I recently received a notice that stated the following “The Government of Canada Exhibitions Program has had a successful run showcasing the Government of Canada’s programs and services across Canada. With Canadians turning more and more to the Internet to find information about government programs and services, the time has come to discontinue our coordination of this program.”
In other words the government has decided that since Canadians are turning to the web for information there is no need to send people out into the community to talk to Canadians face to face. What short-sighted thinking! I am also willing to wager that the bureaucrats and/or politicians who made this decision don’t have a clear understanding of marketing. You would think that the government which has become so impersonal and irrelevant to many Canadians would want to be out there talking to their constituents face-to-face rather than sending them to a web site. What about those who don’t surf the web but who do attend local exhibitions on a loyal basis every year?
Can you imagine advising a politician that he/she does not have to “press the flesh” and participate in events where they meet with their constituents face-to-face because everything about them is on their website? And of course, now politicians have twitter, facebook and other interactive tools to get feedback from their constituents so why bother going to events? He or she would probably tell you to “take a hike”. But those same politicians who cancel face-to -face programs like the Government of Canada Exhibitions Program are doing something that they would never do to themselves.
It is extremely unfortunate that the government is not taking an integrated marketing communications approach. We live in a multi-channel world and different audiences need different communication strategies. Frankly, there are those who believe that traditional approaches like face-to-face marketing have to be “ditched” or “discarded” because social media and digital engagement and websites are the only ways to communicate with Canadians. It’s not either / or. It’s the art of the sum of the parts working together that gets results.
With respect to face –to-face marketing, there is a myth that the medium is retiring and we are moving on to bigger and better things. Face-to-face marketing actually includes everything from live events, seminars, workshops, outdoor events, trade shows, and conferences. The younger group, known as generation Y, or those born between the 80’s and early 90’s, highly depend on technology not only for work, but for personal relationships as well. The rise in people’s need for technology to function has led others to believe that meeting with people face-to-face is not necessary anymore and has become a “fossilized tactic”. So what is the point in wasting money to meet with people face to face if it is an out-dated tactic?
The point is that meeting face-to-face is absolutely effective and vital to building strong relationships with your audiences. People who are wrapped up in the virtual world still have a strong desire for personal relationships, which is what they falsely try to attain through technology. All relationships are the same, whether it be a work related relationship or a personal relationship, they all need to make that face-to-face connection. By using technology you may lose that relationship.
People have bought into this myth that face-to-face interaction is no longer important and have begun adapting to technological alternatives. But, face-to-face marketing has, and always will be effective; it is a strategy that best fits public sector and non-profit organizations that tend to work with a limited budget that need to influence key stakeholders and opinion makers.
Whatever the rationale behind a face-to-face marketing effort, one of the underlying benefits is that the event itself is as much a part of the message as the content. There are times when technology just doesn’t do the job and face-to-face marketing is required. What can face-to-face marketing offer a marketer?
- It provides you with the opportunity to meet with key stakeholders and very targeted populations;
- It is most appropriate when some form of personal intervention or interaction is required to deliver detailed information, address barriers and concerns, build trust and gain commitment; •
- It is an excellent way to compile data and build a community;
- It provides fast and flexible solutions in a changing environment; and,
- It is a proven process to speed up the decision-making / behaviour change process.
Face-to-face marketing can begin a lasting relationship between the target audience(s)/key stakeholders and an organization using the simplest and oldest method of communication – one person speaking to another. Events and exhibits and educational tactics like workshops and seminars should be considered as part of the face-to-face strategy.
Let me know what you think