So you’ve done it. You’ve quit your job and set up your own business and so far, you’ve done everything right. The business plan and due diligence were expertly devised and implemented. Check.
You’ve researched the market and started networking with local business groups and prospective clients. Check.
The marketing company you hired has designed an eye-catching logo and developed a brand you can build your dream around. Double Check.
And your pièce de résistance? A state-of-the-art, masterfully designed website that has just the right balance of big company experience, and that personal touch that comes with a smaller company.
From the copy and content, to the navigation and images – everything works, everything is perfect, everything is ready.
As prospective clients scan the pages, they read about your background, education, and experience. They view the case studies you have carefully selected and articulated in such a way that they cannot help but relate. They are sold! They want you to do whatever it is you do – for them.
They link to the Contact Us page and see P.O. Box 1234. They hesitate, change their mind, and close the browser.
And POOF – just like that, they’re gone.
For many entrepreneurs or ‘home based businesses’, especially those in service related industries, one of the biggest red flags to potential clients is to have your business listed to a P.O. Box address instead of a bricks and mortar street address.
What is it about a Post Office Box address that scares people so much? In a nutshell, it is the unknown; things like:
- Where are you located?
- How do they find you?
- What do they do if they need to have a meeting?
- How long have you been in business?
- Are you for real?
- If you’re so great why don’t you have your own office?
Fair or not, the list goes on and on.
P.O. Box addresses tend to give an air of ‘fly by night’, a sense that the business, no matter how good your other marketing materials are, is sketchy. It’s hard to trust a person or business if you don’t know where you can find them when needed. For most potential clients a P.O. Box shouts I’M A NEWBIE AND I WORK OUT OF MY HOME loud and clear.
This likely stems from the fact that many business ‘scams’ come from businesses with a P.O. Box address. Over the years, these addresses have been used by people and or businesses that didn’t have any other choice. The lingering stigma may be a bit extreme, and for the most part, P.O Boxes are a legitimate means of mail transactions, yet that uneasy feeling persists.
There is an old saying that “no one ever got fired for hiring IBM,” which means when a potential client is looking for a supplier, you will have to tick every single box and then some, to beat the old established supplier with the actual commercial business address that shows up on Google maps. These people are known and have well established branding and business practices, which unfortunately, at this stage in your business growth, you do not.
If anything is going to put a question mark in a potential client’s head, then isn’t it worth investigating alternatives?
So, what are the alternatives to a P.O. Box? For many, it seems that the choice is between using their home address and and the increasingly unpopular P.O. Box. Using your home address can raise safety concerns, and when it shows up on a Google search as a residence, well, you’re stuck with the same issues of credibility. (There are, of course, many other issues surrounding the notion of running your business from your house, but that’s a blog topic best reserved for another time.)
There is an easy and affordable solution! (Feel free to release that nervous breath that’s now been mounting for some fifteen paragraphs.) It’s an answer that will allow you to focus your resources on what’s most important: building your business.
Consider a business centre. If someone were to investigate the address on Google Maps, they would be pleased to find a recognizably commercial area. The street view would offer a credible and legitimate office building, and not the view of your white picket fence with your Hyundai Tucson parked in the drive.
A business centre can have your mail forwarded and held securely. It’s a professional setting where you have the opportunity to reserve a boardroom to hold meetings with clients, instead of having to arrive at your local Starbucks two hours in advance to secure a comfortable spot.
A business centre will not only offer you the bricks and mortar address you’ll need to legitimize your brand as more than just a start-up company running out of your home office, but it will also lend you the credibility you deserve to build your business into what you know it is capable of becoming.
Before you go to print with that perfectly designed business card, the logo in the top right corner reminiscent of the moment your dream became a reality, really pause to consider whether the P.O. Box address directly below it doesn’t undermine all the hard work you’ve invested thus far.