You need to run an online business just like you would any offline venture in order to achieve success and longevity. A Virtual Headquarters is essential for you, your customers, and employees, in order to keep an ecommerce store or online services company running smoothly. This is a step that’s often neglected by online entrepreneurs, but is so important to getting the business running as perfect as possible, while continuously adding legitimacy to your brand.
Virtual Headquarters features such as a virtual address, virtual toll free phone number, virtual customer service staff, and virtual office management software will keep the wheels turning, allowing you to brand and grow your business indefinitely, while minimizing downtime and allowing you to focus on innovation instead of management woes.
Research virtual office providers
While this guide will detail the individual steps necessary to set up a virtual office for your online business, there are many virtual service providers that will offer most, if not all the features you’ll need to set up shop online.
Most providers offer individual features or comprehensive packages that include: virtual business address, virtual receptionists & assistants, mail forwarding, conferencing software, access to physical offices around the world, and more.
Many will also offer other valuable features such as the ability to lease you a toll free number, which can be invaluable for branding a trusted online business. If you go this route, try to look for services that let you try before you buy.
Rent a virtual address
The term “virtual address” can be misleading, since the address you’ll be renting will be an actual physical address, which in most cases you’ll have limited access to if you need a offline workspace or wish to meet with clients in person.
Some providers will simply rent you the address to legitimize your business for posting on business cards, websites, social media channels, and to receive important mail at. Other virtual addresses will include features such as virtual reception (answering phone, call/message/mail forwarding), virtual assistants (of all types), call center services (technical & sales), and access to office, meeting and conference facilities around the globe.
Make sure to do a thorough Google search to identify any issues that might be associated with the addresses offered before attaching your online business to them. Look for dodgy businesses associated with the same building or suite, and give preference to addresses located in reputable neighborhoods.
Get a virtual phone number
If you’ve decided not to go with a virtual service provider to take care of all your online business HQ needs, you’ll want to get your hands on a catchy toll-free number to post in the contact section of your websites, social account profiles, and business stationary.
Online customers are wary of businesses who only offer an email address as a contact method. A business who provides a phone number (and actually answers it!) will have much more success attracting customers.
Be cautious when choosing a toll free number provider, as some will charge by the minute for calls and really sock it to you for long distance calls. Others will sell reasonable packages of a set number of minutes, but hit you hard when overages occur. Overall, look for providers who offer the ability to change your package on the fly — scaling as the business grows.
Hire virtual reception and/or customer service staff
This is another important feature that can be provided by a virtual service company. However, you can also strike out on your own to find a freelance virtual receptionist or assistant to answer your calls, forward your messages, and complete other needed administrative functions.
You might also consider hiring a virtual assistant experienced in areas like web design/maintenance, email filtering, sales/content writing, post scheduling, and other online skills you’ll need to run your business successfully.
Last, you may need to consider a virtual call center team if you sell lots of products or services on your websites. If you expect call volumes to be high, make sure to have more staff than you’ll need until you can figure out average call volumes. Always remember: a missed call is a missed/lost customer!
Find software that allows seamless communication with your staff
Running an online office HQ would be impossible without seamless connectivity to your staff and customers via a computer or mobile device. There are what seems like a million-and-one apps out there that can allow you to run your virtual office from a smartphone.
You’ll want to look for a great CRM to track customer data and allow for timely, yet non-intrusive follow-ups. Collaboration software is a must for keeping up with virtual staff members, business partners, and product/service suppliers.
Other essential software might also include attendance and time management software to keep on top of what your staff is doing. Last, make sure your web host offers bulletproof security and that all your staff have up-to-date security software installed on all the devices they use, to protect company and customer data.
Virtual business is our future!
As a virtual online business owner, you are in fact the future of business. While online business is still on the ground-floor, virtual and augmented reality, in combination with virtual office services and technology will continue to bring more businesses online, eliminating the traditional brick-and-mortar method of shopping and customer service.
It’s my firm belief, along with that of others, that the majority of business will soon one day be run almost entirely online in cyberspace. There’s never been a better time to set up a virtual business, complete with a fully functional virtual headquarters where you run all — or most — aspects of your business.
If you have any questions or comments regarding virtual office technology, feel free to leave a comment down below.