When people ask what you do for a living, what do you tell them? If you’re like me, you used to attempt a full explanation, only to see the person’s eyes glaze over. Nowadays I keep it simple: I’m an internet marketer. Yet even that broad generalization doesn’t tell the whole story. Yes, our work might be based on the internet and the various media available therein, but our work doesn’t end online. No, any good internet marketer makes sure to take her work offline as well.
Why should we abandon our preferred stomping grounds and move into a real-life setting? There are plenty of good reasons, starting with.
The face-to-face connection
Have you ever developed a close relationship purely online? Maybe you’ve talked with someone extensively through social media, IMs, and email. Maybe you feel a strong emotional bond to this person. But it’s unlikely that you’ve established the kind of lasting bond that can create new possibilities. No, most of those connections happen offline.
The difference between virtual and face-to-face connections comes down to emotional and physical factors. While we can develop these emotional bonds through virtual interaction, we don’t engage our senses. We might be able to see and hear them on a video conference. But we still can’t really see them. Nor can we touch (appropriately, of course) or smell them. It’s the combination of all these senses that helps us form a more complete bond.
A more complete bond begets more trust. And that’s the ultimate goal in relationships, right? If we trust one another, we can help each other in more ways. Any good marketer has a big address book full of people with whom she keeps in regular contact. But a great marketer makes time to meet with these people and develop that face-to-face connection.
The internet is a treasure trove of knowledge. Any marketer can burn the candle at both ends, getting up early and going to bed late while researching their niches to no end. We can develop a pretty solid base of knowledge doing this. But there are just some things we can’t learn online. After all, if all industry secrets were available online, it would be difficult for people to maintain a competitive advantage.
In order to learn, then, we need to get out of our comfort zones and take our efforts offline. For many, if not most, marketers this means conferences and conventions. Here we have dozens of industry experts and gurus providing speeches, presentations, and panels that can help us step up our games and become better marketers. These typically don’t happen online.
Last year I took that plunge, attending Affiliate Summit in New York City. It wasn’t a cheap proposition — the conference itself cost a good deal of money, and New York hotels are not cheap (seriously, look at those prices). But the lessons I learned from the panels and sessions provided me more than enough material to make back that money and then some. Again, this doesn’t happen in offline dealings. These types of lessons came only when I took my efforts offline.
When we’re thinking about how to step up our games, it’s important to remember the value of face-to-face connections. When we’re online we’re in a comfort zone, hidden from the real world. We can accomplish some big matters through online interactions, but it’s not until we take ourselves out of this comfort zone that we see big differences. Trust and education. Those are the two biggest benefits of face-to-face interactions. Shouldn’t every marketer aspire to that, online or off?