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Small Business Travel: Strategic Ways to Increase Your Return on Travel with Marriott and Visa

Eddie: Thank you for joining our 2014 Small Business Week Webinar, Small Business Travel: Strategic Ways to Increase your Return on Travel. At this time I would like to formally begin todayís webinar and introduce Candace Stenett from Score. Candace: Thanks, Eddie. As Eddie mentioned, weíve got a great presentation today by Marriott and Visa on small business travel. Before we begin, Iíd like to chat with you about how you can get free advice on business travel or any other small business topic or challenge. Next slide please. SCORE is America Small Business Resource. We offer free advice to those that want to start, grow, or even exit their small business. We also offer free and low cost workshops online and in communities across the nation. SCORE was formed in 1964 as a resource partner of the small business administration. Since then weíve helped over 10 million people in pursuit of their business goals. Weíre proud to join the SBA in celebrating the success of entrepreneurs across America in this yearís small business week, and weíre also celebrating our 50th anniversary. Thatís 50 years of helping aspiring and existing small businesses succeed. Since 2009 alone, weíve helped over 200,000 businesses start, helped more than 230,000 businesses increase revenue, and helped create over 250,000 jobs. Thatís success that weíre certainly proud of and a small business owner should be proud of it too because it helps strengthen our economy. How do we achieve this success? SCORE offers over 320 chapters with over 11,000 volunteers stretched across the nation providing free mentoring and local educational workshops. We also offer free mentoring and a variety of business tools on score.org. How does SCORE help you? If you have a question about writing a business plan, developing a social media strategy, analyzing financial ratios, and making the most of your small business travel, our mentors are here to help. Our volunteers are successful business owners or executives that have walked in your shoes and are willing to share their knowledge to help you avoid common pitfalls and achieve your goals. Itís also free. Again, we have a variety of services available to help you grow and start a small business. You can get free face to face or online mentoring. You can take part in an educational workshop online at score.org or in your local chapter. You can participate in our small business round tables that are available in a chapter near you. Thereís our facilitated peer sessions discussing critical business topics. Weíve got thousands of free templates, tools, articles, blogs, videos, and other resources that can help educate you on topics affecting small business landscape. The biggest benefit of SCORE mentoring and resources is that you donít have to go it alone. In addition to providing all of our free tools online, you do have experts that you can call on whenever you need to provide objective sound advice. As youíre listening to todayís presentation, I encourage you to jot down a few questions then visit score.org to connect with a mentor that can help you apply the ideas presented to your business. Thank you so much for your attention today from SCORE and the SBA. Thanks for all that you do for the American economy. Iíll turn things over to Eddie. Eddie: Thank you, Candace. Our presenter for today is Rhonda Abrams. Rhonda writes a small business column every week for USA Today called Strategies. She is the author of 19 books all focused on business planning and small business. Her books are used all over the world and in more than 1000 colleges and universities. She is a small business owner herself. Her company is called [inaudible 00:04:15] and they create and publish content to help people start, run, and grow companies. Rhonda, please go ahead. Rhonda: Thank you, Eddie and thank you, Candace. Thatís great resource at SCORE and I hope people will check that out. Hello to all of you who are participating in the webinar today and who check it out later on as itís archived. Happy national small business week to all of you. Today is the first day of this week that celebrates their contributions that small businesses make to America. Before we begin, I think Iíll tell you one other thing thatís not in my bio that people on this webinar should know, which is that itís really important for you to know that Iím a frequent business traveler myself. In fact Iím on the road virtually every month of the year. Iím out there meeting with customers such as universities that use our books or attending trade shows. Iím meeting with vendors who can help me as a publisher, navigate the transition to digital delivery and response to changing conditions. Iím also out there giving speeches or making public appearances. Iím a frequent traveler and I know that many of you participating today are frequent travelers too. Today, weíre going to be talking about travel and how to increase the value of travel for your small business. Itís what I call increasing your return on travel. The purpose of this webinar is to help you gain greater benefits for the travel youíre already doing and to also broaden the way you think about travel so that you can use travel as a tool. Because travel really is a business tool, we donít often think of travel that way, but itís an important business tool and any ownerís tool kit on how to sustain and grow your business. Even if your focus is primarily on maintaining your business rather than growing it, itís worth remembering that the reality is if youíre not growing your business, youíre shrinking. Customers or clients move away. Their needs change. Contract and Ö Thatís all part of the business cycle as you know. Itís important to always be looking for new opportunities. As importantly or even more importantly, to deepen relationships with existing clients to maintain business at existing levels. Today, letís talk about the benefits of small business travel but more importantly, how to get more out of the dollars you spend on your business travel. First of all, itís important to understand that you do get bang for your business traveling buck. Experts who have studied this have shown that you get an average return of $for every dollar spent on business travel. Thereís not many places in business that you can get that kind of return. With a little bit of preparation and strategic planning, you can absolutely increase your return on travel for every trip you take. One of the things I like to tell businesses that I counsel is that people do business with other