(Not) Business As Usual: Finding Opportunities for Growth in Uncertain Times — 5 Examples from Different Industries


We’re all doing our best to navigate to the COVID-19 crisis. Every business owner we know is working hard to adapt to this new normal and keep serving their customers at the highest level they can. 

But let’s face it: adapting isn’t enough. 

To help our companies survive and thrive, we have to innovate. To find opportunities for growth, big and small, and make the most of them. 

Yes, these opportunities exist — even now, as seemingly the whole world is in survival mode. They exist in almost every industry, and the best way to uncover them is by looking at other companies who are busy innovating, pivoting, and making it work.

This week, we’ll show you 5 ways different industries are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

If you’re part of those industries, this article will give you actionable ideas to implement in your business. If you aren’t, we hope these examples fuel your creativity and help you come up with your own clever ideas and solutions for thriving in these uncertain times.

Sound good? Then let’s get to it!

The image shows a gray apartment building with a giant lock on it. An iPad with a green line graph trending upwards is skyrocketing out of the building, gold smoke trailing behind it.

1. Double down on paid traffic


Industry: ecommerce, blogging, or any kind of online business that benefits from paid traffic.

Now, on the surface, this sounds like the worst possible idea. If you’re using paid traffic to generate leads for your business, your first instinct right now is to scale back your ad spend — or hit pause altogether until the situation improves.

But think about this:

  1. We don’t know when the COVID-19 crisis is going to be over. By most predictions, we’re in it for the long haul, anywhere from the next 12-18 months. If you rely on paid traffic, that’s a long time to go without one of your proven marketing channels!
  2. Right now, ad costs are plummeting — precisely because so many business owners have decided to cut back on paid promotion. If you already have a paid traffic funnel (or several), you can use this opportunity to bring in a lot of new leads.

Millions of people are stuck at home, so the internet usage is skyrocketing. Web traffic everywhere has increased upwards of 50%, and it will probably continue to accelerate well after the crisis is over.

Bottom line, now is the time to invest in paid traffic, not scale back on it.

Now, if you’ve never used paid traffic before, you want to get some expert help with implementing it. Don’t do it unprepared — even with incredibly cheap ads, it’s a good way to burn through your marketing budget if you rush in head first.

But if your business is already using paid traffic as a marketing channel, then it becomes a matter of careful scaling and optimizing to get the best bang for your buck. Thanks to much lower ad costs, you’ll have a lot of room to experiment! Here’s an example of an online education company (SmartBlogger) doing just that.


2. Help customers recreate your signature products


Industry: food, dining — something that involves skilled labor your customers could do on their own… but chose not to (until now).

Here’s one curious business pivot we’ve seen in the time of COVID-19 is:

Places people used to go to spend money in exchange for service (bars, pizza shops, doughnut places etc.) are branching out into DIY kits to help their customers recreate their products at home. Like this pizza place selling pre-made kits for making your own pie.

You might think, “Wait, this doesn’t make sense. Why would I buy something like this instead of just ordering the real thing?” Well, these products address a very specific demand: people who miss eating out and want something to do while they’re on lockdown and bored.

The idea itself isn’t new — companies like Blue Apron and others have been using this business model for years. And homebrew kits for beer, cider, and even wine have been around for even longer than that.

It’s just that now the demand for this type of offer is higher because of the unprecedented situation we’re all in.

This doesn’t just apply to food and drink, either. With a little ingenuity, an offer like this could work for a hair or nail salon, a pet grooming business, an art supplies store, etc. If you have any product or service your customers could do on their own, given the right supplies and instructions, you could step in and help! You could make it a one-off offer, or even a monthly subscription.

Tip: Another way to implement this idea would be through curation — selling a hand-picked selection of products. The goal here would be not to help recreate something at home, but to make it easier for your customers to choose something amazing and feel good about it. For example, a bar might deliver a themed selection of beers/wines (again, not a new idea).


3. Take an in-person experience online


Industry: almost any type of offline event.

