think I’m a Luddite. I am from the world where the value of face-to-face
marketing was one I understood. Now I live in a world where people communicate
with their thumbs. However lately I’ve seen that faces and thumbs can live in
harmony I will admit that thumbs can connect to the
world instantly. They can communicate to large numbers of people in real time,
albeit at the cost of good grammar and spelling. Faces still have the advantage
of being able to stare eyeball to eyeball with a client even if it is only one
at a time. So in a world where it is faster and considerably less expensive to
connect with a text, can one justify the cost of face-to-face?
A report I read recently prepared by the
Harvard Business Review called, “Managing Across Distance in Today’s Economic
Climate” focused on the issue of the high cost of business value versus the
The report described four key areas where face
to face trumps technology:
Developing new clients. 95% of
respondents said that face to face was crucial for building strong and long
term client relationships.
negotiating major contracts and agreements, 82% said that face to face
meetings are the most effective tool in their arsenal.
Maintaining relationships: It’s
relatively easy to hide feelings, concerns and priorities behind technology.
Any one who deals with people face to face on a regular basis will attest to
their ability to pick up on signals that often reveal the real story behind
Cultural barriers: Try texting
a partner on the other side of the world and see if the real message was
understood the first time. I am not just talking about language but the
nuances of your message which may or may not be recognized. The value of
face to face is to be able to read the non-verbal acceptance of what you are
saying and be able to clarify if necessary.
So there are advantages to face to face
marketing. However, with the high cost of business travel in a shaky economy do
these advantages justify the cost?
In this same report 60% of sales and marketing
people said that cutbacks in their business travel would hurt business, while
36% of finance people said cutbacks would have no impact on the business. So
now we have the age old conflict between those who solicit business and those
who pay for it.
The solution is to make a strong enough case
for face to face and to provide new metrics for measuring return. Here are three
things to consider:
Combine business travel with other activities.
A major event like a trade show or conference is a magnet for buyers and
sellers. By combining your exhibit investment to include time for individual
sales calls, meetings and presentations, you can amortize the cost and
increase the value of the investment to your corporation.
Establish a singular budget.Often
the exhibition budget is a marketing activity while sales calls are sales.
When you combine both activities under one budget line you create a
corporate expenditure that has a higher probability of measurable success.
Establish multiple metrics.In
the past, corporations measured success by focusing on one or two metrics.
In our new world this list of metrics should be expanded. For example you
may use your trade show to gather quality leads, a sales meeting to close a
sale and an on-site presentation to advance the sales cycle. Three
activities needing three individual metrics with the results of the three
being attributed to the overall success of the exhibition program.
The battle of thumbs and faces has only just
begun. Perhaps in the future one will totally replace the other – but that’s
not the case now. Before you let the finance people decimate your face to face
budget perhaps its time to sit down with them and have a serious conversation.