people. When customers make purchasing decisions, they prefer to work with people they can relate to, work with easily, understand, and research supports that. Nothing is more effective than meeting someone in person. In person interactions make sales and deepen relationships. The opposite is also true. In my own business, unfortunately, Iíve seen the reverse of this. A few years ago, we launched a significant college, a large customer, who had been using our products for many many years. When I asked them why they stopped doing business with us, they said because we havenít seen you in a while and your competitors kept coming to us. It was a very costly lesson for me to learn. Itís important to get out there. From my own experience and in meeting with and talking to small business owners all across the country, itís my own conclusion that most small business owners donít travel nearly enough. Thatís because they donít understand the power of travel. Why is that? When I talk to small business owners, these are the reasons they most often tell me for not traveling more. First, they feel like they need to be on premise to run their business. Second, they havenít figured out where to go that will have a positive impact on their business. Finally, they mention cost. They think of travel only as a cost and not as an investment. Weíre talking today about whether the excuses really shouldnít be various for you anymore because these factors just arenít as true today as they once might have been. To get over these common concerns, the most important thing is to reframe how you view your travel and to see it as an investment in growing your business and maintaining your customer base. Like all investments, you want to maximize your return. Just like increasing your ROI, or return on investment, in other areas of your business, you want to increase your return on travel. Iím going to show you some of the ways to increase the value you get out of every business trip. Weíre going to talk about each of the things you see on this screen here in greater depth. Letís talk about how to turn one trip into multiple wins for your business. First of all, itís important to recognize that with just a little bit of advance planning, you can really increase your return. I absolutely know the reality of getting ready for a trip. Youíre usually so busy just making arrangements and taking care of things before you leave the office that you may be forgetting to carve out even just a little bit of time to think about the ways of increasing the value of your trip. As soon as you think about a trip, I want you to also start thinking about ways to broaden your view of that trip. Thatís the way youíll get a greater return. This is about thoughtful traveling and just a little bit of planning. It doesnít have to be hard and it doesnít have to take a lot of time. Itís just a matter of changing how you think. I have 3 specific tools for you. First, understand that thereís a difference between the purpose of your trip and how you define a win for your trip. For example, the purpose of your trip might be to exhibit at a trade show and stay visible in your industry. A win for you would be to meet with a specific prospect or get a certain number of new leads or generate a certain amount of sales. Right now for instance, Iím getting ready for a trip myself. Iím going to the big annual book industry trade show in New York at the end of this month and yes, for those of you who are wondering, there is still a big viable and vibrant book industry which Iím glad to be part. The main purpose or primary objective of my trip is to connect with a few people I havenít seen in a while and to promote the newest addition of my bookís successful business plan. Iíve been asking myself what would I really consider a win. What do I want to get out of the trade show that it will make it really worth my while? It may be to have one on one meetings with foreign publishers to license my international rights. It might be to see if I can make a deal for a new channel to distribute my content. It might be to find a solution to some of our digital issues. Iím pushing myself to examine all the opportunities I have at just this one event, not just the obvious ones. Ask yourself what do you want to get out of your upcoming trips, whatís a win with this customer, this trade show, this conference? Be conscious of it and later, Iím going to give you a worksheet so you can put your specific goals to your wins on paper. Even if this trip is something you have to do, like calling a specific customer or service particular account, itís important to think how you can turn even an obligation or routine event into an opportunity. At the end of this webinar, weíll give you the websites where you can download this worksheet and other worksheets and apply this planning to your trips. Another thing you can be doing in advance of your trip is to get to know more about the people youíre meeting with and the place youíre going. Start of course with looking at your customer data. When was the last time you saw them? What did you talk to them about before? What have they ordered before? Has there been a change in their purchasing patterns? You might also want to follow the company or person youíre meeting with on social media and definitely refresh yourself about them by looking at their LinkedIn profile before you go. All of this may seem obvious but in the rush to get out the door, we often forget to do some of the basic background work we do. Remember knowledge is power, especially in business. Understanding the location where youíre going is important, especially if you serve that market or want to serve that market. Thereís lots of free information from the census bureau and elsewhere that can help you know more about your markets. Knowing things like the median income and demographic makeup helps you get a better sense of the place youíre visiting or want to do business with. Frankly, I think it can be fun too. After all, youíre traveling to a new place or a place that interests you and youíre learning at the same time. I want to spend some time on this slide because in many ways this is the most important slide in the webinar because this is the way you need to start thinking about every business trip you take. One of the other things you can do in addition to your primary purpose that can increase your return on travel. This requires a little bit of thinking on your part because youíre rightly focused on the primary purpose of your trip. In most cases, thereís something else you can do at the location. Thereís more you can do and more you can accomplish from virtually every trip you