Customers like to look sales people in the eyes. They love to see if they are genuine, or if the sales person is trying to pull a fast one. Few major purchases are completed without personal contact. And even for small things, we often prefer to be physically connected to someone, rather than buy it from a machine.
If this were not the case, how come there are queues in every bank, when there is a machine outside that does almost everything you need and online systems to do everything else? Much banking is still face-to-face because people like to deal with a person, not a machine. Equally most books are bought in physical bookshops. In 2008 only 13.4% of all books bought in the UK were purchased online; 92% of people do not buy from Amazon. In spite of the phenomenal success of online book sales, most people still prefer to buy their books from a real person.
When you are running an online business it is often all to easy to focus your attention to selling via your website and neglect the potential for face-to-face selling or marketing. Interesting then, that the online marketing gurus at HubSpot have produced a report which shows how important face-to-face is, even in the age of dramatically increasing online social networking.
The study shows that seven out of ten businesses rate face-to-face marketing as more valuable than webcasts, email marketing or any form of online advertising. Furthermore, the study shows that having a website and taking part in social networking sites is only rated marginally better. In other words, after 20 years of the web and five years of social networking, being “out there” with your customers and potential customers is still highly valuable.
So, what can you do about this if you are an exclusively online business? Well, start considering how you can engineer face-to-face contacts with people. Why doesn’t Amazon, for instance, run local reading clubs? That would get them off the web and into the community, meeting customers and potential customers face-to-face. Similarly, if you run some kind of online consultancy how about turning it into training courses that extend what you do online. That way you’d be “out there” in the physical world engaging with your customers more.
It doesn’t matter much what kind of business you are in or what you sell online, getting involved in face-to-face marketing and selling is invaluable. After all, even the porn industry has expos (don’t click on that link if you are easily offended). The buzz about online marketing and social networking should not distract you; one of the most important things you can do to boost your business is meet more customers and potential customers face-to-face – they like it.