In today’s world of virtual conferencing and dial-in meetings, what’s the true business value in face-to-face interactions? According to Rhonda Abrams, USA Today columnist and author of 10 books for entrepreneurs and small business owners, SMBs need to broaden the way they think of travel.

On average, businesses generate $9.50 for every dollar invested in travel—and $2.90 in new profits. That's because traveling to meet customers and vendors is one of the best ways your SMB can capitalize on new business opportunities.

Not only is interacting with customers important to growing your business, it's also the key to deepening relationships with existing clients to sustain business. During her National Small Business Week webinar, Abrams shared three keys to increasing your return on travel investment.

Schedule add-on opportunities

49% of business prospects turn into sales with in-person interactions, compared to 32% without.

People do business with people, says Abrams, and there's nothing more effective than supplementing more frequent virtual conferencing calls and phone calls with less frequent, but as effective, in-person meetings. In the US alone, 49% of business prospects turn into sales with in-person interactions, compared to 32% without.

But instead of just planning a trip to see a customer, spend some time up front thinking about what else you could accomplish while there. Abrams recommends building your local intelligence by scoping out the location. See what industry events are going on or even check out the local competition and see what you can learn from them. Abrams highly recommends scheduling meetings with other contacts you have in the area and expanding your contacts at your client's office. That way, if your main point of contact changes jobs, you can avoid losing business altogether.

Take your office with you
The majority of small business owners don't travel enough, says Abrams. One reason is that SMBs feel they need to be physically at the office to get work done. But upping business mobile management can help you remain connected and productive on the road.

Using cloud-based applications, or tools you can access over the Internet, frees you from being tied to your office. You can take advantage of off-site opportunities while still having access to customer data, document collaboration, and inventory management, among other business processes. Cloud tools give you the freedom to work wherever you are and get information or talk to colleagues the moment you need to. You can also stay engaged with your team with virtual meetings or training.

Recharge your batteries
While you're traveling, use the change of scenery to meet new people and gain new perspectives. Abrams notes that this is one of the best ways to refresh your creativity, vision, drive, and ambition. Give yourself time to think about what you want to do, not just what you have to do.

As you begin to think of your customer interactions more expansively, you'll start to focus more on the opportunities available with each trip, rather than the cost. This change in how you approach in-person meetings can help you and your colleagues to travel more thoughtfully, upping your return on travel—and your bottom line.

Want more? The full webinar, Small Business Travel: Strategic Ways to Increase Your Return on Travel, is available at the end of National Small Business Week on the NSBW site.