My friends, we are in unprecedented, confusing, and scary times. Here in the United States, we have many states on lockdown; others which are on a “recommended social distance” situation; millions of workers laid off, furloughed, or working from home; and almost all K-12 and university students learning virtually as we all grapple with the threat of the COVID-19 virus and its devastating impact.
As a business owner myself, I know that there is a weight put upon us. On top of worrying about doing our part to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our community safe, we are also worrying about keeping our businesses afloat and providing for our families.
In light of this situation, I wanted to talk a little bit about how to pivot your business to operate online. Whether you create an entirely virtual business, go mobile, or simply create great content that keeps you on top of your customers’ minds until the quarantine is lifted, there is a great deal that you can do right now to ensure the continued success of your business.
Today, I’m going to hit on ideas related to creating virtual products and on creating compelling content for your business during this crisis.
Virtual and online Products
Write a book
As my good friend Kim McPherson would tell you, “Dammit, Write Your Book!”
Ebooks are insanely popular right now, and Amazon has been beefing up its servers in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis to handle all the extra downloads from its Kindle Store.
Beyond this, there’s no easier and quicker way to build rapport with your target audience, establish yourself as an expert, and make some money while you’re at it. The book itself can be a moneymaker, and it can also drive business for coaching, speaking, and other services.
Don’t be intimidated by this process. I guarantee you already have most of what you need to compile a book. Do you have any blogs, lesson plans, guides, or notes about what it is you do? Yes? Alright, you’re started on your book! Make an outline, compile what you already have written, fill in the gaps, and voila! You have a book that is ready to market and sell.
Create a short workshop or online class
When I say workshop or online class, I’m talking about something that a person could probably go through in 1-4 hours. Usually, these are done in a format that includes video teaching, some worksheets, and a written summary of the video content. There are lots of other guides, checklists, and goodies that may be included as well, but those are the basics.
Depending on the material, your level of expertise, and your audience, I would usually expect these types of classes to be in the range of $20-100. In some cases, you might even offer a class like this for free to build rapport with your potential clients and give them confidence in your expertise.
The great thing about offering online classes is there is almost no limitation to the subject matter, making this an excellent option for almost anyone.
Here are just a few subject ideas off the top of my head: Financial literacy. How to write a book. Basic home or car maintenance. Meal planning. Fitness routines. How to groom your dog. Art lessons. How to write a grant. Endless possibilities.
Create an online course
This is an expanded version of the idea above. However, instead of a short, compact lesson, this would be a complete online course that might take someone weeks or even months to complete. It’s going to include multiple sections, with several lessons within each section. This is a much more expensive product than a class, and these types of courses sell across a range of price points from $200 to $2,500 and even more.
A course is an opportunity to really take your customers on a deep dive into what you are teaching. Again, this is something that can be tailored to almost any subject matter. Teach someone how to successfully start and launch their own business. Write and publish a book. Set up and operate a bed and breakfast. Launch a career as a professional speaker. Become a freelance writer. Learn to crochet. The sky is the limit.
Create an ongoing membership/subscription service
This is another expansion of the two ideas mentioned above, with a little twist. Like the online class or course, a membership can be tailored to almost any niche or type of business. The twist here is that this also works really well for physical products, while the previous two are mostly digitally-based. So, while you can create a crochet pattern-of-the-month or virtual fitness club subscription service, you could also offer a monthly beauty box for your personal care product brand.
The best thing about memberships is they generate recurring revenue every month. Build your membership large enough, and you can have a comfortable monthly income.
Create coaching packages
Coaching services take the previous three ideas and condense them down into a super-premium offering. When you offer online courses and classes, you are offering some of that same expertise, but in a super-personalized one-on-one format that gives your clients direct access to you. This is the most time-intensive product for you, and it should be priced accordingly.
Another option is group coaching, and I love the idea of combining group coaching with a membership and creating a mastermind group. This gives your clients access to you at a somewhat lower price point that is accessible to more people.
Take your existing service and go virtual (or mobile)
This is not going to work for every industry, but I wanted to include it on this list, because it will work for some people. I have a friend who is a mobile notary. Before I met her, I didn’t even know this service existed. But it does, and it’s fantastic.
