While it is certainly true that it has never been easier to communicate with clients and potential clients without leaving the comfort of your own office, there is still a huge amount of value in face to face meetings. Consequently, business travel is still very important. Despite the ease and convenience of video conferencing and other means of communication, there is no substitute for actually meeting with people in real life in order to do business with them, despite the costs incurred.
Sites like LinkedIn and even Facebook can be excellent networking tools, but no matter how useful they are, they’ll never be able to replace the authenticity that comes from meeting up with people in real life. The nuances of communication that come through sharing a joke, a drink, or a meal with someone can drive a relationship much further than anything you can do online (even if that’s how any initial contact has been made). You’ll likely make a more impressive set of contacts through attending a well-targeted conference than you ever could through mining business connections online.
As for those high costs of flying from A to B, and covering accommodations and other expenses incurred from business travel, research has shown that dollars spent are far from wasted – they a wise investment. Traveling to meet clients face to face aligns you more closely with their needs, makes you stand out from the crowd in this internet age where it is so very easy to be another anonymous person that one deals with online, and helps separate you from competitors who are too cheap or too short-sighted to invest in business travel.
What’s key when considering business travel as a part of your company expenses is to a) maximize ROI on every trip that you or your employees take, and b) to ensure that every trip is taken in accordance with budget and company policy (it is imperative that you set one if there isn’t one already in place). Combine meetings and endeavour to create networking opportunities in every city you visit. Communicate clearly with clients to ensure that you get meetings with the right people before you even think about setting foot on a plane to visit them. And if others are traveling as representatives of your business, be sure to clarify expectations well in advance so that all parties are on the same page.
Having the right accommodations when you travel is key, because being on the road these days in no way means you are absent from the office (virtually anyway). Setting yourself up somewhere with good clean workspaces and a comfortable environment so you can properly enjoy what downtown you have is essential. Being clever about business travel will make it work for you, and prove to be a very wise investment indeed.