Who is this beautiful woman? A former Miss Universe, the queen of Norway? No, instead, she’s considered to be one of the foremost authorities,and one of the most sought-after speakers on using Facebook for business. Her new book,The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, Profitable Network Using the Social Web will open your eyes to a new way of doing business, as set forth with the rise of social networking platforms. It was a privilege to interview Mari and glean some insights into the current state of social media marketing for business.

SP: What does the term “Relationship Marketing” refer to?

Mari: This term was first used in the mid 1980’s and refersto the idea of placing weight and value on people and our relationships with them– focusing on quality over quantity, a concept that goes against the current grain with the focus so much on number of followers and fans; equanimity, the idea that all people regardless of their position should be treated with courtesy and respect; and a long-term perspective on relationships, where customers are treated more as friends than a one-time sale– all this combined with the overarching understanding that people are more alike than they are different.

SP: What’s so new about relationship marketing then?

Mari: Well today, there are unprecedented opportunities for businesses to really listen in, respond to, and get direct feedback from their customers. Tools like Twitter, Facebook, and now Google+ allow for new relationships, and a depth of relationship, that we haven’t seen before. The smart businesses are listening and will look for new ways to make their customers feel they’re appreciated.

SP: We can now connect with people wecouldn’t have before, and with a lot more people than we ever could before. Any advice onmanaging so many new relationships?

Mari: I have a special exercise in my book called the Five Contact Circles– the inner circles are for intimate friends and key contacts. It’s important to be clear on your most important relationships and make time to nurture them regularly both online and offline. Then, do your best to reply to and connect with as many people in your online networks as you can on a daily basis, even if it’s just a few minutes a day. Make sure you lead with your heart and soul, and with integrity, respectfully acknowledging others.

SP: Mari, how do you become the center of influence in your social network?

Mari: Consistency. Even if you post one Facebook status aday, gradually you will build a following. By doing this you send out a subliminal messagethat you can be relied upon. Also, focus. Focus on your niche; don’t try to doeverything and be everything to everybody.

SP: How do you think Google+ will be used for business?

Mari: Google+ is like another culture. There’s a lot more thoughtful, comprehensivesharing on Google+ since people are not bound with character limits. And with Google just announcing that they are openingtheir API to developers, we’ll start seeing many new 3rd party apps that will help to customize the experience on Google+, much more like Facebook. Once Google+ launches business pages, companies will be able to use this platform as an extension to their company blog and as a way to get to know their target market, possible in more intimate ways. 

SP: You mention the idea of “Conscious Social Media” in your book. What is that?

Mari: Conscious social mediarefers to a shifting your perspective away from yourself to an outward focus of how we can add value to others. Try this as a mantra: before you publish any piece of content anywhere online, stop and ask yourself first, “What is my deepest intent?” This is a wonderful question to tame your ego.

SP: In your video book trailer you mention a life-changingevent that changed the course of your career and personal life. Could you talk a little about that?

Mari: Sure. Back in 2007, just as I discovered Facebook, my then spouse and I sold off our belongings and began to travel around the United States in a motorhome. However, after a year and a half running my rapidly growing business full-time from the road, it became very apparent that it was time for us to go our separate ways and we chose to get divorced. At that time, I also reconnected with a spiritual teacher that I had known for ten years prior, Esperanza Universal, founder of the SOUL Institute. By embarking on a new journey of spiritual and emotional growth, I found that my outer world dramatically changed and is reflected in the new life you see today. I feel very blessed.

SP: You are constantly giving of yourself to others. What kinds of things do you do to fill yourself back up?

Mari: Getting enough sleep is very important. I also have a personal trainer that comes to my home twice a week to work out with me. I’m a work in progress; I do my best to incorporate self-care on a daily basis whether that’s relaxing with a glass of wine and a movie with friends, meditating, getting a massage and so forth. I also go on a spiritual retreat once a quarter. These special practices help to “keep my cup full” so I can do the work that I love to do.

SP: What do you think is the future of relationship marketing?

Mari: You’ll start to see more and more creative ways that companies will demonstrate how much they care for theircustomers, through their actions. Companies will need a CLO chief listening officer that can manage SMCR social media customer relationships. Here’s an example from my own personal experience.

On one of my trips flying AlaskaAirlines from San Diego to Seattle, my flight ended up being delayed 5 hours (it was only a 3 hour flight). I tweeted a comment to @AlaskaAir that I was bummed about the delay and that I had forgotten my iPhone charger. About forty-five minutes later, the manager of Alaska Airlines at San Diego airport came up to me, asked if I was Mari Smith, and handed me a charger for my phone. I was astounded and very impressed! The new way of marketing successfully will require this kind of keen listening skills and giving customer service employees the authority and flexibility to make decisions such as this. 

SP: Who should read your book?

Mari: Business owners and executives who may have been resistant to using social media up to this point due to privacy concerns, fear of being exposed or having to share too much of themselves, or fear of negative comments, but are now ready to overcome those challenges. These fears are perfectly normal and I provide a gentle step-by-step guide in my book. Also, those business owners and entrepreneurs who want to bring a more compassionate dynamic, and a true social touch into their business ethic.

SP: Of all the activities you’re involved: speaking, traveling, consulting, writing, tweeting, which would youconsider your favorite?

Mari: Training and mentoring other professionals. When I train others, I take a holisticapproach, looking at all aspects of a person’slife and supporting them to live into their highest and deepest truth. It’s extremely rewarding work for me.

If you would like to take Mari’s one-on-one mentoring program, find out more here. To pre-order Mari’s thought-changer, The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, and Profitable Network Using the Social Web go here (Scheduled to be released October 25, 2011). Find Mari all over the web:

Mari Smith’s website
Mari Smith on Facebook
Mari Smith on Twitter
Mari Smith on Google+

Our warm thanks to Mari for her generosity in time, granted for this interview. Her contribution to the business community, at a time of great societal and technological change, is certainly more than appreciated by us all. Okay, maybe she’s not a real-life Facebook Fairy, but perhaps an angel in disguise? ;)