take. For example, at a very basic level, one goal might be to expand your contacts at your clientís or customerís office. The reality is that most of us work with one or 2 people at a customerís office, but things happen as I said before. People change jobs. They change positions. If that happens, we often lose our contact, our champion, and possibly our customer. Iíve seen that happen in my own business. Spend some time to get to know other potential decision makers in your customerís company. Ideally, make some time to socialize with a number of contacts. That will really deepen your relationships. Hereís something you probably havenít thought about doing. Check out a competitor while youíre on the road. If youíre like me, youíre probably a little hesitant to check out local competitors but more comfortable checking out a competitor in another city. You never know, you might be able to learn something. Go to see what theyíre doing right. Something you might be able to emulate when you get back home. You need a new contractor or additional sales rep, perhaps youíve not been able to find or afford them locally. One idea is to advertise local job posting sites ahead of time so you can interview candidates at your destination. This is particularly true if your business is a small market. You may be able to find other contractors to help you build that website, do your graphic design, deal with some of the other issues you have that you might not be able to find locally. Most importantly, letís go back again to your customer database. Who else is there locally? Current, past, or perspective customers. Who might be a source of referrals to other prospects? Remember, nothing beats the power of face to face when it comes to building relationships. The fact that youíre there to meet with them in person often can close a deal thatís been in the works for years. For every one of the additional opportunities you add onto your trip, you have the potential to increase the return on your travel investments significantly. For example, letís say you spend $2000 on a trip and sign a $5000 contract while youíre there. Thatís clearly a win for your business. What if, with a little advanced planning, you might have another person to meet with? You stay another day, your costs only go up a small amount, letís say $300, and now you land an additional $3000 deal. Youíve just increased your return on travel considerably. Remember that new customer could purchase over and over again for years. Thereís an even higher return. Even if youíre only laying the ground work for a future deal or youíre finding a new marketing idea, checking out the competition, or youíre discovering an operational efficiency by meeting with an industry colleague. You could significantly increase the value of your trip. What weíre getting at here is to start thinking about each trip slightly more expansively. Remember that [inaudible 00:17:30] taking at the end of this month to New York. Iíve been asking myself who are some other prospects that I can meet with while Iím there even if it means extending my trip for a day or 2. When it comes to business travel, it pays to focus more on the opportunity than on the cost. As I said at the beginning, one of the other reasons small business owners say they donít travel is that they need to be back at the office to manage their business. Today, thatís really less true than ever. How do you actually get yourself out of the office? Thatís really tough. Itís a 20th century, last century concept that thereís life at the office and life away from the office. Now you already know this. Youíre checking email at the kidís soccer game, youíre finishing a project at home. Todayís business owner is truly mobile. Itís empowering. It gives you the ability to take advantage of opportunities to grow your business which often means being out of your office. It means that you can still be [inaudible 00:18:39] and productive while youíre on the road. What makes a truly mobile entrepreneur? Some of the things that you see on the screen here. Letís talk about them. Whether youíre local or traveling, you want to be able to run your business wherever you are. That is absolutely true today. Fortunately one way that this has become truly feasible for small business is whatís referred to as the Cloud. This is a hot term right now but it basically means that business applications in the Cloud are hosted over the internet as opposed to being installed on your business computer or server. Even though it might sound technical and intimidating, moving to the Cloud is easy and it can really simplify your business processes going forward. Once youíre in the Cloud, you donít have to be tied to your premises to do the work. In fact, the opposite business term for the Cloud is on premises. When your applications arenít in the Cloud, you as well as them have to be on premise. Once youíre in the Cloud, you can be anywhere. In my own company, we made 2012 the year of the Cloud. We made it our goal to move our key business processes to the Cloud. Most of the processes you see listed here on the right hand side of this slide, weíve moved to the Cloud in my own company. For example, we previously had our accounting and payroll software installed on 2 or 3 of the desktop computers at the office. My office manager and I could access the information. Now, using online solutions for the same functions, we can be anywhere, which means that my office manager can and has run payroll from her bed. I can check customer billing status from the airport. Another example is how we manage our customer data. We switched to salesforce.com, a Cloud based solution and we can be at a trade show or industry conference and check on the history of a specific customer right there. With Cloud apps, our trade show reps can actually do shipping right from the trade show floor and have done so. All of this makes this much more available to be out of the office. That gives me the freedom to work wherever I am and part of the freedom is that you can be out there growing your business. Weíre talking about mobile but money is always at the heart of your business, and just like other aspects of business, money management is now more mobile than ever. With todayís mobile cash flow capabilities, you have more knowledge about your money, when money moves in and out of your account, more insight into your possibility, more options for getting money when and where you need it. That means you have more control, which is something we all want. Mobile access to your financial information also gives you the flexibility to check in when it works for you such as from your hotel room at night. This