Choosing A Social Media Marketing Specialist

Do you think spending a couple of hundred bucks on your social media strategy is all that it takes to create the necessary engagement and depth of trust with potential clients and customers, as well as reach a broad audience? No way, Jose! (If you can’t afford more than that, I get it. I have experienced bootstrapping first-hand, and this post is not directed at you.) If, however, you can afford to spend more, but choose not to because you’re thinking “hey, these days anyone can throw some posts up on your Twitter or Facebook account”, let me just stop you right there! Yes, it’s true that your 14 year old nephew can use a mobile app on his phone to create a graphic that can be shared on Instagram or Pinterest and that you can buy clicks and likes for a few bucks any day of the week, but will using a person or a company that doesn’t have the depth of experience or the ability to customize an approach to your specific business really make you money? I don’t think so. You may as well not have a SM presence at all. And a lot of people chose not to. Sadly, those same people are missing out on a ton of sales.

My thing is, if you own a business and want to stay relevant, connect with customers and make sales, you cannot ignore social media, and by extension, unless you have the time and energy to run your Social Media efforts yourself, your absolute best bet is to plan to use and SM specialist to help you and budget accordingly.

Pay careful attention to that last word. “Specialist.” A specialist is a person who focuses on and is an expert on a particular subject or activity; a person highly skilled in a specific and restricted field. My focus is to build relationships with customers on a client’s behalf. In Social Media terms, we call that “creating engagement.”

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but right now, marketing is ALL about engagement. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. People buy from other people or companies they trust. Trust takes time. It takes conversation. It takes active listening – for your sake and that of the customer. Becoming *PERSONALLY* familiar with your business and the customers you serve is my job. Knowing just the right questions to ask is also my job. Both skills need to be present and well-honed in order to create and customize content for the right kind of engagement.

So yeah, if you’ve got the budget for marketing, but are choosing not to spend it on experts, you may want to reconsider. I like a deal as much as the next girl, but in this instance the cliche applies – you get what you pay for.

Remember that communication is key in building relationships. It’s absolutely a necessity to start and continue conversations on your social media platforms to start adding to your business’ trust account. Without that engagement, you will be losing customers to your Social Media savvy competitors every day of the week.

“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Public Schools Need Social Media Marketing??

If you’re like me, when you grew up, your parents didn’t have a lot of choice when it came to sending you off to school. Their options were likely something like this:

  • Public School
  • Private School

Alllllrighty then. So school that isn’t really free, but as close to it as we’re going to get … OR school that’s going to take a hefty chunk out of their bank account. The choice, for most, was a no-brainer.

Today – we’re faced with choices though. In my opinion – choice is good. It causes good brands to strive to be better. Same goes for schools. In the age of school option – the choices can be dizzying. Where do I send my child?

  • Private Religious School
  • Private Secular School
  • Public School
  • Charter School
  • Home School
  • Free Online Public Schools

I’m sure those are just the beginning of a long list of options available to parents today. It’s clear, then, that just sitting there – expecting parents to come banging on your door – is not going to yield the results you would hope for.

In the state of Indiana, schools receive approximately $6000/traditional student and approximately $10000/special needs student. Let’s say 1 school in 1 district loses 1 student to each of these with 5 students being traditional and 1 being special needs. That’s $40k lost. Just. Like. That. We all know that schools aren’t just losing 1 student to each of these alternative schools though. The numbers are far more staggering than that. But even at just 1 – $40k equals one teacher cut. That means larger classroom sizes, less individualized attention and then MORE students moving to alternative schools. Then you lose the next 6 students and now you’re $80k in the hole. It’s the proverbial rabbit hole  – there’s no end to it… unless you figure out how to put a stop to it yourself.

What can you do to get your enrollment numbers where they need to be AND KEEP THEM THERE? It’s simple – but not easy… as most things in life are. First, you are now a business. Yes – you’re in the business of educating children, but it’s still a business. What is the #1 goal of most successful businesses? That’s right. Customer Service. Who are your customers? Your knee jerk reaction is probably to say “parents” – no?? Well, I’d challenge that answer and say your actual clients are your students. Momma Bear likely comes to you with her claws out when baby bear comes to her with a story about how he/she has been mistreated before you see her; however, Momma Bear is going to be the one spreading the good (or bad) word about you. All. Over. Facebook. All. Over. Twitter. Oh yes – it’s the age of Social Media.

