Has Social Marketing Replaced In-Person Meetings?

By Brian Silverman   |   March 14, 2016

Meet me in Las Vegas!  Can Digital and Social marketing replace in-person meetings and events?

We all live accelerated lives. We are emailing for work, for home, for school. We log onto Facebook and Twitter to share our days. We are so busy with social media that when we hear the digital marketing experts talk about the importance of digital and social marketing, it’s easy to believe that in-person contact is not as important as it used to be.

So has the digital and social marketing world replaced the in-person/ relationship-focused world?

I attended IBM’s Interconnect 2016 conference in late February. There were over 20,000 people there. Why didn’t most of them stay in the comfort of their homes and home offices and watch the conference from the IBMGo app? They could Tweet their friends about what they heard.

They could have kept up-to-date on their work while gaining much of the information provided at the conference. Sure, they would have missed the excitement around a few key announcements, and the entertainment of seeing “Elton John Live,” but would those have been enough reasons to spend “another” week at a conference in Las Vegas?

The answer is yes — in-person events and meetings matter!

We are –after all — humans, not robots, and the ability to meet one another face-to-face is crucial to interpersonal and professional relationships. The ability to sit in a room of colleagues and hear about their business and their requirements not only helps us become smarter but, also reminds us that we are all part of a community.

The same challenges that face a retailer may also face a financial firm, even though the problems look much different from the outside. These similarities may become obvious in a face-to-face meeting and not in the more impersonal online world.

IBM has made a commitment to their marketplace and customers by valuing the in-person meeting. Face-to-face experience is not replaceable by a digital event, no matter how innovative the technology.

I am not discounting the value of digital, social and web-based events. I am just suggesting that to not recognize the importance of in-person events and meetings is to leave opportunity on the table. The in-person meeting establishes the relationship between a client, consultants and vendors. It sets the tone for the next conference call, with a personal familiarity that only comes from actually meeting one another in person.

In the beginning of my career as a salesman, selling mini-computer (AS/400) solutions to new IBM customers, my first objective was often to convince presidents or other executives that computers would make a difference in their businesses. These initial meetings were to prove my credibility, the value of what I had to discuss, and my likability in a less hectic –but still competitive– marketplace. (Remember Novell networks?)

Showing how my solution for construction companies would help them better estimate jobs, and thus improve their profitability, was important. That I represented the industry leader of the day, IBM, probably got me through the door. But it was my ability to build trust and confidence with the customer face-to-face that eventually made the difference between just talking and actually closing the sale.

Even with better-informed customers, and with a more dynamic marketplace, many times the transaction of business depends on the interpersonal relationships that can best be forged face-to-face. So yes, most opportunities and many marketplaces are still defined by the interpersonal relationships that require us to meet in-person.

Want to meet for lunch?

Brian Silverman

About the Author

Brian helps IBM business partners develop and execute successful solution-oriented marketing plans. His career spans more than 25 years of success and leadership with IBM and IBM partners in sales, marketing, and product management.

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