Friday, December 1, 2017

"Our Businesses Are No Longer Local, Even If They Seem To Be"

Few businesses today are truly local. They may serve a local clientele, but if they have any type of web presence people from anywhere in the world can locate them and find them. It may not go any further than just seeing where a business is and knowing that it exists, but then again, someone from miles away - even time zones away - may reach out and contact us.

There are several ways today that someone can reach out and make an initial contact with us. They can write to us if our address is published, when they want to make a formal introduction or request, and they aren't in any particular hurry about the length of time it takes for their letter to reach us. They can call us, they can text us, they can email us, or they can contact us online through our website or social media profile, but these contact points have to be published as well.

We have to think beyond our immediate neighborhood or zip code if we are going to be marketing to broader channels. Visiting a website and understanding where a business is located or what markets they serve can be a challenge when the town or city name is not mentioned or when it is mentioned without the state name being included. There are many states that have cities of the same name. Mention Chicago, and Illinois may come to mind, but there are six other states that claim a city named Chicago or one with Chicago as part of its name. There are 34 states with a city named Springfield. There are even seven other places named Miami outside of Florida.

For a very local business that trades in a rather finite area, where the owner assumes people know where they are, listing just the street name may work, but once someone from outside that immediate geography sees it, they have no way of knowing where it is or if it is close to where they are. The same thing happens with street name extensions - street, road, avenue, and so forth. Many cities use numbered streets going in more than one direction and it's important to know the extension in order to locate it properly. A GPS won't work properly without the correct extension or zip code. 

For emails to work, the email address must be published, and it must be spelled correctly. Any punctuation or spelling errors will result in the message not being sent or not being delivered (or both). It's amazing the difference a dot-com and a comma-com can make.
  
As for the phone number (useful for conversations, leaving a voice message, or texting someone), the phone number actually has to be published - and we can no longer assume that people know where we are or that the area code is understood or the same as theirs.

Now that people are able to take their cell phone numbers with them when they move (not to mention just taking our cellphones with us when we go to another city for business), it's not unusual to see an area code from several states away that we must dial just to talk to a neighbor or associate.

We just need to make sure to give out all 10 digits of our number when handing it out or leaving a callback (just to make sure) and request all 10 digits when we are getting a number from someone even if we are relatively certain the area code is a local one. We also need to verify that our complete 10-digit number, including the area code, is on our business card. We might work with people who share our area code, but there’s always someone from outside our area that we going to meet. That’s when having the area code printed on the card becomes important.

We can't afford to lose contact with someone – whether it’s a phone call or a text message - just because we are missing a 3-digit area code from our business card, assessment or estimate form, or letterhead, or assume incorrectly that it's the same as ours. 


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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging in place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.