Oh… Wait… You’re not ON Social Media? Oh yes you are. You might not know it yet – but you have between 700-5000 parents talking about you on (at bare minimum) a monthly basis. You can use that to your advantage – or it can destroy you. This should absolutely not scare  you off. Why wouldn’t you give it your best effort? You could be using software such as [Pivot] to measure improvement in your student/teacher performance – then report on it. You can hi-light students of the month – let parents know you really do care about more than just test scores. You can address problems before they escalate and get out of hand. Parents appreciate a heads up on what’s going on with their kids – God knows teenagers aren’t the most forthcoming creatures ever.

It all boils down to this:  Social Media is about relationship building. If parents trust you with their child, with their well-being and with their future – they’re sold. If you’re ambivalent, seem wishy-washy or not fully committed… well, the Charter School down the road seemed to care. Social Media is your chance to show the reason you became an educator to begin with. It’s not about the money, the test scores or the board members. It’s about young minds and your ability to mold them to be the leaders of tomorrow. If you truly believe your school has the ability to do all of those things – it’s time to jump on the Social Media bandwagon. Be active. Engage your audience. Respond to concerns – or be proactive and report them first yourself. Then and only then are you going to have the opportunity to not only gain, but keep the students you have.

 

Sooo – Jesus Goes Social??

That’s right. In case you’ve been asleep for the last few years, let me fill you in. Nearly EVERYONE is going social. You can keep up with Billy Graham’s happenings on Facebook.  Heck, even the Pope has a Twitter account!  Ps – whoever landed that gig (because I guarantee he doesn’t do it himself) – nicely done!  So let me ask you this: If the Dalai Lama has an Instagram account, why isn’t your house of worship following suit?

Times, they are a-changin’. If you’re  a part of a house of worship… a church, a temple, a synagogue, a mosque… they should absolutely be present on social media. Why? Well, primarily because this is how people engage now. It’s how churches are getting volunteers for their large events. It’s one of the ways they evangelize. One of the reasons people attend religious services is because they want a sense of community. That’s also a large reason the number of social media users is expected to surpass 2.55 billion in the next 4 years (stat taken from mediabistro.com). As humans, we crave connection.

As a place of worship – you should absolutely be using this to your advantage. This is your chance to connect your congregation more than one time a week. Churches all over North America are known for building Small Groups to get everyone to begin growing relationships. This is just one more way to do exactly that. It provides members the chance to be “fed” throughout the week instead of waiting until their Holy Day. It provides many a sense of accountability and others – who may be new to your congregation – it allows them to get to know others without feeling intimidated.

So where should you be engaging your flock? Well, I suppose that depends on the demographic of your church. According to Pew Research, 74% of online adults use social networking sites. Of that 74% – 71% are on Facebook.  Moral of that story? If you’re not on Social Media already – Facebook is probably a safe bet as a place to start. As you get comfortable with that – you can venture off to Twitterland, play amongst the Pinners of the universe and/or Instagram yourself silly.

Once you learn the ropes and have comfortably settled in to this whole idea of reaching your following through social media – then comes the fun part. This is where you really get to shine. Record guest speakers – upload those videos to your website then share them on social from your site. Start recording Sunday sermons so your shut-ins can watch them digitally. Do a daily segment on your YouTube Channel – but keep it short. We live in an A.D.D world. Our attention span is short. You should also absolutely be blogging, even if it’s only monthly. If you have a large congregation, ask your members to become an active part of blogging. Maybe that’s one of your ministries?? Food for thought.

Just do yourself and your congregation a favor and make one step every day to become more involved socially. There may be someone out there that needs to hear exactly what you have to say.

