By Lexi Milani
I’m a communicator at heart and by trade, so I jumped at the offer to go to INBOUND in Boston last month. The conference is focused on inbound marketing techniques that bring your customer or client to your company through the power of excellent content. There were over 21,000 registered attendees: that's a lot of content creators and salespeople.
There was a lot of talk about connection at the conference: connection with customers, with colleagues, with consumers in general. But a moment that truly stuck with me was the conclusion of Brené Brown’s keynote address the very first night. Her remarks were about belonging, and she emphasized the importance of truly listening to others, of seeking out opportunities to connect through shared experience, and of reaching out to help whenever possible.
After clapping furiously, the crowd left, most of them staring down at their phones and tapping furiously.
In session after session, we were told to put our phones down and just listen. In session after session, attendees took photos of every PowerPoint slide they saw, even though we were getting a link to the deck at the end of the presentation.
One of my favorite pieces of advice from any session was when Melissa d’Arabian told us to practice being bored. Put down your phone, she said, and practice living without constant stimulation; that practice will help you focus better later when you really need to. Everyone nodded along and then kept right on texting or emailing or Tweeting or whatever it was most of us were doing.
Dr. Brown pointed out that in a lot of ways, we Americans are more “sorted” than ever before. Our neighborhoods are stratified by politics. We cannot understand how our beloved aunt or friend could have voted the way she did. Religion, education, public policy: all of these ideas that should connect us have become intensely divisive somehow. I started thinking: is part of the problem really the smartphone? Are we so “connected” that we have disconnected from one another?
So what does this all have to do with what I do professionally: business development in the government contracting space? More than at first glance.
The government is not impressed with our pithy LinkedIn posts or an erudite Twitter feed. The only opportunity we have to get a leg up, so to speak, is to build relationships with contract officers and back up our promises with the best work anyone could possibly provide. Attention to detail, timeliness, efficiency: all these qualities are crucial for winning proposals, and none of them are benefited by your phone constantly dinging and beeping and begging for your attention.
Teaming partners and potential clients? They might be interested in what we say on our various public platforms. The content we put out must be high quality and on point because that reinforces the ideas inherent in our brand. But that doesn’t mean that LinkedIn newsfeed posts are going to replace an actual relationship.
At some point, personally and professionally, we are going to have to put down our smartphones and just talk – and listen – to one another. That’s it, in a nutshell.
Maybe it’s odd that my primary takeaway from a conference focused on using technology to sell more services would be that we need to use less technology. And I’ll still be posting to LinkedIn and Tweeting and mining for leads online. When it really comes down to it though: I’ll be asking you out for coffee, trying to get to know you, your business, and your needs better, so that I can figure out how Qocreate can serve you best.
Where do you want to meet?
Lexi is a strategist at Qocreate, where she is responsible for providing communications expertise and business development services to clients. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.