Imagine you were the owner of a small winery at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak. With a heavy reliance on visitors buying product from your tasting room and wine drinkers eating out at sit-down restaurants.
Ouch. It was probably a good time to uncork a bottle or two and drown your sorrows.
Or alternatively, to get creative and pivot into the digital world.
Sounds kind of crazy. A virtual wine tasting. But plenty of vineyards pulled it off.
In a recent Digital. Done Right. Podcast, we talked through this example and brainstormed how the basic principles of what made virtual wine tastings work translate to other industries. We talked about the power of pivoting in real-time and taking the leap into the digital world for businesses more traditionally associated with brick and mortar.
Leveraging Customer Relationships
Successfully creating an online alternative for an in-person experience starts with harnessing your database. The people most likely to give your virtual experience a chance are those who already love your brand.
From there, it’s all about finding a way to build on that relationship through a genuinely interactive event.
The thing is, online experiences don’t have to be complicated and hard. Users aren’t expecting Hollywood level production quality which means very little barrier to entry. Plenty of successful digital events are filmed with a smartphone and hosted on Facebook Live.
What is important is the connection – and ideally the ability to ask questions in real-time (or near real-time) with influential people or thought leaders in your industry, even if that thought leader is you!
Back to the Wine
Looking at how this worked for the wineries, it is simple. Get someone trustworthy to taste and talk about your wine, make recommendations, and answer questions. Voila! This sort of third-party testimonial can be an immensely powerful replacement for a personal tasting.
Set up a subscription service and lay out a full calendar of virtual events customers can participate in. And really, you can rethink and repackage the subscription model strategy here to be less gated. To allow people with smaller commitments access to the content. Try limited-time free offers or the option to sign up for individual events.
Get creative. Tons of small businesses are coming up with incredible stuff and with consumers hungry for normality and influencers potentially low on work, it’s a great time to get decent talent involved for less money than you might think.
What About the Video
We already know that consumers love video – but here are a few basic guidelines for sketching out the type of content that gets traction.
- People prefer to hear from real people. Not actors. Take the new Ford Bronco videos, for example. They used the real designers and the real engineers and got them rolling with a thought-provoking Q & A.
- Keep it conversational. Going back to production quality and scripting here, you don’t need to invest the same time into interactive video content that you would for a television commercial. Maintain a reasonable level of quality but focus more on engaging the audience.
- Showcase your personality and humanize your brand. Don’t be afraid to let the people in your videos be themselves.
- Stimulate a two-way dialogue. Even if this means users drop questions into the comments section and you answer them later.
This leads us into the power of interactive content and the ability to expand the digital experience beyond scheduled virtual events.
As more brands jump into interactive content, more ways are becoming available for consumers to interact directly with advertisements. This could be quizzes, checklists, augmented reality ads, 360-degree videos or chatbots embedded within the ad.
Chatbots are a fun way for users to engage with ads and they create a more personal experience that ties into higher conversion rates after clicking through to the website.
Pivot Now, But Not Too Far
COVID-19 threw things into overdrive a bit here but realistically, most companies are going to want to flesh out a more robust digital strategy as consumers get more used to these types of interactions.
But for businesses sitting at square one, the thought of embracing all this new technology can be daunting. Particularly when some of what’s available looks cool but may not be viable in terms of generating sales or boosting revenue. Stuff like voice, augmented reality and virtual reality, for example.
Where do you start and how far do you go?
Well, you start at the beginning. And you go as far as your testing takes you.
Your digital strategy doesn’t need to dive straight to strapping your customers into VR headsets and firing your entire customer service team to replace them with online chat. Basic tech like surveys and polls can engage your customers. Video content takes it further. Interactive virtual events build on this. And so on.
It’s OK to take baby steps as long as you’re taking steps.
I recommend carving out 15% of your marketing budget to try new things. Not to dabble and give up straight away but to really give new ideas a go. It can take months or longer to figure out what’s working for you, so set a budget and let trials run their course.
Help is Available
A lack of understanding for how to lay out a digital roadmap might seem scary, but it doesn’t have to be. It might even be cheaper to invest in an expert right now. There are plenty of digital arts and digital agencies hungry for business and they can help you build out your digital asset library.
More importantly, you can work together with someone who has done this before to think through the entire digital experience you’re hoping to achieve from start to finish.
The most important thing is to just get started. Growing your business didn’t happen overnight and implementing a robust digital strategy won’t, either. But you are better to pivot now and get the ball rolling rather than waiting six months and still find yourself sitting at square one.