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All right, Digital. Now it’s Personal.

Earlier this month we explored the phenomenon of insourcing. If you missed it, we basically talked about how things are going digital to make life easier for our customers. As entrepreneurs, we were told to either go online or go extinct, so we embraced all things digital – automated lead nurturing, rapid e-commerce, live chat online – all to facilitate customer interactions.

On the downside, in a culture where you can now enjoy the best the Western world has to offer without ever leaving the comfort of your home to step inside a movie theatre, a grocery store, a restaurant or even a workplace…by allowing online interaction to take centre stage in our businesses as well, we just might have sold ourselves and our customers out by eliminating face-to-face contact, which has a much bigger benefit than we may think. Even if customers aren’t necessarily dying to talk to you all the time, it’s important that the option be there to speak with someone in person when required, or at least on the phone. Your receptionist’s cheery ‘Have a nice day’ may not seem as sophisticated as the latest online inbound marketing techniques, but it can have a far greater impact on someone’s experience with your brand – and literally help them have a nice day. Of course, some occupations will never need to worry about the creep of insourcing. Professionals like surgeons and lawyers who, of necessity, must meet face-to-face with their clients, automatically create opportunities to build trust in every interaction, for good or ill (we’ll talk about bedside manner another time). But those who automate or digitize every aspect of their customer interactions – whether through marketing and messaging that’s all digital, or by eliminating the human element from customer service – risk alienating and isolating their all-important customer base. So how can you get the full benefit of the easy digital experience without sacrificing those warm and fuzzy offline activities, when there are only so many hours in a day? The secret is integration. Here’s how to leverage your online presence while still keeping things personal:

  1. When investing in promotion, remember that people are using multiple devices these days, often at the same time. So if they hear your radio ad or drive past a billboard, make sure it includes prominent reference to a landing page or even a hashtag so they can find out more information with the smartphone that’s probably already in their hand. Yes, this is still a digital strategy…but by finding out more about your campaign online, customers can engage with your brand and if they like what they see, will be more inclined to take the next step and call your company.

  2. Match your online marketing with your offline messaging by using the same colours, logo, and messaging style that appear on your website and social media profiles, on all your print and in-store marketing as well. Then, for a truly personal approach, be sure that you and your employees are equally consistent with your public relations. Matching shirts might not be appropriate, but matching (friendly, approachable, knowledgeable) attitudes and consistent use of language are. To ensure that all staff members are on the same page, get everybody up to speed with customer service and training manuals, roleplay, and knowledge testing.

  3. Make talking an option. Not everybody wants to have a lengthy chat every time they need an issue solved, but how frustrating is it when you call the bank or the furniture company or heaven forbid, the government, and it takes 32 minutes to get a live human being on the phone? The pressure on that one human being to deliver/convert/upsell then becomes immense, which doesn’t help either. If you’re a one-person show and must have your phone off at times throughout the day, leave specific callback times on your outgoing message – and stick to them. Another option is to set up videoconferencing through AIM, Skype or iChat; it’s free, and lets actual and potential customers see your friendly face. Or set up an online calendar that allows people to choose their preferred consultation time. Whatever you do, don’t make customers go through a maze of FAQ or make filling out an online ticket the only option to get help from you.

​Successful marketing, like entrepreneurship itself, requires finesse to find the right balance of live and automated, online and offline, personal and digital; black and white thinking doesn’t work. Having trouble getting into the gray? Call – or click if you prefer! – for a free brainstorming session on how to fuse human interaction with your tech for ultimate accessibility.

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