I could do my job without ever leaving my living room again. Really, I could.

Write some quality stories. Talk over the phone. Tweet some people. 

Done. Boom.

That said, my favorite work days are the ones I hop on the commuter rail to Boston for an industry conference.

It gives me a chance to put a real face to the Twitter avatar, hear a real voice versus the webinar/conference-call one. I like it a lot.

When I went to San Francisco for a company meeting, I liked that time, too.

I feel rejuvenated when I have a chance to meet the best of the best of the tech world in person. In reality, though, do we have to do this anymore? Mingle? Network in person? We put that question to the test — and present the answers to you in a two-part series, starting today.

The Question:

Should we ever talk face-to-face again?

The Answers

Matt Preschern, EVP and CMO, HCL Technologies

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Preschern leads the marketing functions at HCL Technologies, a US-based $5.7 billion global information technology services company. He has more than two decades of leadership experience in marketing and strategic business development. Before joining HCL, he was senior vice president and enterprise chief marketing officer at Windstream, where he led overall brand management, demand generation and digital content marketing. He has also held several leadership positions at IBM. Tweet to Matt Preschern.

Today’s interactions with prospects and customers increasingly move to digital channels or occur via social media -- or so it seems. I happen to be a strong believer and advocate for fully integrated or 360 marketing tactics that combine face-to-face interactions, as well as online and social media engagements.

As such, we need to regularly connect with our customers on a more intimate, personal level. We need to work alongside one another, foster real-time collaboration, joint innovation and long lasting relationships. To do so, we often deploy account-based marketing strategies (at HCL) to support a select group of clients.

The tactics we execute include co-creation and strategy sessions, customer center visits, as well as our long-standing customer advisory councils which include CIOs and CTOs of our largest clients; we also deploy peer-to-peer collaboration through our “CIO Straight Talk” events.

Each of these marketing vehicles deliver invaluable insights and allow us to more deeply engage with each customer and to further strengthen our relationships.

In addition, we are opening Local Centers of Excellence across the globe, which allow HCL to provide value well beyond cost optimization. We create talent pools in local markets and cultivate an ecosystem of local and global partners for innovative new business propositions and delivery frameworks.

Yes, our customers appreciate a trusted advisor who meets with them in-person and on a regular basis to resolve some of their most pressing business issues.

Jim Gustke, VP, Marketing, Ooma

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Learning Opportunities

Gustke handles the marketing at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Ooma, a provider of smart home and business communication systems. He has more than 20 years experience in marketing and general management for online, consumer and small- and medium-size business (SMB) focused technology companies and has held leadership positions with Intuit, Lexar Media, America Online, Polaroid and several venture-backed start-up companies. Tweet to Jim Gustke.

Even in today’s digitally focused world, it’s hugely valuable to get face-to-face time with customers to develop a strong foundation and foster a relationship of trust.

In-person interactions help all parties learn the nuances of each other’s work styles while allowing time for open dialogue and productive brainstorms. 

However, given busy schedules and the ever-expanding boundaries of today’s business environment and markets, face-to-face interactions aren’t always possible or financially viable.

While there have been advancements in business technology to fill this void -- whether it’s online meeting portals, video conference or cloud-based shared documents -- the easy way to bridge the gap is an old standard in the business field: the phone.

Steve Leitz, Director of Small Business, Tyco Integrated Security

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Leitz develops and leads the new TycoIS small business channel and drives its expansion across the US. He is a 20-year veteran of the security industry and has held leadership roles with some of the largest security integrators in the world. He is considered an industry thought leader, identifying trends in both electronic security technology and current risks to customers. Tweet to Steve Leitz.

Woody Allen once said, “80 percent of life is just showing up.” Even in the digitally connected technology business sector, face-to-face interactions are still important in order to provide exceptional customer service. By building trust through personalized relationships, customers know that you are right there with them as they grow their business.

A customer in a recent video testimonial said it best, “Your rep is more than just your rep. Your rep is someone you can actually call and they will show up and help you out.” This type of partnership is invaluable for small business owners who wear many hats and work outside of the traditional 9-to-5 business hours.

(We'll continue the conversation in part two, tomorrow.)

Title image by Asa Aarons Smith/all rights reserved.