How to Pivot Your Business to Thrive Online
Retail has changed dramatically over the last 200 years, and Macy’s has been there for all of it. It all started back in 1844 when Rowland Hussey Macy (R.H. Macy) began to work at his father’s shop in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
In 1846, R.H. Macy branched out and started his own needle-and-thread store. But it failed miserably.
A couple of years later, he tried again. This time, he opened a dry goods store (which generally sold clothing, flannel, needles, and so on). But that shop failed miserably too.
Understandably, R.H. Macy gave up for a while and went to California to take part in the gold rush. But his entrepreneurial spirit soon brought him back to the East Coast of the USA.
There he set up a new dry goods shop with his brother in 1851.
And surprisingly, this time, it didn’t fail.
Now that he had a taste of success, R.H. Macy moved to New York in 1858. There, he opened a high-end dry goods store — R.H. Macy & Co (which would eventually be known as Macy’s). It was a roaring success and marked the beginning of a lasting dynasty.
During its first year of business alone, R.H. Macy & Co generated $85,000 in revenue (which is the equivalent of about $2.66 million in today’s dollars).
Since then, Macy’s has become one of the largest, most influential, and innovative department stores in the world. And it has changed the way we conducted business, customer service, and marketing.
For example, the retail giant, most recently, embraced minimalism and the modern shopping experience with small format retail stores called Market by Macy’s — a trend that will influence the way we conduct business in malls and shopping centers.
There are many lessons we can learn from R.H. Macy, Macy’s, and their resilience. Today, however, I want to focus on one concept that you can use to expand your business online.
So how does Macy’s keep surviving?
It does so by taking advantage of technological innovation to adapt to its customers.
When we look back over history, we see that Macy’s embraced the introduction of credit cards, the internet, and mobile shopping apps. And it used technology to stay one step ahead of bank crashes, recessions, crises, including the great depression, the dot com crisis, and the great financial crisis.
At the end of 2019, Macy’s revenue was $24.97 billion. And because of the way it pivoted, it is one of the few department stores that hasn’t filed for bankruptcy during these uncertain times.
Now, you don’t have to be as big as Macy’s or have its budget and clout to be successful. As long as you have the entrepreneurial spirit that drove R.H. Macy all those years ago, you can use Macy’s secrets to pivot and thrive online.
The Future of Online Business
The digital revolution was really just beginning when COVID-19 swept across the world. The global lockdowns and isolations have since accelerated and compressed the trajectory that eCommerce was going to take over the next several years.
We can already see that consumers are doing much more business online, including eLearning, food delivery services, and remote work. Over the next few years, this trend will continue to increase. And before long, the majority of transactions will be conducted either over the internet or through mobile apps.
And it won’t just be limited to the traditional ‘digital businesses’ (eCommerce, coaching, consulting, digital marketing, etc.) either. Brick-and-mortar stores will quickly adopt the ‘Market by Macy’s’ concept and become exhibition centers rather than places of business. Similarly, shopping malls are likely to become entertainment centers.
In short, business transactions are moving online wholly.
So why is it essential for you to take advantage of eCommerce now and expand online?
Do you remember when blogging was the ‘in’ thing to do? Back then, most entrepreneurs did not take advantage of that new technology. But 15 years later, blogs that took advantage of blogging, like the Huffington Post, Moz, and Mashable, are now making several million dollars a month.
That’s the power of tapping into changing technological trends.
So whether you have an online presence already or are just getting started, take the time to ask yourself where you want to be 5, 10, or 15 years from now, and make the shift to expand online accordingly.
The Most Common Challenges when Expanding Online
In an insightful article, Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad said that entrepreneurs should answer the following questions to create the future of their industries:
- “What customers do you serve today, and which customers will you serve in the future?
- Through what channels do you reach customers today, and through which channels will you reach customers in the future?
- What skills or capabilities make you unique today, and what skills and capabilities will make you unique in the future?”
The article lists a few more questions about competitors, margins, and competitive advantage. It also acknowledges the most significant problem: most business owners didn’t (and don’t) prepare for the future this way.