Everyone knows about online dance parties, theatre performances, and music shows by now. Offline events going digital seems like the most expected and natural (though unfortunate) consequence of the COVID-19 crisis.

But these aren’t the only physical experiences that can get a new lease on life online. For example, how about virtual escape rooms? Those can’t be done with no access to a physical space (unless we’re talking about video games or VR)… or can they?

Well, this Canadian company specializing in educational escape rooms now provides the same service remotely. They send physical puzzles, instructions, and other items in the mail. Then, customers solve them and use the company’s online platform to submit results and access more content.

Notice how they didn’t try to recreate their physical escape rooms virtually — like with VR, for example. That would have cost a ton of money, excluded a chunk of their customer base (not everyone has VR), and probably failed.

Instead, they focused on making the customers feel the same way, on creating a sense of adventure and mystery. And they did it with nothing but very simple tools and clever storytelling.

What’s the takeaway here? If your business delivered in-person experiences pre-COVID, there’s almost certainly a way to do the same thing digitally — or design a different experience that would take full advantage of what is possible online.

Also, if you used to organize one-of-a-kind, unforgettable offline events for your clients, you can do the same thing on the internet. People still want to socialize and be entertained — now more than ever, in fact! And even in quarantine, they’d rather skip the logistics and hassle and just focus on the fun.

So if someone wants to get married, have a team building retreat, or celebrate their daughter’s quinceañera on Zoom, you can help make it incredible.


4. Offer crisis-specific services to clients


Industry: coaching, consulting, most service-based businesses.

If you’re a B2B coach, consultant, or service provider, the most obvious thing you could do right now is help companies to survive and thrive during COVID-19. Whatever your area of expertise, chances are there is a crisis-related service you could provide.

Here’s how this can look like in practice…

Copywriting company? Offer a fixed-price website/funnel audit to adjust your client’s messaging to help them sell more products or services.

SEO agency? Sell a service package to help clients take advantage of increased web traffic and search volume, attracting more customers to their business.

Web design firm? Offer to build an online store for those clients who need to start selling products online ASAP.

Business coach? Mentor business owners through the crisis — help them strategize and pivot their business model. You could do it one-on-one, or set up a coaching group or a mastermind — like in this example (marketing company Growth Tools).

And because the stakes are so high and the potential benefits are literally business-saving, services like these could become your bestselling, highest-ticket offers.

This works for the B2C market as well — except you won’t position your offer as directly about COVID-19, but more along the lines of “coaching you how to do X at home.”

For example, a personal trainer might transition to weekly or monthly online coaching, offer an accountability service for clients who struggle to stick to their fitness goals, or curate daily/weekly workouts as a subscription. A hairdresser might do live tutoring teaching people how to cut their own hair — or their spouse’s, or their kids’. You get the idea.


5. Productize your services into an online course


Industry: most service-based businesses built around specific expert knowledge.

If you’re an expert service provider, then your knowledge can be packaged into a digital product people will buy. An online course, an ebook, a paid 1-2 hour masterclass, a 4-week coaching program, you name it.

Chances are, you’ve been thinking about doing it for a while — but the time never seemed right. Well, now that you have to do business remotely for the foreseeable future, this might be just the incentive you needed!

Even if you’ve successfully transitioned to online services, there are a few reasons you might want to create a digital product in your area of expertise:

  • It’s an additional revenue stream that’s more flexible than hands-on services — it will keep selling even if you take time off.
  • Folks who buy online courses usually aren’t the same people who pay for your higher-ticket services. So you don’t have to worry about it eating into your core business.
  • Digital products are more scalable than online services — you can grow them for a good while before you have to expand your team or invest in expensive technology.
  • Setup costs in terms of time and money are low — you can create a minimum viable product fast, pre-sell it to a small group at a reduced rate, iterate and improve on what you’ve built, raise the price to reflect its increased value, and scale up from there.

If you can’t allocate any resources to creating a digital course right now, another way to do this would be: deliver a live training on the topic you want your course to be, record it, then polish it and package it into a product you can sell! (Just don’t forget to give free access to everyone who paid to attend it live, as a thank you.)


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