You know how we give directions in small towns, right? We point you to houses by who used to live there, “the Allen place,” or direct you to turn where things used to be, “where that old barn burned down.” We do this in town and out in the country. This drives newcomers and visitors bananas. A new online tool has a potential solution, and it might include the word “bananas.”
We give directions like this because we sorta think everyone knows where everything is (and used to be.) Maybe the addresses aren’t very logical or helpful, or maybe you don’t even have addresses.
This turns into a serious issue when you’re trying to get packages delivered, trying to help customers find you, or trying to put together a driving tour for tourists. These are all important to rural businesses.
GPS Almost Works
We’ve been trying to solve all this with GPS coordinates, but those are not exactly people-friendly. Ever try to tell someone a string of GPS numbers for an exact location, while fighting poor reception on your phone? Or enter a location’s pair of 8 digit numbers into your car’s built-in navigation? This is no fun.
3 Word Addresses
Enter the 3 word address. A company called What 3 Words has assigned a precise name to every location on earth, within a few feet or meters.
They divided the globe into a series of 3m x 3m (or 3 yards x 3 yards) squares and assigned a unique set of 3 words to each grid.
“Now everyone and everywhere has a reliable address,” they promise.
Go to What3Words.com and put in your address. They’ll give you a 3 word combination. Want to send people to the back gate? Point to it on the map, and you’ll get a different set of 3 words.
- Here’s the 3 word address for our liquor store’s back door for deliveries (living.race.kook)
- Here’s the location of one of the hard-to-find murals in Alva, at the BNSF maintenance shed (contribution.makeup.blogs)
Are you starting to think of some uses? Car companies are already building this into their navigation systems. Delivery companies are using it. Emergency services are using it.
A 3 word address could solve these common rural addressing challenges:
- Your street address may not reflect where your house is
- Your postal address may not reflect what town you’re actually in or nearest to
- Your address might show up in online maps in the wrong location (Here’s what to do if Google Maps has your business in the wrong place on their map)
- Your address might not show up in the databases that power online maps for delivery services (mine doesn’t)
- The street address may get people to your front gate, but not all the way up the road to your place
- You might need to send people to a specific part of your property, like a back entrance or a loading dock
- City people may be more likely to use apps like Waze that may not have full info on your small town (Here’s how to update your town’s map in Waze)
- Your local officials may have updated all the addresses, but online sources are lagging behind
- Interesting features along a trail may not have addresses
- You might need emergency medical help on a remote part of your property, and cell signal location may not help because you may have to send someone to where they can get signal before they can call for help
- In a natural disaster, street signs and landmarks may be gone
How could you use 3 word addresses to simplify your town for people?
- About the Author
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.