Asking if the future will be more digital seems to be a foolish question.
Of course, it will be more digital. More things will be automated, AI will replace many jobs (with good reason, in many cases), software will command an ever-increasing share of our time and attention at work, connectivity will continue to rise, and we will measure everything with the resulting volcano of data.
But is digital the way to grow your business?
This comes from someone who has made a living for the past 13+ years helping B2B and industrial companies develop and implement digital marketing and sales strategies to grow their businesses.
We are inbound to our core. I even co-wrote a book called Inbound Organization.
But are we relying too much on digital connection to connect with our audience?
Do you want more marketing automation in your life or less?
More canned emails, calls, LinkedIn connection requests, and link-building outreaches?
Why do we insist on using digital automation as marketers when we hate it as consumers?
Do you like checking yourself out at the grocery store?
Sometimes it is convenient and quick, but what if you have a bunch of vegetables that need to be looked up and weighed? Pain in the butt.
When we started Inbound, a key insight was that people wanted to self-service and get information and answers fast. Inbound marketing gave people what they wanted. They could research and learn at their own pace and in a way that made sense for their personality.
I still believe this to be true - you need great content for your website, blog, YouTube channel, and email campaigns.
But what about the personal touch? What about analog in-person connections and even phone conversations?
I just spoke at and attended a trade show in Atlanta, and I was struck by how happy most people were to be in the actual presence of other people. I loved networking and talking to existing clients; the speaking event I did was awesome. People were engaged and asking questions, and everyone stuck around afterward to talk some more.
This engagement was way more satisfying than any Zoom call I have done.
Many marketing and salespeople automate parts of their sales cycle because they can, not because this should.
I believe the best outcomes for marketing and sales teams will come from those that combine the digital with the analog and use digital to drive analog. In-person and phone conversations will drive the kind of relationships that drive growth.
My suggestion is to think analog first and then digital. Think of how you can connect with your best prospects in person or at least get them on the phone.
People are craving the personal touch. They want to hear your voice and see your face.
On the other hand, I just went to an all-automated dry cleaner. I checked in at a kiosk, dropped my shirts in a bag, returned three days later, paid with a credit card, and walked out with my clean clothes.
This feels like a combination of digital and automation that I can get behind!
You may think this article sounds simplistic. Maybe so, but the people that think this trend through from the customer's perspective and figure it out will be the winners in the B2B and industrial marketing worlds.