As a kid growing up in Japan, I used to daydream about what might be out there waiting for me beyond the ocean lines.
Because I lived in an island nation, my excitement for the unknown and the future was that much more intense. Unlike living in Austria or Bolivia, islanders are truly isolated by oceans. We simply have no concept of “just crossing the border.” In other words, living abroad is very foreign to us.
I had all sorts of romantic & wild notions about the idea of living abroad & how different and special my life could be.
Fast forwarding 10 years to when I found myself in the US as an exchange student, I realized it wasn’t all that I imagined as a kid. Right then & there, I realized I took so many things for granted when I lived in Japan, especially things my parents had provided for me.
This was a priceless lesson in my teenage years: Appreciate everything; do not take things for granted, however small they may be. How ungrateful I must have looked in their eyes, dying & rushing to get out of where I was, all just to be let down by reality later on? Like a deserter tumbling down the sand dunes, I ran towards a flowing spring of water, only to discover it was a mirage.
Wanting to rely on getting easy leads online is a lot like this story. Many of us often romanticize what it would be like to get online prospects into our sales funnel semi-automatically by offering free, downloadable cheat sheets, check lists, webinars, video trainings, etc. Heck, we can even invest a little in paid ads. How wonderful it would be!
Now your brain will go haywire with all kinds of expectations.
“No more networking. No more cold calling. No more selling. No more RFP’s. I don’t even need to leave my house. Better yet, I can sit by the beach with my laptop & WIFI… I’ll hire help remotely. People will just buy my stuff online… One-to-one is so yesterday. One-to-many is the future!”
It sounds all good until the reality hits, and you learn about how low your conversion rate can be, how each effort would take a long time, how “pay to play” is inevitable if you want to get results quicker, how there is no such thing as passive income being the main source of revenues, and oh and you still need to sell...
In case you haven’t picked up the current comments coming from major online service players, the online business market has hit the fatigue point, and they have already moved on quickly to combat this current climate.
So, what is your plan?
Just to be clear, I refuse to call this a “trend.” Rather, it is all about going back to basics by bringing back what we took for granted – going hyper local & offering super high-touch services to make a true difference in customers’ lives to be part of the recession-proof strategy.
7 Signs Going Hyper Local and Offering Super High-Touch Interactions is the Ultimate Recession-Proof Strategy
No one wants to be treated like just another number for online service providers, who often talk about their email list size, subscriber count, and how many info-products they have sold. I am sure you don’t want to be treated that way, either.
These 7 signs are something I only started to hear and see recently over podcasts, articles and social media. As a business owner and a consultant, it’s my job to pick up subtle signs of trends, tendencies, gaps and patterns and share them with you.
1. Fake personalization tactics are turning people off.
2. Activities that don't scale are getting rewarded on social media, i.e. live videos & stories.
3. Many are publicly voicing that they are leaving social media, especially Facebook.
4. Costs for paid ads are skyrocketing, meaning the entry barrier is increasing.
5. Leading online players are shifting their focus onto conferences & live events.
6. Some service business owners have rediscovered their true purpose by doing more one-on-one work.
7. Some admitted “losing touch with their customers” due to heavy automation, i.e. evergreen webinars.
All of these point to one place for a solution: Bringing our attention back to where we are (hyper local) and interacting with people in real time (super high-touch interactions).
To me, this is no surprise. To be honest, I’ve anticipated this all along, and I have chosen my methods carefully the past few years. For example, my Meetup events are one of them. This is in no way considered a scalable business activity, as my involvement is a must. But I had my reasons to stick with it.
I’ve often used this analogy to make my point: “Before perfecting your digital strategy, perfect your analog strategy.”
As you might have guessed, this comes from my time in the music business. OK, cassettes and CDs didn’t quite survive, but vinyl has. There is something about vinyl records that, both young & old, are fascinated by. Granted, vinyl does not dominate the market, but it has not died out either.
The same thing can be said about hand-written notes and thank you cards. They are still pretty hot if you want to make a lasting impression on someone. Otherwise, why do you think companies like Moo & Minted are still in business?
The bottom line is people want to know more about who or what company they are buying from. They want to find solutions that are designed to work instead of buying something conveniently online to put a band-aid the situation. Additionally, they want to know that they are taken care of.
Now let’s take a closer look at each sign to see what exactly is happening.