Volley for the Win

My Grandma Clarkston (God rest her soul) graciously gifted me with her bad joints. At age 25, I blew out my right knee trying to escape a paintball grenade in the woods. I was carried out of the woods – and later had an MRI. Torn MCL and a slight ACL tear as well. Both were repaired.

Eight months after that surgery – I was off to Freeport, Grand Bahama Island to visit with my family. We were visiting Tony Macaroni on Taino Beach when a spontaneous game of beach volleyball broke out. My gut told me to keep my butt planted firmly on that picnic table, but my love for beach volleyball won. One still weak knee meant most of my weight was on my left knee. Sure enough – snap. I knew as soon as I heard it what had happened. The rest of that trip was spent with my leg up and I gimped my way through the airport back home. This time, severe ACL tear. Helloooo, knee surgery #2.

Truth be told, I love most sports involving a net – tennis and volleyball in particular.  I also love not spending 6 months recovering from knee surgery. The fear of pain has kept me from experiencing my best life. For the better part of 10 years, I’ve avoided any activity involving nets… but that’s where I was happiest in the past.  Until this past Wednesday. Wednesday, I saw 3 high school age kids right outside the condo on the beach, carrying a volleyball. Me not being a very shy person – I went over and invited myself to a game. They obliged the old woman and I’m not gonna lie – I kinda kicked ass. It’s like I never stopped playing. There was diving in the sand, jumping, serving, spiking, setting… all to the music of waves crashing against the shore. Why have I avoided this for so long?

Fear of pain… The truth is sometimes risking pain is worth it. It’s just that – a risk. It’s not a guarantee. When you challenge that risk, you also are reaching for – and often obtaining – the one thing you never knew you were missing in your life.

“Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.” 
― Bob Dylan

The Urgency of Engagment

Although not everyone understands that engagement is an absolute necessity in any social media marketing efforts, I’d say the vast majority of people are either on the bandwagon or they’re at least starting to climb on it. Why, you ask? Excellent question. The answer is simple, really. If you don’t engage – then there’s no social aspect to your social media. At that point, it’s just media… In which case, it would probably be more effective for you to paint your face on one of those bus benches and pray for clients.

People no longer buy from you simply because you tell them to. They buy from you because they’ve built a relationship with you. What’s most important in ANY relationship is trust. That’s what you’re focused on building with your existing and your potential client base.

Now comes urgency. Let’s say you pose a question on Facebook to promote engagement. People start answering that question – or – they start asking questions back. You let the post sit…. and sit… and sit… ya know. Until you finally get the time to answer those questions or comment on those responses. NO! As [Robert Caruso], CEO of [Bundlepost] has said on many occasions in our phone calls, social media is REAL TIME. You need to be engaging your following consistently and actively. Your lag time should be no longer than an hour. Much quicker if at all possible.

The screen shot posted here is used with permission from one of my high school classmates. She very recently returned from a trip to Mexico and had an awful time trying to make it back home to her two kids. This was her tweet – which she then screen captured and posted on Facebook. While it didn’t make her experience any better, per se, US Airways did respond to her rather promptly – asking her if they had deplaned yet. If nothing else, that response let her know that they cared that she was on a return trip from hell and that they were addressing it. Reassurance does wonders for your customers.

So you can’t respond and/or engage while you’re in the back cooking, working on payroll, handling employee discipline problems, dealing with the state tax issues that have been haunting you for the last 2 months? Understandable – but as with anything else, understanding where you are weak and where someone else is strong is absolutely imperative in making a successful business. If you don’t have the time, hire someone. Hire someone who knows what they’re doing – AND has the time.

If you think you don’t have the budget to stay on top of your social media – look at where you’re spending your marketing dollars now. If you’ve done any research at all on marketing today, you’ll know that this is where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck. So you either find ways to trim in other marketing efforts to make room for Social Media Marketing or you absolutely MUST find a way to make time in your day to respond and engage.

Public Speaking and SMM – Easier than Pie.

