Just because your team members can’t travel nearly as much this year doesn’t mean it can’t help your bottom line in other ways.
January 19, 2021 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
It’s no secret that the travel industry has taken a beating during the crisis. According to the U.S. Travel Association, the number of people screened at TSA checkpoints toward the end of 2020 dropped at times by more than 70% since March. Hotel occupancy on Thanksgiving Day was 35%, a steep drop from 73% in 2019. The U.S. economy was projected to lose $155 billion in 2020 because international travelers who usually visit the U.S. stayed at home thanks to Covid-19 and international travel restrictions.
Employers are taking their people off the road for the time being and instead pursuing other forms of communication with the clients they serve. While losing in-person client contact can challenge businesses, your company can transform those challenges into positives, both for your client relationships and your bottom line.
Reallocate that travel budget
A significant chunk of business spending for a robust sales force has long been “T and E” ( travel and expenses). Now, however, a significant chunk of that money may go unspent, possibly for the first time in your company’s history. Look for creative ways to repurpose that money to the benefit of your business.
The holidays might have passed, but it’s always a good time to keep a spirit of giving when it comes to maintaining customer relationships. You can give the gift of extra services to a client. You can also change any traditional gift into to something with a little extra flexibility, like an Amazon gift card.
Extending additional generosity to clients and other businesses that are having a difficult time is not only the right thing to do, but it has the added benefit of making the marketing of your business deeply personal. It’s also an excellent way to manage public relations.
Another way you could transfer the proceeds of an unspent travel budget is by giving your departments a boost in funding. Sometimes the best way to spend money is to invest in your own people. A much-needed equipment or software upgrade could give a considerable morale boost to employees.
Boost your marketing
The time to break into a new marketing channel might just be right now. With the crisis keeping many people where they are, they will be using their devices and computers more often in order to stay connected with family, friends, coworkers and clients. Use that to your advantage by allocating unspent travel funds to the marketing department. Task them to spend those funds getting your products and services in front of new prospects through as many digital channels as possible.
Leverage client relationships
Your relationship with your clients will require some adjustment during the crisis. Their experiences and financial situations will be very different from what they were a year ago. They may be thriving or barely surviving thanks to the sudden changes in the business environment. Nevertheless, you can leverage existing relationships and the current business landscape to create a beneficial situation for both yourself and your clients.
Think long term
Let clients that are having a difficult time know that you want to help them, so that your relationship can last well into the post-crisis period. Find out what their problems are and what challenges they face, then come up with creative, cost-effective solutions instead of trying to upsell them.
Give them a break on payment plans or temporarily lower their fees to help them get back on firmer ground. Limited access to expensive add-ons and other goodwill gestures can give a struggling company enough of a cushion to help them through a rough patch, even if it doesn’t solve all their problems.
For customers with access to discretionary income, use that same problem-solving mentality to find ways your products and services can help them overcome challenges. If what you sell can help them thrive during economic turmoil, that’s a win-win for both of you.
Find creative ways to stay connected and sane
When your sales force is grounded, think of all that time they are not spending in an airport, strapped to a seat or in a hotel room. We’ve covered what you can do with the money; now, let’s look at how those hours can be put to productive use.
Professionally, keeping in touch with clients via Zoom, Teams and other streaming platforms is the obvious way to keep in contact when in-person visits aren’t possible. Taking the time to boost your presence on social media and create content via livestream and recorded video is also a worthwhile investment. On a personal level, spending time with family and friends (socially distanced, of course) and taking day trips that don’t involve air travel are effective ways to maintain mental health during these changed circumstances.