When we think of owning a business, we typically imagine some type of facility that contains offices, warehouse space, manufacturing areas, work areas, or some combination of those features.
That has changed. The development of the internet has made it possible for businesses to conduct every bit of their commerce online, eliminating the need for a physical location of any kind. The staff can work remotely from any site with internet access, doing their work as if they were together in a sea of cubicles, and even establishing virtual international bases.
Yet that doesn’t mean these businesses just exist in some kind of imaginary world of electrons and circuits. They carry out real business involving real people, and they pay real employees. So even the most virtual of businesses still need to have a physical presence in certain situations. Let’s look at some of those.
Engaging with your customers is the most important thing you can do to build a market. It’s true that once a customer finds you, it is possible to do the lion’s share of your work with him or her via the internet using email, e-commerce, and so forth. But search engines, ads, and links can only get you so far, especially if you’re in a specialized market or focused in a small geographic area. That’s particularly true if you have a new product that people don’t even realize they want. You’ll still need to employ some sort of technique to make that initial contact.
The old methods can still be very effective. Conventions, trade shows, festivals, and the like are a great place to get contacts that can lead to long customer relationships. Simply buy a custom tent with your company’s logo, have some promotional items sitting out, and start making connections.
When you’re selling a product manufactured by a third party, it is easiest just to have orders drop shipped from the factory. But when you do that, you never lay eyes on the product, and you never know if it’s what it should be.
Getting items shipped to you first permits you to do two things. First, you can open the package and examine the item for accuracy, condition, and quality. And second, you can re-box the item in your own carton, getting your name out there in yet another way.
You will lose some time by having goods shipped to you, but if you have an efficient system for reviewing them immediately upon receipt and getting them back out the door, you’ll make up for it by having greater customer satisfaction. Remind your customers that it’s better to have it correct in five days than incorrect in three days!
Being remembered by potential clients and customers with a good branding campaign is essential. If the only way they hear from you is via a device, you have missed the boat. There should still be durable reminders of you all around them–pencils, shirts, ads on high school baseball field fences, and on and on.
The thought process here can actually make you more successful than operators of physical stores. Many times, the venerable shopkeeper thinks the sign out front is enough and doesn’t put enough effort into brand reinforcement. Because you’re a virtual business, you already know that folks don’t drive by your place every day, so you know you’ve got to get visible through another means.
Commerce today is very different from what it was just a few years ago. We can shop for almost any good or service from a mobile device or computer, and the people who sell it to us can conduct their end of the transaction in the same way. No matter how much of the business is virtual, though, there is still real value in having a physical presence of some kind to help attract customers, ensure good service, and keep your name visible.