slide lists some ways you can be more mobile and get more power with your cash flow management. For example, [inaudible 00:21:50] making an expense particularly when youíre traveling, you can get it categorized and into your accounting program. This keeps both you and the team at home informed and on top of cash management. On top of that, it simplifies your processes and minimizes your paperwork, which reduces cost. Talk about insight. Something you may not realize is that many card issuers have a variety of alerts that you can set up so you receive text messages or email alerts on card usage. For example, you may receive alerts when your card balance reaches a specific level or when itís utilized for transactions of a certain amount. That definitely keeps you better informed and gives you more peace of mind. One thing thatís really important to talk about is accepting payment on the go. With tools such as Square, you can get paid wherever you are right on the spot. One of the things I want you to start thinking about is how can you get paid on the spot for a wider variety of things that you would normally go back to the office and create an invoice for. Why wait 30 days or more for payment? On site payment acceptance saves you time. You get money faster and you avoid collections. Particularly if youíre in a service business, even a professional service business or selling a product, I want you to think about ways that you can accept payment for a broader variety of transactions on the spot. Some credit cards also provide additional benefits and savings that you should certainly make yourself aware of. For example, when you enroll in Visa savings edge, you get discounts from a whole variety of merchants including many travel related services such as car rental, gas, airport shuttles. Once you enroll, you donít have to keep looking for coupons or anything. You get an automatic credit on your Visa statement. Mobile productivity isnít just about operations. Itís also about communicating with and managing your team while youíre growing your business on the road. Here again, a little bit of advanced planning pays off. Set up team briefings before, during, and after your trip. Schedule a virtual staff meeting from the road. When itís appropriate, I really want you to start thinking about bringing some of your team members with you. It helps them to understand your business better. Hopefully they help you with the work youíre doing while youíre on the road. It definitely increases cohesiveness and retention. When I travel with my team, we make it a point to also do some fun things. Last time we were in New Orleans, we went on a ghost walk tour. In San Diego we treated the team and several key clients to a 5 day stay. After all, we often talk about deepening relationships with our clients, but we certainly need to deepen relationship with our own team. Part of productivity is expanding the way you think about and use your hotel as your base of operations as you travel. Smarter hotels are making it easier than ever to stay productive on the road today. Theyíve responded to meet the needs of the different ways that people actually work today. Youíre going to find that your hotel is not just for breakfast in the morning and a bed at night any longer. Take advantage of it. After all, the more you consider your life at the hotel, the less time you spend in transit and traffic. That gives you more time to be productive. For example, smarter hotels are providing flexible, comfortable work spaces to meet the needs of small business owners whether youíre working alone or in large groups. When youíre traveling on your own, you may enjoy the buzz of working in the lobby like I do. Hotels today recognize that appeal of working alone together. They make sure that theyíre comfortable work spaces with decent lighting and good wifi. Thatís a boom. If you need space to meet with your clients or prospects, definitely check with your hotel. You may be able to reserve a conference room and even plan to have food delivered. Marriott I know is particularly focused on creating space so the new generation of travelers thatís built to suit their mobile and collaborative work style. They even have a mobile app so you can check in from your taxi and they have a website where you can book conference room and even small meeting spaces. Itís a totally online and easy process. Marriott has told that you donít have to be staying at their hotels to use their hotels. Theyíre saying come in, work in our lobbies, and use our wifi. If youíre traveling and youíre between appointments and you have that odd hour or few hours, find a nearby Marriott and go use their space to get some work done and keep being productive. Keep this in mind also, even if youíre not traveling, your local hotel can be another business resource for you. You can use it to hold an offsite team planning meeting or for a pitch presentation to a perspective client or investor. I also want to talk about loyalty because frequent business travelers usually choose a loyalty program and a provider and then they stick with them. Thatís because thereís so many benefits, both tangible and [inaudible 00:27:16] to sticking to providers you get to know. You need to maximize your productivity on the road. When you get to choose the same provider over and over again, you know you will have fewer surprises. You know what to expect. You get at the front of the line for boarding. You know the process for picking up your car. You know what the quality of the bed will be at your hotel. You earn free nights or upgrades. By being loyal, you donít have to spend time adjusting or being unhappy when you are on the road. Iím a little bit of a picky traveler myself. I like to get a sense of what itís going to be like when I arrive at that hotel room. One of the benefits of choosing providers and sticking with them and knowing that theyíre competitively priced is you can spend your time being productive instead of searching the web trying to shave a few bucks off of your spent. Some hotels like Marriott promise that youíll get the best rate when you book directly on their website. One of the benefits of loyalty is you get more time to work on your own work because itís one and done. I also want you to start thinking about the benefits that your credit card offers and make yourself aware of them, especially when you travel. For example, with a Visa Signature card, you get car rental collision damage waiver, additional lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance, and more. They also have offers such as [inaudible 00:28:42] and clear membership or concierge services which also help with