With more and more sales moving online, there has been a collective sigh of relief due to avoiding the pushy, in-store salesperson. It seems the days are gone a business' success was dictated by the most impressive and charming product peddler. Or are they? It turns out that face to face marketing, or event marketing as it is more formally known, is still giving online selling a run for its money.

A 2014 study from McKinsey analyzed more than 9,000 new car buyers, then identified and ranked consumers' willingness to pay based on 24 customer touch points. As it turns out, live experience ranked number one. And they aren't the only ones recording this type of behavior. In a 2016 study, Forrester claimed that 77% of consumers had chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provided a personalized service or experience. So the question is, can online marketing compete with face to face interaction?

Let's face it. Unless hologram technology improves anytime soon, there aren't many ways to get an online sales support person from a website into a person's home. That is probably good because that would be kind of weird. However, face to face interaction can't be ignored.

But luckily, it can be mimicked. After all, what is face-to-face marketing anyway? Does it require an in-person interaction? What is it that customersreally want? By looking at the core principles behind event-based and in-person marketing and sales, we have identified how to maximize the face to face benefits in a digital world.

Put a Face On Your Brand

One of the most apparent setbacks to digital marketing and sales, in comparison to the in-person variety, is the inability for your customer to put a face to your name. But what's stopping you from doing so? Some of the most successful online entrepreneurs attach their face (or a trusted "chosen one") to the company name for all the world to see.

Consider when Dollar Shave Club released its quirky viral video of CEO Michael Dubin strutting around the office and warehouse. Sure, the video is funny, but that’s not the point. The real magic is that they let the company’s personality shine through. They put Mike’s face on the company and made themselves far more relatable.

This video by Dollar Shave Club never gets old.

Take a look at the success of Progressive’s Flo (which still makes me laugh), or YouTube personalities such as Yoga With Adriene to see that people want more of the personal touch. Visibility is perhaps the most essential aspect of face to face marketing. When businesses are willing to trust one person to represent their product or service, it puts their reputation in that person's hands. That builds rapport with the audience and plants a seed of trust in the consumer because they feel like they have a legitimate friend in the company.

Events Can Be Online

Another fantastic way to get the benefits of face to face marketing, without expensive marketing or excess amounts of time, is through online events. The introduction of live streaming on social media has revolutionized the way businesses can interact with customers. Not to mention, with tools like Zoom.me, it's easier than ever to host great webinars and invite your customers to join, interact, ask questions, and even record for later publication.

And it sounds like customers agree. According to Livestream, “80% would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog, and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts.” The trick here is to do live events consistently enough with the same “face” so that customers can personalize the brand.

Build the Bond of Trust

Consistency and visibility are the key components to building trust. And with trust being one of the core values of face to face marketing, it cannot be considered lightly. One of the beautiful aspects of the digital world is that you have many avenues through which to feed information to your customers quickly.

And validation through trusted information about your product is one such valuable key in building trust.

A Bright Local survey stated that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation; reviews from people they've never met! Which is why here at Judge.me we're committed to providing incredible online review tools for online entrepreneurs.

When customers read a great product review, it creates incredible trust in your brand. Great reviews are like having an expert at your side all the time.

But of course, the best way to build trust is to meet the expectations of your customers. Give them what you say you will give them — nothing less, nothing more. Over time they will come to see you as a brand on which they can rely. That leads to repeat customers. And repeat customers spread the word about your brand, which leads to more new customers. It's a virtuous cycle.

Make Them Smile

But let's face it, the real success of face to face marketing is in the intangible details. It's the handshake and that warm, welcoming feeling you get from someone who truly understands excellent customer service which makes all the difference.

But these details are 100% possible to create in a digital realm. Underneath the intangibles lies a big heaping serving of emotion. In The Marketing Power of Emotion by John O’Shaughnessy and Nicholas Jackson, the authors state, “emotion is the adhesive that, when mixed with trust, equals loyalty.”

It can be harder to create an emotional connection online, but this feeling is what you're going for.

One of the most critical tactics from an in-person sales associate is how they make customers feel good. But emotion isn’t necessarily easy to conjure up in the digital marketing world. The advantage for in-person sales associates is palpable. After all, they’re standing in front of the customer, which means they can deliver and read non-verbal cues like smiles or hesitation, which are impossible to read online.

So how do we impact a customer’s emotional state without being in their immediate vicinity?

It requires a bit of creativity, but it is possible. For example, witty and silly copy can go a long way. You can welcome customers with a quirky chatbot that sounds almost too silly not to be a human. Find a way to place your customer's name a couple of times in your communications. For more ideas, check out this great article from Quick Sprout. The most important thing to remember is that you must identify the type of emotion you want your customer to have, and plan your communication around that emotion.

Let Your Brand Tell Your Story

Once you have built rapport and made your customer feel welcome, it is time to tell them who you are. This type of interaction is quite brief in face to face marketing and is dependant on whoever is standing in front of the customer at that time. But in a digital world, a customer's interaction with your brand can be monitored much more closely using tools like Mixpanel and Intercom. Check out our recent article on building a great brand for online stores, where we cover branding in much more detail.

Keep It Interactive

The last hurdle to overcome is two-way communication.

Customers value the ability to ask a sales representative for the exact information they need when they need it. According to BCG (Boston Consulting Group), "Millennials expect a two-way, mutual relationship with companies and their brands. We call this the reciprocity principle. Through the feedback they express both offline and online, Millennials influence the purchases of other customers and potential customers.” That means that two-way communication not only affects your current customer but ripples out through your entire target audience.

But of course, it's not just millennials. Everybody is getting used to instant interaction and customer service.

This type of communication is more comfortable in the digital realm than in-person. One of the main drawbacks of in-person sales associates is that they tend to be annoying after the third, "are you finding everything okay?" Using a feature-rich chat platform and CRM like Intercom will allow you to create a personal connection with shoppers and increase sales. All of that without being annoying, since the customer has the option to ignore the chat box.

And don’t forget about engaging with and replying to customers on social media. The number of comments and messages on Facebook pages that go unanswered, especially by smaller brands, is staggering. If you want to build rapport, reply within a few minutes, not a few days.

The key to actively pursuing interactive communication is to pose questions to your customers purposefully. Ask them to engage rather than waiting for them to come to you with a complaint. We call this stage "ask qualifying questions." Questions that engage the customer in a dialogue which keeps them interested in your products and services. What's more, doing so makes customers feel heard and valued which leads to a more positive experience.

Strut Your Stuff - Get Out There and Try It!

While it's easy to mimic the effects and maximize the benefits of in-person marketing in an online realm, one does not entirely replace the other. The digital world still has a lot to learn from centuries of face to face marketing and sales. So, the best way to truly determine the value of in-person marketing is to get out there give it a shot!

By hosting even one live event, you stand to gain a lot of local influence plus you can gather consumer data. Consider a regional farmers' market or an in-store demo of your product. These can be cheap tactics that yield tremendous and exciting results. Of course, your event marketing efforts are only useful if they are effective, so take note of what works and improve for the future.

In this way, you honestly can have the best of both worlds, online or off.