8 Ways To Re-Invent Yourself In A Crisis – 4. Consider A Digital Product

Over the last couple of months many businesses have been forced to search for ways to keep going and have had to re-invent themselves to continue to serve their customers.

I’ve seen some great re-inventions and they’ve often come from the smaller businesses who have had to dig deep to think of ways to keep their businesses afloat.

I’ve seen both products and services being successfully re-invented.

Toast – a little coffee shop in Normanton are now selling their cakes online through an Etsy shop which I thought was quite creative and shows that where there’s a will there’s a way!

Enact Solutions, a training company based in Holmfirth, have moved their courses online.  I talk more about Enact Solutions later on in this article.

How Will You Re-Invent Your Business?

This article is number 4 of a series that I am writing over the coming weeks to suggest different ways of re-inventing your business if Covid-19 is forcing you to have a rethink. In each article I will refer to businesses I personally know plus I will refer to the ultimate outcome of a business re-invention: a successful sale of the business.  If you’ve missed the previous articles click here.

The story of those business sales will be told by John Warrillow, the founder of the Value Builder system, through his podcast series, Built to Sell Radio. John has consolidated 8 of his ‘re-inventing’ podcasts into an eBook, 8 Ways To Re-Invent Yourself In A Crisis.

I have done some re-inventing in my business. Switching my peer group from a monthly half-day meeting with breakfast butties to bi-weekly 2 hour virtual meetings supplemented by a tea, coffee and biscuit gift pack sent in the post! I have also set up a Free Virtual Peer group to support business owners for the period during lockdown. Check it out for a taster session.

So, what is the fourth way of re-inventing yourself?

This re-invention is probably the one many businesses are thinking about at the moment: converting a physical service or product into one that can be provided digitally, in some form.

The first thing you may think about is where a physical product can now be ordered online and delivered to your home or place of work. Many of us are comfortable with online ordering for anything from razor blades to printer ink to cooked food delivery. Businesses that didn’t see online ordering as a route to their customers have quickly built e-shops and signed up with delivery partners.

The second version of going digital is more complicated: providing your product or service online. Again, in the current lockdown we have experienced new forms of something we are already familiar with:

  • Zumba classes via Zoom, Joe Wicks, etc;
  • Pub quizzes via Facebook or You Tube.
  • I’m going to a festival in a few weeks – its at home and everything is delivered via a computer screen!

The challenge for many small businesses in this case is mastering the technology and encouraging customers and prospects that the new digital version is valuable.

So the fourth way to re-invent yourself is…

Consider a digital product: can you go online?

Many businesses will be thinking of an answer to this question at the moment.

How Could Your Business Go Digital?

John Moore, owner of 3D4Medical.com, faced the same question in the recession of 2008.  The company created three-dimensional models of the human body, photographed them and licensed the images to textbook publishers. When the recession hit, Moore’s business took a turn, and he realised he needed to re-invent the company and decided to offer an application that students could use to learn about anatomy.

On the surface this re-invention sounds like the change that Chris Shaw of Overview Studios in Castleford went through: converting from building and photographing real kitchen sets to creating CGI images of the same kitchens.

But Moore went further. He changed his customer targets from book publishers to the users of those books – students, teachers, medical professionals, etc. He created an app that presented the anatomy images digitally. Moore created the most extensive library of stock medical images in the world using some of the most sophisticated 3D technology available. Any competitor or prospective buyer of the business could have created a bank of images but they knew Moore had a 15-year head start, and the technology would be hard to replicate.

Recurring Revenue

Great idea but after a few years app sales slowed, so Moore decided to move to a subscription model. Moore credits the introduction of a subscription service with transforming his business into a growth company again. He had automatic customers producing recurring revenue.

Moore’s business grew. By 2019, 3D4Medical was up to 75 employees, including a reliable management team. Moore was making plans to continue to grow the business when one of the biggest textbook publishers in the world made an offer to buy 3D4Medical for $50.6 million.

Moore had successfully built up a library of images that was difficult to copy and he had a recurring revenue subscription model driving his income growth.

One business that is much smaller and closer to home for me is Enact Solutions, owned by Peter Allen. Peter is an actor turned business owner who has built up a training business that uses drama as the vehicle to give the training to large organisations.

The lockdown has put a complete halt on face-to-face training and Peter has been pivoting quickly to go digital. So just as we can watch the National Theatre live streaming, Peter is running live streaming of his training courses.

Peter has learnt that live, interactive digital drama still works – more intimate and engaging than on stage. In fact, the actors have easily switched to playing to camera. Peter has faced the challenge of learning the technology. And, the exciting thing is he can use actors anywhere in the world, and more importantly his future customers can be anywhere in the world. Check out Enacts live streaming demo events here.

John Moore was interviewed by John Warrillow, author of Built to Sell: Creating a business that can thrive without you. John is also the host of Built to Sell Radio, a regular podcast revealing the stories and advice of business owners who have sold their businesses. Listen to the full interview with John here.

In my next article I will be introducing Griffin Thall, who started a business selling artisan bracelets he found on holiday. He used social media to grow his business and sold it nine years later for nine times EBITDA.

If you’ve successfully re-invented your business I’d love to hear all about it, drop me an email.

In the meantime if you want to see what our peer group is all about register here.

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