Each day, over 205 billion emails are sent, and over 500 million tweets are posted on Twitter. Each year, NetPlus Alliance facilitates over 4,000 face-to-face interactions between its distributor members and supplier partners, and that is just as valuable, if not more so, than billions of emails and countless posts on social media. While it is important to effectively utilize new technology and social media, it is also important not to lose sight of the value that face-to-face interactions can provide. In this industry in particular, face-to-face interactions are necessary for building and creating sustainable, long-term relationships.
As an intern at NetPlus Alliance, I watched Paul Haber, who has been in the industry for over sixty years, call our distributor members, and I remember wondering why he was calling them and not emailing them. This was my first taste of the industrial distribution industry. Watching Paul call our members and interact with them over the phone, rather than via email, taught me true relationship building.
It is possible to effectively communicate online, but this communication does not replace the richer, face-to-face interaction that takes place when you communicate with another individual in person at a meeting, dinner or other networking event. This type of communication helps you really get to know your business partners, customers and vendors in their true, most comfortable state and allows you to build a level of trust with them. And as we all know, this industry is full of individuals that have worked at multiple companies and need to maintain these genuine, long-standing friendships in order to progress in their profession.
NetPlus Alliance facilitates face-to-face interactions through an annual meeting, regional meetings, and a continuing education program that includes supplier-specific product trainings for distributor members, as well as multi-supplier workshops.
After working in this industry for approximately 3 years and attending 7 conventions, 3 marketing development conferences, 2 NetPlus Alliance Annual Meetings, 2 hands-on training events and last year’s Emerging Leaders conference, I now understand the value of face-to-face interactions. However, while face-to-face interactions are extremely important, they need to be coupled with a targeted and smartnurture approach. There is no one size fits all approach anymore. It is about customization and finding the right mix. What I do know is that you should not send an email without a follow up approach in mind. At the same time, you should not make a phone call without a functioning website because that is exactly where the person you call is going after, or during, your call.
Along with the face-to-face interactions mentioned above, NetPlus also utilizes new technology and social media in order to enhance these relationships. This includes an outward-facing Member Portal that allows suppliers and distributors to find an abundance of information, as well as a platform that allows targeted and triggered emails and social postings.
In the digital age, we are more connected to our customers and partners than ever, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that digital and personal must work in tandem in order to be successful and keep our relationships strong.