Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Value of Face-to-Face Marketing in a Virtual Age

The Value of Face-to-Face Marketing in a Virtual Age

The popularity of communicating virtually—whether via email, instant messaging, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social media channels—has had a significant impact on the speed at which information can be obtained.

Virtual communication has also led some marketers to question the role face-to-face communications can play in building a brand.

However, the need for face-to-face interaction has never been more important. According to a report from Meeting Professionals International (MPI), 40% of prospects converted to new customers via face-to-face meetings, and 28% of current business would be lost without face-to-face meetings.

The reality is that both face-to-face and virtual marketing are essential components to any company's communications strategy. Here are some benefits of both approaches, plus an example of how they can be combined to maximize return on investment.
Whether considering a tradeshow, proprietary event, or a mobile tour, face-to-face interactions provide significant business benefits. At its core, face-to-face engagement creates a personal connection and builds trust between a company and its target audience. Giving a warm handshake, carrying an engaging conversation, and getting to know customers and prospects on an individual level can help form stronger, more meaningful, and more profitable business relationships.

Several research studies support that point. For example, in a 2009 EventView study of senior executives in sales and marketing, 62% chose event marketing as the discipline that best accelerates and deepens relationships.

Face-to-face meetings are also more conducive to achieving certain business objectives. According to a 2009 Forbes Insights survey of 760 business executives, face-to-face meetings were preferred in cases that have a fluid decision-making process, requiring the give-and-take typically needed for complex decisions and sales. Among the business attributes and outcomes, face-to-face interaction was most critical for persuasion (91%), decision-making (82%), and candor (78%), the study found.

Moreover, in-person interaction fosters engagement. How many of us have been sitting in on a conference call or viewing a webinar while checking email or signing off on paperwork? Increased workloads and pared-down staff make multitasking commonplace in business; that, in turn, makes it challenging to ensure that virtual communications are driving home key messaging and delivering desired results.


The Virtues of Virtual


All that said, virtual interaction holds a valuable place in a company's sales and marketing strategy. The secret lies in knowing when webinars, virtual events, and social networking have the most value.

Some strategic ways to use virtual communication include disseminating data, maintaining relationships, and connecting a global audience.

The most common reason marketers choose virtual engagement is to save time and money. Set-up costs for a webinar can be a fraction of the investment needed for a face-to-face meeting. Travel expenses, another significant line item for any face-to-face meeting, also become a non-issue.

The flexibility of virtual engagement is another of its key benefits. Location and time become easier to negotiate, and speeches, seminars, and presentations can be archived for later viewing.

An added benefit to archiving virtual events and making them easily accessible online is enhanced search-engine visibility, which creates a valuable extension of any company's digital marketing strategy.


Smart Marketers Choose Both

Although both face-to-face and virtual strategies offer strong benefits, savvy marketers are building integrated communications plans that marry the benefits of both approaches.

Adding virtual elements can measurably enhance and extend audience engagement resulting from traditional events. However, you must plan and coordinate your online efforts, just as you would your face-to-face events. Each element will affect the audience's experience with your brand. Choose virtual components that make sense with your event, your audience, and your goals.

Let's look at how a combined approach could be applied to a tradeshow, which is one of the most common face-to-face marketing strategies companies employ. They are popular largely because tradeshows are a cost-effective way to generate leads, close new business, and drive brand awareness. 


Pre-Show

Pre-show marketing plays an essential role in the success of any tradeshow/face-to-face program because it helps drive booth traffic and generate quality leads. Virtual communication is a natural fit here because it lets companies connect with customers and find prospective customers in a cost-effective manner. Below are some effective pre-show activities:

  • Create a pre-show contest. Ask attendees to post comments, pictures, or videos to your Facebook page, and announce winners from your booth at the show.

  • If you are the event host, connect your registration system with Twitter so that when attendees register an automatic tweet is generated for attendees to send out to their followers (e.g., "I just registered for Industry Trade Show. Will you be there?").
  • Create and post videos on YouTube to build awareness about your show presence. Give attendees a teaser on what they can expect to see at your booth.

  • Use social networks to poll attendees, customers, and followers to gauge their most pressing needs and interests. That can help determine your focus at the show and create a more valuable in-person experience for the attendee.

  • If you're going to tweet, talk about interesting, relevant topics—not just the tradeshow.

  • Promote the event on your website and in online advertising.

  • Use email to alert customers and prospects about your presence at a show, and set appointments in advance.

  • Seek out forums and groups on LinkedIn, and participate in discussions about the show and your industry in general. Twitter offers similar opportunities. Be sure to use relevant hashtags.
On-Site

Though most communication at tradeshows will be face-to-face, you can use some interactive tools to extend the experience virtually:

  • Announce "specials" exclusive to those who receive the message or tweet.

  • Create a site to provide real-time feedback on the show floor so visitors can see what is going on at the moment.

  • Share news with attendees—and those who couldn't be there—via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media.

  • Publish blog posts each night to recap the day's events and to share interesting observations from the show floor.

  • Stream a press conference on your website that will announce important news.
Post-Show

Virtual communication tools are ideal for all post-event follow-up. They also provide an opportunity to keep customers and prospects engaged long after the show doors have closed. Below are a few examples of effective post-show virtual efforts:

  • Add show photos to your website or Flickr account (don't forget to tag).

  • Post a virtual demonstration of new products launched at the show on a special page on your website, and share the URL with customers and prospects you weren't able to connect with on-site.

