Imagine 25 business women who have been part of a mastermind group online, meeting and conversing over business topics and social media on a regular basis each month.  These women were given an exciting opportunity to come together to meet their leader and mentor Mari Smith, and meet each other in person too.  The group of social savvy women are from all over the globe, traveling from every corner to meet, learn and grow personally, spiritually and through business.

Mari Smith and Sarah KuglinYou guessed it! I was one of those very lucky women and I recently made the trip to San Diego to meet my business and online marketing mentor Mari Smith and 25+ other amazing women, who are by far my mentors too.

I have been following Mari Smith for quite some time, starting before the publishing of her book The New Relationship Marketing: How to Build a Large, Loyal, Profitable Network Using the Social Web.  After reading her book, I was inspired to do better, help others and connect with my influencers.  Over two years later I often go back to her book and re-read the valuable information again because following her advice always leads to a new opportunity.

Here are just a few of my favorite tabbed and highlighted quotes from Mari’s book:

The New Relationship Marketing Book by Mari Smith“When you set out to create your Facebook fan page (and all other social networks), ask yourself how you will engage people” – Chapter 1

“Keep in mind that you must always be building relationships without an agenda or expectation of return.  Trust that the law of reciprocity will automatically activate; it always does” – Chapter 5

“Identify mentors as well as role models who can help and inspire you to grow your business” – Chapter 5

“The real measure of influence depends on whether you cause your network to take the action that you want them to take.  In other words: Can you move people to vote with their dollars, their feet, their clicks?” – Chapter 7

“Remember: Emotional intelligence is a vital skill in today’s online world.” – Chapter 11

In 2011 I was even given the opportunity to interview Mari about her book, The New Relationship Marketing, where she talked about several great ideas and examples on how to build relationships in business with social media.  The interview was an awesome experience for me and became a great resource to share with my network of clients and web and social media visitors.

Being inspired by Mari’s personality and willingness to share her knowledge and expertise with others made it a no-brainer to join her Inner Circle group.  The Inner Circle is a private group of members who get together online for webinars, discussions, coaching by Mari and more.  I have learned so much from Mari over the years about social media and online marketing, but most of all about building relationships online and in person.

How do you define relationship marketing? Mari Smith says it’s, “Everything you do to make your prospective customers aware of your products and services, position your business in their minds as the obvious choice, and build lifelong profitable relationships with them.”

Mari Smith, JoAnne and Sarah
Fellow Minnesotan and one of my accountability partners JoAnne Funch, Mari Smith and I

I recently joined the next level of Mari’s coaching and mentorship program, the Business and Beyond Club.  I have watched Mari grow and succeed tremendously, but she always keeps true to her real self and her loyal followers.  I knew this club would be a group of like-minded people, almost all women, who mirror Mari’s goals and values too.  The Business and Beyond Club is a powerful combination of business building strategies plus proven social media marketing methodologies, plus Mari Smith’s favorite personal and spiritual growth principles and habits woven throughout that have profoundly impacted her life and that she knows will help others.

When the opportunity arose to attend the Business and Beyond Club Mastermind and Social Media Immersion live event in San Diego, I knew I had to go.  Not only would I be marking off one of my Hollywood Squares by meeting Mari in person (Chapter 5, The New Relationship Marketing book), I would have opportunities to learn and grow with my mentors.

During the event I got to meet so many amazing, powerful women who all cared so much about each other and where we are at in business.  We had many great opportunities to network and share stories including the opening night dinner with Mari.  As the leader of our group, she was so humble and kind, making sure to talk with everyone and take pictures too (after all our lives revolve around social media and sharing photos).  During dinner April of Touching Clients informed us that Mari had made #3 on the Top 20 Women Social Media Influencers of 2013 from Forbes (I know, she should be number one).  Let the celebration begin!  Mari even brought her portable speaker and iTunes for after dinner music; my kind of gal!

Friday’s events were filled with introductions, each of us club members getting on stage in front of the group to tell our story, what’s holding us back in business and what we want our business to look like in the future. I’ll tell you a little secret; I have no idea what I said on stage.  I know it wasn’t what I rehearsed in my mind, but it was fun.  It was also a great inspiration hearing from the other women about their unique businesses and some of the common problems and future goals we all had.

Mari Smith's Business and Beyond Club
The Amazing Business and Beyond Club

In the afternoon Mari brought in her spiritual leader Esperanza Universal of the Soul Institute.  She was a great inspiration for me and many others in the room too.  I have goals that I know I will achieve now thanks to Esperanza, her story, and time she spent with us.

Saturday was a day of Social Media Immersion, which included social media strategies, tools and resources to get your business on the fast track with social media.  There were new business people and online marketing leaders in the group on Saturday, which was great to meet even more amazing people with the same passions.

One of the great things Mari Smith promotes and encourages is sharing with others.  All of our Twitter streams were flowing with great quotes, valuable info and photos from the day.  Here are a few of my favorite tweets I, as well as others, shared!

Mari Smith's VIP's with Sarah Kuglin

After the day of learning social media tactics and goals, a group of us geared up for a VIP night out to dinner with Mari.

She took us by limo to Nine-Ten in La Jolla, CA where we arrived just in time for the beautiful sunset over the ocean.  Dinner was a great time with a great group of people.  Mari inspired us to think positive about the future of our businesses.  We even went around the table, telling our goals for where we will be next year at this time.  My speech included meeting with Mari to tell her how the year went and how I exceeded my goals, wink wink.  The evening was indeed filled with achievement motivation and support from the entire group.  Mari is a real and giving person and its clear she really cares about our personal and business success.  We even did this fun video to share on Facebook, of course.

Even though our three-day event with Mari was coming to an end, I was ready and excited as the Social Media learning and fun was going to continue with three more days at Social Media Examiner’s Social Media Marketing World (#smmw13).  It was awesome to make connections with a great group of people, where we planned to meet up at Social Media Marketing World too.  And of course Mari was set to speak and introduce at the event too!

Taking the step forward by joining the Business and Beyond Club and making the trip to San Diego to meet with Mari Smith and the entire group has proven to be one of the most influential things I have done in business.  It is amazing to have these new friends to share with, learn from and be held accountable to. I will cherish our relationships for years to come.  I cannot say enough about the connections and experience of meeting your mentors in person.  If you have the opportunity to attend an event, meet with people or just get together with your mentors in person, don’t think twice about it.  Do what you have to do to make it happen!

Thank you Mari, the club and the event has given me the inspiration and determination to take the next leap into business and beyond!

Do you have a mentor or influencer you want to meet in person?  How will make it happen?!

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