How to Adapt Your Business in Times of Social Distancing

There’s no way around it… Because of COVID-19, things are changing and businesses will have to adjust in order to survive the upcoming times.

The past couple of days, I’ve been having a ton of chats with friends and family and once the basics about food, medication and shelter are covered, the conversation shifts really quickly to business.

What’s going to happen? How to deal with a decline in revenue? Which businesses will thrive in this crisis? 

In this article, I’ll share my perspective on what I think small business owners, like you, can do to get through these difficult times.

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Full disclosure, I have no crystal ball and I’m not a fortune teller. I have no special ability to predict the future, but I’ve been giving the topic a fair amount of thought and hopefully this can help you rethink the way you do business to continue serving your clients now and for months to come.

Reaction Vs. Adaptation

I’m sure your inbox looks very similar to mine… A bunch of companies have started sending out emails about COVID-19 and what they are doing to handle the situation.

  • Easyjet, a British airline group, is waiving all fees on flight modifications.
  • Loom, a screen recording company is lifting the limit of videos you can record with their free plan.
  • Downdog, a yoga app, is offering free lessons until the 1st of April.
  • FitnessHut, a Portuguese gym, is closing and suspending all payments for current customers.
  • ...

This shows that businesses are reacting to the change in environment. And while this is smart and a good way to limit loss in revenue short term, create goodwill or even get publicity. This might not be enough… 

There are two important considerations around this:

  1. Businesses can only be in “exception mode” for so long before being in trouble. Eg. The gym can suspend payments for 2 weeks, but how long before they would have to start laying off personnel and closing down facilities?
  2. While social distancing and quarantine is the visible result of the virus, it’s hard to predict what the full impact of this crisis will be. Will people rethink their travel habits for the years to come? How will this impact consumption? 

That’s why I believe business owners have to do more than just react… they have to adapt.

  • The Metropolitan Opera is not simply suspending their shows, they are offering nightly opera streaming
  • The Douro Boys who usually organize seminars and in person wine tastings in their estates, are offering live online wine tasting to their clients.

They are not just responding, they are adapting and pro-actively changing their offering to fit the upcoming market changes.

So now the question becomes, how can you adapt your business so that you have a fair chance of getting through not just the upcoming weeks, but the months to come?

The Easy Business Modifications You Can Make Today to Continue Working (and Getting Paid)

Let’s start with the easy category… The types of services that don’t require any in person meetings. 

  • Marketing Consultant
  • Growth Strategist
  • SEO agency
  • Paid Advertising Consultant
  • Graphic Designer
  • Most types of coaching
  • Most types of consulting

You might have gone to your clients office to report on progress or discuss strategy, but these are meetings that can very easily be moved online.

And with a little bit of goodwill from your clients (which you will probably get now), services where traditionally people would expect an in-person meeting because of the personal nature of the service but that don’t actually require any physical contact, can also be moved online.

For example:

  • Nutrition Coaching
  • Most types of therapy 
  • Lawyers
  • Bookkeeping & Accountancy services
  • (Interior) Architect
  • Math or Language Tutor

For any of these professions, it’s fairly easy to find online services already. Today, you can start leveraging the same technology these companies are using to run your business remotely.

Virtual 1-on-1 Client Meetings

Skype or Zoom are both good options for 1-on-1 client meetings. Make sure you use a good headset to get the best sound quality.

Virtual Group Client Meetings 

Zoom allows for meetings with up to a 100 participants for a low monthly fee (less than $15).

This way you can simply invite all the clients through a Zoom link and do a voice only or a video call.

Skype also has a meeting feature that allows to invite people through a Skype link, unfortunately it was unclear how many people you could actually have on the call. 

By now you might be thinking, that’s all good and well for those people who can work remotely but I’m a [insert your profession here], I can’t do that…

Well, it might take some creative thinking, but let’s give it a shot shall we? 

Let’s Get Creative: Online Solutions for Offline Businesses

In order to adapt to the changing landscape you’ll need to get creative and take a good look at your business. 

To find a way to add an online component to a traditionally offline business, we’ll explore the following questions:

  1. What part of your services could you offer online?
  2. What are the related skills you could use to create an online offer?
  3. What existing assets can you turn into an online offer?
  4. Would your audience be interested in learning from you?

Let’s have a look at examples of businesses that are already leveraging an online offer in their business model.

1. What part of your service could you offer online?

You might not be able to offer the exact same service as you do in person, online, but that doesn’t mean that none of it could be online…

Example 1: A Veterinarian (or a Dentist)

When you think of a veterinarian, I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind is NOT an online offer. You think about your sick dog that needs help and needs to be examined. While that is true in most cases, there is also an opportunity to offer an online veterinarian service.

