In the age of social media, where I can be connected to thousands of people at the click of a mouse, it is almost ironic that face to face meetings have never been more important. The academic world calls this ‘media richness theory’ and indeed it has been shown that 85% of communication is non verbal. The more I communicate with people, the more I trust them, and therefore the more likely I am to use their services. Is this true? Yesterday I spent all day at a ‘wedding fair’ in the Midlands, inside a hotel conference room with no windows, alongside 1200 other people who had come to see purveyors of goods and services for weddings. These ranged from a harp player to a chimney sweep via more conventional wedding requirements such as dresses and white Rolls Royces.
I was there to film some footage for my Channel 4 TV show, Superscrimpers, rather than because I was getting married, but I was fascinated by why all the exhibitors were there. Surely they all had websites where they could advertise their wares? I spoke to Caryn, who started her company, Elite cake designs, from home after a career in law and having four children. She had given up her job and started making cakes after her husband had encouraged her to follow her passion. She had lots of cut up cake for people to try, was a lovely, smiley welcoming person to meet and had several very impressive cakes on display. Her piece de resistance, a stunning cake covered in Swarsovski crystals, was being ogled by lots of brides (and bridegrooms) to be.
The strategy of letting people taste was working well for Caryn, as it was for Jody. Jody, another lovely smiley person, and her husband Richard have both given up their jobs (she in recruitment, him as a chef) to run their company RJS catering, which delivers lots of food to you to serve your guests. Sausage rolls, samosas, little pork pies were all being handed out as people came in (and left) the venue. It seemed a very generous thing to do, but letting people sample the wares is a key part of their marketing strategy. And it works! I will certainly be using them the next time I have a lot of people round.
This is why social media is not the whole answer; it is only when people have had up-close, personal experience of you, or their friends have, that they want to do business with you. I encourage all my staff to attend as many events, and meet as many people as possible, not just at the IoD but elsewhere. Don’t let it be a selling thing – neither Caryn nor Jody tried to sell me anything, they just gave me food to eat and chatted – but ask people about themselves, and wait for them to ask you. Facebook and twitter are just two channels out of many, and as a businesswoman I always remember that.
Ms Moneypenny will be speaking at the IoD on Wednesday 1 February 2012, 6.30pm – 8.30pm, at 116 Pall Mall, where she will also be launching her new book Careers advice for Ambitious Women. To find out more about the free event ‘In conversation with the Director General and the FT’s Mrs Moneypenny’