COVID-19 has rapidly changed the world we lived in, and the impacts of ‘social distancing’ could last for months or years to come. This shift has dramatically and forcefully shifted the way many businesses operate.
Offline or brick-and-mortar businesses need to adapt rapidly and creatively in order to survive. As the founder of a digital company, I’d like to share some of the strategies we use which you can implement to help your business survive in the COVID-19 era.
Step 1 - Focus on value, not mechanics
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in; the old way of doing business simply doesn’t work right now.
It’s time to sit down and take a hard look at every aspect of your company. Consider the why and how, not just the what, of your products or services. You need to separate the mechanics of what you provide, for example “we sell pillows”, with the value your customers receive (in this case, perhaps, it’s “a good night sleep”).
If you take pride in providing personalized service, realize that your value is tied to how your clients maximize their happiness or productivity because you understand their individual needs. Rethink how you’re communicating your value and the channels you’re using to drive sales.
If you normally rely on postcard mailings to drive new leads, you may find your prospects drying up as businesses around the country temporarily shutter in-person operations. Understand that it was not the act of receiving a postcard that drove your sales in the first place. It was increased awareness.
You can replicate this in today’s digital, stay-at-home world.
Step 2 - Research how to achieve those benefits online
Here is a secret for 2020: there exists a low-cost or free solution for pretty much every common business function. Postcards could be replaced with email, text messages and push notifications. Personalized services can be achieved by having your clients fill out simple online forms such as Google Forms, or connecting via Facetime or Zoom. The abundance of free and low-cost options means you can implement digital solutions quickly without burning through your cash reserves.
Understand that simply doing a digital version of your old process may not be the answer, however. Start by doing some research: a simple Google search is a good place to find some common ways other people have solved your problem before.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for on Google, or if you found some great ideas but aren’t sure how to get started with implementation, then it may make sense to reach out to a digital agency or software development firm such as the one that I run, Shrine Development. The right professional agency will understand your needs and work with you to come up with a comprehensive digital strategy (the wrong ones try to push you into buying Apps or running Ads campaigns from the start).
There are three ways to approach this, and I suggest starting with step one and progressing from there until your needs are fully met.
1. Look for an existing solution that can be leveraged directly.
2. If one solution doesn’t fully meet your needs, consider combining two or more products that can share data or communicate with one another to meet your needs.
3. If that isn’t possible, or you need something more robust, look into building out a custom App or software solution.
Step 3 - Align and scale
Once you’ve aligned your business strategy with a digital solution, it’s time to test it out. This is the only way to know for sure whether it works for your business.
The key is to implement the solution at an MVP (minimum viable product) level so that you can experience its value without spending lots of time and money deploying a product that doesn’t work for you.
At the same time, it’s important that you commit to the solution and avoid putting the burden on your customers to figure it out. Establish a clear intention for the solution and put in the effort to make it an integral part of your company’s infrastructure. Ideally, your new solution will work well enough to pay for itself, and from there you can reinvest the additional revenue into your digital solution and scale it.
Being forced to drastically pivot a business is a task no leader wants. However, there will be a world and an economy after COVID-19. It’s easy to get sucked into the constant, negative 24-hour news cycle and believe otherwise. Don’t fall for that. Keep moving forward.
At the end of the day, if the world is ending at least you won’t have spent your last days hanging around being depressed. And if the world does continue (which I firmly believe it will), then you will have a two-to-three month head start.
I’d love to help your business adapt to this rapidly changing environment. If Shrine can support your efforts in going digital, or if you just want to chat with me about your questions and ideas, please reach out to me at doug_at_shrinedev.com and I will respond within one business day at no cost.
Stay safe, and be successful.