Don’t believe me? Check out Petcoach.co, a company that offers pet owners to ask questions to a vet and to do an “in-depth online consulting” (including showing your pet through video) or JustAnswer that offers a similar service for dentists.

Example 2: A Fitness Coach

An offline offer for a fitness coach requires them to meet up with their clients in the local gym. But I’m sure their clients will want to keep working out even from home.

The Fitness coach can send them an adapted “workout from home” program to make sure they stay in shape and offer video coaching (live or through recorded videos) to follow-up with their clients.

Example 3: A Dance Teacher

When we think about dance classes, we think about going to the studio every Tuesday and Thursday evening… Why not switch those in person classes to online classes? You could use a streaming service such as Zoom that allows for up to 100 people to connect to the “studio” and continue offering the usual classes. Take a look at what Neou is doing with their live stream and on-demand classes.

2. What are related skills you could use to create an online offer?

For some businesses and services, none of the normal offer can be translated into an online proposal. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use your current skills to offer related services.

For this, think about everything you do in order to deliver your service to your customer today. Is there anything in the process you could offer as a stand-alone service?

Example 1: A Wedding Photographer

Now, times are grim for any group activity and unfortunately that includes celebrations such as weddings. 

And let’s be honest, there is no real online alternative for wedding photos…

But that doesn’t mean you can’t use part of your skills to create an online offer. Think about photo editing, creating and selling Photoshop actions, … 

Example 2: The Wine Shop Owner

With people not coming out of their houses to hang out in a wine cellar and buy bottles, the wine shop owner needs a different way to earn money.

He could create a “Home Wine Tasting” offer, email his best clients and offer to send them 6 bottles of wine. Then he can do a live stream tasting of the different bottles as he would do when people come to his shop. This is exactly what the Douro Boys are already putting in place.

3. What existing assets can you turn into an online offer?

Some services accumulate a lot of “collateral” while working and when super busy with clients there’s no time to do anything with those assets. Now is the time to dust off those relics.

Example 1: The Child Care Worker

Child care workers are used to occupying kids all day every day. This means they probably have a ton of games and activities stored in their head or in some kind of “internal” handbook.

Would you think this information is helpful for all the mums who now have to take care of their kids who can’t go to school? Of course it is!  They could package this up as a daily email, an ebook or even a consulting call with the mums. 

Example 2: The Travel Photographer

While they can’t travel for the time being, it’s time to have a look at all those pictures they took that weren’t selected and ended up collecting virtual dust on the hard drive.

They can use these “old” photos to create collections and offer stock photo bundles. 

Example 3: The Yoga Teacher

Does the teacher start and or end the classes with a meditation exercise? They could record it as an audio file and offer it to their clients!

4. Would your audience be interested in learning from you?

Have you been thinking about creating that online course? Now might be the right time to do it! Lots of people are looking to learn how to level up their skills.

If you can teach others something that’s valuable, today might be the day to do so.

Example 1: The Leadership Coach

Have they helped leaders manage a crisis? Now is the time to package that knowledge in an online course and help many more business owners!

Example 2: The Martial Arts Studio Owner

Your clients know and trust their teacher and they want to keep advancing in their practice. Now that the studio is empty, it’s the perfect time to record that online course!

Is it Time to Learn a New Skill?

I believe most of you reading the Thrive Themes blog are already working online in some capacity, but some of your friends or family members might not be. 

Today, they might be temporarily out of a job... Now is the perfect time for them to learn a new skill! 

The truth is that it will be a hard time for many people and adaptation is the best way to navigate these uncertain times.

This might mean learning a completely new skill that fits the new economy.

Luckily the internet is without a doubt the best place to learn just about anything and a simple Google search will guide you in the right direction.

How Will You Adapt?

Looking at the examples above, you might notice an interesting thing… None of these offers have to disappear when social distancing gets lifted… These can become an additional revenue stream for your business.

The wine shop owner can continue with his home wine tasting webinars, the yoga teacher could decide to have some classes as streaming for people who live far away from the studio, the photographer could continue selling stock photo bundles, etc.

And that’s why I believe adapting is the right answer rather than simply reacting to the crisis. 

I would love to hear from you. What are you doing to adapt? Have you already put in place any of the things I mentioned before? Let me know in the comments below!

Author: Hanne Vervaeck

Hanne knows exactly what companies have ever retargeted her (she keeps an updated file). And when she's not busy discussing high-level funnel design over cocktails with the equally geeky, you'll find her discovering a place for the first time

  • joel says:

    Thank you Hanne! Just the right timing, as things are starting to shut down here in Canada.

