Small businesses often struggle with their choice of mailing address. Do they use their physical address? Do they get a PO box?
The decision becomes even more complicated for home-based business owners, where the physical business address is also the entrepreneur’s home.
Here are some of the options available, and the pros and cons of each:
If customers actually frequent the business (such as a retail store), an actual physical address is a must. Those customers need to be able to look up the location for directions.
Using a physical address also offers added credibility, even in businesses where customers don’t traditionally visit the premises. Basically, it’s easier to trust a brick and mortar business than one with no real location (meaning it’s more likely the business might vanish from one day to the next).
The downside really comes when the entrepreneur doesn’t want the physical location known, possibly for security reasons. For example, a home-based business owner may not want potential clients showing up at their home, especially if they have children or are there alone.
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The primary benefit of a PO box is the privacy it affords. The business owner simply goes to the post office to pick up the company mail, and no one with the mailing address automatically knows the physical location of the business. They are also a good solution for businesses needing to sort certain types of mail. For example, they may have a PO box setup to specifically collect incoming bill payments, so those can be processed quickly and separately without being mixed in with regular daily mail.
The downside is that, if a PO Box is the business’ primary address, some customers may not immediately trust the business.
The Best of Both Worlds?
There is a third option, fortunately. Businesses can rent mailboxes with services such as the UPS store. They get a private box just like with a PO box, but that box has a physical address, which may appear more reputable to customers.
The key is thinking about the needs of your customers. Remember, if they need to be able to find your physical location in order to do business with you, a mailbox service with a physical address isn’t a substitute for your actual location.
Personally, I’m not a fan of mailbox services, but then again my business is run pretty much entirely virtually, meaning it would be a hassle to run out and get the mail on the rare occasion I’m dealing with physical documents or paper checks. I now use a P.O. Box publicly (such as in WHOIS records for domain registrations as spammers harvest that information regularly) but I privately give clients my home address when necessary to make sure their mail gets to me faster.
What do you prefer for your business, and why?
This post was originally featured on April, 20 2009 and updated May 13, 2014.