Not too long ago, my eight year old and I were cruising through the grocery store. We came across a strawberry soft drink. He asked me about the “artificial” verbiage on the juice container.

"Why do they always put fake flavors in stuff? Why not just use the real thing?” he said.

I then proceeded to explain the logic behind faux ingredients; however he would have none of it.

"But it's strawberry! Where are the strawberries?” he abruptly retorted. Apparently, I wasn't going to get very far in explaining away the absence of this craved ingredient.

His frustration with this common occurrence mirrors the increasing agitation consumers experience in dealing with businesses everyday – particularly in the area of sales, marketing and communications. The driving force for this discontentment can easily be attributed to emerging technology. Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not badmouthing online, digital and mobile marketing technologies.  However, I am saying that their overwhelming presence in our daily lives has created an unintended problem – an audience that longs for something authentic and real.

If you’re looking to give your small business an edge in this saturated environment, I believe you may find your advantage with a low-tech approach – human interaction.

Earlier this year I received an email from a small business owner who was looking to advertise. He’d indicated that he wanted to collect more details about my organization and our record of accomplishment. Upon seeing the email, I immediately clicked the reply button and began typing my response.  Midway into my message, I stopped and thought that a simple call would be most appropriate. So that’s what I did. Subsequently, our firm was invited out to meet face-to-face.  It was at that meeting we learned their company sent out multiple inquires that day.  We happened to be the only firm to actually pick up the phone and have a conversation. In this instance, I was told my phone call was the determining factor in our company being selected.

If you are looking for the next big thing in marketing, might I suggest it’s you? It is your ability to engage your audience without the crutches of new marketing widgets.

Though the following may take a bit more time and yield fewer impressions, these tips may be the very things that give your small brand the buoyancy needed to stay afloat in the immense ocean of marketing chatter:

  • Give customers a way to talk to you. Put your direct phone number on customer feedback forms.
  • Send a signed thank-you card via snail-mail
  • Stop hiding behind a title. If you’re the company president that’s always in meetings and guarded by administrative assistants, you are destined to be disconnected from those who fuel your business – the customer. Step away from the desk and make yourself available to those that matter most.
  • Send key customers personalized invitations/specials
  • Engage. Whether you receive praise or a lambasting online, address it specifically – letting reviewers know that you’re personally paying attention.

Again, technology is great; however, in this highly-communicated, digital age, a human connection is greater.

Walter Dailey is a marketing speaker, consultant, and creative director for DSV Media, a Columbus Advertising Agency specializing in marketing help for small and mid-sized businesses.  Follow him here: @wrdailey @dsvcreative