How Our Small Business Adapted to COVID-19
The Westchester Italian Cultural Center’s business model relies on two forms of revenue: membership dues and in-person experiences. When COVID-19 rolled around, both were put on hold. The Center would not ask for Membership dollars while people were facing financial hardship, and the advertised in-person events were suspended “until further notice,” as the state government mandated that all non-essential businesses were to shut down.
“Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win.”
With the words “unprecedented,” “unknown,” and “indefinitely” being used more frequently, it was time to adapt.
As ideas were passed around, the one idea that kept coming back to the table was live-streaming. It was a request we have gotten for years from people who live too far from our Center to visit.
The next step was to engage the Presenters. We had to make sure they were up for the new venture, for without them, we wouldn’t have anything to live-stream. Luckily they were all up for it, and exclaimed their excitement. We did receive some requests that we should focus on making it simple for them to do. After all, they would be conducting the live-streams from their own homes, which is different than usually having a WICC employee being able to assist them in our facilities.
We proposed a payment structure that benefited both the Center and the Presenters. They would receive a base payment for a certain amount of attendees, and added “commission” based on attendee number brackets. Simply put, “the more attendees we have, the more you get paid.” It encouraged the Presenters to advertise their events, which would be in addition to the many platforms we advertised on.
It was important to get them on board, yes, but also excited to join us on this new venture. I created a document explaining what our plan was, detailing the benefits for everyone involved. To view that document, click below.
Within a week and a half, we received over 300 registrations for our Live-Streamed Webinars throughout the month of May.
The first two Webinars were free Italian Trivia sessions and they were successful all around. I started off the Webinars by asking the attendees to write in the chat where they were streaming from. We had responses that included New Jersey, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and even Florida. They seemed to love the polling feature, where the Presenter would show a question and ask them to submit their answers by clicking the multiple choice. It showed in real-time what people voted, without showing who voted for what.
We received emails after thanking us for hosting the Webinar and were told they were looking forward to more upcoming sessions
Our webinar attendees absolutely love what we are providing. We have “regulars” that attend every single webinar and ask for more. As mentioned before, I always start out the webinars asking where everyone is streaming from. Now before I even go live, our attendees chat amongst themselves and write where they’re streaming from!
We have full intent to keep hosting webinars past the pandemic, as we have gained new consumers across the nation. The tricky part will be balancing our in-person events and webinars and making sure both are worth-while for people. We think we have a plan to conquer this task, but like with everything else, it will be a work in progress!
We are currently surveying to see how people would like to see the webinars adapt. We would love to give our Members a discounted price on the Webinars, so we are hoping to have that feature roll-out in the near future. We have some really creative ideas that we think will keep people engaged.
Messaging is important: Not only did we have to grab people’s attention, but we also had to gain their trust that our Webinars would be easy-to-access and worth their time. This could have fell by the wayside if we advertised them as just “live-streams.”
Do your Research: When I wanted to roll this out, I could have simply winged it, not asking anyone for their opinion and just hope for the best. I did the total opposite. I researched streaming software for days, I surveyed our consumers on what they wanted out of this new venture and I even looked at how industries were marketing their products and brands during this time. It allowed me to make a guide map of not only what we needed to accomplish, but also how to accomplish it.
Take your time: Making the time to research, plan and execute benefited us in the roll-out. We could have scrambled by picking the most well-known software just so we could make a profit quickly, but I think that would have hurt us. We were able to build a new “segment” that was thorough and well put-together.
If you’re interested in seeing what it I’ve built, or even want to register for a Webinar yourself, click below. Be sure to say hi in the live chat during the live-stream! I’ll be sure to say “hello!”