  • Simon B says:

    Care homes are in lockdown at the moment with no visiting allow. So we’ve advised our care home clients to use Zoom and Skype to enable friends and family to do ‘virtual visits’ instead.

    This is also an opportunity for us to show leadership in our field so we recorded a video of the top 5 things our clients and prospects should be doing to handle the crisis from a PR point of view. We also show them how to use this to their advantage and come out of the crisis stronger than their competition at the end of the crisis.

    Here’s the video if anyone wants to get some ideas on how to do this for themselves in their own industry:
    https://care-home-marketing-expert.dubb.com/v/EeOxLx

    • Hanne says:

      That’s a great initiative Simon!

  • m says:

    Thanks for the input! I will definitely use my time to develop or re-edit some of my timelapse videos I shot the last months.

    Greetings from Vienna,
    Matthias
    #Timelapser

    • Hanne says:

      Could luck with that Matthias!

  • I love it.. especially the streaming wine tasting idea!

    Brilliant. :)

    This is a great article as it gets our brains working on how to be helpful and ride out this crisis in style.

    xo, Darlene

  • Philipp says:

    Hello Hanne, thank you for your Article!

    As a fitness coach I’m currently thinking about replacing my offline courses through online videos and found that nice integration with Thrive Apprentice and SendOwl.

    However, what my clients usually do is, they come to my course and pay there. So I was thinking about how to simulate this online…because I won’t want my video to be available forever for a specific client, but only for a short period e.g. 24 hours… I don’t know if this is possible in Thrive Apprentice.

    Do you maybe have an advice for me?

    Thanks,
    Philipp

    • Hanne says:

      Hi Philipp,

      I guess you could just unpublish the video but frankly, I wouldn’t worry about that right now.

      Get the video out there, start charging, tell them the video will be available for X time and then you can unpublish the video.

  • Pierre says:

    Thank you so much Hanne for this precious advice!
    I’m blogging in the travel industry and followed Example 2: The Travel Photographer before even reading your article.
    Yesterday I published a blog post about “50 photos of rural France to cheer you up” and sent the link to my database.
    I received a massive response with comments and emails. And so far a great opening rate of 40%. Although it acknowledged the pandemic, my message gave people a great opportunity to escape from the intensive media coverage and dream for a moment…
    So yes it does work to adapt!
    Cheers from England!

    • Hanne says:

      Hi Pierre,

      Keep it up! People will need so distraction now more than ever.

  • Kris says:

    Great article! Wish we had one of those type businesses! We are in the garage door business and if someone hits there door or it goes off track there is nothing online that will help them.

    • Hanne says:

      Hi Kris, I’m sorry to hear. I hope the article gave you some ideas of other things you might try.

  • Tim says:

    A GREATE article Hanne!!. Your work, your teaching are always GREAT, thanks for sharing..

  • Francisco says:

    Thank you Hanne. Good information!

    • Hanne says:

      Happy you like it Fransisco

  • Michael says:

    Thanks Hanne for encouragement, we own a bakery and just can sell without our doors open or without customers even traveling to our island. If this stops completely we will have to make some changes. I just started relearning photography, which I stopped doing since we opened our bakery 10 years ago. But I’ve been photographing and video tapping our processes. With the intention to push social harder. So if it all stops this is what I will do. Set up Youtube channel, video instruct people how to bake. Review our equipment and get going on something new. Buy time this passes should be up and running with new ideas, just have to make it through this tough period.

    • Hanne says:

      Hi Michael,

      That’s tough for sure! Maybe you can set up a bread delivery service?
      I like your thinking with the videos.

  • Marita Matzk says:

    Hey Hanne, I am finally setting up an online Membership Site for my Yoga clients – which I wanted to do for a while. Now is the perfect moment as the yoga studio clients are following me there, so I don´t lose their monthly payments. Because I stopped to teach in the Studio (fitness studios get an order to shut down in Germany), I have enough time to film everything and set it up, so I can build up a scalable part of my business on that. I actually see it as a chance and my clients are happy that they don´t need to skip their yoga input during the Corona-shutdown period.

    • Hanne says:

      That’s great to hear Marita! Good luck with it.

  • Sean M says:

    This is awesome advice thanks Hanne. I have a few offline brick and mortar clients who will likely be shutting their doors indefinitely this week. This is a perfect opportunity to brainstorm some new ways to splinter some of their offers online. Thanks for the inspirational post in a truly unprecedented time.

  • Naomi says:

    Brilliantly put together piece Hanne. As a marketer these will be really helpful to others. We need to see this time as a time for opportunity.

    For everyone – keep positive and focus on moving onwards and upwards.

