Business travel during marketing campaigns: What’s your liability risk?

By Larry AltonLarry Alton

It’s true that much of your marketing campaign will take place in the digital realm, meaning employees don’t have to leave the office to get consumer attention. What’s more, new technology allows marketers to work from afar. However, there are times when your marketers will need to travel — to meet with vendors, scope out advertising slots, and attend conferences and conventions. These travel opportunities will allow your team to learn, grow, and further your marketing campaigns.

But let’s admit it: There are a lot of downsides to business travel. Your marketers won’t travel often, and you may not be fully prepared to handle the ups and downs of this essential component.

To begin with, it’s expensive and time-consuming. There are also a number of risks associated with sending employees all over the country for business, so it’s worthwhile to consider their overall impact on your business.

According to Business Travel News, 6,000 travel disruptions occurred in 2015. Despite this statistic, only 40 percent of small-to-midsize enterprises have enacted a risk management program that extends to all their departments. In fact, 30 percent say they have no plans for, or intention of, ever having such a program.

But such companies ought to recognize the risks in frequent travel that can be both costly and dangerous. Your marketing department may not want (or be able) to avoid travel altogether, but you can employ disturbance prevention tactics to make sure your employees will be well taken care of in the event of an accident.

The most common business-travel risks

A variety of disturbances can occur while you or your employees are traveling. Being able to recognize those risks is the first step to minimizing potential damage.

Here are some of the most common risks of business travel:

  • Flight cancellations: There are many reasons that airlines have to cancel flights, but they don’t always offer alternate routes or money back. This can be a big cost for your firm to have to absorb.
  • Theft: Thefts can occur at the hotel, from the rental car, or even on the streets, and this could put you at risk. In some cases, you’ll be responsible for covering any damages such as lost cash from an incident.
  • Auto accidents: This may occur in a rental car, which you’ll be required to pay damages on. Your insurance will may also be liable to cover any injuries and healthcare for a third party.
  • Other injury: Bad things happen during travel, though many of the incidents may be entirely out of your employee’s control. Worker’s compensation may come into play here.

Keep in mind that these travel risks are only your responsibility when the employee is acting in the purpose of the business trip. If your worker was engaged in activities of his or her own choice, or drinking when the event occurred, you shouldn’t be held responsible for whatever happened.

Mitigating travel risks

Don’t underestimate the likelihood of the above risks. Without a proper mitigation plan, you could lose thousands of dollars, which is an expense most small and mid-sized businesses can’t absorb.

Here are some tips that will help you both prevent and reduce the costs of accompanying risks.

  • Make a smart hotel reservation: Choosing a hotel is a vital decision. The facility shouldn’t be located in a high-risk neighborhood, or you heighten the chances of suffering theft or injury. For example, if you’re booking a hotel in Chicago, you’ll want to research the safest areas, such as Lake View and Near North Side. Of course, it would be cheaper to reserve a room in a less attractive neighborhood with lower-quality amenities but you raise your risk significantly in that case.
  • Choose flights that are less likely to be cancelled: Though it’s often out of your control, you can reduce the risk of a flight cancellation by taking the proper steps. First, check the odds that a flight will be canceled. If inclement weather is threatening during the period of your travel, it might be smart to set a different time for traveling, if possible. You can also book with more reliable airlines that have fewer maintenance issues, rather than taking the cheapest possible flights. You’ll save more in the long run.
  • Get business-travel insurance: This is not an unnecessary up-sell from insurance companies. If you travel often for business, travel insurance is a must. It will cover you for such things as canceled flights, overbooked hotels and other money-consuming problems. Your worker’s compensation plan might have an extra contingency that specifically addresses travel.
  • Make a plan: The employee who will be traveling should clearly understand how to handle an issue when it occurs. If the person gets in a car crash on the way to a business meeting, for example, he or she should have a card on hand for the proper steps to take. If the employee is too injured to follow the directions on the card, the authorities may find the information in a wallet or purse and contact the necessary people. Much of the mitigation process can happen within minutes of the incident.
  • Reduce travel: Thanks to modern technology, many businesses are able to remove travel from the equation, even for clients across the country. Video calling, instant messaging, social media, email, phone calls and other forms of instant communication can excise the need for travel, reduce your risks and save money.

Don’t be caught unawares in a travel situation. Your firm can’t always absorb the costs of business travel, and having a plan in place and a thorough understanding of the risks is the best way to avoid those unnecessary costs related to your marketing ventures.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.