How to Pivot and Take Your Offline Small Business Online During COVID-19 Crisis

There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 crisis has been devastating for many businesses.

Sadly, this will be the end of the line for many companies — but for others, this is an opportunity.

Among the challenges and the turmoil, some companies are choosing to adapt. And, just like in the natural world, it’s those businesses that can best evolve in their circumstances will survive and thrive.

If your business has traditionally been an offline and/or bricks-and-mortar operation, this advice is doubly important.

But how do you go online and keep your business alive — without spending a fortune?

It might just be time to pivot.

What is a pivot? (And how can it save a business?)

In a nutshell, a pivot occurs when a business decides to make fundamental changes to its business model or product offering.

Pivots are most common with start-ups who are actively trying to find product-market fit, but — as in the case of the COVID-19 crisis — businesses can also pivot when unforeseen market shifts occur.

The reason a pivot can save a business is simple: it creates an opportunity to successfully market a product or service, within a new or changed reality. 

Some companies may actually choose not to pivot, even in extreme circumstances, but this is often the sunk cost fallacy in action. In reality, a pivot is often more cost-effective in the long run, especially when the alternative is total collapse.

Examples of successful business pivots

The need to pivot in the face of adversity is nothing new.

When a company’s leadership has enough foresight (and, let’s face it, sheer will) to see the writing on the wall, it can be transformative. Disruptive, and sometimes painful, yes. But transformative nonetheless.

Need some evidence? Here are a couple of examples from (now) world-renowned companies:

  • The photo-sharing website Flickr began its life in 2004 as a massively multiplayer roleplaying game called Game Neverending. During development, it became clear that the tools used to build the game, specifically the image hosting aspect, were a much more lucrative opportunity. The company pivoted and Flickr was born.

  • The social media giant Instagram now enjoys over a billion monthly active users, but did you know that it started as an app called “Burbn”? It was planned as a mobile check-in app, similar to the now sort-of-forgotten FourSquare, but the founders noticed that users were almost exclusively using the photo-sharing feature. Following the evidence, the team pivoted and Instagram was upon us.

More recent examples of companies pivoting in the face of COVID-19, even just temporarily, include breweries now producing hand-sanitizer, various clothing companies producing protective clothing for hospital staff, and yoga teachers taking to Zoom to lead home-based classes.

How to identify a pivot for your business — 3 top tips

Now that you’re up to date on exactly what a pivot is, how do you go about choosing one for your business?

In truth, you and your team are the best people to choose the perfect pivot for your business, but there are some fundamentals that can help you in the process:

1. Study consumer changes (and address them)

One of the most powerful tools you can leverage when pivoting is to analyze consumer behavior.

As the COVID-19 crisis has deepened, there have been several key shifts in how (and where) consumers are spending their money. By studying your target market and understanding how their behavior is changing, you can match up your company’s resources with those behaviors and see where they intersect.

For example, we know that most commerce has moved online, so if you’ve only ever been a bricks-and-mortar store, you should already be working on an online version. 

If you’re already running a hybrid offline/online business, maybe you need to reprioritize the key features and benefits you provide. Don’t be afraid to reach out to customers and clients to ask what they need — that way you’re one step closer to providing it for them.  

2. Strip down your core service to the bare essentials

One of the reasons companies pivot is that they’ve drifted too far from their core product or service. A pivot can help you reset and refocus.

Taking this crisis as an opportunity, you may want to revisit your core offering and decide:

  • whether you want to keep offering all of them, and
  • whether they’re suitable for a more digital audience and e-commerce model.

By stripping your business down to its most profitable aspects, you’ll be in a solid position to connect the dots and decide how to take it online. This act of trimming the fat is what’s known as a “soft” pivot. And in many cases, it can be a welcome chance to re-energize your business.

3. Make friends and influence people

If there’s one thing we can guarantee about the COVID-19 crisis, it’s that we’re all in it together.

That means that if you’re struggling, you can bet your bottom dollar that other businesses around you are struggling, too. Again, this may present an opportunity for those companies looking to pivot and willing to reach out.

Take some time to engage with your local community and see if any other comparable, or complementary, businesses are also having a hard time. If so, you might find that you can actually work together to create something new by pooling your resources. This type of synergistic pivot may seem unusual, but these are unusual times.

Oh, and don’t be afraid to engage with your competitors if they’re struggling as well. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, after all.

Next steps: Take your invoicing to the cloud

Now that you’re familiar with the nuts and bolts of the pivot, it’s time to think about next steps. If you’ve been managing your invoicing manually, now’s the time to take that online, too — and we’re here to help.

With Perfect Invoice, you can send invoices in a few clicks, accept online payments, and manage your invoicing from anywhere (and any device) with an internet connection.

Sound good? Sign up now and enjoy a 14-day trial on us.

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