Forget bricks and mortar, the companies of the future are virtual, online-only businesses. Virtual offices are increasingly popular, as many freelancers and entrepreneurs choose to set up digital-only businesses to make the most of the UK’s huge online economy which is thought to be one of the most substantial proportionally in the world. One only has to gauge the massive success of ‘online only’ companies like Wonga to see the massive potential in the market. According to one report made back in 2012, the internet contributed 8.3% to the UK’s GDP – a significant percentage compared to all other G20 countries.
With 18% of new entrepreneur’s planning to set up digital-only businesses back in 2013, it’s clear that we’re living and working in an increasingly virtual world – without concrete premises or straightforward human touch. Under these conditions, how can we build business relationships with other virtual enterprises and how to we know who to trust? Read on to find out how to build trusting, beneficial business relationships with online-only businesses (and how to avoid the cheats and fraudsters).
1. Know who you’re dealing with
It’s not easy to trust faceless businesses online, but every reputable business will have registered with Companies House and will have plenty of accessible information available through services who offer free company checks.
With the data available through these sources, you can learn a lot about your prospective clients, customers, employers and partners. From information about their finances, to warnings if they’ve been involved in non-payment or CCJs (County Court Judgements) it’s easy to make informed decisions based on publicly available information, even about virtual businesses.
2. Get friendly via technology
Just because you’re working via the web, doesn’t mean you have to be impersonal. It may be comfortable within your digital sphere but, if you can break out of relying on emails and instigate direct communication via video calling apps like Skype, you can build far more personal relationships with business contacts.
There are tonnes of applications and mediums you can use to stay friendly and well-connected with virtual clients and business contacts. Google Hangouts as the best collaborative system that allows you to all work together and stay on the same page. It’s far easier to build trust when you use technology to enable direct communication.
3. Become part of a network
Many virtual business’s reputations are centred on their social media presence. Whether they’re on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or online forums, making sure you are connected to their virtual business world will help to give you a strong sense of who you’re dealing with. It also makes it much more likely that your contacts will treat you well – no digital business likes bad social media publicity after all – their reputation can be made or broken online.
4. Listen to recommendations
It may sound a little old-fashioned but there’s no beating a good old word-of-mouth recommendation for hooking you up with dependable, trustworthy business contacts, providers and clients. Ask your friends and colleagues to recommend trusted people and you can enjoy a much higher degree of trust in your new virtual business contact.
Do you struggle to build trust with virtual business contacts? Have you been let down by a digital client or provider you’d never met? Share your stories and advice with our readers below.