A couple of weeks ago, I returned from a short business trip with new clients, more money, new opportunities, and more confidence. If you've never taken a business trip, then I highly recommend doing so the first chance you get as they can open new doors and completely transform your business. However, I understand how transitioning from meeting strictly with online clients to meeting offline clients can be difficult, so to help you gain a better understanding of how to do this, I've created this short guide on what I did during my last business trip. Pre-Meeting & Preparations Before I went on this trip, I did an extensive amount of research on the people I was planning on meeting (in case you're wondering how I established these meetings in the first place, 2 of them were on a referral basis and the rest were people I met at local shops and events). I researched everything I could find about their business, their website, and their personal lives and I asked myself the following questions: 1. Their business How do they treat their customers or clients? This is a personal choice, but I refuse to work with anyone who treats their customers or clients as if they're disposable as this usually means they'll treat their search engine optimiser or web developer the same way. Are they organised? If you walk into their office and see papers scattered everywhere and late unpaid invoices on their desk, then expect your forgotten invoices to appear on that very same desk as well. Where Is Their Business Located? Before you even go on a business trip, you should have a destination in mind. Choosing the wrong destination could lead to a waste of your time and money, but choosing the right destination can result in a successful trip. In my case, I choose a city with a lot of demand but little competition 2. Their website Has their website dilapidated? One of the clients I had met with had a business website that hadn't been updated in over 5 years! Because of this, it was plagued with outdated information, spam, and it had even been hacked. Has their website been hacked? If so, is your potential client aware of it? Cleaning up their hacked website can provide a great opportunity to showcase your skills. For example, the same client I had met with during my trip with the dilapidated website had a hacked website that their old web developer, who had been paid over $7,000 total to develop and maintain the website (they never really did any of this), never bothered checking. While I was cleaning up and revamping the client's website, I discovered that the old web developer had not only allowed a few dubious people to access the website in the past, but these people had also used the website to place malicious inbound links on hidden & visible pages throughout the website (they also created a private e-mail on the domain to pose as the site owner). Of course, I reported all of this to my client, which not only impressed my client, but made them thankful for hiring me. Do they even have a website? If they don't have a website, it's important to discover the reason why. Sure, they may not have ever considered a website or the benefits that can come with having one (which gives you an opportunity to explain this to them), but they could also be adamant about not creating a business website, which was the case with one person I met on my trip. The guy was satisfied with the "free" website that was created for him by someone he met over the Internet. Needless to say, I'm expecting his phone call any day now once his "free" website doesn't work out. 3. Their personal lives Is their any information about them available on the web that they wouldn't want others to know about? If you offer online reputation management services, this can be a great opportunity to bring this up during the meeting. How do they treat their family and friends? I like to get an idea of how they act when they're being casual as their personalities are much more conspicuous. The purpose of all of this research was to gain a better understanding of who you are going to meet and how you are going to present yourself during your meetings. Going in prepared means that you'll have more control over the direction and outcome of the meeting. The Meeting Most people would find the meeting to be the most difficult part, but I believe it's the easiest part. Believe it or not, many small business owners (or at least the ones I met) are pretty casual, even during a business meeting. Some of them may tell jokes or even get off-topic during the meeting, so it's not always this stringent process where you have to stand up straight and make direct eye contact (something I can't do). With that said, here are some tips on going into your meetings. 1. Dress Appropriately Wear nice clothing. This doesn't mean you have to wear a pinstriped suit, fedora, watch chain, and black wing tip dress shoes. Just wear clothing that isn't ripped, hip, trashy, or inappropriate for the weather. Wear clean clothing. In other words, wash your clothes. Nobody want's to spend 30 minutes to an hour (or however long it'll take you) next to someone who reeks of mildew, fast food, and shame. Stay well groomed. Shave, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and do anything else you need to look well groomed. 2. Bring Your Equipment Bring a laptop. Remember to bring your charger, as well. My own laptop battery nearly died on me during one meeting, although I had my charger with me so it didn't become an issue. Bring a mobile device. This is useful if you want to show your potential client the mobile version of their website. Bring a file folder carrying case. You didn't do all of that research for nothing, so if you have any physical documents (which is probably a good idea to create in the event that you don't have a laptop). 3. Speak Appropriately Don't use teenage colloquialisms. "So, brah, that's, like, how your website, uh, looks right now... Uh, my bad, that's actually not your website, but it looks sick, though", is a good way to deter almost any potential client (unless they own a surf shop, in which case talking like this will probably convert them). Don't speak too casually. If you're going to meet with someone you've previously been acquainted with, then this is more acceptable. Post-Meeting & Additional Tips Now that the meeting is over and you've been paid (assuming you converted your lead), this doesn't mean your job is over. If you signed a contract, then you have obligations to be fulfilled before you've truly earned that money. With that said, here are a few tips for you to increase your ROI and make the most out of this trip: Don't be facetious or overspend. Just because you can take a $400 plane to reach your destination doesn't mean you should, especially if your destination can be reached using another form of transportation in nearly the same amount of time for much less. Don't be frivolous. In actuality, my business trip was actually 1-week long, although I treated the other 4 days as a vacation so that I could relax. Because I did this, I missed out on a few opportunities to make even more money. Don't forget about your current clients. Keep up with your current clients while you're on your trip, otherwise you may return to disgruntled clients and more work than you can handle. Work out deals. If you know people who are in contact with local business owners in the location you're visiting, then offer them a percentage of the retainer fee you receive. Don't worry. Time spent worrying is time that could have been spent learning and preparing. You're not going to be the first person to go on a business trip and you won't be the last. Even if the trip is an absolute failure, take to consider what went wrong and work on improving yourself to better handle the situation for your next trip. Conclusion Like I mentioned at the beginning, taking a business trip doesn't just have to be about making money, but it can be a great confidence booster as well. Before I took this business trip, I was much less likely to hand out my business cards and I was reluctant to discuss my business with anyone. Now, I'm handing out my business cards to other small business owners and I can concisely describe what I do for a living and how it can benefit others.