Looking to expand your business presence? If so, you’ve probably had faced the conundrum of being in two places at once. The truth of the matter is that you don’t actually have to bend the laws of physics to grow your reach and extend your command over your organization.
Think of many businesses you regularly interact with. For instance, can you say for sure where your call is routed when dialing a bank’s customer service help line? What about calling technical support for your web hosting company? You really have no idea where those calls end up.
Thanks to advances in online technology, automation, and virtual tools, it is possible to have your business operate in two (or more) places at once. In this article, we’ll take a look at a number of different tools to create a larger business presence using a virtual office, which will give you the ability to be in multiple places at once, with full command over the day-to-day aspects of your business.
What is a Virtual Office?
With the advent of digital communications, businesses have leveraged advances in digital communication to replace the traditional office environment. A virtual office is a catch-all term for operating a business over the Internet, including both the everyday operations of staff and handling customers. For instance, instead of handing out assignments to your staff in person, you can assign entire workloads via online collaboration software (see below); similarly, you can handle customer inquiries via instant messaging platforms to guide customers down the sales funnel.
A virtual office can take the form of a “virtual location,” where you can use tools to create a facsimile of a physical presence in a new location. Virtual locations are used by businesses as a way of creating a business presence that doesn’t require a physical location, including leasing a building, hiring staff, and many other tasks. Virtual locations are part of your business’ localization process, where your business blends in with local businesses to serve prospective clients and customers. The more successful and seamless your virtual location is, the more customers will appreciate your efforts and the more likely they’ll trust your organization to meet their needs. Best of all, as your business grows, if the need to establish a physical location in a new market arises, your virtual location will have already done the legwork — all without having to first follow the rules and regulations of a new country before even being allowed to do business overseas.
Tools for Establishing a Virtual Office/ Location
So now that you understand what virtual offices and virtual locations are, you may be wondering what tools you need to establish them. In short, every business model is different and may require different tools, but here’s a list of where to begin:
- Website: Your website serves as the hub of your virtual office/ location. Contact information should be provided, as well as inbound marketing efforts to attract customers and provide value to visitors. For fully-integrated websites, you can include e-commerce solutions and provide communication channels (i.e. live chat, phone, email, comments, forums, etc.) to stay connected with your new audience.
- Online Collaboration Platform: Your virtual office depends on having employees to carry out your tasks, whether this includes domestic staff, contractors, remote workers, clients, consultants, and so forth. Popular online collaboration platforms include Teamwork, Trello, Slack, and many others. Because each platform offers different advantages, experiment with each to see how to best delegate work and enable you to stay in touch with your team.
- Virtual Phone Numbers: Sooner or later, your customers will want to speak directly with your company’s representatives. This is where virtual phone numbers come in. When a customer dials your virtual phone number in their country, the call is instantly routed to a destination phone number of your selection. This means that you can have a virtual location in Dubai that callers can reach by dialing your virtual phone number. This call can then be routed to a call center or reach your service reps to complete their inquiry. Best of all, virtual phone numbers match the area code and country code, aiding the localization process.
Social Media: Social media serves as a public relations channel for your business, to attract customers, and to stay in the public view of your audience. Because each country has its own preferred platform (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), you’ll want to do your research to blend in with how each country prefers to stay in touch.
Tom Senkus is a digital nomad and entrepreneur. His work frequently covers how small businesses and startups can maximize their business presence anywhere in the world. For more information, visit www.tomsenkuswriter.com