Photo Credit: @posherov (Twitter)
Speaker: @SimpleADHDExpert (Twitter)

In addition to my strictly marketing clients – I represent speakers. I have for years. I do their marketing, booking – the whole sha-bang. Call me an agent, manager, bitch… whatever you want ;-)  It’s actually how I became so invested in marketing and saw it turn into what it is now – digital marketing.  Having been a part of this industry for 13 years now – I’ve seen some drastic changes.  So, to all of my artists, speakers, authors, etc… This one’s for you.

As a speaker/artist – if you aren’t flying solo (doing your own event), you’re likely a part of something bigger. You’re doing a keynote or a break-out session for a larger conference, right? So are you following that group on Twitter? No?? Facebook?  NOO??? Why not – that’s gold. You have access to an entire organization’s audience. This is the perfect opportunity for you to connect with the organization. Find out what’s important to them and incorporate it into your presentation. Nothing makes a better impression than being on your A game and caring about what’s important to your client.  Re-tweet information from your upcoming clients. Mention their conference in your own tweets – but don’t forget to tag your clients. That (likely) means you’ll get re-tweeted by them – which means you’re getting seen by their entire following.

Here’s the one that many of you probably haven’t considered:  Socially – it’s been unacceptable for years for people to play on their phones while someone is up speaking.  Before you get up and start speaking on your topic, address that very fact. Take 2-3 minutes. Something like, “Ok, I know all of you are probably going to feel some kind of way about this, but… if you have a smart phone or tablet – take it out. Go ahead….. Now, go to whatever twitter app you use and follow me.” Make sure to use a projector of some sort that have your Twitter handle so it’s visible to everyone.  Here’s the other thing – you may have read about hashtag campaigns. If you haven’t – [Click Here] – to read my blog about them. If you’re a speaker who speaks about overcoming fears – maybe your hashtag would be #FearThis.  So if it were me speaking about fear, I would have this on a projector:

Follow me: Twitter – @amberkpowers
Use Hashtag:  #FearThis

Encourage your audience to tweet throughout your presentation using that hashtag. If they find a statement funny, they should quote it with that hashtag. If they like a quote you used, quote it with that hashtag. Teach your audience to market you properly. It just takes minutes.When people start to see that hashtag enough, they’re going to click on it and be linked back to you. Viola, hello future clients.

Your social media campaign doesn’t end there. Etiquette is still insanely important, be it virtual or not. Anyone who uses your hashtag and tags you in a post gets followed back. Grant it – it won’t be real time, but when you get back to the hotel or back home, it should be the first thing you do. Well, then first thing you do after you invade the mini-bar.

Also – in terms of etiquette – be informed about the conference where you’re speaking. If they have a hashtag campaign already, encourage people to use that as well. You can use multiple hashtags in one post – it’s just important to use them in moderation.

You are, indeed, your biggest voice – so use it. It just so happens that your megaphone is now digital, which works to your advantage since your reach is nearly infinite. You have a new tool in your tool belt. One that can bring you substantially more money if you use it properly. Why not?

CLICK HERE IF YOU’RE A SPEAKER SEEKING REPRESENTATION/MANAGEMENT

How to Annoy Fans and Lose Followers

As you can imagine, I spend A LOT of time online. The internet is a vast universe and I enjoy studying companies, large and small, to see what they are doing with their social media. How active are they? How consistent? Are they posting content that is relevant to their audience? Is it not just relevant – but quality? It’s not hard to see when content is merely slapped on a social media outlet just to say it’s been done.

Consumers these days are smarter than ever. They expect quality and anything less than that is going to alienate them. They also don’t want to be bombarded with the same boring message.

In the words of Jay Baer, from his book YOUtility (used with permission)

Top-of-mind awareness requires companies to send messages consistently, but today’s consumers are besieged with every company of every type, size, and description jostling for attention, making pleas to friend, follow, subscribe, read, watch and click. Unimaginative marketers attempt to stand out with message frequency, or by exchanging bribes for attention (resulting in an explosion of Facebook contests and giveaways, among other tactics.)

But sending messages too often can have unintended consequences. Exact Target’s 2012 United Kingdom version of “The Social Breakup” study found that the most often cited reason consumers “unlike” a company on Facebook is that they felt “bombarded by messages.” And, as noted by Jeff Rohrs, Exact Target’s vice president of Marketing Research and Education, all consumers “have to do is just ignore the messages over a period of time, and they slowly get suppressed by Facebook. You simply won’t show up anymore, even if your brand is technically “liked.”

