Update: After reading this post, a friend sent me an email about how many startups in Silicon Valley are now cold emailing using apps and platforms that make it easy to mail merging and batch emailing, as well as purchased

I have a client behaving in the strangest way: it is barely doing any content marketing.

No blog posts, no eBooks, no podcasts. Heck, it’s not even on the Twitter!

But this company is seeing explosive sales growth.

How can that be? Doesn’t every company need to embrace content marketing to generate awareness, leads, and sales?

The answer is: “No, not always”.

In this case, the company is doing something “out of the box”: it’s cold-calling and cold-emailing potential clients. Imagine that, a company that attempts to reach out to potential customers, rather than having customers respond to content or social media updates.

Let’s be clear, it’s smart cold-calling that is focused on people with a well-defined need for the product, as well as a role in the buying decision as an influencer or decision-maker. The outreach is targeted and highlights the product’s benefits. Although it is cold-calling, it resonates and works because it aligns someone’s needs and interests.

Amid the obsession with inbound and content marketing, I think brands have forgotten that people purchase products.

The buying process is triggered by relationships, trust, and hands-on education, particularly for B2B startups. Attracting leads into the sales funnel and moving them down the funnel often requires a real-world connection and a conversation.

As digital has become ubiquitous, it is easy to get lazy about relationship-building. We think relationships are established by sharing content, commenting on blogs, retweeting updates, and likes. As a result, we live in digital cocoons and harbor the false belief that we’re making friends and connecting with prospects and customers.

The reality is a lot of business happens in the real world. It takes place during coffee meetings, events, conferences and telephone calls. We buy from people that we know and like. We make decisions based on emotions, making personal relationships so important.

As much as networking takes time and effort, it is a necessary part of building and operating a business. It is important for entrepreneurs to remember that brand credibility and awareness happen in the trenches. It happens when you tell someone face-to-face the story of your company and product. Without large marketing budgets, entrepreneurs have to leverage their personal drive to tell the world their startups exist.

Any startup looking to grow needs to connect with potential and existing customers. It needs to know their interests, needs, aspirations and goals.

Then, you can effectively sell them a product. A great way to know your customers is to meet them or, at the very least, talk to them. Yes, it takes more effort but startups are marathons rather sprints, and success happens call-by-call, meeting by meeting.

My advice: get out there and talk to your customers rather than sitting behind the computer screen waiting for them to come to you.

More: On the Kissmetrics blog, Chris Barr looks at the power of direct mail.

I’ve worked with dozens of startups and fast-growing companies looking to accelerate their marketing and storytelling. My services are driven by frameworks and processes to create messaging, strategic plans and content. If you want marketing that makes a difference, let’s talk. If you are looking for hand-picked startup content, subscribe to my weekly newsletter.