Right now we are trialling Zoom for video communications, lured by the promise of better connections and quality. Our hope is that we will switch to using it with clients, especially those based internationally.
However, we won't be using it as a substitute for meeting them in the flesh.
To our minds, once you stop talking in person you lose a vital piece of the client puzzle. Our client can be in Newbury business park 10 minutes away, or in New York. No matter where if we can meet regularly we will. Why?
Seven reasons why meeting face to face is vital
The reasons are abundant:
Conference calls are finite. You don't have time for over runs - you treat them like a meeting, usually squashed between other meetings. You get what you need to get done done and no more. It's productive but not necessarily creative.
You also don't lose 20 minutes waiting for everyone to join, sort out their audio and video, and time spent catching up late-comers. Instead of politely waiting as you would on a con call, you make conversation about things that matter to the people present as individuals - their passion for sailing or cooking for example - or other projects they are also working on. It builds the relationship and helps us see how we can do more to ease the pressure of their day.
Face-to-face is more freeing - you allow for over-run, you allow for more attendees, you encourage free thinking, you hit upon the unexpected, you come up with original ideas, you unblock problems you didn't know were there. In fact, sometimes the throwaway comment, the small talk or the introduction to someone new is the most valuable to us and our clients.
You can't be distracted in a face-to-face meeting. You have everyone's full attention. There's no email popping up, no one hovering at the desk... As a result, you can get your full proposal across, brainstorm with focus, ask questions freely - delve deeper, and above all, you are more productive. It builds the relationship and helps us see how we can do more to ease the pressure of their day.
This builds trust and clarity. We understand what makes someone tick, we know what will get buy-in in the future. There's no denying that in a face-to-face meeting body language will say it all, and interpreting it correctly will help ensure the working relationship remains positive. You know what will fly and what will sink next time. Ultimately it all adds up to clarity. Clarity on who does what when, clarity of the role you perform, clarity on the strategic direction you need to take.
Talking of strategic direction, face-to-face time allows us to get an education. We find out more about the overarching strategy, get a better handle on the measurement and the numbers that matter. We see other ways to boost existing programmes - a PR plan becomes integrated with inbound marketing and vice versa. The economies of scale improve as a result and we deliver more value to the CFO.
Finally, if you need to, you can have tougher conversations too - no room for misinterpretation on email - and a frank and honest conversation in the flesh when a problem is starting to bubble, prevents it from brewing into something much bigger. In our experience being up front leads to the best outcome. A change, an improvement, a strengthening of the relationship.
Our values are based on trust and no matter whether you are in the Thames Valley or Silicon Valley we'll ensure we're there to build it.