Author’s Bio: Tom Senkus is a freelance writer that creates content to enable startups to leverage 21st-century technology to gain a competitive advantage. At www.tomsenkuswriter.com, you can find Tom’s list of services and published work.
Now that we’re in the 21st century, your business has to take advantage of the most modern technology to stay competitive. And there’s no better way to do so for new businesses than by creating a “virtual business” in a virtual world, a place where a majority of interaction happens in an abstract environment conducted largely through the Internet and automation. In this article, we’ll take a look at what a virtual business is and the elements that comprise its function.
Understanding What a Virtual Business is
A virtual business is a business that conducts the majority of its operations through the Internet, whether this includes allowing customers to research and purchase products/ services (i.e. Amazon) or as a supplement to an existing business model (i.e. banks).
When starting your virtual business, it is important to understand that there isn’t a consensus regarding how “virtual” your organization should be. For instance, a rideshare service like Uber functions completely differently than an eBook author’s website. However, the emphasis for a virtual business should be geared towards efficiency and reduction of overheads. It’s infinitely cheaper and less time-consuming to maintain a website (including web hosting) than to establish a physical presence (including hiring staff, leasing property, etc.).
Similarly, the tools used to make your new virtual business are always evolving. Let’s take a look at some of the most common tools to start a virtual business.
Elements of a Virtual Location/Office
- Website: A website is a mandatory asset for a virtual business. Your website forms the nexus of how customers and clients interact with your organization, including how they perform transactions, form a relationship with your brand and services, and so forth. Again, as stated previously, your website must match your business model and industry, so it is up to you to determine what features you should emphasize. This includes decisions as to whether you should incorporate e-commerce solutions, SEO tactics in your marketing campaigns, social media to engage with a growing audience, and so forth. For some businesses, a simple WordPress-based website is sufficient for their needs, while larger enterprises need a fully-integrated website that handles nearly every need and demand by its staff and customers.
- Online Collaboration Software: Unless you run your business yourself and handle every task, you’ll eventually need a platform in which to delegate tasks and complete projects with others who are in different locations. This is where online collaboration software fulfills the role of a traditional office environment but in a virtual manner. Furthermore, online collaboration software allows your staff to interact with customers via live chat, messages, and other communication methods. Depending on the type of online collaboration software, circumstances will vary in how projects are managed, therefore it pays to experiment with different platforms. Some of the most popular include Slack, Trello, Teamwork, along with many others.
- Virtual Phone Numbers: Sooner or later, you may be faced with customers and clients that want to speak with a customer service representative or a staff member. While a traditional phone number can fulfill this task for local businesses and low-volume organizations, things become significantly complicated when your virtual business begins to scale. That’s why virtual phone numbers are a popular choice to supplement your virtual office.
When a virtual phone number is dialed, the call is instantly routed through broadband connections and directed to another phone number (known as the “destination phone number”). This means that you can attain a business presence anywhere in the world simply by subscribing with a service provider such as Global Call Forwarding and advertising your virtual business accordingly. For instance, if you purchase a virtual phone number in the United Arab Emirates, you’ve enabled Emirati callers to contact your business without obstruction (financial barriers, like long-distance fees or restrictions from their service provider). This opens up your business to the world virtually, whereas without these numbers your business wouldn’t have the same global reach that the Internet provides.
Best of all, virtual phone numbers come in a variety of types, including toll-free numbers. By using toll-free numbers and international toll-free numbers, your business gains professional credibility that can separate your business from the competition.