I’ve been writing a lot recently about social marketing – and for good reason. It is unnecessarily challenging to run a successful business without being plugged into social media and marketing. However, while necessary, social marketing can also become a trap and for many it becomes easy to think that Web sites, Facebook, Twitter and blogs are the only answer. They are not. No matter how interesting or fun it is to use electronic means to reach customers and prospects, there is still a place for good old-fashioned client meetings. Take a couple of minutes, visit YouTube and watch the United Airlines “Speech” commercial, which first aired in 1989. This is a classic television spot about a company losing a 20-year client because, the boss explains, “he said he didn’t know us anymore.” The boss talks about how business used to be face-to-face instead of just phone calls and faxes (remember, it’s a 20-year old spot!), but he could just as easily have mentioned emails and PDF’s. The boss hands out United Airlines tickets to all the staff members (it was a commercial!) so they can head out and visit their clients. It ends with the boss being asked where he’s going, and he responds, “To visit that old friend who fired us this morning”. I would argue that this is one of the great TV spots of all time, and 20 years later the message is just as relevant – get out of your office and visit your customers. Sitting with your clients accomplishes many things. It reminds them that you care enough to take time out of your schedule just for them. It gives you a chance to look around their offices and get an idea of their “non-business” lives. Ask them about the grandkids, the fishing photo, the award hanging behind the desk. Many people are willing to say things one-on-one that they might not say in an email or even a phone call. They may not always be things you want to hear, but they are often things you need to hear. Rest assured that if you’re not out visiting your clients, your competitors are. They are building relationships while you’re coasting. The first time things go bad or there is a bump in the road, it’s pretty easy for them to fire someone they haven’t seen in a while and replace them with someone who has been visiting regularly. At a minimum, you should treat your customers as well as you treat your prospects. It’s much less expensive to keep a client than it is to get a new one. Think that’s a cliché? Doesn’t matter – it’s true. In addition to keeping your clients happy and keeping your fingers on the pulse of what is happening within the industry, there is a frequently overlooked benefit to sitting down across the table or desk. I call it the “as long as you’re here” project. Oftentimes clients will think of something they need, right as you are sitting there. They may have been thinking of doing it in-house, or using another resource, but “as long as you’re here” let’s talk about it now. They get it off their desk, you pick up new work and, at the same time, you keep that work from going to a competitor. There is no such thing as an “as long as you’re here” tweet or email. You need to be sitting across from someone to make it happen. So listen to United Airlines and get out from behind your desk, turn off the computer and cell phone, and walk, bike, drive or fly to see as many of your clients as you would still like to have next year. Scott Harris is the owner of Mustang Marketing, a marketing agency serving the San Fernando Valley for more than 20 years. You can reach Scott at Scott@MustangMktg.com or visit Mustang’s website at www.MustangMktg.com.