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A virtual office - solutions to location prejudice

"Michael, you are very lucky that you speak English and live in Australia".

This comment came from one of the merchants I used to regularly deal with. He's an Israeli, based in Israel. He had an excellent product, also excelled in customer service but faced challenges breaking into Western markets.

Nearly every day I'm approached by companies from Eastern Europe, Asia or India wanting to utilize me as intermediary for their own products and services because of our "western connections".

But even operating from Australia still provides some barriers to what is still a US-centric mentality (and to a lesser degree, the UK). This will change in the years ahead as burgeoning markets within Asia and Europe gain a firm foothold on the Internet and the tables are actually turned. But in the meantime, if you're a business operating outside of the USA, the UK or Australia, you would probably understand what I am referring to. 

Some of the prejudice is based in cultural misunderstandings, perceived language barriers and the illusion of distance, which really isn't very relevant these days. Unfortunately, some of this xenophobia that foreign businesses experience is well founded; with certain regions of the world having a notorious reputation when it comes to international business dealings.

Some lucrative affiliate programs I have wanted to join over the past few years I haven't been able to as I don't have USA or UK based office contact details - even though 85% of Taming the Beast.net's visitors are from the USA. It can get very frustrating for international online business owners and those involved in affiliate marketing.

Prejudice is still alive and well on the Internet and the USA still commands instantaneous business respect in the online world; particularly when dealing with US customers or businesses. However, for USA based businesses, they can also experience similar issues when trying to break into other countries.

What's the solution to location prejudice?

One of the worst things you can do is to not provide any real details about your company on your "about" page in an effort to fool prospective clients or prospective business partners.  So many sites I have visited have very generic information about their company on this very important page - they tend to just state "we are the best" - that does nothing to encourage discerning buyers to purchase.  Their must be some point of contact and not just an email address in order to reassure your visitors. But it can be a case of being caught between a rock and a hard place.

Virtual Office Solutions

Enter the virtual office - rapidly becoming an affordable solution for many small businesses. In the last year, the virtual office industry has flourished, especially as telecommunications and generally speaking, anything connected with the relay of information has dropped substantially.

What is a Virtual Office?

A virtual office is a communications presence in a country where you are not physically located. It may be nothing more than a local phone number and/or a local mailing address.

Without a huge capital outlay, you can appear to have offices established in New York, London, Rome, Paris, Hong Kong, etc. etc.

Not only will this help your clients in relation to xenophobic type reactions, it can also provide a cheaper means of them contacting you and vice versa.

International phone numbers

Getting a phone number in another country is a snap these days - and very cheap; just a few bucks a month to set up this virtual office service. For example, through Skype's SkypeIn service, I have an Australian number and a USA number that can be dialed from any landline or mobile phone. Skype has numbers available in over 20 countries.

 

Skype also offers very cheap interstate and international outbound calling rates - as little as 3 cents a minute, plus you can also add other features such as voicemail, call forwarding and much more.

International snail mail presence

It seems we're still a long way off from the end of paper based mail and a mailing address in another country can be a very handy business tool.

Some companies offer their own street address or can arrange post office boxes for your mail to be sent to in their country.  They will then forward your mail on to you, or the more progressive services will scan your mail and you can handle all of it from your email inbox; deciding what you want forwarded to you and what can just be trashed. Far from being risky, the better established services are very, very secure.

You can also send mail to these services and they will repost it from their own address. The addresses they offer are not "care of" addresses, there is no mention of the virtual office company name in the address. 

The following are a selection of companies that can perform these services for you at a reasonable price.

Earth Class Mail allows you to expand your business presence by adding new US business postal addresses - without having to hire staff. Get your first month free!

 Get a big city address for your small business!

Access USA can provide your business with a U.S. mailing address (Florida) and also a remailing service at very reasonable rates. Access USA Members can also have their own USA telephone number, enabling them to record a personal greeting and receive voice mail messages. These messages can be retrieved 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world. Fax services are also offered.

A well established company, Continental Relay is a reliable and secure re-mailing and mail forwarding service, along with voicemail fax and mail services. They offer one low fee for a Street and PO box mail drop address. Continental Relay also offer free voicemail and fax number in US, UK, and AUS plus free anonymous email forwarding.

Related:

VoIP and ecommerce

Reassuring web site visitors - credibility and trust equals sales

 

  

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