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Face up to it: the importance of in-person meetings

Updated: Jan 13, 2022

Building relationships and business travel will be back sooner than first thought. And - Why big pants may feature in your upcoming events.

Building relationships is a key priority for all businesses – your very success or failure can depend on the skill of your relationship building. Whether you’re assessing an agency, connecting with a potential partner, or selling – or buying! – a product or service, what is the secret to building a productive working relationship?

Building business

Whether growing or consolidating your business, your network will be key. And the way you grow and foster a network is via face-to-face meetings.

Research by SAP Concur (2021) found 95% of businesses want to return to business travel within the next year, with 35% fearing fewer business deals will be signed without travel. They found 40% of respondents concerned about “developing and maintaining business connections” if the pandemic continued to disrupt business travel.

Whilst Zoom calls have their pros, there’s also some cons to a singularly digital approach to networking and meetings. That person whose wifi causes delays or crashes. Talking over others because you miss out on in-person visual clues. Distraction from cats walking across laptops.

All of these challenges make it tricky to build a relationship with the faces you see on a screen. Meeting in person allows you to have conversations you wouldn’t otherwise have due to the ability to be ‘off the record’ in a way video calls don’t allow. You can have side conversations, share spontaneous chit-chat and facilitate more casual introductions and referrals. Face-to-face lets you build a more meaningful relationship, adding value to existing working partnerships and creating new ones.

The secret to building productive business relationships is…

In a straw poll of the Haynes MarComs team, face-to-face meetings were frequently mentioned as key to building productive business relationships. But my favourite answer was surprising!

A few years ago, one of our team bonded with a trade publication advertising rep over the necessity to wear Bridget Jones-styled ‘big pants’ when attending a black-tie event (apparently, it’s the only way to squeeze into a dress!).

This relationship - formed over coffee, cake and shopping tips - resulted in a much-reduced advertising rate and prime positioning in a key publication. It continued for over a decade, with both parties benefitting, before becoming a genuine non-work friendship. Whilst you may not make friends from meetings, you will find relationship building the best way to make business deals.

The above example may suggest the secret to building productive business relationships is big pants, but it’s actually honesty, along with a willingness to put yourself out there.

By being yourself and speaking truthfully about the pain points you have or fear, what success looks like, and being open to finding middle ground, you’ll make connections that benefit both parties and can be carried from one company to your next. This type of relationship can only be formed face-to-face.

Offline versus Online activity – the best of both worlds!

Using offline techniques to build relationships will continue to be a cornerstone of any successful sales and marketing strategy post pandemic. Trade show events, networking sessions, sales trips and meetings all help introduce your company to new clients and allow you to catch up with existing contacts.

This doesn’t mean you should eschew online activity – quite the opposite actually! You need to devise a strategy that places offline and online activities in tandem, complementing each other every step of the way. Read more about how to stay in touch with your target audience or how to diversify your channels to drive results.

Facing your future

According to the Global Business Travel Association, spending on face-to-face business meetings will account for half travel budgets in 2021, with Account management meetings (current and prospective customers) accounting for 30% and Service trips (repairs, training, installation) taking 20%.

Screens have helped foster connections during the pandemic and technology can help build businesses through marketing and boosting efficiencies, but the old adage that ‘people buy from people they trust and like’ remains true. To build successful business relationships, you need to face the future – and get the face of your business out and about as the world reopens.

And if you’d like to discuss the benefits of ‘big pants’ or how to build a successful marketing strategy for your brand, get in touch with the Haynes MarComs team.

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