There are other mobile businesses that have been around a while, but that are in position for huge growth right now. This could be mobile mechanics, dog groomers, and even car detailing services.
If you can’t go mobile, consider if you are a brick and mortar business that could go virtual. Recently, I was chatting with some fellow writers and one mentioned she was sad to miss out on the opportunity to visit the nurseries and plant stories during the springtime. Well, guess what? There are businesses that sell plants online and mail them right to your door! That’s not something I would have thought of being done virtually, but here we are.
In a few months, I anticipate the current COVID-19 crisis will have largely abated and we will have returned to “normal.” However, I also believe we will be living in a time of a new normal with more businesses offering virtual, mobile, and delivery services. If this is a viable route for your business, now is the time to set yourself up for success.
Sell deconstructed products
This is a fun idea that has a lot of potential for artisans and crafty-type businesses. (And maybe others that I’m just not thinking of right now! Drop a comment and let me know if you’ve got more ideas!)
If you sell a handmade product and are able to sell “kits” for people to build their own version of your product, that has huge potential right now. People are at home with time on their hands. They want to learn a new skill, or maybe they just want a fun activity to do with their family.
I’ve seen local bakeries sell cookie decorating kits: pre-baked cookies with little bags of frosting and sprinkles for you to take home and decorate yourself. This is a GREAT product to market to parents trying to keep their kids entertained at home.
Other ideas could be painting kits. If you operate one of those “Painting with a Twist” shops, you can sell the kits that include canvas, paints, brushes, and a link to a video showing how to do the painting. Jewelry kits would work as well. Fiber art. If you have a hands-on product that can be done at a very basic level without tons of specialized equipment, this could be an option.
Sell products related to your services
If you have a business that cannot operate right now and isn’t able to be conducted virtually, find products related to what you do that you can sell online. Hairstylists could sell hair and beauty products. Massage therapists could sell some at-home pampering and spa kits. Tattoo artists and body piercers could sell body jewelry.
Offer online gift card purchases
When you truly cannot offer online, virtual, or mobile services and are stuck waiting for your business to be able to reopen, offer online gift card purchases. This is a great way for loyal customers to continue to support you during this time and generate some revenue for yourself as well.
The ideas I just covered are different ways you can pivot your business to offer virtual products. Now, what you need are some interesting and engaging types of content you can use to keep your business at the forefront of your customers’ minds. Even if you are shut down right now, or limited in the services you can offer, you should definitely continue to post engaging content on your website and social media to keep your business at the top of your customer’s minds so that when restrictions are lifted and they are able, they will be headed to purchase your services.
Take a virtual test drive
This is probably my favorite content idea right now. Initially, I thought of it as a great way for dealerships to show off cars. You can go onto basically any car manufacturer’s website and get a dozen interior photos of the car, as well as a full 360-degree exterior view. But what does it feel like to really drive? Dealerships could do videos of someone actually taking a car out for a test drive and describing their experience, how smooth the ride is, how easy the navigation is to use, etc. Personalize that online car-buying experience!
Here’s the thing: This concept works for almost any physical product—not just cars. Sell hiking gear? Make a video of the gear in use on a trail, and have your “product tester” explain their experience using the product, what they like, etc.
That hiking example is actually more involved than what I initially considered. Let’s dial it back. Do you own a clothing store? Have one of your employees try on different outfits, model them, talk about what they like about the style/fit, and post the video along with the link to your online store. This works with soaps, watches, furniture, anything that people use. Recreate the in-store shopping experience virtually!
Oh, and a side note on furniture. Don’t stop at having someone sit on your couch and talk about how great it would be to sit in 8 hours a day while you binge Tiger King on Netflix. Bring in an interior designer to give tips on pulling together the perfect living room ensemble.
Create DIY tutorials via video or blog
Do you have a business that sells products people can put to use while they’re stuck at home in quarantine? Show them how to use your products! If you own a hardware store, start posting tutorials on building birdhouses, and benches and let people know they can order the supplies online for curbside pickup.
