Pivoting Your Business During Covid-19
13 April, 2021
Our original idea of local exploration -- visiting local restaurants and art galleries -- was hardly doable after the lockdown had been introduced. Our tool was designed to help local economies through flourishing local tourism and gastronomy.
When Corona hit, we were quite early in our ideation process and knew we had to pivot from that idea and do something else. That inadvertently helped us dig deeper and understand better what our mission and purpose were. We had to identify the underlying needs of local explorers. The core quality our persona embodied was a curiosity to learn and develop social connections. We took these two key concepts and iterated on them to see how we could provide a meaningful solution during the lockdown.
Upon realizing that we should iterate on the product, we tried a number of different ideas. Our original idea was to send out three recommendations weekly for local restaurants. Instead, we decided to send out recommendations on what people could do at home. For example, a lot of restaurants started doing custom kits and deliveries, and people could have a nice five-course meal at home. Also, people could buy gift cards to support local businesses in and around one’s area and we used that concept to encourage people to support their local economies. But, then ideas started to run thin.
We were originally a weekly service and we were not getting the same responses as we did before in terms of providing value to our customers. We decided it was time to go back to a drawing board and iterate more. Some of the iterations we tried worked, others didn’t. As a texting service, we also tried messaging "I'm bored", and sending recommendations for something fun to do in the moment. It could be anything from going down a Wiki rabbithole or composing a song using Google Lab music maker. We were able to recommend some rather cool ideas but most of these services didn’t take off.
Finally, we built a trivia and invited our friends and family through organic conversation. We didn’t market it or talk about it other than inviting our most immediate people. Over 100 people showed up to the first trivia we did. That was overwhelming and assured us we were onto something. We continued to explore that side of things, which has brought us where we are today.
During the whole process of iterations, we were talking to our customers and collecting feedback on their needs. We also had some Analytics on what a click-through rate was, how much time people would spend on a page we would recommend, etc. We monitored those stats closely as we iterated on different services to see what would stick and what wouldn’t. It turned out that virtual events were what stuck the most.
The secret ingredient of product development is to find a burning need for which people are willing to pay. Virtual events are where we found that burning need. They have a learning aspect for curious people and a socializing aspect for people keen to connect.
- After we understood that the underlying needs of local explorers are a curiosity to learn and a need for social connection, we could iterate on the original idea while still addressing those underlying needs. We also noticed that the need for social connection was exacerbated when we went to lockdown because people started to feel increasingly isolated. Given our partnerships and leveraging our business ideas, we had to identify the different solutions we could still provide to our customers.
- Be stubborn, be persistent. The path may not be clear initially, but if you understand the underlying problem and approach it from different angles, you'll find a solution.
- Talk to current customers and keep getting feedback. Talk to potential customers to understand where we can find a burning need to solve a problem.
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