With the ever increasing popularity of web-based social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and Myspace, a question that I have been asked for years is being asked again with even more zeal. That is; “Will the internet and the advancement of personal digital communications technologies replace trade shows someday?” In other words; will face-to-face marketing ever go away? My answer is simply – NO. Not because I’m a blind optimist who has devoted the last 33 years of his life to the trade show industry but because no matter how much technology advances, we will still be human beings and “human nature” will always be part of our make up. “So what?” you ask with even more implied doubt. Well one fundamental element of human nature is trust. “Trust” is a key factor in every transaction between buyer and seller, especially when buying unique or complex products or services.
I recently read a very interesting blog entry about face-to-face marketing by Roger B. Wilson Jr., President, The Conference Department, Inc. entitled: “There Will Always be a Place for Face2Face“. Mr. Wilson points out that people are social animals.
“We like social interaction, which is one reason digital social media is red hot. The media world has been transformed by the internet and the pace of this transformation will accelerate. Human nature, however, has not changed. That is why face-to-face events, the original social media, developed over thousands of years of human experience, will remain one of the best communication tools for business.”
Face-to-face interaction builds trust. How many times have you spoken to a sales person face-to-face, which resulted in a more or less favorable opinion of the product or service you were interested in buying? Regardless of whether you actually had to lay your eyes on the product or not, would you have gotten the same results if you had spoken to the person on the phone or communicated by e-mail or checked out their web site? Possibly, but it is also human nature to be skeptical, especially today when a photo-retouched image or well written sales promo or misleading product label can lead us to believe something is what it isn’t. We begin to trust someone (or not trust someone) as we personally interact with them, and meeting them in person is the foundation for building trust.
Certainly, face-to-face marketing will evolve as we take advantage of the latest and greatest technology available. As providers and supporters of face-to-face marketing events, we will need to embrace these technological advancements in order to remain competitive and to better communicate the complexities and features of what is being sold. They will certainly be used to enhance the social experience. But will face-to-face marketing ever go away? Trust me, not as long as human nature is part of the buying experience.