Better yet, post a series of blogs or videos about simple home maintenance projects people can complete. If you’re an interior designer, post ideas about simple ways to spruce up their home and make it more enjoyable. If we’re going to be stuck at home, let’s make it beautiful!
This doesn’t have to end with home maintenance or decorating. This could be making candles or soaps, recipes (if you offer meal planning or weight loss services), or tons of other things.
I just realized that if I was the owner of a restaurant that was shut down temporarily and I had a super famous, super simple dish like, say, cheese dip (I’m in the South and we take queso VERY seriously), you could post a DIY recipe on your social media. I can almost guarantee* people would LOVE that, have a blast trying to recreate it at home, and then commiserate that it’s “just not the same” and proceed to count down the days until you reopen and they can dive headfirst into a gallon-size bowl of queso.
(*I cannot, in fact, guarantee it. But I do think it’s a good idea.)
Day in your life
Use photos or video clips to document a day in your life. If you’re a restaurant owner (I’ve still got cheese dip on my mind…), show the prep work at the beginning of the day, the craziness of prepping hundreds of takeout lunch orders, and the cleanup at the end of the day. If you’re a leatherworker, show your work process and some of the projects you work on throughout the day. If you’re a mobile dog groomer, by all means, PLEASE SHOW PICTURES OF THE DOGS. Ahem. Sorry for yelling. But I think I can speak for us all when I say we all need more dog photos in these dark times.
The thing is, you are a human person running your business. Show that to your customers. Show your humanity and what it looks like on your end of things, running the daily operations of the business. Show the side of your business that people don’t see and/or don’t think about. What do you do on a daily/weekly/regular basis to keep your business going that would surprise people?
Behind the scenes secrets
This is somewhat related to the “day in the life” posts, but a little different. This just gives people a little peek behind the curtains into what it takes to do what you do. I used to work for museums, and one of the things we would do occasionally was to take photos and videos of some of the artifacts that were in storage and not on display. We’d post them online with backstories from the curators, and people loved it.
What is it about your business that the public never gets to see, but it probably immensely curious about? Share it!
“What makes a GREAT_____”
Take this time to educate your customers on your products or services. This could be as simple as a Facebook or Instagram post (or, better yet, series of posts!), or it could be a more involved video or blog series. The idea behind it is to show your customers how to identify excellence in the types of products or services you provide. This is an amazing way to set yourself up as a leader in your niche.
A few examples off the top of my head:
Candles. I love candles, but I don’t know what I should be looking for in a candle. What type of wax is best? Are there certain ingredients I should avoid? How do I tell what type of fragrance is used?
Bicycles. It’s a great time to buy a bike, but what type of bike do I need? Do I need a fancy, expensive bike, or will a less expensive model suit my needs? What type of maintenance is required to maintain a nice bike?
Book Publishers. This concept works for service-based businesses as well. If I’m an aspiring author, how do I determine how to publish my book? How do I separate good publishers from predatory ones? What should I look for in a publishing contract?
Coffee beans. I love coffee. I recently bought a French press, which I also love. But I still haven’t landed on the perfect coffee bean. It’s probably because I actually have no idea what I’m looking for in a coffee bean. If you run a coffee shop, this is a great time to talk about what makes a great cup o’ joe.
Create an online community surrounding your business/niche
If you don’t have an online community built around your business, now is a great time to start one. Facebook has been pushing its groups for a while now, and they are only getting bigger. Operating a Facebook group around your niche, run by you under your brand/business, sets you up to be THE expert on your topic for an entire group of people.
Use the group to offer free insight and information on your industry. Don’t give away your product for free, but be generous with your knowledge. My advice to business owners is to use your free products and groups to show people what to do to achieve success, and then use your paid products to walk them through that process step by step.
Yes, some people will take the free information and implement it on their own, but many more will decide they want to have an expert on their team and will hire you to help them.
Go forth and conquer
Alright, I hope this list has given you some ideas and inspiration to continue creating great value for your clients! Leave a comment to let me know which ideas resonated with you the most, and feel free to share other suggestions as well.
If you’ve gotten some ideas but are feeling a bit overwhelmed thinking about how to implement and execute them—or if you just want to strategize with someone—I’d love to chat with you. Just shoot me a message and let’s talk!