How to pivot your business from offline to online

Pre-pandemic most of us thought ‘pivot’ meant something you spin around. For the fitter among us, it may have conjured up an image of avoiding a face punch while boxing. Perhaps for you it was your signature dance-floor move?

Not anymore. Pivot is a way for businesses to survive and it isn’t going away any time soon.

Firms that previously relied on footfall and face-to-face contact need to change, adapt, evolve, and maybe even completely transform the way they do business.

They need to pivot. Do you?

For some businesses this is huge. It means switching from everything they know, a high street presence or trade show crowds, a mobile sales force, personal contact with customers or clients, to…to what? To the unknown that is ‘online’.

Companies that have seen their website and social media feeds as lovely add-ons to their core business model now realise they need to move their focus online. In a big way – and fast.

But, how do you pivot an offline business online?

Spoiler Alert. This is NOT a definitive guide. The internet is not big enough. And, if you need more advice you can get in touch.

1. Work out what you do best

Why do people choose you? Not your competitor with the fancy logo, or the new guys who undercuts everyone’s prices, you – why do they choose you?

Online is busy. It’s easy to get lost. You need to be clear about how you can help your people – and prospective customers or clients – solve their problems. Otherwise the people you want (and need!) to reach might not hear your message.

When I say, ‘solving problems’, I don’t just mean that you run a garage for vintage cars, the type that often break down, with teeny, expensive parts that need to be shipped from Germany; or that you sell low-cost mobile phones to cash-strapped students from a high street shop.

Depending on your market, the plumpest cushion in the perfect shade of teal can make a customer smile. If it means: a sofa to sink into when the kids are (finally!) in bed/a sitting room colour scheme coming together/the perfect birthday present dilemma solved – then that is what you focus on.

So, why do your customers choose you? If you don’t know find out. Use your mailing list and offer incentives if you think your crowd need them to click ‘reply’. If you have a core of trusted clients who you can call, pick up the phone. Ask them what they want and need from you online. Step over any guilt you have about ‘bothering people’ or ‘wasting their time’. If they don’t want to talk to you, or are simply too busy, they can say so.

Can you imagine a company you like calling to ask you this? How would you feel? I would hazard a guess that ‘valued’ and ‘listened to’ would feature. Both are excellent things for a happy client or customer to feel.

Then make a good old-fashioned list. I’m a paper and pen person. I know clients who are happiest when they are 500 rows deep into an excel spreadsheet. Whatever your list looks like, whatever works best for you and your business needs, just make a damn list.

Why? Because, if you can prioritise what helps your customers to live their best life, whatever that means for them, then they will stay with you as you pivot.

If you can also help them to sleep soundly, without waking, brain whirring at 3.27am, then whatever it is you do or sell – you really are winning.

2. Make virtual personal

I splurged on a handmade lampshade from Notonthehighstreet last week (if you don’t tell my husband he’ll never notice). When the email confirmation tab slid into the top right corner of my laptop screen I noticed three things.

It was from Notonthehighstreet; it said ‘order confirmed’; it also said ‘somebody’s got good taste.’

That last bit made me smile. I have never stepped into a Notonthehighstreet store, because of course they have never had one (big clue, right there in the brand name). But, I felt like a friendly sales assistant, the smiley one with the cool shoes, was winking at me.

I remembered that last bit. So much so, that here I am telling you.

Four words.

That’s all it took for Notonthehighstreet to make me feel there was a person sending my email. (And, I have worked on far too many client e-shot campaigns to believe that’s really true.)

What makes your customers smile? What do they say when you speak to them on the phone or in person?

Yep, you’ve guessed it – I’m going to suggest making another list.

If you can pin down what your clients like and value about dealing with you and your team, you can translate that into your virtual interactions?

Which four words would make the people you want to reach smile?

3. Have your customers needs changed?

Very little has stayed the same over the past few months. The same is probably true for the people who buy what you sell, even if that ‘product’ is a service.

Many have less to spend, for some the focus has shifted from travel to home, for others finding – and maintaining – a true work/life balance is now paramount.

Before you invest time and money shifting your focus online, find out what your customers need now.

You might be surprised, in a good way. And, they (well, most of them anyway) will appreciate you asking.

Image shows - Oak Creatives co-founders and directors, Sian Lewis and Saskia Snel.

About Us

We are two friends. A creative director and graphic designer, Saskia Snel, and Sian Lewis, a content strategist and commercial copywriter. Together we provide joined-up marketing so that every word and every image tells the story you want your customers to read.