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#1: Fake Personalization Tactics Are Turning People Off
You know how you can program your emails using email management tools like MailChimp, Drip, A Webber, or Active Campaign to incorporate recipients’ first names into the body of your email, right? That!
It goes something like, “Will you be joining 1800+ like-minded, kick-ass entrepreneurs to take advantage of this free training, *|FName|*? (That’s how you code to insert email subscribers’ first names).
We all know that was “pre-programmed” and senders have no clue who they are addressing. That’s the reality.
Funny thing is that, at one point, this was considered to be “personalizing” your business communication. Now this almost seems like an afterthought. Worse yet, many take this as the sign of how much less senders care because they automated it.
News flash: People aren’t impressed by your cleverness. They are annoyed.
#2: Activities that Don't Scale are Getting Rewarded on Social Media, i.e. Live Videos & Stories.
This is not because Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube & Twitter just want to copy Snapchat’s success. This is because these platforms no longer want to reward you with batch-produced content with a link to where content lives, i.e. your own website.
Both live-streaming and stories cannot be batch-produced in advance. You have to do it on the spot. Sure, you can plan what you want to do with these ahead of time, but you still need to go on live.
What do you think the reason is behind this shift?
My take is that all these platforms are craving for off-the-cuff and unique yet imperfect content to compete with their rival platforms. At this point, they all have sufficient data showing that this is the type of content people tend to consume the most.
But why would people rather consume raw & unpolished footage over highly produced, carefully sought-after content?
My hunch is that people want to interact with content that is relatable to them even when they are online. When they see regular posts or ads that are looking highly produced like commercials you see on TV, they immediately feel like they’re being sold to.
This is the reason videos that are shot on your smartphone made while walking your dog tend to do far better than the rest. It looks like a friend chatting to another friend & just making suggestions. This is the new level of personalization that people crave.
#3. Many Are Publicly Voicing That They Are Leaving Social Media, Especially Facebook.
“I feel disgusted by what Facebook puts in my personal timeline, so I’m leaving.”
“They all want to tell me how I can improve my life in these ads I see & I’ve had enough.”
“It doesn’t make me feel good to be on Facebook. Instagram is a much happier place for me.”
“Twitter was a bad place to be last week, so I stayed away for a bit.”
These are real comments I’ve seen and heard recently from multiple people. They are not leaving because they just got bored. As you can see from these comments, they are pretty specific about why they don’t want to be part of it.
By no means is this enough evidence to say businesses are losing opportunities by being on these platforms. That’s not the point I am trying to make here. Instead, this is a sign that the days of people freely clicking on ads purely out of curiosity are long gone.
And this is the perfect segue to the sign #4.
#4. Costs for Paid Ads Are Skyrocketing, Meaning the Entry Barrier is Increasing.
I mentioned how the cost of paid ads has increased by 50% over the last 5 years in my post, “Supercharge Your Referral Pipeline” (link). It’s a clear indication of demand being far greater than supply. Naturally, when this happens the cost goes up.
That is not the only challenge businesses face when it comes to paid ads.
Facebook, in particular, is scrambling to improve its shaky reputation by limiting “negative suggestions and comments” shown on their platform. They have gotten so sensitive that the site actively takes down any ads that may or may not have a whiff of negativity.
For example, if an ad starts from a headline like, “Are you trying to lose weight but running out of options?” To Facebook this is negative. The headline needs to be more “positive and aspirational.”
I can’t help but being sarcastic here… Life isn’t all positive all the time. It’s not all rainbows and puppies.
Yet here we are, we aren’t allowed to advertise if we don’t meet its criteria. Coupled with the trends from #3, in which people are over-sensitive about everything nowadays, many online businesses, which have heavy reliance on running FB ads, are left needing to look elsewhere to advertise. Or, they need to figure out ways to convey their messages in a much more positive manner.
Personally, I feel incredibly awkward and unnatural about this phenomenon, as it is not aligned with my style of communication. Sure, I can flip the script and see this as a good business challenge and sharpen my copywriting skills.
Part of me says that’s the healthy way of looking at it. But the other part of me questions whether I want to work with someone who is overly sensitive and on the platform that forces us to frame everything in a positive manner that’s nearly fake.
Frankly, I’d rather talk to real people in person instead of hiding behind my computer trying to cater to the platforms that tell me how I should act.
