my business for nearly five years, and the past three months have been particularly difficult. The loss of a large client who shut down his company. Flakey potential new clients. Hopes being raised and then dashed over and over. Verbal agreement for new business, which was then taken away. While I’m not in the same spot I was in 17 years ago, I am in a low. Struggling financially is not unusual for business owners, this I know! It has had me wondering how much to share… do I remain optimistic or do I share the hardships?

I did just take a very big vacation — it was planned and about 2/3’s of it was already paid for (before losing the big client), so I went anyway. But I know how it looks… it looks like I’m flush!

I did try to make the absolute most of it, including soaking it all in as I am in this photo.


What’s the lesson?

That you never know what people are really going through. If you didn’t know Demian’s story before today (and he only shared part of it), you would never think such a funny, smart dude would have gone through what he has so recently.

If I only post the positive, everyone will continue to believe all is positive.

I know things will get better… I know there are some amazing businesses out there that will benefit from my skills and experience to help them improve their communication and sales!

If you’re struggling, you’re not alone. If you need someone to lend an ear, reach out. We’re not alone, and support from others will help us all.

Best of luck!

Would You Prefer a Conference or an Unconference Experience?

As I head into one of the most fun, most inspiring, most-learning-filled conferences (and weeks) of the year, it’s caused some reflection about Social Media Marketing World (SMMW), and what makes a conference great.

I also attended an amazing UN-Conference not too long ago, so I thought I’d write about what this un-conference is all about… and what the KEY things are that make #SMMW18 great.

This is my 5th year attending SMMW, and as someone who has worked in the meetings and events industry, I think I’ve attended upwards of 75 conferences in my career. I know what makes one great. Here I’m offering four ways this one does it right.

THE SMMW Conference

SO helpful. Of the utmost importance for this show is helping every single attendee make the connections they’re looking for while they’re there. This effort starts in earnest before anyone gets to the convention center… WAY before. There’s a LinkedIn group for those who are registered, there’s a Facebook event where any attendee or prospect can engage with each other and the team. There are dozens of Slack channels. There are people managing the hashtag via Twitter and Instagram. There’s a dine-around sign-up to give folks an opportunity to connect with others in their space before even arriving at the conference. There’s an army of people dedicated to making sure everyone knows what they need to know, that they feel included, and feel welcome before they even arrive. They also have networking tables during lunch where everyone can chat with each other about their area of interest.

In abundance. The company that puts on the show is Social Media Examiner (SME). SME does have a staff, but they also have a HUGE army of volunteers who engage with the community via all the different channels. Different staffers oversee the volunteers, and it all seems to work like a symphony. The volunteers are involved in managing the different channels in advance of the show, but they’re also the “boots on the ground” getting you registered, acting as human signage, overseeing each breakout room, etc. Needless to say, SME is also incredibly engaging via every single social media channel and Slack. It’s what they do, so it should go without saying, but so many conferences get this wrong (still)!

High quality. 
This actually goes hand-in-hand with resources, but it’s worth its own place in the list. Listen, this social media business is all so new, and EVER-changing. No one person can claim they know it all. We’re (in large part) at the mercy of the platform owners like Facebook, Twitter, and SnapChat, to name a few. Social Media Examiner’s business is to stay on top of it, and they do throughout the year with staffers like Erik Fisher and Jeff Sieh hopping on Facebook Live sometimes several times per week to break the news… and discuss what the implications are for all of us. They then parlay that into VERY carefully curating which speakers will provide the content at SMMW. You can’t really apply to speak–they ask those they see making a difference out there in the industry. Like with the most recent “Facebook apocalypse,” for example–they determined Brian Fanzo was the one who should speak on this in recent weeks, but it wasn’t on the original schedule. Being able to pivot like that is crucial in this business, and they do!

Taken seriously. I met the Event Director Phil Mershon a few years ago at the Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA) Summit. I shared with him I had attended the previous year, and he asked me for my feedback on the event… he has continued to ask for feedback from me and others, and I regularly see our suggestions implemented. They also survey all attendees, and I know they take it all to heart. This is only the 6th year SMMW has been held, and it’s improved incrementally every year because they care what the attendees think. As someone who has attended SO MANY conferences, this is unusual, and is probably the key reason it continues to be so good.

Haute Dokimazo

At the other end of the spectrum of a conference like SMMW is Haute Dokimazo (HD). Sounds like a Japanese meal, right? This is what some will refer to as an “un-conference,” which was created to throw all ways of planning a conference out the window. Equally awesome! And let me tell you why.

Inspired founders. The three founders of this event are all event industry veterans. As one of them–Liz Lathan–said about it, “It occurred to us one day that the best part of conferences is the coffee breaks.” In other words, the moments you get speaking to people between the content often times is where there’s the most value. So they set out to create a unique event that’s all “coffee break”! They also decided to keep it to just 100 people, with the goal of having an even split between “brand” people and “suppliers.”

Curated content. We were all given the chance to write topics that we were interested in exploring on giant post-its, in addition to offering to facilitate anything we are interested in/informed on. There were a few sessions pre-arranged, which were held while the event organizers mined through all of the post-its to determine our sessions for the following day. All of the content was exactly what we all wanted to explore. Brilliant!

No pretense. Part of the magic about HD is that we’re all wearing name tags that have just our first name on them. There’s no distinction between who’s a “buyer” and who’s a “seller.” As Annette Gregg stated, it was nice to be in an environment where there were no “sharks and minnows.” We all spoke to everyone and interacted because we were all after the same thing–simply making connections and learning from each other. I’ve never felt such a warm and inviting environment at a conference prior to this.