And there it is, my friends in small business. While your intentions, I’m certain, were to build your following and build relationships – one of my life mottos is “All things in moderation.” There are some social media professionals that will tell you there are specific times to post – be it to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other platform. They’ll also tell you there’s a magic number as to how many times you post in a day. I personally think that’s a bit bogus. It’s not about how MUCH you post anymore. It’s about how CONSISTENT you are.

Sure, analytics can tell us when the majority of our audience is online – however – you need to keep your eyes open. Watch what you post. Pay attention to the content, the reaction of your followers, amount of engagement. Idle posts get you nowhere. Once people start seeing others talking – they’re going to want to be heard as well – and YOU need to listen. No computer can replace human contact, interaction… relationship building. This is all dependent upon you, someone who knows you and your business or someone you trust can learn it.

Moral of the story – Is marketing via social media a science?  Of sorts – but the truth is that there isn’t a cookie cutter approach to it. Each business is different as its audience is different from one to another. Audience = people. As we each are different, our businesses must cater to that uniqueness. This is the joy of relationship building, therefore, the joy of social media.

Why, Social Media, Why?

From the Forward of “YOUtility Why Smart Marketing is about Help Not Hype” by [Jay Baer] of [Convince and Convert] (with permission)

I was officially scared to death. It was November 2008. The stock market was in a terrible nose dive. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama debated what should be done about failing banks and financial institutions. To say the U.S. economy was in a tailspin would be an understatement, and consumer confidence was suddenly, almost overnight, shaken to the core.

Within days of the market collapse I had four customers withdraw their deposits. More would follow in the coming weeks. What had appeared to be a healthy late spring and winter for my business was becoming a nightmare.

I was a “pool guy,” as homeowners often call us. Along with my two business partners I had owned River Pools and Spas in Warsaw, Virginia, since 2001. We started with a beat-up pickup truck, three guys, and a dream. By 2008 we had become a formidable in-ground swimming pool construction company with more than seventy fiberglass pool installations a year in Virginia and Maryland.

Going into 2008 I was oozing with confidence. Our brand was expanding, and we were pushing growth as hard as we possibly could. Finally, after years of physical, mental, and emotional sacrifice we were going to experience the fruits of our labors. But no amount of sacrifice or experience could have prepared us for the economic collapse. The faucet that had been flowing wide open during the previous decade suddenly refused to allow even a drop to fall.

By January 2009, our company was on the brink of complete financial ruin. The phone simply wasn’t ringing. It stood to reason; one thing consumers rarely do in the worst economic times since the 1930s is sit around the dinner table and decide to purchase a swimming pool. Even in the rare circumstances when there were interested customers, banks had made luxury-lending nearly impossible with the tightening of credit and the evaporation of home equity due to the collapse of the real estate market. We had almost no projects for the foreseeable future. Our credit lines were maxed out, our sixteen employees were sitting at home with nothing to do, and our bank accounts were overdrawn for three consecutive weeks.

I was depressed, scared and out of ideas. I found myself turning to the one place we seem to go to find the answers we’re looking for – the Internet. Since I certainly wasn’t installing pools, I had plenty of time to research new marketing and business concepts; as I did, concepts like “blogging,” “inbound marketing,” content marketing,” and “social media” kept coming up again and again.

Like most of us I had an inherent sense that business and marketing were shifting to the web, but, as a not particularly computer-savvy guy, it wasn’t something that had ever seemed applicable to my business. But, I’d never been more ready to try something new. Unless we figured out a way to generate more leads and sales without spending money on advertising, we were going to close our doors, and my business partners and I would lose our homes.

It was time to sink or swim.

What I discovered first, and what will become exceptionally clear in this book, is that consumers of all types expect to find answers on the Internet now, and companies that can best provide that information garner trust and sales and loyalty. Success flows to organizations that inform, not organizations that promote. It’s a fundamental change in how I think about business, and you’ll think differently too, after reading Youtility.