your travel experience. You want to know about those benefits and take advantage of them. Thereís also some travel peace of mind that can come with some of the features of your credit card, such as the Visa purchase security and extended protection, which protects many of the retail purchases that you make with your eligible Visa business card. Iím guessing you probably donít know that you have some of these benefits already. For example, my sister Janice bought an iPad right before she took a trip to Italy. I was very concerned about it getting lost or stolen. She wasnít because she bought it with her Marriott Visa Premiere Rewards card and that gave her a 90 day protection against any loss or damage. That was a lot of peace of mind. Most card holders are unaware that they have such benefits. Check your card benefits to find out the valuable benefits that you should know about when youíre traveling. Make sure youíre enrolled in travel and card reward programs to build points and get benefits which can be used to further build your business. There are applications out there that help you track all of your reward programs like reward wallet where you can safely store all of your account numbers and card info and track your points. Now I want to talk about one of the other great often unmentioned benefits of travel. Thatís because one of the most important assets any business owner has in their small business is you. Your creativity, your vision, your ideas, your drive, and your ambition. Travel can be absolutely one of the best ways to recharge all of those significant business assets. To come up with new ideas, to spark your creativity, to reengage your ambition, to invest in the business assets that is you. Be sure to allow it to do so. Itís one of the added great benefits and one of the key ways you increase your return on travel. It doesnít have to be a big effort. It can be a half hour that you carve out to take a walk and just think about your business. Try to spark a conversation as you travel so you meet new people and get new perspectives. Travel helps you think about what you want to do, not just what you have to do. I know that I am almost always more excited about my own business when I get back from a trip than I was when I left because travel sparks new ideas for me. I recharge my own batteries and itís one of the bigger business benefits I get from travel. If youíre a business owner, you know what I mean. You have to keep up your energy, your ambition, your ideas coming and going and you want to stay fresh. Travel is one of the best ways to do that. You need to get out from behind your desk and out of your office to recharge your batteries. Hereís your chance to put some of this advice to work for you right now. Weíre going to talk about how you can develop your own return and travel plan. Letís talk about your travel plans for the next 3 months. I want you to stop and think about the travel youíre thinking about doing or could be doing. Weíre going to talk about this. First, as you think about either planned or potential trips over the next 3 months, I want you to think about differentiating between those that are responsive and those that are proactive. By responsive, I mean trips that are in response to a client need or request. These are often about maintaining your business. Perhaps thereís a customer that you need to sell and renew your contract with that you do every time this year, perhaps itís a client you need to go out and service. Responsive trips are ones where somebody else initiates it and thereís a clear need. Proactive trips are all about growing your business. Iíd like you to look at your upcoming trip travel schedule and challenge yourself to take more proactive trips. How can you get out there and really build your business or deepen relationships that will benefit your business in the long run? I have some questions to ask you and to ask yourself and your sales staff. These will help you start sparking ideas for ways to grow your business through travel. First, this is probably the most important one. Is there a top 25 customer youíve never met or havenít seen in at least 2 years? If so, those need to go right at the top of your travel list. You have to get that in your travel plan right away. I donít want to have it happen to you what happened to me. I lost a very significant customer because I just hadnít seen them in too long. They were definitely a top 25 customer too. Another question to ask yourself, is there an important vendor that youíve never dealt with face to face. I significantly improved my relationship with my printer including getting better terms and making sure that my rush projects went to the top of their 2 by meeting them in person. That saved me so much money over the years. The cost of a trip was insignificant. Think about vendors as well as customers. If you have important clients that only have one or 2 contacts of champions as I mentioned before, you need to broaden that base. Youíre just too vulnerable to staff changes. With your service team, ask yourself not just who your customers are but who your contacts are at that customer and see if thereís ways to broaden it and especially to see about whether you can socialize, even taking people out to lunch or dinner. Letís talk about prospects. Not just noncustomers but current customers who could be behind more who have the capacity and the need to buy more of whatever youíre selling. I want you to start thinking about making them more of a top target and those should absolutely start making it as part of your travel plan. Think about industry conferences and trade shows. Iím a big believer in these because youíve got a high concentration of potential customers, referral sources, vendors, and consultants all in one plate and often ready to buy or ready to sell if youíre buying. As I said, weíre a publisher and we sell both in retail stores but also academic customers, universities and colleges, and that whole channel was developed by attending academic conferences and trade shows. Itís been a big part of my company. Consider not only attending but exhibiting at trade shows. Also if you can, presenting because thatís a great way to get in front of prospects. In some industries such as technology, itís a great way to get your company known not only to customers but potential investors or strategic partners. Thereís a lot more that you can be doing if youíre out there. I want you to look at this slide and start asking yourself all of these questions to challenge yourself to see where you should be traveling. Thatís one of the reasons that I said earlier, that most small businesses just do not travel