  • Stephen W says:

    Love the positive entrepreneurial attitude. :-)

    • Hanne says:

      Thanks Stephen… If live gives you lemons…

  • Great article Hanne, I shared the link to a membership group of 500+ freelancers and entrepreneurs. Stay safe over there!

    • Hanne says:

      Thanks Jennifer. I hope they’ll find it valuable too.

  • Cata Rojas says:

    Hi!, Thanks for this article it is perfect for this “chaotic” business moment.
    I have a travel blog, and I have been postponing my travel writing masterclasses, but how you say, it is the right time to do it.

  • Natalie S says:

    Awesome suggestions and blog post Hanne. Thank you for putting this out there and beating me to it. You’ve inspired me to add more into mine. Adapting and resilience are two values that will serve us well

    • Hanne says:

      Glad to hear this inspired you and that you’re communicating with your community too!

  • Koen says:

    Hi Hanne,

    It’s been awhile since your articles graced my inbox. Glad you’re still around.
    I am a funnel builder and Facebook marketer for gyms, so this offers my clients the chance to offer online courses and live online coaching. Something I’ve been preaching to them prior to diversify, those that weren’t convinced then, well they are now!

    • Hanne says:

      Hi Koen,

      Yes still here ;-) Good to hear you were already offering this.

  • Thomas says:

    Great thoughts for a special time, Hanne – I also believe that active and creative action, the courage to explore new paths, is the best strategy to not sink into paralysis. So let’s make the best out of the situation and maybe show others that there are other options to deal with the situation and possibly come out of it stronger.

  • Caroline says:

    Thanks Hanne. I’m a yoga teacher and taking my classes online via Zoom. What do you recommend doing with the recordings? How is it best to host them as a ‘library’ of resources? I have a WordPress website.

    • Hanne says:

      Hi Caroline,
      If you’re a member, you can use Thrive Apprentice to create a course with the recordings.
      If not you can simply create pages for each video and one landing page with links to the different videos. You could password protect that page and give it to your customers.

  • great suggestions, thanks.

  • Gregory Kuper says:

    What about a restaurant owner. I have a friend who is pretty down because restrictions have pretty much shut him down. Any suggestions?

    • Hanne says:

      Hi Gregory, can they still do deliveries? Also for the businesses that are most touched, the gouvernement is offering help (depending on your country of course).

  • Karen McCamy says:

    Hi Hanne,

    Great to hear from you…and great to see an example of some really creative thinking! We all need this type of positive, action-oriented information at this time! <3

    One thing I’ve been struggling with is the sudden enforced “isolation” — being a solopreneur whose ‘office’ is my local Starbucks! ;-) LoL! (Here in SoCal they are still open but just for pickup orders).

    What I think is missing is discussion about the psychological effects of this on the business community, especially for anyone in the ‘people business’ (and of we’re solopreneurs, we’re ALL in the people business to one degree or another!)

    One of my friends — whom I ‘met’ via the “Thrive Themes / Active Growth” communities :D — did a Zoom call today for her “tribe” just to help us all feel connected! It was completely free (on her paid Zoom account) just to help us all have a sense of community! Any topic was fine, and it wasn’t about ‘business’ unless someone wanted to go there… It was more of a friendly Community chat! :-)

    Kudos to her for offering this… She’s planning another one **for a different time zone** because she has quite a following in Europe (she’s in Western Canada)…

    I mention this because I think we all need to develop “new” ways of socially connecting (for however long this current situation lasts), and I think even non-work connection is so valuable in these trying times!

    (And, traditional social media is full of negativity and paranoia… Not what any of us need right now…IMO!)

    Thank you again for everything you and the entire Thrive Team does for us!

    Be well!

    • Hanne says:

      100% agreed. Luckily video calls are available to everyone. With a small group of people who now work remote from home instead of co-working spaces, we do a daily check-in in the morning.

  • Thank you Hanne for this blog. I will definitely share this to my clients. This too shall pass.

  • Craig says:

    Thank you for this information. Very helpful. I have been transitioning my insurance practice to a virtual platform. Honestly it is difficult and has been a long transition. That being said I am 100% up and running and perfectly positioned to help others especially during this global crisis. I have also enrolled in course craft and will be launching a course on how to create a virtual business with in the next week called: “Eazy VB – The Eazy Way to Create a Virtual Business”. Thanks again to ThriveThemes for all you offer! Really appreciate your continued efforts.

  • sonya says:

    Excellent article Hanne. Thank you so much!

  • Skype and Zoom for face to face counseling that has been paused.

    • Hanne says:

      Nice! Sounds like a good solution.

  • Paul says:

    Well done Hanne !! You really put your best into all your work and it shows. Thank you.

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