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In a world of blogs and social networks, webinars and podcasts, it is easy to forget about the "old school" methods of reaching out to your market.

I am a little tongue-in-cheek when I say old school because I find marketers are increasingly opting for the online route to connect with their target audience, as opposed to the good old days of running in-person events, where all communication takes place one on one.

While something can be said for the efficiency of online marketing, in-person events, whether a breakfast meeting in a hotel room or a seminar in a large boardroom, have an important place in your marketing plans.

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Build better rapport

Social networking, search engine optimization and content marketing (which I wrote about last month) are all there for you to build your virtual rapport, get found and educate targeted prospects who may not be familiar with your company, products or services.

When you add in-person events to the mix, you have an opportunity to take those introductory engagement points to the next level by meeting face-to-face. Rapport is better built in person.

For example, I once worked with an investment company that had a great program to teach consumers how to navigate the markets and trade with the right knowledge backing their decisions.

It created a great deal of content online but very few of the calls to action incorporated in its webinars, case studies and blog posts resulted in purchasing subscriptions to its service.

We decided to add in-person events to the mix with two aims: to excite prospective customers about the opportunities to build financial wealth, and to introduce them to and begin to build relationships with the company's investment "coaches."

We invited contacts who had entered their information onto a form on the company's website multiple times in exchange for a piece of content. Out of those who attended, more than half bought subscriptions to my client's training program.

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Less distraction

How many times have you read a tweet or an e-mail promotion that asked you to attend a webinar or download a report? Chances are quite a lot. However, how many times did you not attend or not read that report because you were too busy or got distracted and never came back to it?

Carving out time in the office or at home to watch a webinar or read that report is difficult, but when you get prospects to accept a meeting invite for your event, they are more likely to attend and stay focused on your presentation.

There are far fewer distractions when you get a prospect into a room filled with people who are eager to learn from you – especially if you book breakfast events that end at around 9 in the morning or evening dinner events that start at around 6. The workday has often not yet begun or it has ended and you have their full attention.

Move the relationship forward

When two people meet through an online dating site, they can learn about one another through e-mails, texts and video calls – but to move the relationship forward, they have to meet in person.

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The same is true in business. You can only do so much online. To move a relationship from a prospect to a lead, or from a lead into a client, you will likely need to meet in person.

With in-person events, you have the opportunity to introduce yourself, have face-to-face conversations and request follow-up from this initial exchange to continue the conversation or book a meeting to talk more in-depth about the topic at hand.

Common criticism

I know some of you are thinking, "Well, this is great, but don't in-person events cost me more money than online efforts and require more planning?"

As with all marketing efforts, you need to know the return on investment of running an in-person event, and compare it to the success rates of other tactics.

Holding events for people who have not had many exchanges with your business, otherwise known as "suspects" or weak prospects --who may have been drawn from social media or bought mailing list--  often results in no ROI. Those are often the folks coming out for a free hot breakfast or dinner.

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This is why I recommend holding events for only your best prospects. When prospective clients participate multiple lines online, or give up  personal information in exchange for content on many occasions, they are going to be great fit for an in-person event and have a higher likelihood of becoming a warm lead with whom sales can follow through.

As well, don't make a common mistake: You need to follow up with registrants after an event has ended. Think of your best follow-up: Will you use the event as an introduction and follow up with meetings? Will you follow up with an offer for a product or service? Will you continue to nurture them with content?

Whatever you decide to do, don't leave your effort at the event. Use it as a building block to demonstrate your value and lead to further opportunities for growth.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Ryan Caligiuri is the founder ofRyan Caligiuri International, a growth consultancy focused on developing programs that generate credibility, competitive advantages, leads/demand and new revenue streams for small to medium sized enterprises. Caligiuri is also the founder of The Growth Network a mentoring program that teaches entrepreneurs and marketers best practices, frameworks and strategies to become business growth generators. Engage with Mr. Caligiuri onTwitter.

Join The Globe's Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues:http://linkd.in/jWWdzT

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