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Adapting Your Small Business to New Realities

By April 6, 2020No Comments

Businesses, schools, non-profits, and families are adjusting to the new the realities of a world with COVID-19. Many businesses have already lost the battle due to restrictions on how they operate while others have been able to pivot and adapt to keep virtual doors open.

Personally, I have worked from home for years, from a backyard office to living overseas. Returning back to the US in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis is giving me the opportunity to share what I’ve learned from my clients over the years with those needing to make more sudden changes to survive with their physical doors closed.

Below is a list of ideas that might help your business or non-profit adapt to the current climate and possibly become more adaptable in an uncertain future.

Deliver Services Online

Many businesses have a professional services model that has traditionally been delivered in person, but that might also be accessible over video conference. Many financial advisors, lawyers, accountants, and even IT professionals have gained trust with their clients through face-to-face interactions, but they might be able to continue delivery of those services online.

Recently, The School of Rock, who delivers music lessons to youth around the country, had to take their traditionally in-person music instruction model online in a matter of weeks in order to avoid losing the majority of their students. They successfully implemented a system that served their franchises around the country in avoiding closing down operations and positioned them for a more flexible and scalable model for the future.

Create Virtual Products

sell online covidMany service and brick-and-mortar businesses have built their model around in-person or physical delivery of products and services. In this new reality, creating a virtual product from a traditional service can sound daunting, but this offers a new opportunity to invite customers to try a new expression of what they have come to trust you for in the past.

Swift HR Solutions in Bellevue shifted in the past few years to a model of online delivery of HR training materials and in the wake of COVID-19, were able to shift their regular in-person workshops to online delivery. Their website was built with a robust e-commerce system which enables continued sales and delivery of these virtual products.

Create Virtual Experiences

Many high-touch businesses might not be blocked to completing transactions, but greatly slowed down in engaging potential customers. Maybe product demonstrations, informational meetings, walk-arounds, test-drives, etc. are no longer accessible to your customers. Consider creating an online experience for those folks which will help them get the information and ‘feel’ of your products when they are stuck at home.

Many Real Estate Agents including Metropolitan Park in Kenmore are offering virtual open houses now to keep the flow of business continue in the midst of this crisis.

Sell Future Products

Despite best efforts, many businesses still can’t get around in-person delivery of services or products. Many of these businesses have had to freeze their operations, lay off workers, and just hit pause until current restrictions are lifted. Some of these businesses are offering gift certificates or purchase toward future services at a discount in order to create cashflow. Local businesses often depend on the patronage of other local business owners, so even a trade for future services can be helpful to the recovery from our current crisis.

Businesses like Harmony Massage in Bothell, offer online purchase of gift certificates which can be used once they are able to open their doors again.

Accept Online Payments

online payments covidThe simplest form of putting any business online is to allow online payments. Having worked overseas, I depend on PayPal to help me obtain payments without dealing with physical mail and check deposits. From online invoicing through services like Quickbooks Online, payments directly on your website, or adding extensions like WooCommerce to an existing WordPress site, taking payments online doesn’t need to be complicated and is likely supported by services you already use.

Wonderland Child & Family Services delivers vital support to children with developmental challenges and has a complex model of fund-raising, fee for services, and government funding. In order to make donations and payments easy, they integrated different systems on their website so the user doesn’t have to know anything other than the web address and their credit card number.

Hold an Online Fundraiser

Many non-profits have the majority of their eggs in one annual fundraiser basket. From big luncheons to golf tournaments, these organizations get much of their funds from donors who are engaged in-person as they tell moving stories of their work. With these events off-limits, some are shifting their annual events to an online-experience.

Seattle non-profit Solid Ground had their annual fundraised cancelled with very short notice and were able to pivot to a week of online experiences to make sure funds to help those experiencing homelessness and other challenges, which will be even more essential in these times, remain accessible to their organization.

Connect Online

At the very least, businesses and non-profits are seeing the opportunity and need to stay connected to their clients through this crisis. With more time available at home, many folks are spending large amounts of time on social media or engaging in online video. Organizations that are well-positioned to create online content have the opportunity to stay in the conversation. From video, to podcasts, to blogs and social media posts, maintaining your ‘tribe’ online through the crisis will help people know how the crisis is impacting their favorite businesses and how they can help.

I don’t need to show you an example of this…just open up your Facebook feed and see how many are trying new models of online engagement and advertising to stay relevant. Do any of these examples give you ideas for your business?

Keep Giving, Keep Hoping

reach out during covid-19Hopefully you have been encouraged through this crisis with a little bit more hope in humanity as we all adapt, care for others in need, and express hope for recovery rather than give in to hopelessness. Yes, the crisis will continue to impact everyone you know, but if your business or non-profit can pivot to continue delivering to your clients, you will contribute to the coming recovery and be a glimmer of hope to others waiting for relief to come.

And if you find yourself in a comfortable situation through this crisis, be sure to reach out to those around you, donate to causes, and give as much as you can to those you find in need.


Photo by Masaaki Komori at Unsplash

Scott Bothel

I'm a digital marketing consultant living and working in the Greater Seattle area. My passion is to help small businesses leverage web marketing to accomplish great things!