Face-to-face marketing in the digital age

October 16, 2018

In an increasingly digital age, face-to-face marketing has until recently been seen either as an obsolete leftover of 20th century promotional strategies, or as something that requires a budget-heavy experiential event to be successful.  It is consumer demand for more personalised communication that has turned this notion on its head.

Digital engagement is still vital to the majority of brands. But how much does it really tell us about brand perception in the real world? If brands only focus on the number of hits, impressions and Instagram likes they get, they are in danger of misjudging the true level of brand engagement with their target audience. This can not only give them a false measure of success, but could also skew future campaigns by sending them in a direction that will fail to engage as well as they expect.

The truth is that there is nothing quite like seeing an instant, in-person reaction to your brand when you need to understand how it’s being perceived. Humans are complex communicators. In person, we show how we feel about something using words, expressions and body language.

By the same token, explaining a product or service in person at the point of engagement, adds the human element from your side, giving your brand a face and generating rapport which leads to trust.    

The solution to brand engagement in the 21st century is not about choosing face-to-face over digital or vice versa. It is about leveraging the information gathered and rapport built during face-to-face marketing events to add further weight to your digital campaigns. 

Apple and Amazon: how we can all blend digital and physical marketing worlds

Apple and Amazon have succeeded in blending their digital and physical worlds to such a degree that they are changing the face of retail in both. 

These companies came from very different origins: Apple as a personal computer manufacturer and Amazon an online book seller.  Apple sold products via 3rd party vendors, while Amazon focused on reimagining the marketplace digitally. Apple had no high street stores of its own and Amazon had no physical stores at all.

All that changed when in 2001 the first Apple iStore opened, to improve the retail presentation of the company and build relationships with customers. Fast forward to 2018, and Amazon’s first merchant store, Amazon Go, opened its doors to the public.

The results of creating a whole new customer experience that brought together the best of digital and physical retail? Amazon doubled its sales within three months of opening its first store, while Apple increased its sales six-fold over a three year period.  

Creating a strong physical customer experience that reflects and strengthens the digital brand is the key to their success. Other brands are now catching on to this and adding a face-to-face element to their promotional campaigns as well.

The great news is that any brand can do this without investing in a high street store themselves. The most important lesson to learn is that it’s the face-to-face connection that counts, not spending a fortune on statement experience events.

Success means harmonising your online and offline marketing  

Start by thinking about what makes your brand successful and how you have developed this in your digital marketing. Now think about how this could work in a targeted face-to-face event. You want to create a consistent brand experience that is both familiar and fresh to your audience. Your ultimate goal is to create a physical experience that people want to share digitally.

It sounds easy, but how do you approach this effectively? It’s very important to offer an authentic experience that inspires trust. Start with your brand values. These should form the character and personality of your brand: its most human elements. Logo, colour and other visual brand elements are useful too but it’s your values that give your brand its voice.

Once you’ve covered trust, it’s time to build in another emotion. Think fun or excitement and you’re on the right track. According to a study conducted in 2015 by EventTrack, 72% of consumers positively view those brands that offer unique and exciting experiences. 

If you create a warm, memorable experience that resonates, people will want to take photos and share it on their social media feeds. This is the point where your brand’s tribe picks up your message and takes it in their own direction, generating trust and awareness with every personal share. Your job is to create the experience in the first place.

Achieving higher conversion rates and shortened sales cycles every day

Bryan Eisenberg said: “Your customer’s journeys are their stories, NOT funnels”.  The most successful brands are adopting personalisation in their marketing wherever possible, engaging with customers emotionally and establishing a relationship.

While digital and automated marketing techniques continue to be incredibly useful to businesses in all sorts of ways, augmenting your digital campaigns with face-to-face interaction puts it on the fast track to better sales.

You have no way of knowing at the start of your event who will stop and talk to you. If a person has seen your brand online for the past six months and grows curious, they are very likely to stop. Their interest is already piqued. You have a real opportunity now of taking that relationship forward, in a matter of minutes, to a point that could have taken months via piecemeal online connections.

It’s not only about the number of leads you make on the day, but also the quality. Even if you only take the details of twenty people during your face-to-face event, the fact that they’ve given you their details means they are happy for you to take the engagement further. Act fast. Don’t let your leads go cold. Experts talk about the 48-hour window of potential following a live event, with each hour that passes signifying the cooling of a hot lead.

Present your brand to your target customers with integrity, get ready to have some real conversations and follow up your leads properly and you could see the same percentage of uplift in engagement, lead conversion and shortened sales cycle as Apple or Amazon.

The best part is, you don’t have to invest anything like they did to achieve these results. Incorporate small face-to-face events into your everyday marketing mix and see what happens
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How your customer feels about your brand will determine what they think of it. This directly influences the likelihood of them making a purchase. 

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