When your business isn’t ready for a brick-and-mortar office, or plain doesn’t need one; there are two basic options as to where you should register your business. You still need an address to register your business with the government and receive official mail at.
It’s easy to rent a virtual office or post office box, but deciding which is best for your business can be a tough decision. A PO box is certainly the least expensive option, yet doesn’t offer nearly the benefits a virtual office does. On the other hand, your particular company may not need anything more than a place to pick up your business mail.
The two main factors to consider before making a final decision are:
- Brand Perception: Will the virtual addresses you register your business at negatively affect the way potential customers perceive your business?
- Necessary Features: Do you need some or all of the features a brick-and-mortar office location provides, or just a place to pick up your mail?
A virtual office is just like any other office found anywhere in the world. In fact, when you rent a virtual office from a reputable provider (there are many to choose from), you’re actually renting a brick-and-mortar office, complete with all the staff, supplies, and amenities of any other office out there.
The “reputable” part is very important. Few customers will be able to tell that you’ve rented a virtual office — Ie., an office you rarely, if ever visit. However, when you rent a discount virtual office in a shady part of town, or one that’s shared with questionable businesses, this can have definite negative branding consequences.
A Google search, for instance, can tell a very nasty and untrue story about your brand, and will easily scare customers away. The best part about renting a virtual office is that customers will actually be able to visit the office you choose (in most cases), send you faxes, and call your assigned receptionist — all things a non-virtual business offers!
When your business is registered to a PO box, it’s very obvious. The perception for customers can range from thinking that you’re too broke or too cheap to rent an actual office, right down to making prospects ponder just what kind of shady company you’re actually running.
Too broke and you’re on your way out and likely won’t be there for support, if needed, in the near future. Too cheap, and well, you’re likely to try to wriggle your way out of fixing, refunding or replacing defective items. If you’re in the service game, a cheap business is likely to cut corners and potentially deliver an inferior product.
Then there’s the most likely: What are these guys trying to hide? That’s the big elephant in the room of any mail order company of days gone by. Consumers, young and old, have learned to sniff out a stinker and a PO box is a great way of insulating yourself from customers, their lawyers, and the regulatory agencies that protect everyone.
In most cases — again with reputable providers — you can have access to the office, as needed, for working and/or entertaining clients, partners and staff. Customers and/or sales prospects can visit the location to “scope” out your business.
It’s a real office, with real WiFi, conference/lounge areas, and access to printing and fax machines. All that, in addition to other options that vary from provider to provider. Reception will be there to greet people and accept your mail packages, and can forward anything arrives for you to your physical location.
The majority of reputable virtual services also offer other perks such as virtual phone numbers, call screening/forwarding, call center services, and professional virtual staff to help you complete a variety of projects.
A PO box is just as it sounds: It’s a place to have your business mail sent to. You’ll also be registering the business with your local and Federal government, but that’s about it. Higher-end services like USPS will have an onsite agent to sign packages for you (though, they’ll often only do it for USPS packages).
Even smaller services now offer email and text notification to tell you when you’ve got mail, so you’re not stuck checking your mailbox every day. The higher end PO box solutions will offer to forward your mail to you. However, most will charge a fee for this service, so do your research if you choose this route and can’t physically pick up your mail.
PO boxes are very barebones, but that isn’t to say they’re necessarily better feature-wise than a virtual office, because if you don’t need the added features, you’ll be spending extra money for zero added benefit to your business.
Which is Best for You?
Once you understand the benefits and limitations of each, the answer becomes pretty easy. After reading this article, you should have a firm idea whether you require the branding and feature-filled benefits offered by a virtual office provider. This is the best and least expensive option to increasing brand perception, while also gaining access to call answering features and physical access to the location you rent.
If a post office box doesn’t pose a branding risk to your company, it’s a great option. If all you need is a place to receive your mail at, it makes no sense to pay more for a virtual office that comes with added office features like reception and equipment access you’ll never use.
If you make the wrong choice at first, it will certainly be easy enough to switch from one type of address to the next. Just be mindful of the warnings mentioned above when it comes to the branding of your business. It can take a lot of time, money and effort to come back from branding mistakes, all of which hinders profits and growth of the business.