So when social distancing and isolation shut their businesses down, they were caught off-guard.
Lack of preparation is also why we are experiencing a flood of organizations coming online right now. Unfortunately, the majority of businesses don’t yet understand where or how to start expanding online. The most common questions include:
- Where do I find my perfect customer?
- How can I generate consistent and regular leads without paying an arm and a leg?
- How do I convert those leads into buying customers?
- What do I have to do to retain my customers?
- What can I do to stand out from my competitors?
These unknowns, together with technical, cash flow, and skill issues, can make the experience of expanding online daunting.
If you find yourself overwhelmed, or if you’re just wondering what you can do to tweak and maximize your revenue online, then keep reading. I will share simple, actionable steps that can make a difference to your bottom line as soon as you apply them.
Marketing Basics Still Apply Online
The good news is that no matter what category you are in, business growth still depends on your ability to:
- Predictably and consistently attract the right leads,
- Satisfy, engage, convert, and retain customers,
- Cross-sell and ascend customers to buy more.
So as long as you can meet these three key benchmarks regularly, you will survive and thrive. But how do you know what strategies to use? There are so many out there for each of these steps.
The truth is, you can’t be 100% sure. And you can’t be comforted that whatever strategy you use will work for you either.
But you can learn from those who have been in similar situations before. For example, I’ve made several mistakes and failed at 13 businesses. And I’ve almost lost everything. Twice. But I learned from each one of those instances.
And through a lot of trial and error, persistence, and wisdom from my mentors and colleagues, I discovered specific strategies that can recover, grow, and scale any online business. These strategies work like a formula for me and hundreds of my mentees.
Since then, I’ve used these proven steps to realign my strategies with my goals and expand exponentially. The result? Several 8+ figure companies that my team and I have scaled almost entirely online.
Here’s the first part of the formula.
Find Your Market First — Especially During Times of Change
Do you know the golden rule of sales and marketing? It’s getting to know your customer all over again. That means constant (and active) market research.
Most business owners skip this step because they figure that when they know their customers once, they know them for life. But that’s a big mistake. And one that I used to make too.
Back when I first got started, I’d spend far too much time crafting, honing, and perfecting my product or service instead of truly understanding my audience. Believe it or not, all of those products and services flopped. Some of them did so spectacularly.
So as you transition your organization online, consider starting at the beginning. Find out what your audience wants and what they’ll buy during times of unrest and upheaval. Then create that product or provide that service, and sell it to them.
We don’t have to look far for recent examples of success using this strategy. Several iconic brands like Louis Vuitton, H&M, and Prada are producing facemasks because that’s what the consumer needs now and will buy at this time.
How much trust do you think they are building with these strategies? How many more potential leads are they gathering at the moment? And how much more effective will their marketing campaigns be in the future?
So get to know your customer first and determine their current needs.
It’s even more vital to keep up with their changing needs if you have an established audience already. There are several ways you can do that:
- Connect with them over email or phone and ask them if there are any ways in which your products and services can meet their current requirements.
- Address any bad/negative reviews by following up with the reviewees and asking them what you could have done better.
- Conduct surveys of cold and warm audiences to determine what their pain points are. Incorporate these methods into your business model on an annual basis. That way, you’ll more readily have a pulse on what your customers want from you.
Once you have gathered the necessary data, you can make adjustments to your products and services to meet your customers’ needs exactly.
Adopt a ‘Reactive Marketing’ Strategy
As part of my venture capital business, I often encounter excited entrepreneurs who pitch me ideas that they claim would ‘revolutionize’ their industries. I rarely work with these entrepreneurs. And here’s why.
When getting started or expanding online, you want to sell something that already sells. In other words, look for what is already profitable and then sell your version of that.
If you feel that these statements stifle your unique creativity, consider the story of a student I recently came across.
