It’s believed that virtual businesses will one day be the norm, whereas traditional brick-and-mortar enterprises will eventually fade in popularity. There are a lot of factors at play with this digital shift, but it mostly comes down to the desire of entrepreneurs wanting to take their business global — without the financial and time-management constraints of managing a fixed physical headquarters and/or storefront.
Virtual storefronts, in particular, are fast becoming the norm. More and more people prefer to do their shopping online, and have their favorite products delivered directly to their home. From a service perspective, very few companies require a fixed location to meet with their clients. All this and more make virtual business a good model for entrepreneurs seeking their own slice of the massive $90-million cash reserves.
If a virtual company is in your future, follow these 5 tips to make your business reach its potential.
1. Set yourself up with the right virtual office services
For the majority of virtual businesses, virtual offices will be necessary to give the company a headquarters to register with your government for tax purposes. A virtual HQ is also important for branding and making the business legitimate in the eyes of customers. Remember that customers can easily Google your brand, and you don’t want them to assume you run your company from your “parent’s basement.”
Other essential virtual services you’ll likely need will include:
- Virtual toll-free phone number: Virtual toll-free phone numbers are much less expensive than those offered by local phone companies, and you’ll get a lot more leads when customers don’t have to incur long-distance or international calling fees to contact you.
- Virtual reception or call center services: Including call forwarding, message taking, technical and sales support.
- Virtual assistants: Virtual assistants help to grow your business and get day-to-day projects and general tasks completed, and most all skill sets — professional or general — can be sourced via a virtual assistant.
- Virtual chatbots: Chatbots allow you to stay in touch with prospects and customers 24 hours a day.
The services above can be sourced individually or through a virtual office/services provider.
2. Start a blog before launch
With so much of the world going the vlogging and podcasting route, the choice whether to start a blog or not is a tough one for new business owners. The fact is that just on WordPress.com alone, 22.9 billion blog pages are read by over 400 million people around the world every month.
A blog allows you to build transparency, showcase your brand authority, allows you to share and promote your social presence, and provides a landing page for your products and services. Modern customers want to buy from brands they relate to, and can build a relationship with. The conversation a blog can create is the perfect way to sway a doubtful prospect into another sale.
3. Start and maintain a viable social presence immediately
“Viable” means a presence you can execute on regularly, and also one that makes sense for the virtual brand you intend to build. YouTube has 1.5 billion monthly users, and those users watch an average hour every day watching videos. Short and snappy, or long and informative videos should both be a consideration, and don’t forget to be consistent in order to get your videos ranked.
LinkedIn is great for finding partnerships and virtual staff.A Facebook Fanpage is universally considered a must for any business. With Instagram Stories and its fast climb up the social ladder, there’s no reason to leave this platform off your list of essential social platforms.
Most marketers still don’t have a clue how to implement Twitter into their marketing plan, but you can still at least share your YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram posts on the platform in 280 characters or less. Don’t forget to engage with customers who leave comments and send you DMs!
4. Be available 24/7
A smartly-run virtual business will avail itself to customers 24/7. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever sleep. It simply means that you need to have people and/or artificial intelligence technology in place to make sure customer requests are addressed instantly. Virtual reception and chatbots have already been mentioned.
It’s also important to have auto-responders in place to set reasonable expectations when customers contact you via social DMs, email, and contact forms on your website. A simple message such as “We’ll be in touch shortly” or “Support requests are usually handled within (insert expected turnaround) hours” will keep customers from taking their business elsewhere.
5. Keep up with current business software
There’s so many changes happening in the business software space every year. Dreams are becoming reality faster than they ever have in the past. Many platforms like Google G Suite are fast emerging as essential. This cloud-suite of tools and services takes care of email, IT, collaboration, document-sharing, and device management, while working flawlessly with other business software you’ll need now or down the line.
Software such as QuickBooks for accounting and billing, SalesForce for CRM, InfusionSoft for managing your marketing campaigns, and more. What software benefits your virtual business most will depend on your industry and business model. In fact, there are a long list of providers out there that offer all the apps you’ll ever need to run your business on a single platform, such Zoho One, Office 365 or, the one mentioned above, G Suite.
Put in the work and your virtual business success is assured!
All the tips in the world won’t help you become a success if you don’t have patience and persistence. The most critical part to making a virtual business, or any business in general a success is YOU!
Before launching your business, do a serious gut check — ask yourself if you’re willing to do all it takes — put in the work and make the sacrifices needed to make your business grow and thrive.
Are you ready to do whatever it takes?