I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s.
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I’ve yet to meet a person that doesn’t want to travel for pleasure. Having lived in three different continents and visited more than 40 countries, I’m certainly no exception.
Unfortunately, as an entrepreneur, resources can often be stretched and a “business travel budget” can seem more like a luxury than a necessity. In the below infographic by Visa Small Business, it states:
- 42% of customers would be lost without in-person meetings
- 60% of frequent travelers believe higher spending on travel would increase company profitability
- 78% say conferences provide a high impact on gaining industry insights
So don’t write it off quite yet. Travel provides small business owners many potential growth opportunities such as:
Meeting vendors in person can reduce your costs
In the infographic, statistics also show $9.50 is returned for every dollar spent on business travel! Although everyone uses Skype and other video calling platforms to make international business easier, in our case, business travel saved us money and therefore improved profitability. A couple of years ago we visited our manufacturer in Asia for our shoe business and not only did they help us find better quality materials and a key person we enjoy working with, we were able to reduce our costs by almost 40%!
Why? Understanding the competitive landscape of manufacturers and which ones had capacity, understanding which had more flexible terms, seeing first-hand the material choices and meeting other vendor partners in the mix allowed us to negotiate with market intelligence. You cannot achieve this effectively by sitting in your office chair.
Not only that, but when you become a real person and more than a voice or email address to the company, everyone becomes more helpful in wanting to make things work with special requests.
Tradeshows are also great for learning marketing strategies
Tradeshows are a solid strategy for exhibiting your product or service to land leads and sales, as well. 76% of survey respondents believe they are crucial for developing industry partnerships. Companies looking for exposure through PR can also meet attending media by asking the exhibition organizers for a list of reporters who have pre-registered for the event.
However, even if you don’t exhibit at a tradeshow, walking the aisles as an attendee can be a great experience in seeing big budget marketing tactics and then seeing how you can adapt them for your small business. For example:
- How are exhibitors attracting you to visit their booth?
- Are they demonstrating their product or service in an interesting way?
- How did they persuade you to give your contact details to stay in touch?
- Did they hold a special event just at the show for prospects? What was the “theme” and did it work?
- What new technology could you use to improve your business?
- How are competitors/the industry you’re in innovating?
Many tradeshows offer discounted day passes (and sometimes are even free), so even if you have to travel to get there, the education and connections you receive may be well worth it.
“Up level” your conferences and conventions to meet influencers in person and learn to play big
While it’s great to network among peers, once in a while I like to attend conferences where I sometimes “don’t belong”. What I mean by that is it’s targeted to businesses beyond our current growth. It’s humbling but it’s also inspiring to see what is possible.
I’d rather dream big and scale down if necessary than not dream at all or play where everyone else is playing. For example, a conference like Luxury Interactive is interesting to me because it’s a small conference with very high-level executives in the fashion industry, and it focuses on topics I’m interested in like global e-commerce and how to leverage data for personalized touchpoints in marketing. Meeting just one high-level executive I can connect to, or picking up one good tip that can differentiate my business from the rest of the pack, can be a game changer. And I must admit, a conference in New York is way more appealing than Ohio!
Your business should learn to be without you
Whenever I am preparing to travel (I recently came back from a three week trip to Europe), it forces me to look at processes and procedures. What needs to be in place so that my PR agency and my shoe company can run without me? A few examples are:
- Who might need access to passwords and to what software or other materials?
- Who responds first to a specific customer or client?
- What events or unforeseen circumstances *might* be coming up that needs to be communicated to the team, just in case?
- What thresholds are in place and at what level is an issue escalated where I’d have to personally get involved?
After a trip, it’s always good to assess how things were handled, what processes worked smoothly and what can be improved.
Personal travel can impact your business in a good way
And finally, even if the only travel budget you can build into your business is one of a personal nature, do it! It’s good to unwind. In an article in Entrepreneur Magazine, 45% of business owners who went on vacation said they came back feeling rested, rejuvenated and reconnected to their loved ones, and 35% return more productive in their business.
So what are you waiting for? Go forth and travel!
What are your thoughts on business travel and how it has helped your business? Share with me in the comments below.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies, which she's also using for her own bling flip flop company.
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