For cash-strapped startups, traveling for business is considered an expensive endeavor and is often avoided at all costs. But this tactic isn't always beneficial to the company's long-term goals.
Instead of weighing only the prices of flights, hotels and other expenses, consider the benefit of meeting people face to face. Traveling for business puts you in front of key decision makers who have direct impacts on your company’s success. Meeting in person also teaches you more about your customers and their needs. Plus, with so many young companies depending on the Internet to communicate, nothing makes you stand out from the competition like flying out to talk in person.
But before you leave the office and jump on plane, consider these things:
How will you spend your time?
Spending your time wisely on a business trip is the key to garnering a good ROI. If a trip is intended to last only one day, depart on the first flight that morning, stack your meetings and return on the last flight that evening.
That said, also consider whether you could accomplish more if you stayed multiple days. Having to hustle to, from and around airports in a single day may not be as productive or cost efficient.
What will your money get you?
Don’t leave without doing a cost analysis. Weigh the price of travel against the benefits. Can you attain meaningful results by going? If you don’t know what this trip will really accomplish, save the money for another time.
Who should go on the trip?
You probably don’t have the budget or time to take everyone on your team, so deciding who should go is critical. If you need a prospective client to consider your product, send the salesperson. If the client has some tough questions about your functionality, send someone from development. If the only person who can help is the decision maker, either go yourself or send another executive.
Whoever you send, utilize these five tips to make the most of the trip:
1. Centralize your travel policy.
Create documentation and guidelines so everyone knows the rules and procedures upfront. Set and articulate your expectations early and clearly to avoid unnecessary costs. Then, maximize your savings by centralizing your core travel arrangements through a single internal contact. Take advantage of loyalty programs for auto rentals, hotels and airlines.
The company I work for, American Airlines, has a number of programs to help save you money while traveling, including American Airlines Business Extra.
2. Know what you’re getting.
If you fly out to have a face-to-face meeting, make sure that’s exactly what you’ll get when you arrive. Communicate clearly with your client so everyone knows what to expect.
Also, this is also a great time to get a referral. Never leave a sales meeting without requesting one. It’s harder to say “no” in person, and if you don’t see your client frequently, there’s no better time to ask.
Related: 5 Ways to Cut Business Travel Costs
3. Spend efficiently.
If the cheapest hotel is 30 miles away from your client’s office, booking it might cost more in the long run (e.g. time and transportation).
Learn when to spend and how to save to get the most mileage from your money. If you can combine multiple meetings or clients into one trip, all the better. If you plan to be near another client, ask whether you can stop by. Your client will appreciate the outreach, and it might save you a future trip.
4. Don’t stop working.
Just because you’re out of town doesn’t mean you’re on vacation. Create a backup plan for your day-to-day responsibilities. Business doesn’t stop while you’re on the road. Check in with the office when you can. Stay connected as much as possible to email and phone messages, so you can respond quickly if necessary.
5. Spread out tasks.
No one can deliver your company’s message or sell your product better than you can. But as your business grows, you can’t be everywhere, so it’s crucial to learn when to delegate. If possible, have fledgling employees tag along. It’s more expensive at first, but nothing pays dividends like a well-trained employee.