Over the course of history our wants, needs, and desires have largely been the same. The way in which we go about satisfying them, however, is always evolving.
For instance, we prefer to drive automobiles instead of riding a horse and buggy. We protect our homes with roofs made of tile and shingles instead of sod. Our smart phones enable us to do a quick google search instead of having to wander about the public library while praying that they have the research we’re looking for.
HOWEVER, the need for reliable transport, shelter, and information has remained constant for thousands of years.
Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher from 500 B.C., once said ‘the only thing that is constant is change.”
The agricultural revolution showed us that we can make better use of our land and the industrial revolution proved to increase the production of goods by leaps and bounds. And in real time, we are undoubtedly going through another revolution of sorts as the the internet massively reforms the education and healthcare system, communication, and networking among others.
This shouldn’t be news to you, though (unless you live under a rock). But the data — and more importantly, its implications — are what I find most astounding.
As I write this, roughly 59 percent of the world are active users of the internet. What’s more, half of the world is active on social media from their mobile device alone — this one’s particularly eye-opening since most people carry their phones with them wherever they go. Moreover, they spend on average three to four hours per day on their device. And lastly, online sales have skyrocketed from an 11 percent share of total sales in the United States to 16 percent in 2020 alone.
As younger generations replace the old (R.I.P.) and their bank accounts get linked to their cell phones, do you really think this trend is going to slow down?
Truly, I don’t think it can be overstated to say that the world is at your fingertips.
Couple that with the fact we’ve seen the alternate form of communication (i.e., face-to-face interaction) grind to a near halt on a global-scale.
It’s as if real, human interaction was already burning on fire… and then COVID-19 accidentally dumped gasoline onto it instead of water. Whoops!
None of this is to say that future’s going to be filled with forest fires, but the absence of face-to-face interaction has had a profound impact on us thus far and will likely continue to do so.
The Role of Face-to-Face Interaction
In a world that’s becoming more digitized by the minute, I think we massively underestimate the power being physically present with someone else. This is especially true within the realm of business.
In a survey of 2,300 Harvard Business Review subscribers from all parts of the world, participants were asked about the role of face-to-face meetings in business. Here’s what they found:
- 79% said that they are the most effective way to meet new clients to sell business
- 89% said that they are essential for “sealing the deal”
- 95% said that they are a key factor in successfully building and maintaining long-term relationships
So when we talk about patterns that stand the test of time, people preferring to do business with other people is part of that category.
Of course, face-to-face meetings are virtually impossible now that travel restrictions are in place — this means no more trade shows, no more networking conferences, and no more coffee meet ups.
This makes it nearly impossible to shake a potential client’s hand, build rapport, and share a real, tangible experience with them. This unequivocally makes it more difficult to make yourself liked, trusted, authentic and qualified among them.
An Interesting Cocktail
When we couple a dramatic increase in global internet usage with an immediate halt in face-to-face interaction in a world that’s been predicated on human touch for thousands of years, what do we get?
Ha. Bet you were going to say “disaster.”
But listen, just because stay-at-home orders are hindering our ability to build and maintain quality relationships doesn’t mean that we can just throw everything we knew about human interaction out the window. Far too many businesses think that lead generation is a numbers game and focus their energy on page views, likes, and click-through rates instead of value creation and meaningful conversations. That is, they treat people like transactions instead of human beings.
The recent Netflix documentary “Social Dilemma” illustrates this perfectly.
You see, social media platforms like Facebook aren’t actually free. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth is now over $100 BILLION — none of which came from my wallet. So where do they get all that revenue from?
The average person — like you and I — is not the Facebook’s customer. They don’t charge us sign up fees and there aren’t any monthly subscriptions. Rather, advertisers are Facebook’s customer. And in turn, these advertisers are trying to sell their goods/services to us. So from Facebook’s point of view, what are we?
In effect, you and I are what Facebook is selling. Quite literally, Facebook’s job is to make their app as addictive as possible. Because the more time we spend on Facebook, the more likely we are to click on an ad to buy something. The more we click on ads and buy things, the more advertisers are going to bid up the going price for ads. The more advertisers bid up the going price for ads, the more money goes into Zuck’s wallet. This is why Facebook’s software developers have put in so much work into mysteriously knowing what makes you tick.
Websites like Facebook are seemingly manipulating their users to spend their time with them and then they are turning around and auctioning us off to advertisers.
Meanwhile, the ads are annoying and largely unsuccessful. If anything, they deduct from our online experience. YouTube understands this quite well — for something like $10 a month, you can watch YouTube videos without being interrupted by advertisements.
YouTube knows that we don’t like being “sold to” 24/7 and being disrupted by annoying ads every five to ten minutes. They created YouTube Premium to give us the option to buy back our own attention.
Kind of funny, right?
The Collision of Two Worlds
In one world, we rely heavily on face-to-face interaction to come off as a genuine, authentic, and trustworthy people. This not only aids in closing sales, but helps us foster meaningful, long-term relationships. However, the human body can only be one place at a time.
In the other world, there are very few (if any) networking barriers. Face-to-face interaction really isn’t viable anymore, though, so billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg have all the power in the world to monetize human attention. It’s both fascinating and depressing.
But what happens when the two worlds collide?
To be frank, I’m not exactly sure. But I can tell you this. If you’re in the “handshake or bust” camp, you will be oblivious to a networking opportunity that we’ve never seen before and be limited to leads within a certain geographical radius. Conversely, if you’re in the “it’s a numbers game” camp, your leads will be of such a low quality that your conversion ratio and your retention rates will be garbage. You might have 1,000 more leads, but very few will convert and if anything they will waste your time.
So just remember that nothing is ever black or white. Thus it is my opinion that the money is to be made somewhere in the middle — in the “grey area,” if you will — with some combination of human touch and the scale of the internet.
The Best of Both Worlds
(And I’m not talking about Hannah Montana’s theme song…)
If there was ever a way to combine human empathy and internet scalability, it would probably be through some sort of content marketing / demand generation strategy.
You see, any product or service can be replicated in this day and age. What’s more, the odds of you being in the top 99 percentile for anything are slim to none. What can’t be replicated or outcompeted, however, is you — your story, your experiences, your insights, and your personality.
And while creating free, consistent, and valuable content at scale doesn’t guarantee anything, it certainly can set you up for success….
Success via increased demand, heightened brand awareness, a more educated audience, warmer leads, higher win rates, and shorter sales cycles. All of which require no more than patience and persistence.
Truth be told, most people have the patience of a small child — this is precisely why their content marketing efforts fall flat. Their systems are predicated on buzzwords like “streamline,” “growth hacking,” and “efficiency.” And to be quite honest, they come off as a bit shady to the average joe.
Where they fall flat could be where where you gain a competitive advantage, or “edge.” I mean, just put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Would you rather buy from the business that is:
… being empathetic and giving, giving, giving, or asking, exploiting, and manipulating?
… proving their expertise or just claiming it?
… being patient with you or pressuring you with sketchy sales tactics?
Now take a step back into your shoes. As a business owner, would you rather be the one:
… forging honest relationships and creating organic demand or buying cheap attention and playing on emotions?
… building up brand awareness, equity, and reliable systems or running ads like a hamster on a wheel?
… growing the bottom line of your business for the long-run with more consistent (albeit smaller) wins at scale or capturing cheap, non-repeatable wins in the short run?
Something to think about, eh?
We’ll go into more detail about what content marketing is exactly and why it could be a key differentiating factor for your business in the near future.
Talk soon 🙂
P.S. I’ve since written the next entry that talks about why businesses should consider content marketing. You can find it here.