Flashback to last Sunday, March 15: Day four of our SXSW Interactive Festival experience, and we’re enjoying the sunshine and complimentary beverages in the Registrants Lounge outside the Austin Convention Center. We get chatting with two charming gentlemen: one is the co-founder of a new social media app start-up based in the UK and the other, from Sydney, Australia, represents his wife’s YouTube channel – apparently the second most popular baking and confectionary channel on YouTube. Two people whose business models are entirely online—and the great takeaway from their experience at SXSW is how valuable the networking is, and how important it is to meet people face to face. That’s in person face to face, not Instagram face to face.
As marketers, we have all of these amazing digital tools at our disposal to reach our customers. And we use these tools to try and simulate this face-to-face interaction. We harness our data and use personalization, automation, lead nurturing, you name it—but are we ever really able to truly build relationships this way? Is there a sufficient replacement for face to face?
The account managers and business development people at EMA (or any company, for that matter) will tell you there’s no substitute for bonding opportunities with our clients and prospects. We all know that relationships not only blossom, but grow, over dinners and baseball games. Those are the opportunities to share stories, learn about friends and families, and truly connect. Those are the moments I wouldn’t trade for all the Twitter followers in the world.
So what does this mean for us? As marketers, should we be pushing the boundaries beyond simulated prospect nurturing toward working with customer service and sales teams on how to build real relationships with real people? Historically, sales teams have kept their marketing counterparts at arms’ length, but if we celebrate the importance of those human interactions and start focusing on how to help bring even more value to those real relationships instead of trying to fake them, perhaps sales will reach out with a hug, not a snub.
In the midst of the one of the most forward-thinking Interactive Festivals, we found the future of marketing may not be just all digital. Let’s grab a beer and talk about it.