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.
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:
- 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?
- 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.
- Nutrition Coaching
- Most types of therapy
- 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
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:
- What part of your services could you offer online?
- What are the related skills you could use to create an online offer?
- What existing assets can you turn into an online offer?
- 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!