Making Virtual Lemonade
How A Stay-At-Home Mom and Virtual Assistant Anticipated The Evolving Needs of Customers In The Time Of COVID.
Guest post By Jamie Drake, Virtual Assistant
Here we are nearing the end of 2020 after having spent the better part of this year at home. For me, it was more than just the quarantine that kept me at home. My time here didn’t begin in March.
On January 20th, 2020 I had an accident while teaching ice skating. A student wasn’t paying attention to where she was going. The impact knocked me off my feet resulting in a broken foot, fractured wrist and a very sore back. As I sat healing my body and listening to the news about an impending quarantine, I started to rethink everything. It was becoming clear that my in-person job as a skating teacher would be ending with the imminent quarantine which meant the closing of schools and Park District activities. I immediately started to panic…
Luckily, teaching skating was only one of my jobs. Even luckier, the other was completely online. I had been working as a Virtual Assistant for 8 years by then and had even helped other women set up their own VA businesses along the way.
So, I opened my laptop and got laser focused on my remote company that I had been passively building to supplement the income that I was earning from my in-person job.
And I wasn’t alone.
As people started staying home, the interest in pivoting their existing businesses online grew and grew. People became more and more interested in starting new online careers or growing what had been just a side hustle prior to 2020.
With more and more people searching online for business solutions, I started thinking about the different kinds of people (and potential customers) I saw needing support. I didn’t just want to learn more about the people, I wanted to learn more about what kind of customers they were about to become so I could anticipate their evolving needs.
People were scrambling, reinventing and realigning priorities. My goal was to try and put myself in their shoes. I had to find a way to show relevance during these ever-changing times which meant finding the commonalities that connect us all in our new normal.
All of that led to essentially running two different small businesses parallel to each other. Each business had a separate audience of potential customers who had separate needs which meant anticipating two different kinds of support.
This presented the opportunity to learn more about my customers as they were going through this transition which could end up working in everyone’s favor.
On one hand, I knew there would be people forced to stay home and reinvent their career. For some of those people, becoming a Virtual Assistant could be a good fit, and I could teach them how to accomplish that. So, I started a marketing strategy around reaching people pivoting their work and looking for solutions. I offered an online course called The Basics of Virtual Assisting which showed a step-by-step journey to setting up a VA business and navigating client work. So, for those that had lost a career or were forced to find new ways to earn income, this could be a perfect solution.
On the other hand, there were people suddenly working from home needing direct support for the everyday tasks related to their existing jobs that were seriously changing so they can make an easier transition to working completely online and from a remote location. The whole world was unsure of what was about to happen, and so many people who never considered working online were forced to accept it as a reality literally overnight.
I realized that as a VA with 8 years of experience, I could help them make that transition in both ways.
So, where did I start? I started with listening.
I started expanding my time on social media to be more mindful of paying attention to those people who were transitioning and hear what they were saying about the changes happening for them. I saw posts from people who were spiraling out of control with thoughts and fears about what was to come. I connected with people by commenting on their posts and asking them to expand on those fears which gave them a friendly ear and gave me useful intel as I tried to build a framework for working with people in those situations.
I didn’t want to anticipate blindly; I needed some sort of idea of what people were searching for and what types of options they wanted to find. This was about meeting real people where they actually were, not inventing an avatar and forming guesses.
My potential customers were all over social media, desperate to connect, vent, learn, network and discover what others were doing in the same situation.
What was missing for most people was the connection. And, although the technology was in place to host that connection virtually, it just wasn’t the same. So, the pivot I saw that could make that better was consistent connection. If people could depend on that connection and support and know exactly when they would get it, maybe that would help. And if they were being helped, that may lead to the kind of word-of-mouth marketing that we are all searching for.
I was learning. I was applying it as I was making changes. And, it was working.
I was able to grow my business 1,000% this year and I know it’s because I paid serious attention to evolving customer needs during this unprecedented time.
I let myself learn, let myself be wrong, made changes accordingly and really just rolled with the changes as they happened with people, but at the same time provided that consistent support by showing up for people in the way they needed me. Often that means being a different kind of Assistant to each customer, but if that’s what it takes, then that’s what I will do.
I’ve built a consistent flow of clients because I listened to what was needed instead of gave people what I thought they needed. This concept can work for everyone from a ‘Solopreneur’ to a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. It’s basic.
Listening with the intention to implement what you learn is a skill.
So, I took the lemons handed to me during 2020, and decided to make virtual lemonade. It’s not about what happens to you, it’s about how you react to it. It doesn’t have to be about being forced to stay home, it can be about using the opportunity of being home to build and evolve.
Remember all those times you said you wish you had more time? Well, now you do.
The world was put on pause this year. We were forced to reconsider the foundations of how we do business, interact with customers, as well as how we make everyone involved feel safe and supported.
So, as we stare down the possibility of spending more time at home this winter… What will you do with the time? What parts of your business will you reinvent with what you now know? How can you find ways to listen to your customers with the intention of implementing what you learn?
Jamie Drake is a Virtual Assistant and Branding Specialist who helps entrepreneurs and small business owners run their businesses online. She is a true digital nomad who can often be found working on the road from her camper. Learn more about Jamie on her website www.thebrightestside.com or in her Facebook Group The Virtual Business Life where she shares tips, tricks and trends related to working online.