Personal contact in times of digitised communication
Recently I read that in our age of increasing digitisation face-to-face contact is losing more and more of its importance, particularly in business, and I thought „Understandable, for who wants to depend on the opening hours of a bank branch in some village in the back of beyond?“. A hasty „May I help you?“ in a boutique does not really mean very much to many people. They prefer to look for their new, perfect garment in an online shop. Information of all kinds can be found with Google – no need to call a secretariat. Company news can be communicated to the whole world through social networks. It’s not necessary to take the circuitous route via sparsely staffed editorial offices. So why should anyone be interested in personal communication??
In short: because quite a bit of information is worthless without the link to emotions. What am I to expect if a customer writes in his e-mail: „Please contact me urgently with regard to project XY.“? Does he want to praise us? Is something wrong with the last planning and our company about to get booted? Or does he simply want to talk purely neutral but in a timely manner about details? In the world of digital communication we often use emoticons in order to add a personal touch to the message. But is this enough? And what about haptics and the „look and feel“ of a product at the exhibition stand?
B2B: Personal contact creates trust
Very often, the personal contact and possibly even the face-to-face talk are a crucial factor in matters of customer loyalty and communication with target groups, especially in the field of B2B. The companies are frequently dealing within a known market, which is characterised by great competition. When it comes to technical components that require explanation, it might probably not be easy to address potential customers in this field on an emotional level, but it is in any case target-oriented. In this case, trust is the emotional element which adds to the positive brand development of the company. This can only be achieved through the personal communication with the opinion leaders in the companies as well as in the associated market sector. It goes without saying that the social networks have long become a major factor for B2B companies. They are an important tool to get in contact with the target groups and to remain in their consciousness. However, it‘s the personal contact which is more confidence building, for example on occasion of a meeting at an exhibition.
Expert discussions at the fair
The participation in a trade show is still worthwhile to launch products and present the company’s know-how to the industry. It enables people to have personal exchanges on specialist subjects and makes new products perceptible. The trade fair companies throughout Germany do indeed show stable results. According to AUMA (Association of the German Trade Fair Industry), “trade fair business has so far hardly been affected by the increasing choice of digital trading and information platforms.” More than 45 percent of the marketing budget of German companies is spent on trade fair participations in the B2B sector, according to AUMA. This means that trade fairs are the second most important instrument in the B2B communication after the corporate site, says the association.
These figures reflect the great significance of personal contact in the B2B communication.
Discussions with journalists
Trade fairs are also a good opportunity to meet the key multipliers, the specialised journalists. A small background talk at the stand on occasion of the product presentation, a discussion about the assessment of the market, an evaluation of new business trends – all this contributes to underline the own expertise and creates a trusting bases for trade press activities. Of course, a fast and cost-effective publication of the own press release on Twitter among others is possible, but might probably have a low coverage as a result. Corporate content will gain more substance and authority if editorially prepared and published in the specialised press. Here again the aspect “trust” is important for the company perception. The personal contact management towards specialised journalists has a much higher value than the faceless, mass mailing.
Ultimately it can be seen: The mixture makes the difference. To seek one’s salvation exclusively in Instagram Stories and anonymous likes is as pointless as to pursue the digital „ostrich-tactic“ and try to merely win new customers by cold calling campaigns. If “personal communication” is translated with “emotional address” and “confidence-building measures”, it should be no problem to find the right mixture for the marketing strategy of companies as well as for the handling of private matters. So the best thing would just be to go online and make an appointment with my bank consultant at the branch office around the corner.