So this one’s going out to all you small business owners out there. You’re my people. You’re the ones that have everything to lose by remaining stagnant. You might have thoughts similar to those of Jay’s at the time… feeling technically inept. There is more than a sufficient supply of contractors out there who can teach you. If you fear you’re just not teachable when it comes to technology – maybe you’re right. In that case, find a contractor to take care of your efforts for you. I’ve said multiple times on this blog that you absolutely must know what your strengths and weaknesses are. If you don’t – chances are you’re wasting YOUR time and energy (which equals cash by the way… YOUR cash) that could be focused where you excel.

I have two clients that are older gentlemen. One in his mid-sixties – the other in his mid-seventies. The gentleman in his mid-sixties is like a bag full of ADD mixed with good intentions. He is insanely good at what he does – working with animals. He is insanely bad at anything technically related. Instead of trying to figure it all out, he hired me. He gets to spend his time doing what he loves, I get to take care of what he doesn’t excel at. Likewise with the 75 year old. While he can’t afford to have someone take over his entire social media presence (which I can appreciate), he can pay me to meet with him once a month to fine tune his SM strategy, and while he has to take care of all logistics himself, we take out all the guess work of what needs to be done, when and how, with setting monthly goals and creating a plan for him to follow. This works great!

My rule of thumb is this: If I have to sell  you on the fact that as a business, you NEED a Social Media presence (and a strong one at that) – I likely won’t take you on as a client. Why? ‘Cuz ain’t nobody got time for that! ;) My time needs to be focused on coming up with content for my current clients, not spent on trying to reassure you (after two days) that SM is a valid and vital form of marketing. One of my friends says this in regards to finding clients: “If you get a potential client that wants to see immediate results….. RUN. They need to understand that Social Media Marketing is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.” Oh how right she is. This beast is all about building relationships. I don’t know about you, but if there is a man who is interested in me – if he tries to go from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds, he’s going to scare me off. Why? Because as a (somewhat) rational human being – I understand that solid relationships take time to build if they’re going to be sustainable. Friendships are the same way. If I just met you and all of a sudden you want to spend every waking moment together – it’s quite likely that this is going to be a turn-n-burn friendship – which I quite honestly have no time for. Social media is the same way. Take the time you need to build rapport with your audience. Make it your job to care about what they care about. Be genuine.

What I DO have time for is what Jay talks about a bit later in his book – spending time on MY content. Coming up with content that makes me an expert in my field so that I’ll be the resource everyone wants to come to. My number one client is me. It has to be. Why? Because if I’m not consistently staying up on what’s happening in social media – my clients suffer. If you take time to blink in this field, you’re behind your game. If you’re looking for a Social Media professional – I’ll leave you with this – make sure you ask them this question: “What client do you spend the most time on?” You might be surprised at the answer you get.

Until next time – where I’ll be reviewing more of YOUtility – You can get your own copy of the NY Times Bestseller ——>HERE<——-

You May Need to Tweak Your Twitter

My friend and I were discussing new followers we had on Twitter this morning. She and I both use Twitter for business, as do many others. One statistic I found said that as many as [85% of B2B marketers use Twitter.] Suffice to say, business people are certainly using this micro-blog for more than entertainment. In fact, I would venture to guess that 90% of my tweets are business related. Do I sprinkle bits and pieces of who I am – my character – my personality – in there? Absolutely. As I should… And so should you.

Here’s my point. You want others to at least THINK you know what you’re talking about. You want to provide valuable content, keep them intrigued and from time to time a little entertainment isn’t such a bad thing. When people click on your profile on Twitter, what do they see? This morning when I was discussing profiles with my friend, she stumbled on one profile that literally made her laugh out loud – followed by, “and WHY would I follow this guy back?” I can’t remember exactly what his profile synopsis said, but it was about 4-words long and may as well have said, “I like chocolate milk.”

