Before COVID-19, in person meetings with our web agency clients or prospects were not usually our idea (we don’t get a reputation of working alone in a dark basement for nothing).
For years now, our industry has realized that most everything can be done virtually or online — but your average business owner hasn't quite caught up to that fact yet.
That was, until the pandemic.
Suddenly, after the world shut down, even grandma was logging into Zoom meetings and trying to figure out how to unmute herself.
A year or so after the world has gone virtual, I’m wondering if it will ever go back — at least in our industry — and if so, what does that mean for us?
Pre-pandemic in-person meetings
I, like a lot of my fellow agency owners, took the occasional in-person meeting with prospects looking to hire me.
It was never my favorite thing to do — you know, having to put real pants on — but there’s no doubt that it’s easier to build rapport with someone when you’re face to face.
And the fact a prospect has gone out of their way to meet with you means that they are already invested in hiring you at some level. Just as much as you, they don’t want to waste their time meeting with 20 different people to make a decision — and if the meeting goes well, they are likely to move forward with you because they’ve already invested their time.
Even knowing this, I would still push for emails, video conferences, or phone calls (in that order) because of how much easier it is on my schedule.
As a soloprenuer working from home (and juggling a toddler with my business owner spouse), having to take a couple hours out of my day to meet with a client at the local coffee shop is a big disruption to my workday.
Stay at home orders changed everything
Back in April of 2020, when my region got the first set of stay at home orders, everything changed. Everyone seemed to be working remotely.
I even hosted a webinar for my local chamber of commerce sharing tips, tricks, and software to help local business owners learn how to accomplish more remotely from their home.
The people who I wouldn’t have even bothered pitching the idea of a video conference to were suddenly all set up with a web camera and microphone and fine with meeting me virtually.
My booking calendar was never getting so much use, and people seemed to get the hang of it. As the months passed, I stopped getting asked to meet in person, and virtual meetings became the default.
But the world is returning to normal
Here we are just about a year after the pandemic really took hold (at least here in the States), and around 50% of the population in the US has now had at least one dose of the vaccine.
All businesses in Texas are opened to 100% capacity, mask mandates are a thing of the past, and life seems to be returning to “normal”.
This has me wondering if calls for in-person meetings will return.
On one hand, getting out of the house doesn’t seem so bad. I’ve been sitting in my office, only leaving for mail and supplies for nearly a year. Getting out occasionally and interacting with people almost sounds fun (though I am worried if my pants still fit).
But now we’re actually at a point that I always wished for pre-pandemic; where everyone is comfortable and capable of meeting virtually, and where I could make the most of my day without having to travel.
I haven’t been asked yet, but I know it’s coming: “Can we get together to discuss this project?”.
What the web developer community has to say
After going back and forth on this in my mind for the last few weeks, I reached out to The Admin Bar community to take the temperature of the group and ask them:
Now that the general population has gotten over their fear and/or ignorance to virtual meetings, do you see yourself going back to in-person meetings in a similar way to how you did before the pandemic?
Here’s how their responses broke down:
|Some, but less than I did before.||69%|
|No, that ship has sailed! 100% virtual from here on out!||27%|
|Yes, I will resume in-person meetings as soon as it’s safe.||4%|
It looks like I’m not alone in being a little conflicted.
Most agencies say they will return to some in-person meetings, but they will cut down from the amount they had before the pandemic — and it doesn’t look like anyone is planning to going back to how things were before.
Using this data to your advantage
Reading some poll responses shouldn’t necessarily dictate your decision on whether or not to have in-person meetings post-pandemic — but it can be helpful knowing what your fellow agencies are doing.
There’s no doubt that less agencies will be willing to meet customers and prospects face-to-face — and perhaps that’s something you can use to your advantage.
If you visit a few dozen web agency websites, you’ll notice that very few feature a prominent phone number for people to call. Even less posting a physical address encouraging people to drop by (which is likely due to how many folks work from home).
And while the average population is more comfortable now with meeting virtually than they were before, that doesn’t mean they will prefer it as much as we do.
Maybe this is an opportunity for you to set your agency apart from your competition.
Our industry, due to the low barrier of entry and globalization, has earned itself a less-than-stellar reputation for being honest and ethical businesses.
One of the best ways to build rapport and trust with your prospects is to meet with them and spend a little time building a relationship. By not only offering that, but highlighting that as a benefit of working with you, could be a deciding factor on which agency people choose to reach out to.
Besides one-on-one interactions, you’re also likely to see less of your competitors showing up at local networking events, ribbon cuttings, Chamber of Commerce meetings, and other social gatherings. Oftentimes, new opportunities are simply the result of being at the right place and meeting the right person.
Start planning your strategy now
Hopefully, no matter where you live, things are on their way to becoming safe to get out and about again. How you will handle that, in terms of your agency’s in-person availability, is something you would be wise to start thinking about now.
Will you take advantage of a population that’s fully indoctrinated to Zoom-culture and use that to keep yourself more productive? Or will you try to buck the trend and be one of the few to get out there face-to-face?
If you’re open to the latter, then it’s something that might be worth considering in your marketing. For a segment of the population, finding an agency that’s willing to meet in-person might help you stand out as a more desirable option.
I’d love to know where you stand on this, and how you’re deciding to move forward. Hop into The Admin Bar community, vote in our poll and add your reasons to the comments.