enough. If they were asking themselves these questions, they would probably see that they have many more trips that could add to their bottom line. That would be worth them taking. When you think of travel as an investment, youíre more likely to plan the strategic trips that will have a big return for your business. At the end of this webinar, weíre going to give you links to download worksheets. This particular worksheet that youíre looking at now can help you evaluate the potential upside for the trips that youíre planning or should plan and make the most of your travel in the next few months. This will help you wait and evaluate to help you choose where you should be going and what you could be doing with your travel plans. I think right now weíre going to open it up for questions. I see there are quite a number of questions that are in the queue. Just quickly before we do that and we open it up to questions, I want to let you know that both Marriott and Visa have posted the webinar worksheets on their websites. These are fillable PDF files. You can take notes on them, do some trip planning, save them, print them out. Theyíre meant for you to be building your own travel plan and thatís what we want to help you do. We hope youíll download them and find them very helpful, and most importantly, help you increase your return on travel from now on. Letís open it up for questions now and see what question we have coming up. Eddie: That sounds good. Thank you very much, Rhonda. Just a quick reminder to all of our participants, if you would like to submit a question, you may use the send note icon at the top of your screen or the chat box and address your questions to all moderators or presenters. Before we proceed to do our question and answer session, there have been a lot of questions about whether the recording for the webinar will be made available and the answer is yes. The SBA will be making the recording on todayís webinar available on their You Tube channel at the conclusion of small business week along with the other webinars from this week. I will now proceed to read the questions as they come in. Again, if you would like to submit a question, you may use the send note icon at the top of your screen or the chat box and address your questions to all moderators or presenters. The first question, how often should I visit a customer if my company is working on a specific or ongoing project. Rhonda: Hi Eddie, thatís a great question. I think a lot of small businesses feel like theyíre not being called by a customer, that they shouldnít be bothering them. One of the things is that if youíre not thinking about them, theyíre not thinking about you. I would suggest that any of your customers that are distant, you probably should be seeing at least once a year but if youíre working on them or if theyíre very important, it might be once a quarter. I think small business owners often feel like they are bothering customers. Remember, theyíre busy and they need you to remind them of the solutions that youíre offering them. Being out there and reaching out to people often is a service rather than bothering anyone. I could say a good guideline is at least once a year and up to once a quarter if theyíre a very important client or with ongoing needs. Eddie: Perfect. The next question, I am in the heating and air conditioning business and was wondering how travel can be beneficial in my industry. Rhonda: Thatís a wonderful question because I think a lot of people who serve mostly a local market donít recognize that travel can actually help them grow significantly. Thereís lots of ways to think about it once you start thinking creatively. First of all, there may be ways to partner with other people in your same industry and create some kind of marketing alliances, strategic partnerships, expand your customer base. You might be able to market together and do some combined marketing. You might be able to get an alliance with them for purchasing because youíre purchasing more together. Also it helps to have somebody who you can even talk to for some difficult challenges and I know that there are some because Iím having heater problems myself right now. My heating guy has been talking to others and it definitely helps. The other thing is you might look for branch locations. There may be a way that you can actually service another market by lining up somebody who might be able to some work for you there and therefore you could actually have a new location. You might be able to work with providers or suppliers and negotiate better terms or prices. Also as I said before, you can learn from what others are doing. I think as you travel, if there are people who are known for being very good in your industry, go visit them. See what theyíre doing. Learn what theyíre doing on social media, what theyíre doing on marketing, looking how theyíre servicing their customers. Thereís a lot to learn out there. Then of course there are definitely trade shows. Eddie: The next question, what one thing can we do right now to increase the return on our business travel? Rhonda: There a couple. The first thing I would think of and this is going to seem very counterintuitive but it is to stay longer. Letís say youíre taking a trip like I am. This is a perfect example. I challenge myself and say Iím going to stay an extra day. What am I going to do on that extra day? By the way, Iím doing a lot of travel this summer and I have been asking myself exactly that question. If I stayed an extra day when Iím in Chicago or Miami or Austin, what could I accomplish because that starts me thinking of add on opportunities. It makes me start doing the research that I might not otherwise be doing. Itís a really good way. The first thing to say is what would happen if I stayed longer. Who would I see? How could I make more money? What could I learn? Thatís the first thing you could do? Iím going to take advantage of that question and also say a second thing that you could do to increase your return on travel is absolutely travel more. I definitely see this in my own company. I would challenge you to, if you have certain sales reps who are working for you, get them out there traveling more, ask them who they could be calling on. Working in the office, you only have so much vision as to what you could be doing. I would say one other thing besides staying longer is ask yourself a question is if could add an additional business trip in the next quarter, where could I go and what could I accomplish. I think youíre going to be surprised that youíre going to find that thereís probably somebody who always said one day I might go call on them or hereís some place that