How do you choose when to travel, and when not to, for your business?
Let’s take, for example, attending a conference. Let’s say you see a conference you would like to attend. Better yet, let’s say an employee comes to you requesting approval to attend the conference.
Now the conference may be worthwhile simply as an educational opportunity. It may even look like a good networking event to expand your industry contacts.
But the smart business owner expects a return on investment from business travel. That means having a plan for your trip, and then following through on the plan after the trip.
Before the trip, do you or the person attending:
- Make an effort to find out who else is attending and create a short list of “must seek out” people?
- Research people in advance to identify their roles and some background information about them and their companies?
- Once you arrive, make a point to find everyone on your “must seek out” contact list, to introduce yourself and make a personal connection — and not rest until you’ve done that?
- Stack multiple reasons for visiting a city or region into a single trip, such as side trips to meet with existing customers to strengthen relationships?
- Tack on at least one sales call to attempt to generate potential new business?
After the trip, do you or the person attending:
- Do something to further any contacts made, such as sending additional information, creating a proposal or writing a thank-you note?
- Make an email introduction to someone in Sales to follow up on those new contacts (leads)?
- Keep promises, such as commitments to help someone with an introduction or resolve an issue for an existing customer?
- Brief other team members on competitive, market and other information learned?
- Learn from your experience, as to what worked and what didn’t, when it comes to making new connections or maximizing travel?
Too often we approach conferences or other events as semi-social opportunities, and not with a “hungry for business” attitude. That doesn’t mean you should creep people out by stalking them. Nor should you turn them off by attempting a hard sell barely two minutes after meeting the person for the first time.
It does, though, mean treating travel with the same discipline you treat other business activities. Have a business purpose and a plan in mind to start with. Then execute on that plan.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, the return on investment from business travel is darn good. Every $1.00 invested in business travel returns $10 – $14.99 in revenue, says a report (PDF) prepared for the USTA by Oxford Economics.
That’s only if you treat travel like business, not pleasure. Of course, you can always combine a little pleasure in with business — but business first, please.
For more on productive and profitable travel, check out “Smart Small Business Travel.” It’s a PDF Guide  written by friend-of-the-site Rhonda Abrams, author of several business planning books. It has a lot of information about how to maximize the return on investment from business travel by those in your business.
The best part of that Guide?
It’s the two interactive worksheets in the Guide that you can use to assess the success of a trip. Use the Guide within your company to raise awareness on everyone’s part about how to get the most out of the company’s investment in business travel. Marriott also has a microsite set up for small business travel — find it here .