A Virtual Address definitely helps you to improve your branding efforts. The toughest part of running a lean SME is that you just can’t budget for an office in a prestigious area of the city. Also, when a business does have a great office location and it comes time to expand into new areas; lease expenses, among other things can become a huge hurdle.
The big issue with leasing costs overall, is that money is robbed from other critical areas of the business that are most hungry for cash, like marketing and recruiting. I haven’t even mentioned the need for office equipment, furniture, utilities and maintenance yet.
A virtual office circumvents these and other issues associated with physical office expenses, while helping to further your brand and legitimize the business with an official business address.
What is a virtual office?
The term “virtual” is actually sort of tongue-in-cheek, as virtual offices are actual physical locations. They’re called virtual because you literally never have to visit them. Virtual receptionists are on-duty during business hours (or 24/7) depending on the service. You can receive calls to your business number, have those calls routed to you and your employee’s smartphones, and also have all your mail forwarded to your physical location as it comes in.
Physical access is offered for the benefit of local and traveling CEOs, and their employees. However, access is limited to predetermined usage restrictions (Ie., read the fine print if you need consistent access to your virtual offices). Most times, if you wish to spend a lot of time working in your virtual office and using the amenities offered, you’ll have to pay per-use fees. This shouldn’t be a turn off, obviously, because you still get access to phone and mail services, and can register your business with the local government using your virtual office.
Clients will definitely judge you different from your competitors when your company address comes back to a bungalow located in a suburban neighborhood, or crappy office space in a high-crime area. In short, customers will not be impressed that you’re running a business out of your home, or some dingy dive office on the outskirts of town.
Running a business from home is fine for perhaps a small freelancing service, but for the majority of service-focused companies and offline and online retail businesses, it just makes you look overly cheap and low-grade to potential customers. An unprofessional office address may or may not scare off those prospects, but it surely lowers your perceived value; creating issues when it comes to matching and exceeding rates with your competitors.
A good location costs money (lots of money!)
Consider the following costs your brand will take on when renting a traditional office:
- Leasing: Commercial leases are more expensive, often triple or more what residential rent costs. The better the area, the more chance you’ll have to commit to a lease of six months or more in order to move in, creating even more financial risk if you run into financial trouble. A virtual headquarters will cost much less on a monthly basis than even a residential rental, and requires no month-to-month commitment, unless you wish to pay several months in advance for a discount.
- Reception: Including the cost of purchasing a toll-free number, paying for carrier fees and long distance, and receptionist or answering services. Separately, these services cost thousands of dollars a month, which creates a budget/branding nightmare for any growing business. Most virtual office providers offer these add-on services with the office spaces they rent, or as a reasonably-priced add on.
- Everything else: WiFi, cleaning staff, office amenities, utilities, damage deposit, staff, equipment. Then, what happens when that equipment breaks? If you’re like most growing businesses, you pull out your credit card to replace it.
Missed opportunities hurt your brand
Consider the cost and embarrassment of a missed opportunity to meet a prospective client in a clean, professional office space, or a missed phone call/lost message. These and other scenarios related to your location, and the processes used to run your business have serious negative consequences on any brand.
A virtual office space gets by these and other branding issues, by offering you an office to register your business and meet clients, as needed. Virtual offices not only offer an office environment complete with amenities, many will offer discounted conference room rentals, and are usually located in centralized urban areas of major and minor cities.
When it comes to handling phone calls, taking messages, forwarding important calls to you and your employees — and having a consistent and professional voice answering customer calls 24/7 — the branding benefits become obvious. The biggest trouble with growing a business is making sure every call gets answered and no important details are lost.
Not only is reception offered by reputed virtual office providers, most will provide cloud access to tools that help you track, review and set reminders based on your incoming calls, emails, and appointment scheduling details. This way, you don’t have to run around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to keep up with your obligations to clients.
There’s no question that a virtual office helps to brand a company when you’re running a business that doesn’t require you to sit in a store or physical office during the day-to-day.
As you’ve learned, the savings combined with additional virtual services will help you allocate money to the things most important to running the business, such as marketing. While value-added-services like virtual reception and mail-forwarding make your business processes run more smoothly, far beyond traditional business hours.