How much of your business is currently online?
I think we can all agree that the last few months have been incredibly hard for small businesses. As someone who works with entrepreneurs every day, I’ve seen this firsthand, and I’ve had the great privilege of standing alongside small businesses through this crisis!
So, I wanted to share what I’ve seen over the past few months with my current and new clients. After this experience, I have a ton of tips about how your small business can survive, and even thrive, during a crisis by pivoting to online business models.
Now that we are a few months into COVID, I’m still seeing small business owners fall into three categories: Status Quo, Freezing, and Pivoting.
Status Quo & Freezing
At the beginning of this crisis, some businesses decided to stick with the status quo and go about business as usual. While this strategy might work for some businesses, it could be disastrous for others. I have some clients that already had a strong online component to their business, so sticking to the status quo worked for them over the last few months. But still, they could have been doing a lot more!
Second, I’ve seen a lot of businesses simply freezing, which is understandable. They’re hunkering down because they’re scared. Now listen, hunkering down can feel like the safe choice, but now, we’re moving into summer. It’s time to cut the fat and NOT the muscle of your business. To get through, you must keep your key talent onboard and push your business forward in new ways, even if it seems like the smart thing to do is shutting down 100%.
If either of these options sounds like you, I entirely understand why you’re having trouble getting going right. There is an incredible level of anxiety out there about COVID-19, even with everything slowly reopening. And nothing kills productivity like anxiety.
Are Your Working From Home for the First Time?
Many of you are probably working from home for the first time, which is, in itself, a massive adjustment. Just know that you’re not alone! Did you know that before the virus only 1-2% of people were working remotely? Today, it’s more like 50%, and that number isn’t likely to return to “normal” anytime soon.
That’s an incredible shift in a remarkably short time, and people everywhere are realizing that working from home isn’t like working from an office. Most people assumed it would look like slow mornings and lounging at your computer in your PJs, but quickly discovered that nothing gets done if you do that.
You’ve probably spent years and years building up your business and brand, so you can’t let this virus stop your momentum. It breaks my heart to see people shutting down and going out of business because they put everything on hold.
These businesses — your business — should be pivoting online instead.
The clients who have been thriving in the midst of all this are the ones who went full steam ahead by pivoting more of their business and marketing online. I’ve even had new clients contact me in the few months, looking to build new online streams of revenue, including online courses, webinars, membership sites, and partnerships with other online small businesses.
They’re looking for the silver lining and guess what? They’re finding it!
I’ve also been talking with many small business owners who have physical storefronts and giving them advice about how they can move their business online. Rather than shutting down, they’re using this time to ramp up the online portion of their business, which means digging into webinars, online courses, and membership sites.
For example, I work with a gal who offered in-person cooking classes. We quickly pivoted her business to offering online cooking classes instead. Then, we started shipping the ingredients so people could make everything at home, without the stress of going out in public. Then, once everyone is back at their jobs again, living their lives, they’re going to contact her for an in-person cooking class with their partner for date night!
So, not only will this kind of innovation keep you top of mind, but once life gets back to normal (and it will), people will remember you, and want to try your in-person offerings as well!
What If You Still Struggle to Pivot Your Business Online?
During any crisis, your digital marketing really can’t stop. You’ll still need to touch base with all of your clients, but you can move that to the online arena! Your messaging might need to be tweaked, but that’s okay. It’s what pivoting is all about!
So here are my top tips and thoughts for shifting online:
- Position your pivot to online as a way that you’re adding value to your customers. This doesn’t have to be permanent, but if you can incorporate value into your pivot that you can continue to offer in the future, even better.
- Don’t forget to keep in touch with your entire team and key talent. It’s important to build systems to connect on a regular basis because you don’t want to lose anyone during this period.
- Consider putting non-essential things on hold, especially if your business still isn’t back to where you want it to be. Remember, now is the time to cut the fat, but not the muscle.
- I tell my clients all of the time, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” The next time there’s a crisis like this (and not to be a downer but there will likely be another period of physical distancing at some point in the fall or winter), you and your business will be ready for it.
Online Business are Ahead of Brick and Mortar Right Now
The trick here is that businesses that were already primarily online have a headstart over brick-and-mortar businesses. However, once the crisis is over, the brick-and-mortar businesses that pivoted are going to have two streams of revenue (online and storefront), rather than just one.
- We’ve all heard the phrase, slow and steady wins the race. A slow and steady pivot will keep your business on track without burning you out. You don’t have to build a webinar, online course, and membership site all at once, but you should decide which is going to work best for your business and start there.
- It’s projected that, within 10 years, 73% of teams will have remote staff. The reason for this is outsourcing saves up to 60% in labor costs over an in-house employee. It’s scalable and gives more flexibility. So get ahead of the trend by going online now!
Okay, so you might be wondering: “What do I need to successfully go online?” By the way, I have a great download that walks you through pivoting your business, step by step. Even better, it’s free to download!
