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The right way to pan your product to combat Covid-19

September
27, 2020

5 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

It has never been clearer that necessity is the mother of invention. By rotating your product or service, you can knock down the pandemic while gaining new market share.

Despite the economic fallout from the crisis, research by McKinsey & Co. in June 2020 suggests that most executives think this could be a boon to their business. More than three quarters told the research giant that the crisis would create "significant" new growth opportunities. Revealing this blessing in disguise boils down to meeting the changing needs of the market.

Panning is not easy. Many companies are in the midst of a disruption like they have never seen before. And with so much else on everyone's mind – the health and wellbeing of their families, for example – team members may need a nudge in the right direction.

Related Topics: 9 Ways Your Business Can Promote Innovation

What's the right direction for your pivot? Other entrepreneurs have hit the nail on the head with these three strategies:

1. Reuse your raw materials

Coronavirus hasn't been good for the adult beverage industry. With bars and restaurants closed and 25 to 50 percent busy, alcohol brands around the world are hurting.

Instead of wringing its hands, British company BrewDog started selling hand sanitizer instead of craft beer. The company continued to produce alcohol – so it could use much of the same infrastructure – and combined it with various inert ingredients and bottled it differently.

Regardless of your product, there is a way to wrap its core into something useful during this crisis. If you are a t shirt shop, can you turn the same fabric into masks? If you're a healthcare provider, it might be as easy as offering bite-sized mental health exams via video conferencing.

Related: Is Covid-19 A Mental Health Tipping Point?

2. Turn on your software

Hand sanitizer is not sold in liquor bottles, but in other cases the hardware may not need to be changed. Consider if a software upgrade could make your product useful in the fight against Covid-19. If you're really lucky, you may be able to post the update digitally – no in-person interactions are required.

Take personal safety devices with you. POM's original button-based device only required software tweaks to become the POM Tracer, a Bluetooth-enabled contact-tracking device that employees can wear on their wrists or badges. When a tracer is within three feet of another device, the tracers share proximity data and can send alerts to remind employees of social distance. If a tracer user later tests positive for the novel virus, the software can send alerts to tracers that are approaching the infected person's device.

Contact tracing isn't the only pandemic-related use case for technology. If you are selling project management software, can it be tweaked to help healthcare professionals manage outbreaks? Maybe you can help with the research. In theory, a DNA testing company like 23andMe could send out similar kits to get samples from potentially infected people at home.

If you're not sure where to start, identify an affected audience that you want to serve. For example, how can your software help first responders do their jobs faster, better or safer?

3. Create less social consumers

As well as you knew your customers, you must find that their habits have changed. Thanks to social distancing, people spend more time at home. Could your service reflect this better?

When state after state banned in March, Uber drivers saw their background noise dry up. The Uber team understood that its strength lay in its resilience, which is why the company soon shifted heavily into the delivery market.

Instead of moving people from place to place, Uber drivers acted as couriers. Though UberEats has been around for a while, service has turned from delivering restaurant food to basic items like medicines and toilet paper to help vulnerable customers get the staples they need.

Related: Uber to Drivers and Drivers: wear a mask or lose access to the app

Although the carpooling company is still losing nine numbers a year, delivery makes up the bulk of their business today. Even after the economy stabilizes, Uber is unlikely to suddenly shut down its biggest source of income.

If you're a restaurant, making your service less social may be less easy than offering a takeout instead of a dine-in service. For gyms, this can mean members receive personalized workout videos that they can do from home. Mechanics could do oil changes in driveways.

If your company's business has dried up in the past long months, don't be dismayed. You may be just a few brainstorms away from introducing your next innovation – hopefully one that should get society back on track a little sooner.

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