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Why we need face-to-face time, not FaceTime

By Rob Hurst

There has been much talk about the proposed HS2 high-speed rail link between London and various northern cities. Much of this talk is negative, suggesting that the likely high costs to make use of the proposed service would price out ‘normal’ travellers, despite the scheme requiring tax-funding from everyone’s pockets. The idea that such a service would be largely ‘pointless’ and just for ‘business travellers’ is what has made us think more about HS2 – is ‘pointless’ and ‘business traveller’ really fair?

First things first, Omobono is ‘The Business Agency’ so yes, our viewpoint of such things might be slightly skewed, but we have some figures that back up our views. Our annual ‘What Works Where in B2B Digital Marketing’ research looks at both what marketers and what ‘buyers of b2b marketing’ (customers) consider to be effective. One thing that comes up on both sides is the importance of face to face meetings. So this got us thinking, ‘In a world where high speed connections, cloud software solutions and multiple screens make telecommuting easier than ever, why do we still need to meet?’ That was the question I posed to the office via our internal social network this afternoon.

Kate French – Project Manager
For me, face to face meetings are very important – you can connect with someone much better face to face than you can over email and phone calls.

David Isaacson – Social Media Planner
People do business with people – face to face meetings are important as they add authenticity. However, a lot more meetings could and should take place digitally – travelling for half a day for an hour of face-time often isn’t helpful and certainly isn’t environmentally sustainable.

Ben Dansie – CEO
Business happens in those little spaces ‘between’ – where relationships can develop, a conversation can grow, and ideas can flow. It’s very hard to find those spaces on a conference call. That’s why it’s essential to travel. My day in Chicago was pushing it somewhat, though!

Donna McGrory – Client Services Director
Relationships are much easier to develop when you spend time with people. Conference and video calls have their place, and work well particularly when a relationship has been previously established, but it’s difficult to get an understanding of someone’s work environment – their pressures – without being on their turf. Also, an informal coffee is sometimes worth ten ‘formal’ meetings, developing a relationship definitely still requires face to face contact with your client.

Fran Brosan, Chairman & Founder
Despite the ability to deal with people virtually, our research shows that face to face meetings are still the most effective way to sell, with 45% of our respondents saying its most likely to persuade them to buy. Ironically, I would go as far as to say that the increasing speed at which we are all expected to deliver insight and solutions means that actually getting from A to B more quickly can make a huge difference. Also allowing people to cross fertilise ideas and share opinions in a confidential environment can be vital to getting real insight on a situation.

My own view?
Much the same as my colleagues, I don’t think you can place a value on the importance of face to face contact with your clients in the developmental stages of your relationship. I would also suggest that once a solid relationship has been established, the tools at our disposal to nurture and best exploit business relationships are right at our fingertips. I’m as guilty as anyone of failing to pick up the phone, or fire up the webcam, but it’s the time of year when we aim to make changes in our lives, perhaps I’ll see you on a Google Hangout some time soon…

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