The Best Software and Tools
Pivoting online isn’t difficult once you have the right tools in your toolbelt! Chances are you are already doing most of your meetings via Zoom. So, here are a few of my favorite online business software and tools!
- First, there’s a very interesting phone service called RingCentral. It’s around $35 a month, but includes everything a business would need online: video conferencing, texting, calling, texting, messaging. You might want to look into that. It’s the perfect all-in-one solution.
- Other communication services that I use regularly include Zoom for easy video conferencing with clients and my team. Slack or Teamwork works well for team messaging so we can all stay connected.
- You’ll likely want to get a project management system so everyone can stay on task! I recommend Teamwork, Asana, or Trello. If you’re billing clients or paying hourly employees, consider getting a time tracking system like Harvest, My Time, or Toggl.
- Working online likely means saying goodbye to large physical filing systems! You’ll want to get acquainted with file-sharing tools like Google Drive or DropBox. Along with document signing systems like Docusign or Hello Sign. Your life will be so much easier if you create a system for your file sharing with a set folder structure and file-naming convention. Think of the what, why, and who when you are creating a process.
- For scheduling, look into Acuity, Vcita, or Schedule Once. Quick tip for scheduling. Sync your calendar with all your family members. That way, they will know when you are home, on a call, etc., without having to knock on the door to check. This is especially important now that many of us are working at home.
There are A Lot of Great Tools Out There!
- You’ll also want to invest in equipping your home office space to make sure you’re able to do your best work from home, if you haven’t already. A good quality webcam, microphone, or headset for those calls and for webinars will be needed.
- You’ll obviously need a desktop or laptop to work at home, but I really recommend a laptop, as it’s much more versatile. Simply purchase a decent monitor that you can plug into if you need some more screen real estate every now and then.
- You’ll also want a really comfy and supportive office chair. Trust me, sitting in an uncomfortable chair all day is going to hurt.
- Be sure you have solid internet reliability. I would go with hardwired, but still have wireless as an option (again, versatility with your laptop). Another big one for me is having a dual screen setup. It will increase your productivity by 30%.
- Like with any work, documentation and records are important, so be sure to have a CRM to keep all notes updated.
- This is also a great time to update your SOPs, processes, and procedures.
What You Need for Set-Up Success at Home
That was a long list, but it’s so worth it to make sure you have everything you need to be set up for success at home!
Another complaint people have about working from home is not being able to stay on track. So here are some of my top tips and tricks for staying focused!
- The first step is building a routine in your day. This will help you minimize distractions. I try to stick to the same schedule every single day. It might sound boring, but it really helps me get everything done.
- Second, you’ll want to find a place in your home that’s as quiet as possible. You definitely don’t want kids and pets coming in constantly. I know this too well – Noodles my Pug and Olive my French Bulldog like to wander in to snuggle mid-day!
- Last, be sure to pay attention to self-care. This means eating well, working out, taking a shower, taking a lunch break, and having water at your desk.
The final thing I want to focus on is how to run a virtual meeting!
- This should go without saying, but you want to be dressed, and not just from the waist up either! If you shift in your chair, and everyone gets a quick look that you’re not wearing pants, that could be more than a little embarrassing.
- Next, be sure you’re equipped with a great camera and mic, like I said before!
- In order for the meeting to not drag on, be sure to set a clear topic, a start time, and a time frame for your meetings so they (and you) can put it into your schedule.
- You’ll also want to define roles and responsibilities in the meeting to keep everything on track.
- Be sure to follow up with individual team members and make personal connections during the meeting.
- Last, but not least, make the most of the time you have. You can’t just pop into someone’s office anymore.
Before I let you go, let me summarize my main points and highlight some important things for you to remember!
- I think the key to all this is to keep moving forward and think of ways that you can build up the community around your business.
- Keep your content and products positive and fun, focusing on things that people can do together. People are looking for new ways to connect right now. So it’s the perfect time to offer something involving community and social interaction. Maybe by revamping your entire social media marketing strategy?
- If you’re launching something new during this time, keep in mind that it’s ok to charge for your new products and offerings. Lower-priced offerings will do better on a larger scale. That said, many people are selling big ticket offerings for online events, even during COVID-19.
- If you’re looking for new ways to expand the online portion of your business, I think that podcasting is going to be doing very, very well during this period. Online video will be doing fantastic too. Especially content that directly addresses the viewer. It’s the perfect time to connect with your audience, any way you can.
For those who are looking for a little more help working remotely, I would be delighted to put my skills as a virtual assistant at your service! I can help you set up all of the systems and tools we talked about above, and even take some of the more annoying daily tasks off your to-do list. If you’d like to learn more, feel free to contact me for a free consultation! It’s time to coronavirus-proof your business by moving it online!
If you found this article helpful, feel free to tell me why in the comments below, and be sure to share it with your friends!
Links For This Episode:
- Free Downloadable Guide: Pivot Your Business Online in 6 Easy Steps
- RingCentral Phone Service
- Teamwork Project Management
- Harvest Time Management
- vCita Scheduling System
- Copper CRM
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