When I consider the idea of digital marketing mostly replacing the role of physical, in-person interaction moving forward, I’m reminded of an excerpt (see below) from Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection (Cacioppo and Patrick). As the authors considered whether digital connections might fulfill some of our physiological needs for social interaction, their research concluded the opposite. They characterized on-screen communications as “single-stranded,” devoid of physical texture, and a problem for communication (and B2B marketing and sales!).
“Most face-to-face encounters in real life allow us to communicate through even more subliminal cues — body chemistry, body language, action semantics, mimicry — in addition to words and gestures. Once again, the mind that seeks to connect is first about the body and leaving the body behind can make human connections less satisfying.”
Less satisfying. I have a hard time imagining a B2B marketing world filled only with digital interactions that our human nature will reject as less satisfying. I admit I do see an extended period where we will be decidedly more guarded and cautious about how we create in-person experiences. But alas, the B2B transaction, from the first moment of awareness to the final decision, is inherently personal. Ultimately, human interactions build trust and develop the healthy, personal relationships that deliver business results. Research tells us that some aspect of those relationships must include physical, face-to-face interaction, so the scales will eventually tilt back to include a healthy (and safe) mix of in-person events.