I’m not going to pretend everything’s “normal” when it’s not. The entire world has been turned upside down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Healthcare workers are overwhelmed and at-risk. Supplies are scarce. People are being furloughed, or losing their jobs.
Restaurants, stores, and brick and mortar businesses of all sizes are closed…some probably won’t reopen.
Schools and daycares are closed. Kids are home. Spouses are working from home.
Many offline business owners are pivoting online as quickly as they can.
Online entrepreneurs, like me, are still running their businesses, but things have changed.
And no one knows when we’ll come out on the other side of this crisis, or what it will be like then. But I’ve heard that it might never be the same.
We’re all wading through the uncertainty right now.
And I’m feeling it too — the pressure to keep my family safe, to be compassionate and understanding, and to keep my business going strong.
Then there’s the need to be human, to turn off the “filters” and be real — even when being real feels raw and vulnerable.
The truth is: We’re all figuring it out one day at a time, and doing the best we can, considering the circumstances.
I don’t have a “perfect plan” for productivity, profit, or peace during a pandemic. (I wish. Send it to me, if you have it.)
But I can share how I’ve responded to COVID-19 in my own business and community to lead, offer support, and above all, offer hope.
Be more visible — even when you want to hide
As a highly sensitive person, who’s prone to major anxiety, being visible has never been an easy task for me. (Who better to help others be more visible than someone who had to fight her way through?)
Now, with anxiety, fear, and uncertainty at an all-time high, I’ve been tempted to retreat, to hide, to cover my head and wait for it to be over.
But my community needs me. Someone who doesn’t know who I am yet might need me next week, or next month. So, I’m committed to showing up. Here’s how…
Step up as the CEO of your brand
Not going to lie. This step is a lot harder than it sounds.
After all, I struggled to claim my role as CEO in “the good old days” before all of the chaos.
As an entrepreneur, you ARE your brand, even if you lead a team like I do. And you’re also the CEO.
You can and should consult people you trust. But, ultimately, there’s no one to make decisions for you. YOU are in charge.
That’s where you have to start, with your mindset, like it or not.
I had to own my role as a personal brand, as a CEO, and as a team leader. I had to own the decision making.
I’m fortunate to have the support of a team that’s not only incredibly talented, but above-and-beyond dedicated to our mission and our community.
If I would have avoided this step, I guarantee it would have been disastrous.
While there are certainly times to step back and let your business run on autopilot, this is not that time.
I’m not saying you should “stiff-upper-lip” your way through the coming weeks and months.
Be authentic. If you’re worried or afraid, it’s okay. Share, be open, and be transparent with your team. And leave your virtual office door open, so they can do the same.
You can be afraid, unsure, and honest and still LEAD.
But you can’t steer your business and your team through this without making the decisions that need to be made by the CEO. (That’s you!)
Supporting your customers and community…
Once my mind was in the right place, I was ready to be there for and with my community, including my Tiny Offer Lab members, Livestream 365 customers, my friends, and the broader digital marketing community.
The tactics for each audience were different, but my overall approach was the same:
- Acknowledge what’s happening.
- Ask what they need.
- Provide relevant value.
Be real with your audience…
We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. It’s affecting people differently, but it’s affecting ALL of us in some way. That’s the context for my messaging at this point.
Whatever the crisis is, acknowledge it:
Right now, it’s the COVID-19 pandemic. Next time, it will be something else. This is reality, and pretending like it isn’t happening won’t do your audience, or you, any favors.
You don’t have to dwell on it. Believe me, your audience is already being bombarded with news, speculation, and outrage. Just don’t pretend it’s “business as usual” when it’s anything but.
For me, this included changing ad copy for the Tiny Offer Lab Masterclass, and making the masterclass on-demand, instead of live with a limited replay.
I also launched Tiny Offer Accelerator, a DIY version of the program, at a lower price point, with extended payment options.
Share your own feelings and experiences about what’s happening:
I wrote long social media posts at 3 a.m. because I couldn’t sleep. I did livestreams with my kids underfoot and on my lap, including one where my daughter stuffed crackers in my mouth. I checked in on Slack to find out how my team is coping.
I allowed myself to feel the anxiety and share how I was working through it.
No one is expecting you to be perfect right now, but they are expecting you to be real.
Ask, listen, and be of service…
You can assume what your audience needs, or you can ASK them. It’s a mistake to think that everyone who follows you has the same level of knowledge, or the same needs.
For example, someone who’s struggling with an influx of online membership cancellations has a different immediate need than someone who has been forced to indefinitely close their brick and mortar business. Both might need your expertise, but in different ways.
In my Tiny Offer Lab membership group, I asked what type of support members need most right now. My team and I listened to what they said.
We’ve hired an instructional design specialist, completely redone the Facebook Ads module, added coworking sessions and topic-specific bootcamps. We’re continually improving the program to best support them.
For my broader audience, I launched AskAllieNow.com, where anyone can submit an online business or digital marketing question and get an answer from me for free.
You can go to that URL to submit your question, and I’ll record a video with a funnel map, a marketing idea, or strategic response and share it on my social media channels to help serve as many people as possible.
I’m not asking you to give everything away for free. I am asking you to do what you can to show up and support your community.
Offer what you can, make it relevant to the current situation, and do your best to give your audience what they say they need.
Being of service and providing value is ALWAYS a good strategy. But now more than ever, show up to serve, not just to make money.
Responding and pivoting…
There are so many things that have changed for you and for members of your community…being confined at home, spouses being furloughed from their jobs, loved ones working in high-risk environments, becoming ill or caring for a sick family member…
It’s completely natural to feel fear, anxiety, and doubt about the future. As my community reacted to the changes in their lives, and coped with their feelings, I had to choose how to respond.
As a business, we have policies and terms of service in place to fall back on. However, as humans dealing with other humans, there are nuances that TOS can’t possibly cover. This pandemic being one.
I chose to be compassionate, flexible, and helpful in my response to my community. But all of that was within a structure and with procedures in place to serve our members and protect the business.
Here’s how this has played out in my business so far…
Tiny Offer Lab Premium Group Program
I announced in March that the Tiny Offer Lab Group Program’s 12 weeks of access had been doubled for current members. If a member gets off track due to the pandemic (and I expect many will), they now have more time to complete the program and launch their offers, with our expert support.
Before the pandemic hit the states, we’d planned a live event in Minnesota in May 2020 as a bonus for new members. Well, that live event is not happening.
I’ve transitioned the live event into a series of additional online training sessions from me and my team. The objective remains the same: To scale your Tiny Offers. Now, there’s no need to travel, and all group members will get access to the training.
When members want to pause or cancel…
Most importantly, we have a plan and structure in place to respond to customers who request to cancel or pause their program membership.
Working with the amazing Katya Sarmiento, we developed a COVID Contingency Plan to address all of the “what if’s” we might encounter.
Her formula is simple, although the actual plan might not be: “If [x happens], then we do [abc steps].”
She worked with us to create plans and communications for scenarios such as:
“If a member wants to cancel their membership…”
“If a member wants to pause or defer their payments…”
“If a member stops making payments…”
In addition to being guided by our plan, we work through these requests on an individual basis because each situation is different.
Once we assess a request, we can respond with alternative options and resources. And we offer a one-on-one check-in call to talk through what the member is facing and how we might help.
While creating a Contingency Plan for your business is important, now more than ever, how you treat people also matters more than ever.
Everything we do comes from compassion, flexibility, and support.
Let your plan support you and your business, but always let your values guide you.
How is your business responding and pivoting during the pandemic? What questions do you have? I’d love to hear from you.