#5. Leading Online Players Are Shifting Their Focus on Conferences & Live Events.
More and more well-known online players are focusing on offering conferences and live events where their audience can make connections in real time. Some of them have always hosted mastermind retreats, live events and conferences, but my guess is they will double-down on what they’ve already done.
For example, James Schramko, author of Work Less, Make More, offers a variety of in-person events for his members, such as one day live events and mastermind retreats. The same goes for Chris Ducker, who used to host Tropical Thinktank in the Philippines and now offers the annual Youpreneur Summit in London.
On the other hand, Pat Flynn, who is known for his SmartPassiveIncome podcast, is kicking off his own conference for the first time this year in his hometown, San Diego.
Conferences, retreats and live events are considered to be the business activities that do not scale. Not only that, but these require advance planning, especially when it comes to logistics. Not the easiest thing to pull off.
But the reward for these is immense. Attendees love the inclusive nature of the events, as well as being able to connect with other attendees in person. By far the best cure for entrepreneurs and business owners who feel lonely running their businesses.
For the hosts these are also great ways to get to know their customers as opposed to running a survey online. They get to hear attendees’ challenges, where they need help in real time.
#6. Some Service Business Owners Have Rediscovered Their True Purpose by Doing More One-on-One Work.
One of my favorite podcasts is What Works by Tara McMullin. She is a long-time entrepreneur, community builder, facilitator and author who understands what’s working in the small business space, regardless of what the mainstream favors.
There were at least 3 episodes where she interviewed different business owners who rediscovered their zone of genius as one-on-one work, and they weren’t afraid to put the idea out there. This, I thought, was incredibly refreshing since all I have heard the past 5 years was those who were dying to get out of it.
Then shortly after, I met another business owner who proudly mentioned that the work she can deliver the best transformation on would be through her one-on-one consultation.
That’s not all. There were 2 more well-regarded business owners talking about how in-person, intensive programs worked for their customers the best. In this case, these are in a group setting. But because this is done physically, I can see how these group sessions can offer super high-touch interactions just like live events and conferences do.
It is easy to get sucked into the latest online offers that sell to hundreds of people. What we all need to keep in mind is that when something changes, like an algorithm or online policy, having strong ties with your local community and your ability to offer super high-touch interactions will save your business.
If you are too focused on gaining leads online and find yourself spending a lot of time trying to attain them, I wanted this post to be a good reminder for you to pay closer attention to your local business presence and how you can deliver your work better by adding super attentive, high-touch interactions.
#7. Some Admitted “Losing Touch with Their Customers” Due to Heavy Automation, i.e. Evergreen Webinars.
Amy Porterfield is an incredibly successful infopreneur that you may even know. Her podcast, Marketing Made Easy Podcast, is the source for practical and well-organized marketing advice, often accompanied by downloadable worksheets.
Late last year, she mentioned in her podcast that she felt she needed to bring back more live aspects in her business to get back in touch with her audience. Recently, she also mentioned how she incorporated an on-demand, fast response customer service component in her launch, in which she made it a goal to appear in real time to answer all the questions about her course.
This is a good example of super high-touch interactions. There are tools that allow us to customize our responses, such as Bonjoro or Useloom.com, where we can individually record a quick video for a specific person and email it to him/her. Imagine the reaction she has gotten for doing the work to stay in touch with her prospects. According to Amy, offering these has made a big difference in the sign-up rate.
The past few years, many business owners became overzealous about automating everything in their businesses for the sake of freeing themselves up. What they have forgotten is that no relationship should be automated.
I hope you aren’t discouraged by this. Keep in mind that there are plenty of areas in your business you can automate that do not affect your relationship with your customers.
Start Testing Your Hyper Local Activities and Super High-Touch Interactions
For you, it may be that you make it a goal to increase booking more phone calls to get feedback from your existing customers. Or, it may be that you ask local business organizations to speak in front of local business owners.
Whatever it may be, as I mention in almost every post I write, start off slow with one thing. If it works for you, stick with it. If it doesn’t, you can move on to try another idea.
Too often, entrepreneurs tend to try multiple activities simultaneously thinking that’s the way to hack their growth. In reality, it’s everything but.
Remember, you are already ahead of the game by understanding the importance of hyper local activities and high-touch interactions being part of your business development efforts. I would love to hear your success stories. Feel free to comment below!