we might be a partner with or this potential investor. That challenge to yourself is also the second thing I think you could do to increase your return on travel. Next question, Eddie. Eddie: The next question that we have here, when you identify an add on opportunity like calling on a prospect and they havenít called you for an appointment, how do you set it up to make it happen. Rhonda: This is also where I think most small business owners are just too shy, if I can use that word. The fact that you are traveling gives you a built in excuse. You can use that excuse to set up a meeting with someone that might have spent time with you on the phone or do an online conference call. For instance, you can say Iím going to be in Chicago the first week of June and Iíd love to take that opportunity to meet with you. People often think theyíre going to be in my neck of the woods. I wouldnít otherwise have this chance. The very fact that youíre right there in their back yard becomes an opening for you. Once again I would say just donít be hesitant to do this. I know it seems like cold calling but it becomes a warm call because you are right there. You have something in common. Youíre both going to be in Chicago on those days. Use the very [inaudible 00:45:37] of travel as a hook for you to be able to start meeting with other folks and reach out to other prospects. Keep in mind referral sources too. There may be people in a location where they may not be a customer but they might be a source of referral to you as well and think about them as you go. Eddie: The next question; I am going to training. How can I use this to my benefit? Rhonda: Thatís a great question. Youíre going out and you are being sent somewhere or youíre choosing to go do some training. We didnít really talk about that much in this webinar so I thank you for bringing that up because that is an excellent reason to be traveling is to increase your own skills by going to different trainings. Thereís so many things you can get out of training. One of the first things I would say is you need to network with the other people who are there because theyíre probably similar to you. Theyíre probably industry colleagues, people who are sharing some of the same concerns that you have, dealing with some of that. The worst thing you can do with training is plan to arrive first thing that morning and leave as soon as the last minute the training is over because youíre losing the socialization opportunities, the networking opportunities from the other people. Youíre going to be in a room of people who have very shared concerns as you do. Thatís where having a drink, having dinner, spending time together really helps you learn. Broaden your view of training from just an hour in the training session to the people who are also in the room. If you know some of them in advance, contact some of them and say letís set up a dinner for a half a dozen of us so we can be sharing our concerns. In addition to going someplace for training, once again, thatís about one trip multiple wins. You already have a reason for going to that city. Once again start thinking about what else can you be doing in that destination. Are there other prospects? Are there clients, customers you havenít seen? Are there others who are doing Ö There may be people who are local who are coming in for training who you could go back to their office the next day and maybe learn from them some of the things theyíre doing. Even though youíre in that training, people are industry colleagues, theyíre at different levels of sophistication. You may be a little more sophisticated. They may be a little more sophisticated but theyíre really safe and comfortable environment to share. Iím really glad you brought this up. That is truly another reason. More people should be out there, particularly small business owners out there traveling is to attend training. Remember also build your LinkedIn network. As youíre meeting with all those other folks in the training session, make sure youíre building your network and getting those cards and operating with them so that youíre building a network of people you can turn to because Ö One thing that I really see is that I have built my business and learned a lot from people who might be considered competitors because theyíre in the same industry but we all share common concerns. People are more willing to help than you often think. Thanks, Eddie. Next. Eddie: The next question; how much of your overall budget should you be spending on travel? How do you know when youíre spending too much or too little? Rhonda: Thatís an interesting and challenging question. Itís one that I get in various different forms all the time. For instance, itís along the line of how much should I be spending on marketing is a question that I get. I think small business owners think that there should be a hard and fast rule that you should be spending 10%, 20%, 30%. Of course everybodyís needs are different. The fact of your business is different and what kind of business that you have. What I would say is that youíre almost certainly spending too little of a percentage of your business marketing dollars on travel. When I look at my marketing budget, I realize that my overall marketing budget A. is too little but of my overall marketing budget, probably 50% if Iím traveling are travel related marketing. Itís at least that much. Thatís because itís been so effective for me. Truthfully, even with that percentage, Iím definitely spending too few marketing dollars like most small business I should say. Also Iím probably spending too little of my marketing dollars on travel. One of the reasons is that not only is it effective, but travel is a combination in marketing and sales and growth. Thereís very few things that you can do that combine so many benefits at once. Letís compare this. Some of the other things that I spend money on is I have marketing people who are doing social media and newsletters or email. Weíre doing all of that and that is brand building. Itís important but I donít actually see a return on the investment on that. The sales are very little and Iím definitely not learning much on that. If I took those same dollars and I was calling on people, A. Thereís a chance I could be making a sale or increasing a sale. I would be building my brand with them in a way that would be so much stronger than getting a newsletter. There would be a chance for me to be learning at the same time. Iím not saying do an either or because you have to do all of these things and itís one of the great challenges of running a small business is how do you make decisions among your marketing activities. The reality is