  • Secure the final attendee database from show management, and use email to reach qualified prospects you did not meet at the show.
Conclusion:

Both face-to-face marketing and virtual communication have specific benefits. Face-to-face interaction will help form the strong bonds that lead to long-lasting business relationships, and virtual communication will keep the dialogue with prospects and customers fresh and lively year-round.

Before embarking on any marketing program, take the time to carefully evaluate underlying business objectives, outline clear goals and metrics, and proceed with the strategy that will help you get the job done. I bet it will involve some quality face time, along with digital communication

If you would like to discuss your 2012 social media and email marketing plans and looking for new ideas, please give me a call at 440-519-1500 or e-mail me at
john@x2media.us

X2 Media can help you target your content and get your message to the audience in a way that it is not only seen and heard, but remembered.


Until next month….remember, “you don’t get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression”. Always make it a good one! From X2Media I would like to thank you for your time.

John E. Hornyak

X2Media, LLC



How to Deal With Haters on Your Facebook Fan Page

How to Deal With Haters on Your Facebook Fan Page


Everybody loves and hates Facebook at times. It’s a great way to build your brand, whether you’re a business, a band, or a worthy cause. You can get fans quickly, spread the word, and create an online community using Facebook’s ready-made platform.
But it just takes one visitor leaving a negative comment on your Facebook Fan Page to ruin your whole weekend and make you hate social media once and for all. People can do a lot to damage your reputation on Facebook, but there are things you can do to save face and even turn it around completely into a boost for your brand. 

Resist the Urge to Hate Back

Your first impulse will be to hit “reply” and put that hater right in their place. It would certainly feel good—but it can actually do worse damage to your reputation. The reason is that you look defensive. Even if you reply with a witty comeback that you know will get your other fans chuckling, it’s obvious that the hater hit a nerve.

Instead, you should take a few deep breaths. Although you need to respond as soon as possible, give yourself the time and thinking space to respond appropriately. Otherwise, you (and your company/brand/etc.) look like a jerk as well.

The Nature of the Hating

How you should respond depends on the nature of the negative comment. Is it an unhappy customer?  Is it constructive criticism?  Or is it just trolling and spamming?  The first step in responding is to figure out where they’re coming from.
If you’ve been trolled, spammed, flamed, or otherwise meaninglessly attacked, delete the comment. No one’s going to miss it. None of your other fans will be shocked that the comment yesterday that said “U SUKK” is gone today. You might consider reporting it as spam to Facebook and banning the user.  If it’s a legitimate complaint, criticism or problem, make it one of today’s high-priority tasks to craft your response. 

Replying the Right Way

I don’t mean to lay on the pressure here, but your response is critical. It’s your chance to turn this negative comment into a PR opportunity that shows your concern for your fans.
When you reply to negative Facebook comments, there are four things to aim for:
  • Acknowledge the comment and admit to your faults (if there’s any legitimacy to what they say).
  • Offer an explanation to help them understand.
  • Show that you’re working to resolve the issue.
  • Encourage more discussion from your fans.
Conclusion:  All of these show that you’re concerned about the products or services that you offer—and also concerned about what your fans think. Any combination of these four will create a good response that can turn a negative comment into an opportunity for you.


Will Your Message Be Understood? Only If You ‘Speak Human’!

Will Your Message Be Understood? Only If You ‘Speak Human’!

In their book Content Rules, Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman urge us to "speak human" when creating content—whether for websites, email campaigns, or brochures. Here's what they mean:

  • Communicate your brand mission, values, and philosophy in simple terms, using the language of your customers.
  • Speak in a conversational tone, with personality, empathy, and true emotion.
  • Kill corporate-speak, buzzwords, and other language that makes you sound like a tool.
Handley shows us how it's done by profiling an unorthodox $9,500 video project for the About Us section of a Chicago law firm's website.
 
Speaking human is more than language: It's how you interact
When you research an attorney online, you expect to see the usual stuffy website components: a formal headshot, an overview of her resume, and a discussion of her expertise. But the Levenfeld Pearlstein law firm decided to add something that better expressed its personable culture: one-minute video vignettes in which lawyers do the unexpected: recount a childhood memory, for instance, or show off a trophy from an annual chili cook-off.
"We saw these videos both as a way to differentiate who we are, and also to start the relationship off right," said Andrea Crews, the firm's director of marketing and business development. "They're a way to tell our story."
As you create innovative content that speaks to your customers in their vernacular, consider the following three things that Levenfeld Pearlstein got right.

1. Start with a goal
"Since the attorney profile pages were among the most-trafficked pages," Crews told Handley, "we knew people were checking us out online before picking up the phone to book an appointment." Those Web pages, then, seemed the ideal place to achieve Levenfeld Pearlstein's goal of highlighting talent and personality before a potential client ever crossed its brick-and-mortar threshold.

2. Strive for a cultural fit
Levenfeld Pearlstein is an atypical law firm with an atypical tagline: Unusually good. Its corporate ethos places a high value on do-goodery, and the firm has an official "No Asshole" rule against senior partners bullying younger colleagues. The conversationally "human" style and content of the firm's videos is, therefore, a natural fit for its approachable tone.

3. Prep the talent
When you recruit the talents of your team for "human" marketing, give your team members the tools they need to come across as human. Levenfeld Pearlstein avoided on-camera awkwardness by providing attorneys with 40 suggested topics—ranging from personal passions to professional philosophies. That ensured variety and allowed each attorney to stay in their conversational comfort zone.

Conclusion: Your “human” style of delivering your marketing message will be remembered.