Your social image is a huge part of your overall image. Your twitter profile should contain… well… a micro-blog of you. If you use your Twitter account primarily for your CPA business, that’s what the majority of your Twitter profile should be as well.  While “I like chocolate milk” may be funny as a Twitter profile for [Zach Galifianakis], he has established himself as a comedian. It fits who he is.

Here is my Twitter profile – just to give you an example.

President, Powers Digital Marketing / Social Media Professional / Entrepreneur / Supporter of Small, Local Business / Coffee Queen / Lover of all things bacon

Indianapolis · amberkpowers.com

It sums up what I do and who I enjoy working with with just a peppering of who I am outside of work – or things I enjoy.  If you use your Twitter account for business, make sure when people look at your profile, they leave knowing they could have an intelligent conversation with you about the industry you work in. More importantly, since it’s a social site – make sure you give them reason to follow you.

The Inevitable Fear

And you’re back?  Hooray for another Face Your Fear Friday!

All of us fear it in one way or another. Death. Don’t leave! My hope is that this lights a fire under you to mend fences. Have no regrets.  This life boils down to one thing in my mind. It’s not about building the biggest business. It’s not about how many things you can fit into your castle of a house. What it starts and ends with is love.

In all seriousness, I don’t fear my own death one bit. That might sound morbid, but I’ve just come to accept the circle of life. Here’s my biggest fear, truth be told: My leaving this planet or someone I love leaving this planet not knowing how much I love them. I was sitting with my two cousins at [Stacked Pickle] a little over a month ago. We were talking about getting our cousins together to do a camping trip this summer so we could all be in one place and just enjoy each other’s company outside of the hustle and bustle of every day life. I think Joe thanked me for organizing it – and that was all it took.  Tears started flowing down my cheeks and I said, “You know, my biggest fear is that I won’t see you guys or people that I love again – and you won’t know how much I love you.” And the tears kept coming.  The truth is that the tears finally stopped the day after, but even now, writing this out – my eyes are starting to fill up.

I lost my mom nearly 6 years ago to a horrid disease – pancreatic cancer. I’d be lying if I told you that a part of me didn’t die that day as well. Before that day came though – my GOD, we had a rocky relationship.  I took her for granted more times than I care to remember. I was selfish. She was demanding and controlling. It felt like one head butt session after another. I even remember when she was feeling so badly before her diagnosis – I felt like she was exaggerating – because that’s what she did. Everything was bigger than life (which is probably why I love the movie Big Fish). As I sat in that tiny little consultation room with about 10 other family members, the doctor told me news that flipped my whole world upside down. As much as this woman annoyed me. As much as I’d thought her purpose in life was to destroy mine – the reality of the woman who loved me enough to give me life – flashed right in front of me. In that moment, I realized just how self-centered we can be as humans. Before this moment, I’d lived my life for me. On October 11th, 2007 – my life was no longer just about what I wanted and what I needed. At around 10:30 am that very day, my life’s purpose became saving my mother’s life. No doctor was going to tell me I couldn’t either.

I tried – and I failed. One thing I didn’t fail at though: I rebuilt an incredible, loving, connected relationship with my momma. I apologized for the little things and the big things.  I bathed her, massaged her, and at the end, flushed her IV lines, fed her – and ultimately…. let her go.  As I was sitting next to her as she was in her hospital bed a couple of weeks before she passed, her best friend, Patty was there.  I got a little emotional and started to apologize again.  She looked at me and said, “honey, it’s ok.  Let it go.”  Then she looked at Patty and said, “Isn’t it funny? Your kids can wound you deeply and all it takes is a heartfelt apology and EVERYTHING is ok. And I mean it, sis.” As she turns back to me.. “Everything is ok.”  Now that’s love.

I want to leave you with this video from Patrick Swayzee and Barbara Walters.  It’s ironic that this man passed from the same dreaded disease. The reason I share it though – is the tail end of this video. “It’s amazing, Molly. The love inside… You take it with you.”  Live each day like it’s your last – and love just the same.  Mend fences.  Pride is a monster and it’s not worth the regrets you’ll have once it’s too late.

If you have interest in learning more about Pancreatic Cancer or would like to donate to research please visit the —->PanCan Site <—–