She creates hand-made pet products and is considering expanding her business online. Here are some of the things she was saying:
“I thought that I had this really good idea, but so many bigger brands are already doing it. I’ll never be able to stand out… so I want to do something different. But every time I think I’m doing something different, someone who is more established is already doing it…I’ll never make any money this way…”
You see, aiming to be unique in every way can paralyze you. In the case of this student, she kept second-guessing herself so much that she hadn’t even started months later.
Have you heard the phrase, “good artists copy, but great artists steal”? The same applies to business. If someone is successfully selling what you want to sell, that means there is a market for it. And that’s a good thing.
So tap into that market and reach out to a customer base that already exists. It’s much better and easier than creating your own market. I call this “reactive marketing.”
This concept of reactive marketing applies to more than just what you sell. It also applies to how you sell it. When my good friend, Russell Brunson, first sold supplements online, he did well. But it wasn’t until he copied the exact funnel structure of his biggest competitor that his sales skyrocketed.
Remember that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Replicate and implement what is already working for someone else to get a headstart on your online expansion.
Double-Down on What Works
Once you’ve discovered what your audience needs and the best way to sell it to them, it’s time to find out how to maximize your time and energy. In my previous article, I talked about finding one winning product or service in your store and scaling that.
When you’re moving online, you can use what works in multiple ways to scale exponentially. And it’s far more straightforward than you think.
For example, let’s say you’re selling a mindset course. You could:
- Do live, interactive group coaching sessions that include an exclusive, supportive, global online community (like Facebook groups or forums).
- Record those live, interactive sessions and sell digital recordings at a much lower cost (since it doesn’t cost you any extra time or effort beyond setting it up). You could even include access to the exclusive community as a bonus.
- The more virtual classes you do, the more you can bundle and sell for higher- or lower-priced packages.
This is the strategy I used for several of the digital courses in the Dan Lok Shop.
Here are some other ways you can take advantage of repackaging your material for profit. You could:
- Use any worksheets, eBooks, or PDFs you generate as cost-effective magnets to bring in more qualified leads.
- Upsell by including one-on-one private coaching sessions.
- Add a certification or graduation element to build authority and credibility.
You can then turn the same content into email drip series, social media content, or blog posts. Do you see how you can use one piece of high-quality material and generate several streams of income?
So I encourage you to exhaust every option for making money using one course or product before you focus on the next one. Many of these digital components can earn you a tidy, automated, passive income once you set them up.
How to Overcome the Fear of Being Seen Online
One of the biggest obstacles entrepreneurs face when transitioning online is the fear of being seen online. Whether in live streams, zoom or skype calls, or even by sharing personal stories and anecdotes.
In a world where we are used to putting on appearances, appearing online can be too personal.
And no matter how many tools we have now, online interactions aren’t the same as in-person interactions. For instance, you can’t easily send your clients to a nearby store to try things out. You can’t interpret their body language, you can’t gauge their reactions, and you can’t control the environment.
So to be successful online, entrepreneurs must first break through the mental barriers to doing business online. Whether that’s by sharing authentic stories, doing social media lives and streams, or otherwise being available to your customers.
Why is it important that you can be comfortable online?
When your clients see you, they’ll be able to form relationships with you. Those relationships build trust. And trust helps you to create the ideal buying environment for your perfect client.
If appearing online still makes you feel uncomfortable, insecure, nervous, afraid, or worried, you aren’t alone. I understand. Many of my students who begin to look for work online feel the same hesitance early on.
In fact, I was very timid growing up too. I didn’t know how to talk to other people, let alone how to speak to groups.
So here are some strategies that have helped my students and me:
- Join Toastmasters or similar organizations so that you can practice your public speaking skills in a supportive environment.
- Start filming yourself casually around the house or learn how to talk into the camera until it begins to feel natural. (You don’t have to post these.)
- Take a leap of faith and just start doing the lives and streams — you can start with short ones and work your way up to longer lives. The more you do it, the more confidence you will gain.
If you need to, invest in mindset and confidence training for yourself.
Being comfortable, authentic, and open online is integral to succeeding online.
