Your online business is doing great. So great in fact you are thinking about opening up a brick and mortar location. But how can you seamlessly take your online business offline without losing customers?
This is what Kahshanna Evans, founder of boutique media firm Kissing Lions Public Relations, did with her public relations firm. Taking online business offline perfectly describes much of my experience establishing Kissing Lions Public Relations as a virtual business. I don’t believe it’s easy to take an online business offline, but it doesn’t have to be hard, explains Evans.
Having a physical space can be a major plus. The benefits of an offline business are higher status and legitimacy in people’s mind. People think if you can afford the cost of a physical office or retail space, your business must be successful. The other plus to offline is it opens up new customers you’d be unlikely to get online, Clint Evans, co-owner, StandOut Authority, points out.
But before you too go offline, you should make sure your online company is ready for the jump. There are things to look for. Signs that business is ready to go offline are clients and circumstances demanding you be in person more often, notes Evans.
Steps to take when going from online to offline with your business.
–Look before you leap. Before leaping into a commercial space, I’d suggest stepping instead. Online SMEs and brands who establish a co-working space as a first step, may keep the advantage of familiarizing themselves with day-to-day offline operations. Clients and customers alike can engage steadily, while a co-working environment with a supportive community can be a hidden gem of a resource to support the transition, explains Evans.
–Be prepared. Do in-depth research of offline opportunities (verify your research with a knowledgeable third party). If it indicates offline opportunities 4X or greater than your remaining online opportunities, pursue offline further. This is a high hurdle because the fixed costs in offline are higher than most entrepreneurs anticipate, says Evans.
–Remember the new added business costs. It’s not easy to take an online business offline. There are many more complexities and factors to consider in the offline world. Significant increase in fixed costs are the main thing that drags down many business owners. Also, commercial real estate requires long-term leases. if you don’t have accurate forecasting of revenues this can cause problems in year two and beyond, explains Evans.
–Let your customers know. Activate the transition and announce the change to your network. SMEs and niche and emerging brands do not operate in a vacuum whether or not they are online or offline, but any meaningful business transition calls for a supportive professional community, advises Evans. The secret to this is hiring professionals to help this re-launch stage and activate it with an event, complete with a call to action so other businesses and customers know what changes and what stays the same.
–Revamp your business plan. What works online wont necessarily work offline. Revisit your business plan and sales, marketing, social media and PR pipeline, even if they are still in the form of post-it notes and a legal pad. Wherever your plans live, it’s a business map of success. Anytime it changes, it’s time to be clear on strategy and revisit your SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) in anticipation of what’s to come, offers Evans.
–Be patient. Your offline success might not be an immediate success. Be clear and committed to goals but manage expectations; Rome was not built in a day. Keeping a balance between what we assume becoming an offline business means, and the real experience may sometimes vary, says Evans.