Location is everything. Presentation can make or break your business. It doesn’t matter if you manage 95% of your business from online, or if you’re a sales or marketing company that takes inbound calls and never speaks with customers face-to-face. If you don’t have the right location, you won’t get the business.
Here are a few reasons you need even your online businesses to be in a prime location.
Online businesses need to be visible. Yes, statistics say that 78% of Internet users research products online; there’s no doubt that the online shopping industry is booming. That doesn’t mean that people don’t want to see evidence of your company’s existence off the Internet, however. People trust reputable sites like Amazon.com, but if you’re a small start-up or you aren’t a name-brand (yet), your business would do well to be in a visible location.
According to an article from Bloomberg Business Week, online companies are making a rush to set up in a physical location. A few years ago, all of the “brick and mortar” companies wanted to be online—now, the reverse is happening. Founders want to be able to establish their brand beyond the Internet.
So set up your offices in a place people will be likely to see your logo or storefront. Customers will be more likely to trust you online if they’ve seen your presence around town first.
Even if your small business is mostly online, you’ll still have desk jobs that need filling. Your employees are your most important business asset, and they need to be taken care of just like your company’s equipment, property and financial assets.
Part of finding the ideal location for your business is keeping both the inside and outside in good condition. Nothing will turn customers or potential employees away faster than weedy flowerbeds, cracked blacktop, peeling paint or a dirty, shabby interior. If you want your employees to be attracted to your company, you need to clean up and dress up your office.
According to a study done by Adecco, 57% of Americans judge fellow employees for their messy workspaces. The statistic, surely, would apply to your potential customers.
So contact professional landscaping or paving companies and get your office location up to par. Companies like Superior Paving can help you repair or revamp your sidewalks or pavement. If you haven’t chosen an office yet, find a real estate company that can help you find a location that will be sure to attract the right employees.
Your reputation is largely created and maintained by your employees. Products are one thing, but if you have a sales team who can’t sell or marketing agents who don’t know the latest advertising, you won’t get very far. Setting up your online business in the right location to attract motivated, hardworking employees will boost your company’s reputation.
SBA studies show that poor location is one of the chief reasons that small businesses fail. Entrepreneur cautions that settling for a cheaper rent just to save the budget might not be the way to go. Customers need to be afforded every convenience, and the cheapest rent on the block might not get you very far.
Every city or small town has the “shady” side, the dilapidated downtown that doesn’t see as much traffic. Putting your business in a cheap, run-down building to save on rent won’t build your reputation. Customers want to see your physical location as an inviting, well-to-do company, not one that looks like it might go out of business any day.
Serendipity isn’t just a 2001 rom-com with John Cusak. From a business standpoint, it is businesses’ ability to attract resources or customers they need but don’t yet know exist. In a large city, serendipity is exponentially greater than in a smaller city due to greater traffic and visibility. Having your business in a prime location in a highly-populated area will attract customers you may not even be trying to reach.
In addition, the more people are aware of your business, the better business you’ll get. Studies show that word of mouth is still the primary way people recommend local businesses, with 72% of people saying that they recommend businesses this way (as opposed to social media or online reviews).
As the online world grows, it can be more difficult to find specific products and services. If your business is location-based, your customers will more easily be able to find and connect with you. So even if your business is largely online, having a physical location in the right part of town will make your products and services far more accessible.
Tacit knowledge cannot be “codified.” It’s the knowledge that cannot be learned from a book or word of mouth—it’s based solely in talent, experience, and association with other people or products. Some examples include:
- Learning a language
- Body language
Constantin Bratianu of the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest says, “Most people are unlikely to share their knowledge and experience (tacit knowledge) without a feeling of trust in the person in front of them, they need to trust that the people will not misuse their knowledge, and to trust that the information that one receives is accurate and credible due to the information source.”
Having your online business’ office as a place to learn tacit knowledge will be invaluable to your employees and company. Your physical office cannot just be a place to run your online business—it must be a place to cultivate trust and tacit knowledge that cannot be learned online or from an employee manual.
Location, after all, isn’t just about where on the street your office sits. It’s about your company culture and accessibility. So make sure that your company isn’t just located online. Take the time to set up a physical location that will reflect your company’s values and experience.
If you’re running small online business that hasn’t yet taken off, you’ll need to make sure that you’re represented well. Don’t think that just because you don’t have customers coming into your office to buy your products that you don’t need to spend time or money on your office.
Melanie Hargrave is a wife and homemaker whose family is her pride and joy. In addition to spending time with her husband and daughters, she loves studying business, law, being outdoors, and playing sports.