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Pivoting Business to Virtual During Covid-19

Jamie Davidson September 11, 2020

It’s been a tough year for businesses. Due to COVID-19, many companies have been forced to shut down, while others have had to cut staff, benefits, and sell different products just to stay afloat.

However, some businesses were able to shift their models and adapt well to an online environment. So well that they have actually improved their chances of future success. They’ve learned how to manage remote teams, host virtual events, and engage with their audiences through new online channels.

In the spirit of change, let’s take a look at the ways in which different industries, from healthcare to tech marketing, are stepping into the future.

Mercy Health System Takes Career Fairs Virtual

Many companies are still hiring during the pandemic. And some are experimenting with virtual career fairs to find and engage with new talent. Employers are making use of conferencing platforms that allow applicants to self-schedule virtual interviews, connect one-on-one with recruiters, upload resumes, and ask questions in chat rooms.

Both the costs and barriers to entry associated with virtual career fairs are far lower than their in-person counterparts. Companies can speak with more interested people, from more locations while minimizing their recruitment overhead.

One company that has seized this new opportunity is Mercy, a healthcare system across four states. While they first introduced virtual fairs back in 2015, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that they began to see real opportunities and results from the format. Between February and April, they held 15 virtual hiring events. With attendance exceeding 330, Mercy booked 50 interviews and made 30 new hires.

If your company is ramping up hiring, using a conferencing service to conduct online interviews is a great way to expand your search area and reach the right candidates.

Uncle Bobbie’s Virtual Bookstore Experience

Even without a global healthcare crisis, it is challenging for small bookstores to compete with the likes of Amazon, which currently controls an impressive 50% of the US print book market. When states started to enact Safer at Home policies, small businesses were the first to suffer.

In order to keep his 3-year-old brick and mortar bookstore, Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books, up and running, founder Marc Lamont Hill had to get creative. Embracing online technology, Hill began to sell his books through Bookshop and updated his website to create a virtual bookstore experience.

To make up for the lack of in-person contact, the business now hosts virtual happy hours, wellness talks, and speaking events with authors. Hill found that his customers will go out of their way to buy from local bookstores like his. And thanks to ongoing help from the community and those who are making an effort to support Black-owned bookstores, sales have been stable.

Hill’s experience proves that if you can successfully tell your story and connect with your audience online, you can attract loyal customers who will support your brand and what it stands for.

Penguin Strategies Creates a Virtual Conference

Penguin Strategies, a firm that helps tech companies with B2B marketing, knew it had to step up when the full force of the pandemic hit in March. They had to cancel their in-person Hubspot User Group meetup, but still needed a way to get helpful insights and strategies out their audience. Penguin began planning a virtual event that would allow experts in the industry to share ideas and solutions to marketing challenges prevalent in the COVID era.

When the event went live, 77% of registrants attended the 6-hour virtual event with speakers from companies such as Hubspot and Vidyard discussing best business practices during the pandemic. Here are some key takeaways from Penguin Strategies’ experience hosting a virtual event:

Stay Relevant Make sure to offer solutions to problems your industry is currently facing.

Invite Experts Industry experts, senior management and even influencers draw more attention to your event. Highlight their participation in marketing materials and event communications.

Leverage Speaker Networks Once your speaker line-up is set, ask them to promote your event with their subscriber lists and social media followers.

Improving Mental Health Benefits

Part of maintaining a business’s overall health is done by ensuring the well-being of employees. Some companies are doing this by ramping up mental health services to help employees navigate the stress and uncertainty that comes with such an impactful time. 53% of respondents to a National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions survey indicated that they are providing new mental health programs or options for their employees.

Starbucks, for example, is giving employees and their family members 20 free counseling sessions a year. This benefit extends to around 220,000 US workers, plus the family members who use the service or reap the benefits of a healthier and happier spouse, parent, or child.

PwC, the consulting giant, is offering employees consultants of their own in the form of professional coaches that they can meet with virtually. PwC has also created an online community platform where employees can connect with one another and discuss the challenges of working during the pandemic.

Some companies are creating online wellness content for their employees and customers. In addition to offering employees a free meditation app, Salesforce has launched a weekly webinar and video series called B-Well Together which hosts health and wellness experts such as author Deepak Chopra and psychiatrist Dr. Kim Norman.

Benefits like these are likely to stick around past the pandemic, as emotional and mental wellbeing are seen as much of a priority as physical health. It’s therefore increasingly important for businesses to consider adding mental health benefits to their offerings, whether through a subscription to an app or access to health professionals.

Virtual Classes Are Cookin’

Small or solo businesses based around tours, classes, and hosted events needed to adapt quickly when COVID hit. Their entire business model relies on meeting clients face to face, which was no longer an option. Taking their services virtual was key.

Nonna Nerina, an 84-year-old chef and grandmother, was teaching pasta-making classes in the Italian countryside when business-as-usual was unable to continue. With the help of her granddaughter, she quickly pivoted to hosting virtual classes.

Now, anyone interested in learning the art of pasta-making can take her 2-hour live online class where Nonna shares her family recipes, cooking techniques, and favorite equipment for making pasta meals.

If you’re a small business owner or solopreneur that used to teach in person, it’s critical to get active online if you aren’t already. It’s only going to become more difficult to pivot as more and more businesses turn to virtual and competition increases.

Even when business returns to normal, the lessons learned by companies who leveraged virtual technology in 2020 will put them a step ahead of their competition and ready to engage further with their audience in the future.

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