Does a virtual world create real clients for professional service firms?

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While social media such as Twitter allows people to easily contact others, does a tweet really add much to relationships?

The same question applies to e-newsletters or blogs (such as this one).  Although they may lead to responses, it is usually only from a small percentage of those who see them. The content is what the sender wants others to know, and this is not always what recipients are interested in, especially in the business world.

One of the first tasks for most of us when we get to work is to delete unwanted emails, something that continues throughout the day. A small percentage of unsolicited emails get action or raise interest, and maybe this is enough to justify the program for some businesses.

But for professional services firms, the key question is: does a virtual world create real clients?

Personal relationships are still a critical element in business development for professional services firms where trust is important.

Even as financial institutions are trying to reduce their “bricks and mortar” presence and encouraging consumers to manage their finances electronically, they recognise the lack of security online and the problems of email phishing and scamming.

“Social media” is what it says it is. It’s mostly of interest to those who want to know what friends or celebrities are doing or thinking.  While it used by business, it isn’t by itself a solution to business development where trust is paramount.

Unfortunately, the ease of contact through social media means we can get lazy about personal contact.  When I was starting out in Public Relations, the importance of meeting people and maintaining relationships, and not relying on phone or email contact, was drummed into me.

These days it is simply too easy to send out information at the press of a button.  But are people hearing?  Getting out and about is still important.

Even networking is not really enough.  There’s more to creating relationships than attending functions or joining associations and going to the odd meeting.  It’s turning contacts with people into relationships.

At Pritchitt Partners we try to maintain a number of activities in our own right to maintain and develop relationships. These also help clients make contacts as an added value to our own relationship with them.

Our planned activities include regular lunches where we can invite clients, journalists and others to a general discussion of issues in a relaxed forum.

Some people find it hard to make contact and suggest a meeting with people they don’t know well.  I confess I’m a bit like this myself.

But I’ve also come to learn that sitting at a keyboard or hiding behind the phone is not as helpful to our business or our clients as meeting people over coffee for a chat, exchanging information and learning about others’ needs.