Accepting the new virtual reality
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
As the coronavirus crisis escalates, more and more restrictions are being put in place: no large gatherings, no in-person classes at school, no sporting events, avoid air travel, cancel unnecessary meetings, etc.
Many employers have closed their campuses and required employees to work from home — when they can. Schools and universities are moving to online learning. Apple has closed all of its retail stores worldwide for at least two weeks.
Many industries, like retail, hospitality, and personal services, can’t just be packaged up and run remotely. But there are many others that could provide remote services — but have just never made it part of their offerings.
I spent a good deal of time last week helping clients get past the shock of losing their in-person events and services in order to think outside of the box. We needed to brainstorm new alternatives that they can deliver remotely for the foreseeable future.
Virtual meetings and events are the new reality. If you’re not already working on virtual offerings, you should be. Here are a few things to consider:
Nothing can replace your normal in-person events. You know that, and so do your members or customers. However, offering things in-person is just not an option right now. There’s a huge range between a wonderful real-world event and nothing at all. How can you fill that gap?
We never did it that way is not a good excuse. We’ve never lived our lives this way, either. But new situations demand new approaches. Now is the time to think outside the box. Be creative.
Focus on margin, not revenue. I’ve had clients tell me they don’t know how they will replace the revenue they’re losing by not holding in-person experiences. That may be true, but what they’re forgetting is they are now also forgoing all of the expenses those events incur — travel, lodging, food, A/V, support staff, etc. — none of which will occur with a virtual event.
Look at how much profit you make per attendee for your in-person events, then figure out what you can offer that gets you to that margin — regardless of the overall revenue numbers.
Try meeting new needs. Your customers may now have a keen interest in topics that hadn’t even occurred to them before. Put yourself in their shoes. Anticipate what issues may come up and how you can help them.
Technology is your friend. Use the internet, webinar tools, video, social media — whatever can help you create and deliver a positive experience to your audience.
There may be no going back to “the old way.” That doesn’t mean we will be in quarantine forever. It means that once people discover new ways of doing things, they may decide they’re better that what they had before.
Don’t leave customers hanging at the “all clear” signal. If you’ve taken the time to create a new virtual program that’s catching on, congratulations! You now have another offering in your portfolio. Don’t just pull the plug when this crisis is over—look for ways to differentiate yourself even further with a combination of virtual/in-person experiences.
None of us expected 2020 to start out like this, but here we are. What will separate the winners from the laggards is how well an organization grabs the bull by the horns and transforms a crisis into a way to help their customers. That’s the new reality. There’s virtually no time to waste to get moving.
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