• One of the trends of modern business life is to retreat behind email. It’s a move we make at our peril. We need to speak, to engage, to connect, to meet. Real relationships are more robust and meaningful than purely digital ones. There are two ways to make a connection, a digital “click” that’s devoid of profound meaning or the genuine “click” that comes from the chemistry of meeting. People chemistry is a vital part of our business personalities and lives. Given an even choice, we’ll always do business with people whose company we enjoy. Personality, presentation, energy and charisma count for a great deal in ourselves, as well as our team.

    Trade shows are about as traditional and direct as marketing gets and the perfect launch pad for many an entrepreneurial endeavour or a young business wanting to get its product to market. Visitors attend exhibitions specifically to look for “new” stuff. So, in the case of that buyer who won’t return your call or ignores your emails, he or she will be at your industry trade show on the hunt for the new, the innovative and the undiscovered and this gives you the perfect opportunity to put your product straight into their hands. But for every tale of great trade show success, there’s one of wasted budgets and frustration at unmet targets. All too frequently the reasons for a lack of success are nothing to do with the show itself.

    So here’s a sobering stat to make you re-think all the clever plans and amazing graphics for your exhibition stand; 80% of the effectiveness of your exhibition stand is due to the stand staff. Forget about position in the hall or being next to the seminar theatre, the single most important component in exhibition success is your people. It’s probably one of the most important factors in any context, but, face to face, great people make a great deal of difference.

    And as if that stat wasn’t sobering enough here’s the double espresso info; 70% of trade show leads never get followed up. Never. Not even a generic email or brochure. Nothing. The hottest leads in the world are left to go icy cold. Some of the world’s greatest networkers and sales people aren’t necessarily the best at the face to face part – but all of them are good at the follow up part, turning that first connection into a meaningful business action.

    Digital and social media in all their forms make things easier. Easier to follow up, easier to connect online, easier to share experiences and information and, from a sales and marketing ROI stand-point, easier to measure outcomes. Social networks and real life meetings at their best co-exist and enhance one another. Many of the most powerful networkers and relationship builders are also adept in their use of social media to capture and retain contacts, to update their networks and to create on-going engagement and interaction. It’s all about putting those components in right order and recognising where priorities lie.

    And that order is flexible and adaptable. Some of social media’s greatest successes are in the way it promotes and facilitates personal relationships. Want romance? Then dating sites will take you from an online picture to the love of your life. Want thousands of teenagers to come to a party at your house? Then publicise it on Facebook. Follow and engage with someone on twitter and you can be certain that the conversation will flow more smoothly when you do meet. Profundity, durability and meaning in human relationships come from multiple connections in multiple environments with multiple touch points. The combination of real life social events and digital world social media is a powerful cocktail to forge those relationships, make connections and share experiences.

    An extract from my chapter in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards Handbook. Available for free download from Amazon.