Genuine joy. The event started with lunch… And rather than waiting in a line to get our badges for the conference, we put our first name on a “Hello my name is” tag, and were guided to a table where our host introduced us to everyone at the table. Instantly we got to know those at our table before we eventually made our way to the Children’s Museum–an incredibly fun and inspirational venue for a “conference.” At the end of the second day we then had the opportunity to share with everyone all of the positives and negatives of the event. It was incredible to give feedback in real-time vs. filling out a survey! We all left this event better people and professionals than when we arrived.

You can also listen to the Making a Marketer podcast to hear two of the founders of HD talk about its origin, and what it’s all about.

These two events are so VERY different, and equally amazing in their own ways. If you have the opportunity to go to either — or both — I highly recommend it! You’ll leave both events with new contacts and new friends. I guarantee it.

Are You Mad About Slow Organic Growth on Facebook?

If you’re a marketer who is managing business pages in Facebook, the answer is absolutely yes (in the past three plus years). Okay, mad might not be the right word… Frustrated? Bummed? Yep. But I have some great news!

Facebook has been tweaking things in ways that really help us with organic growth. Here I explore the latest ways they’re helping.

6 ways Facebook business pages are great for location-based business organic growth

  1. Patrons often geo-tag their Facebook photos, whether they’re tying to “check-in” or not. This means the admins for the page get a notification Facebook restaurant check-inEVERY time someone posts a photo or indicates they were at your establishment.
    Which means? You have an opportunity to THANK them for visiting your establishment! This is a chance to bolster that relationship, and hopefully a way to make their visit with you even more memorable (so they’ll be more likely to come back). There’s a surprise & delight element here that shouldn’t be overlooked.
    Note: For whatever reason, if they comment again or like your response comment, you will NOT get a notification on that! Go back from time to time and see if there’s even more interaction (like “The meal was delicious!”).
  2. These same patrons are then prompted by Facebook to “Like” your page!Facebook business page like
    Which means? Your follower growth is growing organically, simply because of this change by Facebook. While this is a vanity metric, there’s an awesome change that came up recently (covered later in this post) that makes this even more awesome.
  3. Patrons and guests of patrons who were tagged in a photo are then again prompted within a day or so to write a REVIEW for the business!
    Which means? The number of reviews your business receives will go way up. Chances are not guaranteed (of course), but are likely that the review will be favorable. Fewer people will post to social if they’ve had a bad time or didn’t like the business.
  4. Friends of all of these patrons are also more likely to see their photos and posts, getting a glimpse into the business… and perhaps they’ll become a fan too? Also, friends of people who follow your page who have liked your posts see that activity.
    Which means? They then might like your post too! If you look to see the list of WHO is liking your stuff, Facebook now enables you to invite (non-Facebook business post likefans) to like your page right there! It works – I did it this week (see image to the right), and now I have a new, engaged fan.
  5. Live location is now in Messenger. It’s an easy way to share your location with friends and family. You can choose whether to share it continuously for an hour or as one static share. Which means? It’s another way for your business to get exposure.
  6. Search has been expanded in Facebook. Another great feature for local businesses is the way search works now. If you’re going to a city like San Diego where you know friends of yours have been, you can search “Visited by friends.” Which means? We all know we trust our friends more than advertising, and this will help your organic reach for local businesses!

The check-in notifications and review prompts are not brand new, but worth adding to your strategy. Do you have someone on your team who is responding to all these posts? If the answer is no, it’s worth considering the benefits.

Expanded search

In this example I searched on “global meetings industry day 2017,” and it defaulted to “Posts from Friends,” but gave me a chance to narrow the search.

Local businesses have the opportunity to have more posts seen in this way.

COMING Soon: Facebook is currently testing an even further expanded search, which will enable you to search “nearby restaurants,” and get reviews along with it. They appear to be moving in on Yelp’s territory (no complaints here!). As TechCrunch states in this article, “ ‘A spokesperson for Facebook confirmed the feature saying, “We’re testing a new way to discover where to go and what to do around you.’ ”

Awesome change to Facebook business pages

I recently liked a page on Facebook — my friend’s new business, Fredericksburg Cupcake — and I began getting notifications for it every time they posted. This was a first for me!

I wasn’t seeing it in my feed, but seeing this green image in my notifications is something I had never seen before. It perplexed me, so I set out investigating! It turns out this is a promoted post, which you can use to target specific demographics. Seeing this in notifications versus serving it up in the feed was new for me. I’d be interested to hear if your experience with this feature is different.

When you “like” a page, you are automatically “following” them. In following them, you can also control what you see.

Bonus tip

You probably noticed that sometimes you get a pop-up when someone responds to a post you’ve initiated or commented on. They’re calling it a “tab,” but when something pops-up, that’s what I call it! If you’d like to make it stop, here’s how.

Go to the very bottom right-corner of the Facebook browser window, and click the gear icon. The click Turn Off Post Tabs. Done!


Some of this might not be “new” news to you, but after several conversations I had at Social Media Marketing World from people interested in how I do social for restaurants, I thought it was worth the share. I also learned of more additions as I was writing the post.

Facebook continues to be an ever-evolving, ever-frustrating, but EVER-essential tool for all of us to use! I really like the changes they’re making for local businesses to reduce the frustration with organic growth on Facebook.

While it’s important to keep up on these updates, it’s just as important to use them to your advantage. It’s also crucial to keep up on engaging with the visitors that are engaging with you. If they include their (aka, YOUR) location in your post, they’re doing you a huge favor. Reward them for it by acknowledging them!

And… If you don’t have the time or the staff, it’s worth reviewing where time should be spent with your social. Please reach out to me if you’d like help with your local business marketing!


We need to port our blog over from Blogspot! Here’s loads of a variety of writing…