The Secret Power of Successful Online Businesses
The most successful online businesses thrive because of omnipresence, or the ability to be present everywhere. Omnipresence is not a new marketing concept.
For centuries, Macy’s operated with one mantra: “Be everywhere, do everything, and never forget to astonish the customer.” That’s why the red Macy’s star is so iconic and identifiable.
Other brands, like the McDonald’s golden arch, Coca Cola’s red script, and Volkswagen’s ‘W’ are recognizable anywhere in the world.
So how does omnipresence work online?
You build your presence online every time you post content on social media platforms. And the more social media platforms you post to, the more you amplify your marketing messages.
For example, the Dan Lok brand, has over 1.7million Instagram followers, 1.87 million Facebook followers, and 2.66 million YouTube subscribers.
My team and I also use email marketing, SEO optimized blog posts, and guest articles to reach an even wider audience.
And because my brand is omnipresent, I can almost instantly reach customers in over 180+ countries using both organic and paid marketing strategies.
If this sounds overwhelming to you, don’t worry. I started small too. Here are a few things you can do to expand your reach online:
- If you don’t have a dedicated team for social media content and marketing, invest in social media posting and scheduling tools that allow you to cross-post and save time and effort.
- Pick one social media platform your ideal audience frequents — YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Medium, or LinkedIn tend to be the most popular — and concentrate your efforts there first.
- Post consistently. Whether it’s once a week or daily, be sure that you create a schedule and stick to it.
One final tip: remember to optimize whatever you do online for your mobile audience as well.
“The Customer is Always Right”
Mr. Harry Selfridge (of Selfridges & Co department stores in the UK) used this phrase to teach his employees quality customer service.
Today, when customers can find information instantly by searching online, customer service is critical. So make every effort to be responsive, helpful, and kind. You could use chatbot programs like Manychat to help you set up messaging sequences that automate high-quality service.
If you do, remember to have a dedicated team to follow up on any messages that the bot can’t answer.
In today’s digital age, there’s another concept that’s essential for customer service: “under-promise and over-deliver.” What does that mean?
That means you always give more value than the customer is anticipating. That can be in the form of extra time on coaching calls, free gifts and bonuses, or complementary (or heavily discounted) upgrades to better programs.
When you over-deliver on what you promise, you strengthen your brand, culture, and image online.
There’s one thing you ought to remember when over-delivering, however. Make sure to provide focused, relevant content with each interaction. If you don’t, your ideal client might not see you as the authority on the topic and go elsewhere.
Imagine for a moment that you need mindset training. Would you go to Gordon Ramsey? I wouldn’t think so. Similarly, would you go to Tony Robbins for cooking lessons?
It works exactly like that online. So rather than dabbling in several different subjects, go deep, focus, and specialize in one area of expertise. That way, when you position yourself as the go-to person in your industry, you’ll be a bright, beckoning beacon for your ideal client.
When Should You Consider Scaling Online?
Once you have adjusted for your audience’s changing needs, incorporated the right marketing strategies on the best social media platforms, it’s time to consider scaling.
A scalable business is a business that can grow exponentially in response to increased investments. A word of caution, though. Not every company can scale.
So the first stage of scaling is preparation.
Ask yourself whether you have the right infrastructure, staff, funding, and products and services to support explosive growth.
If not, take the time to grow over time and gather the necessary resources before you scale. Sometimes slow and steady wins the race in business. Studies show that 74% of start-ups fail because of premature scaling.
So be careful to prepare well and have contingency plans in place before you scale.
When in Doubt, Go Back to the Beginning
Pivoting a business model, thriving, growing, and scaling online can take a lot of work, effort, and patience.
Corbett Barr says it best: those who “learn to love the uncertainty of it all” will be the ones to succeed. You might adjust to online scaling and growth without any issues. But, there’s a chance that you’ll run into difficulties, snags, and failures just like R.H. Macy did.
How do you make sure that you keep going when the going gets tough?
You may find yourself tired and exhausted, wishing you could give up. If that’s the case, your desires might have changed — just like your customers’ needs changed.