This blog post first appeared on 06/30/14 on Visa Business
To increase orders from your current customers and find new clients, plan a business trip. Travel, an important tool in your small-business tool kit, is an investment in growing and sustaining your business. And as with any investment, you want to get the highest return—in this case, your return on travel.
Businesses get an average return of $9.50 for every travel dollar they spend, according to a study the U.S. Travel Association sponsored, which Oxford Economics conducted. And it’s clear why business travel makes sense.
In-person interactions close sales and deepen relationships.
People do business with other people. Unfortunately, in my own business, I’ve seen that the reverse is also true. A few years ago, after losing a significant customer, I asked why they stopped doing business with us. The head of the company said, “Because we hadn’t seen you in a while, and your competitors kept coming to us.”
It was an expensive lesson.
Increasing your return on travel takes a bit of planning. Before a trip you’re busy taking care of pressing things, but carve out time to consider ways of increasing the value of your upcoming travel.
Define your wins. The purpose of your trip might be to exhibit at a trade show. But a win could be to meet with a specific prospect, get 50 new leads, or generate a certain amount of sales. Clarify what a win would be for you.
Think one trip, multiple wins. Focus on the primary purpose of your trip, but identify additional opportunities. Are important customers nearby that you’ve never met or haven’t seen in more than a year? If so, even if you have to stay another day, arrange to see them.
Build your local intelligence. Before you go, what research can you do on other prospects, potential strategic partners, or additional suppliers? You can even assess a competitor. You never know. You might learn something to improve your business.
Use your hotel as a second office. The more you center your life at the hotel, the less time you spend in transit. Smarter hotels make it easy to stay productive. Many have transformed their public spaces into inviting meeting and work spaces with good lighting and free Wi-Fi. They have flexible conference rooms you can book online.
And you don’t have to stay at a hotel to take advantage of its facilities. Some hotel companies, like Marriott, welcome small-business owners to use their lobbies and free Wi-Fi.
Take advantage of loyalty programs and benefits. Frequent business travelers can reap many rewards through loyalty programs. Sign up for these programs for every airline, hotel chain, and car-rental company you use.
You probably have benefits you don’t even realize. Many credit cards include not only an auto-rental collision damage waiver, but provide extended warranties and 90-day protection against loss or damage to new products.
Think of travel as an investment—rather than an expense—and plan trips that have a big payoff for your small business.
Download my Smart Small Business Travel Guide here for more travel-savvy tips and worksheets to help you plan your high return-on-travel trip.
About the Author: Recognized as one of the foremost experts on small business, Rhonda Abrams writes USA Today’s small business column and is the author of 19 books on entrepreneurship. Rhonda’s books have been translated into over 30 languages, and adopted by more than 1,000 business schools. Her books include the bestselling business plan guide in the U.S.: Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies.
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