As much as technology connects people, it also separates them. Advances like Facebook, Skype, Google Hangouts, and other online meeting tools are great ways to bring people together who are geographically separated, but at what point do we start using these technologies as a crutch for not interacting personally with those around us? As a business in the internet marketing industry, this can be a particularly difficult line to draw.
You want to reach as many potential customers as effectively as possible, but online communication tools can sometimes make interactions feel flat and impersonal. When you rely on technology to make a connection, you lose the ability to fully comprehend the situation. Whether you realize it or not, our minds are hyper aware of our interactions. Our eyes pick up on hand gestures and posture, we register the firmness (or lack thereof) of a handshake, and we constantly analyze facial expressions and changes in voice tone.
While these actions may have developed as protective measures in our species, we still use them daily to gage our trust and emotions towards those we interact with. When our abilities to carry out those micro analyses are impaired, we must work twice as hard to overcome them and provide alternative methods to receive that same information.
Now that we’re fully aware what causes the problem, let’s talk decisions and solutions.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
I once spoke with a new prospect, who decided not to participate in one of our webinars because he preferred doing business “face to face” and stated that if I wouldn’t travel to his office in Ohio, he didn’t want to continue in discussions. Understood – that is certainly his prerogative, which I’m sure has served him well for many years.
It made me sit back however and consider objectively the pros and cons of online meetings.
Online meetings are certainly both time and cost effective and less intrusive, but sometimes lack the warm, personal contact of a traditional meeting. The challenge then is to improve the ability to build a strong, personal relationships with customers through the technology available.
It is important to know your buyer before conducting a meeting with them. While some potential customers may prefer online communication and meetings because it’s easier for them, others may prefer traditional meetings as a sign of dedication and good faith. The effectiveness of online meetings depends on your customer’s personal bias toward them. With already comfortable potential clients, you’re job may be easier, but with those who have never used or prefer traditional meeting methods, you need to take extra steps to ensure their comfort.
You need to show your dedication to the customer, not the sale.
I have been doing online webinars for about 12 years and have used several online meeting tools during that time like WebEx, Adobe, Gotomeeting, and others. Regardless of the tool, what I found to be critical to a successful event is to maintain personal contact and a personal environment as much as possible.
3 Ways to Make Online Meetings Personal
Online meetings don’t have to be complex or complicated. Really all you need is a webcam and a good environment to hold a meeting. However, taking extra steps in this process will help you connect even better with those you’re meeting with. Taking extra care to ensure the best appearance, environment, and sound during your meeting with resonate with your potential customer.
Here are some suggestions based on my experience:
1. Build a Sense of Community
At the start of the meeting, build a sense of community by introducing the participants to each other. Let them each say hello to each other (assuming the group is small) just as you would if you were standing before them in a conference room. This is a polite courtesy you would do if you met in person, right? If the group is too large for personal hellos, address the group as you would in a larger auditorium with a nice welcoming statement that is as personable as possible. This will help everyone feel both included and valued. Let your personality shine through before getting into your formal product information.
2. Use a Webcam
Using a webcam will let people see both you and your environment and is key to improving a sense of personal relationship. Set the stage! Show yourself as you would for a visit to the client’s facility. Let them know you are a real person and are professional in your appearance. Also, displaying a background that reflects some of your own personality helps. Warmer tones in your background subconsciously create calmness and appeal for viewers, so backgrounds like wood or hues like yellows and oranges are generally safe bets.
Follow-up each online meeting with a phone call and a personally tailored e-mail. Each should serve to highlight any questions the individual raised. Include something specific to their own situation to let them know they are a priority. Be sure that, although they were a part of a bigger discussion, their insights are relevant and you heard them.Placing the focus on the potential customer’s needs allows them to open up with any concerns or questions they might have that can can answer.
Whenever possible, face to face meetings should still be option #1. Keep in mind that online meetings are not a replacement for face-to-face sessions, but often costs and logistics dictate that need. In our growing economy and increasingly connected world, technology can help us reach across great distances to build relationships with one another.
Online meeting technology is a tool that both separates and connects us. With more individuals becoming comfortable with technological advances for business, there are those who still prefer traditional meetings for their personal touch. As a marketer, you need to learn how to quell your potential customer’s fears and take extra care to create a personal, real environment and conversation for your online meetings.
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