when youíre thinking about marketing, travel is really one of the top things on your marketing budget. I should say that it was probably the first thing. There was a time when we were probably doing almost 90% of our marketing budget was travel between exhibiting the trade shows and going to meetings and one on one customer calls because itís so effective. Now as Iíve spent more money on other brand building marketing. Itís eating into it but I think as a result of this question, Iím probably going to go back and take a look and say I need to bump up my own percentage on travel because it truly accomplishes so much including relearning how to run my business better and absolutely be more jazzed about my company when I come back every time. You can sit there at your office and all the day to day stuff just can overwhelm you. You need that perspective of stepping back and as I said with the fresh perspectives portion of the webinar, I think itís overlooked but it is something. Itís not necessarily a vacation but in some ways it can also serve that sense of recreation in the sense of recreating you. You get to be recreated and refreshed in a way through travel. Eddie? Eddie: Thank you, Rhonda. I have a question here from your namesake, Rhonda. She says Iím headed to 2 states next week for personal travel. I would like to include some business stop ins to local natural grocery stores and gift shops. My products are currently in a major retailer locally and I want to expand my locations. Any idea on how I approach them? Should I take samples, do cold calls, etc? Iíll be in the area of [inaudible 00:53:44]. Not sure if that makes any difference. Rhonda: First of all, I love the idea and I thank you for pointing out that travel doesnít have to be either just business or just pleasure. That combining them, youíre combining a pleasure trip to make it also business but you can also expand business trips to make it pleasurable. I think thatís a broader way to be thinking about travel. We can talk a little bit more about that in just a second. To address your specific question, why not make some sales appointments in advance since you know youíre going to be there. Why not call and say as I said earlier, call and say Iím [inaudible 00:54:26] Nashville and say Iím going to be in Nashville; I donít usually come down that way. My family is there. Iím a local. I have local connections and our product is sold elsewhere but a really great fit for your source. When is a good time, Monday through Wednesday, for me to come down and chat with you? Definitely bring samples. Even if youíre bringing another suitcase along with you or shipping it ahead of time, everybody likes samples and if youíre selling into stores, bring some product. Advance planning, trying to make calls. You probably are thinking of one or 2 places that you could sell into but hereís what doing a little local research can help you. thereís probably a number of places you could be calling on, probably more than the 2 or 3 that youíre already thinking about. Start looking up what other stores might be in the area or nearby areas. Is there another city or town that you might be able to drive to and spend another day or 2 and reach out to them too so you can use that location as the base of your sales trip? I know youíre using this for family and pleasure but always think about Ö [Inaudible 00:55:43] small business owners. We always know. Weíre always trying to think about how to grow your business. Spending an extra day or 2 and even renting a car and driving a little bit. Thereís probably a little bit more that you can do with it and turn that purely pleasurable trip into something you come back with a little bit more money in your [inaudible 00:56:01] account. Thatís really good. Eddie: I got a followup note there from Rhonda. She said sheíll be staying at a Marriott hotel in both ends of her trip. She loves Marriott so Iím sure the Marriott team will be pleased to hear that. Rhonda: Iím sure they are. When I go to New York, Iím staying at a Marriott as well. Weíre all taking advantage of the many benefits that Marriott has. The many really nice comfortable places to do business one on one or 2 on one [inaudible 00:56:35] really do check out, even if youíre local, check out the Marriott lobbies or court yard, some of the other ones. I sat in the court yard a few months ago when I was going to Disney Land and I was just so pleasantly surprised with how comfortable it was and I just wanted to sit in the lobby and have a drink. When you came back, it was a nice place to be. Thanks for that [inaudible 00:57:01], Rhonda. I donít know which Rhonda it is but thanks for the thought on for Marriott. Eddie: Weíll have time for one more question. I know weíre coming up on the end of our webinar so Iíll go ahead and read the last question that we have here in the queue. I work from home as an account manager in a different state from my employer. Based on what you have said, is it expedient for either one of us to fly to periodically visit our customers and new potential customers? Rhonda: First of all, absolutely. I hope you are meeting with your employer regularly. Get on a plane and fly to them. I have done business with people in other states before and the importance of face to face working with people who work for you and with you, I cannot emphasize enough. I had a contractor who became an employer who worked in Oregon and I was in California. I made it an absolute requirement that at least every 2 months we were meeting face to face. If this person is your employer, make it your job to meet with them at least once a quarter if you want to keep them as an employer. Even if you donít think you need to meet with them, thereís so much that happens, so much in terms of sparking ideas of just generating work interactions. Definitely do that and definitely get out there and be calling on prospects and customers as well. Donít overlook the importance of you meeting face to face with the people you work with and contract with. Eddie: I think that was the last of our questions in the queue given [inaudible 00:58:48]. Rhonda: Eddie, I just want to remind people that there are travel planning worksheets that people can get here from those websites that they see on the screen there. Theyíre downloadable worksheets for them to help them do their own travel planning. I think theyíll find them very useful. Go to one or both of these websites and follow both Marriott and Visa to learn more about smart small business travel going forward. 051214-205033-SBA-Smart-Small-Business-Trav Page 1 of 11. As found on Youtube Wanna Go?
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