If you're reading this blog, chances are you are a small business owner or self-employed professional (at least that's our target audience - others welcome, of course). But are you a local business? What makes you "local"? What makes you "local" to your customers?

It's that last question that raises another question; do you need a bricks and mortar store front to be "local" to your customers?

I have a "local" friend who is a kitchen designer. Business is going well. However, she is struggling with this very issue. A local showroom would be a huge financial committment. But, she feels she needs it for credibility and presence within her community.

Yes, an online presence is infinitely cheaper and offers an infinitely farther reach (although she has no desire to go out of state to design kitchens).

Yes, she can put her portfolio of previous work online in a variety of compelling ways (slideshows on her site, youtube videos, etc.).

No, she's not going to get many customers via "walk-in" in her line of work.

Even so, this is no no-brainer decision.

There are still certain types of businesses that require a physical presence within the community. Again, it's about credibility. Clients plopping down ten, twenty, fifty thousand dollars on a kitchen remodel want to know where to find you and be assured you aren't going anywhere while they are reduced to making meals out their microwave oven in the garage for two months.

Questions 

For local businesses operating without a local store front, what pops up on Google maps when a potential customer comes looking for you?

Do your competitors have store fronts?

Which should you get first; a web site or a bricks and mortar store front?

Depending on your type of business, the answers vary. The questions, however, are universal. It would be folly to not consider them as a part of your business plan in the start-up stage.