Online tools to help pandemic-proof your business

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Online tools to help pandemic-proof your business

With the recent COVID-19 virus causing people to operate in a more isolated way, business owners and managers are looking for ways to use technology to help keep things running - and even open up new revenue streams. 

These new digital offerings can help offset drops in regular business that typically take place face-to-face. We are seeing more and more people open to the idea of using technology to interact and receive information. 

Learning what is available and how to use this technology can help your business generate more income, reach more people in new ways and even reduce costs and time you would incur for travel and hosting physical meetings.

Following is a run down on some strategies and related tools to consider.

Remote meetings

Remote meetings can be really efficient and powerful when done right, and awful when not. They can be used for a variety of business purposes:

  • Meetings with prospective customers
  • Marketing events and webinars
  • Customer meetings as part of an agreed deliverable or to discuss new needs
  • Regular staff meetings
  • Meetings with potential partners to gather more business

We have all heard of Skype, but there are other popular software options out there with great features that make online meetings and collaboration easy. 

It is a good idea to try our the free accounts with these options and have a play. You can then select your preferred system of choice for internal use, and also be better versed in using the ones that you're business contacts are also using, so you don't get left out of the next important meeting.

Here are a few of the main players you will want to check out:

Try them all out to see what "flavour" you prefer, and what best matches your needs. Most of these tools all have the same basic features sets. Here is a look at what I personally like about Zoom and just some of the many features:

  • Simple and easy to use: easy to start a meeting and collaborate across all devices (desktop computer, laptop, phone, tablet, etc.)
  • Syncs with calendar systems to schedule meetings and join on the go
  • Choose whether or not to share your live video camera, add an auto blurred background or custom virtual background image around your face
  • The free account can host up to 100 participants, with them not needing a zoom account to join a meeting
  • HD voice and video quality streaming
  • Share you screen, and even share audio or video playing through your computer
  • Active speaker view to see who is talking
  • Allow participants to also share their screen
  • Join the meeting through a local phone call, without a computer
  • Private and group chat
  • Record your meetings or get a transcript of a chat session
  • Host controls to control participants audio, video and screen sharing options
  • Participants can raise their hands to alert the host they have a question, even when they are muted

But again, give them all a try. You can also include your account contact info for them in your email signature and on your website.

Deliver online webinars and training 

In addition to meetings, most of the above systems can also be used to deliver webinars. These are more prepared sessions that usually feature a speaker on a certain subject, with many people "attending" online. This can be delivered to educate for marketing events or even training sessions.

Some of the related Zoom features for webinars to explore are:

  • Up to 100 live video panellists can share their webcam and interact with the audience
  • Live broadcast across social media with Facebook Live and YouTube integrations
  • Provide on-demand viewing for those that can't make it with recorded sessions and auto-generated transcripts

For webinars, you will also want to use a presentation software on your computer, which you will of course share with viewers. The one we all mostly know is PowerPoint. But there are some really interesting alternatives. A handy list of these is provided here: 18 Best PowerPoint Alternatives in 2020 by Guru99.

Also, if you want to have an even more engaging attendee experience and collect data, you may want to check out Mentimeter at https://www.mentimeter.com/. This software allows you to create interactive presentations and workshops by adding questions, polls and quizzes and even show live responses to those viewing in colourful word clouds and tables. 

For online courses, where you have a lot of structured content that you want to sell online, there are different options. A leading provider I really like is Thinkific, with more information available at https://www.thinkific.com/. With their service you can:

  • Create custom courses that match your brand
  • Easily create and organise content into a curriculm
  • Add rich content such as video, quizzes, surveys and discussions 
  • Have video content is hosted for free, which really helps keep it behind a paywall
  • Have prerequisite lessons
  • Use multiple instructors
  • Drop schedule content/lessons to appear over time, great for membership sites
  • Use features to keep students engaged such as progress indicators, unlimited replays of course material, completion pages and certificates, automated check-ins and progress and reminder emails
  • Build a course web sales page
  • Use features to help market and sell your course

If you have a Wordpress website, you could also consider one of the many plugins that also have similar features and allow you to keep everything contained within your website implementation. You do have to then consider additional hosting requirements and support of video and user accounts, but this can be done.

Provide extra online support to clients and customers

Another consideration is customer support. Instead of face-to-face meetings, you can use the meeting software above to have a support session. 

Another option is to provide a simple means for customers to contact you for support, which of course can be done through your email and phone systems. The meeting software above can also be used to have customers show you problems they may be experiencing with your website.

In addition, if you have a lot of customers to support, you could consider additional software to provide customers ways to interact. These can include live chat, chatbots, help ticket systems, or dedicated social media accounts (that are not used to promote your business). One help desk system I have used and really like is Zendesk, which also has a live chat system. WPBeginner has also put together this nice summary of the 12 Best Live Chat Software for Small Business Compared (2020).

Sell your services via an online shop or store

Do you have an online shop or store on your website?  Maybe you don't  have any products to sell? If you have a viable business, you already have knowledge that people will likely pay for, or you work with other experts you could partner with that have the knowledge.

This knowledge can be packaged into a variety of forms that can be sold. These can be digital goods such as:

  • Full online courses as mentioned above
  • Paid webinars, both live and on-demand webinars with recorded sessions and auto-generated transcripts
  • ebooks, which can take the form of guide books, list books, tips books, single big idea, experts book (interview and summarise), Q&A book, in depth reports or how-to or self-help PDFs

Thinkific also provides suggestions on ebook creation tools you can use here: https://www.thinkific.com/blog/ebook-creator-tools/

Once you have your product, you are ready to have an online store. This is something that your web developer can help you with. If you have a Wordpress website, a leading plugin for ecommerce is Woocommerce, which I highly recommend. 

So, that's it for now, Hopefully this information got you thinking about how you can use technology to provide additional income streams for your business and save money. If you have questions or need help implementing anything mentioned, please contact us.

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