Creative Ideas for Building Your Business Online in 2021

Humans adapt. Our species has an exceptional innate ability to not only endure hardship but learn from it and, eventually, grow stronger through it.

All year, small business owners have exemplified this trait. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and the various turmoil 2020 has wrought, small business owners have found new ways to continue serving their customers and clients. Telehealth, contactless delivery, the resurgence of drive-in movie theaters—no one could have predicted any of it, but when needs emerged, businesses stepped up and provided.

2020 has been a hell of a year.

How has your business changed this year?

How have you changed this year?

Regardless of what’s shifted for your organization or you personally, your journey isn’t over yet. The coronavirus remains a major disruption and daily concern throughout the world. Even with a vaccine available as soon as early next year, we may not return to anything resembling pre-2020 life for some time.

But maybe, rather than trying to bring back “normal,” we can imagine better ways of living and doing business.

Make 2021 your year—for real this time.

As you look back on the last several months and forward to 2021, now is the time to reflect on your growth and successes, as well as your opportunities to do even better for the people you serve.

What strategies, processes, and tools can you put in place now to stand out and expand your business in the months to come?

Here are a few creative and cost-effective ideas for improving how you communicate with customers, sell products and render services, and continue growing your business—no matter what 2021 has in store:

Record Videos

Video-sharing platforms such as YouTube are more popular than ever—and not just because they let us watch the dance scene from Kid ‘n Play’s House Party whenever we want. More and more people are using videos to connect with audiences and build online communities. If you haven’t tried it for your business yet, you have a powerful opportunity to reach and create value for customers and prospects.

Videos lend a face and voice to your business. At a time when most organizations have few moments to connect with their customers in-person, vlogging can fill the gap and bridge the distance. Just a 5-minute video every week or so humanizes your business and keeps people engaged.

Plus, video content tends to significantly boost businesses’ reach. It’s a key ingredient in any successful online presence, supporting search engine optimization, social media, and other digital marketing efforts. It can speed up your content production, too, as videos can easily be converted into different media such as blog posts and podcasts.

You could even make your videos into products or services unto themselves. If you run a law firm, for instance, you could record a short course on a basic legal topic and offer the video for a small fee. DIY home improvement walkthroughs for home services or real estate customers, mindfulness exercises for healthcare patients—the possibilities are endless.

A few more ideas to consider:

  • product demos
  • how-tos
  • educational courses
  • answers to frequently asked questions
  • commentary on news or trends in your industry
  • a weekly/monthly vlog
  • interviews with clients and colleagues

Create experiences at a distance.

Extraordinary businesses stand out for the experiences they create. That hasn’t changed as the world has moved online. In fact, organizations of all kinds, sizes, and industries have successfully transitioned to offering fully virtual or semi-virtual services without losing what makes them special.

Whether you’re able to serve your customers online or not, consider the virtual experiences you can create. Beyond merely having a website or managing transactions online, think about how you can add personal touches and imbue your organization’s values in the process.

Is there a small gift you used to offer in-person that you can replicate or provide a replacement for online? If you used to have free coffee in the lobby, for instance, you could include a $5 Starbucks gift card with purchases over a certain amount.

Are there opportunities to personalize the experience? The more you’re able to tailor your approach—e.g. by using customers’ names in prebuilt forms or recommending products and services based on past purchases—the more your customers will feel comforted and cared for.

Like videos, experiences have a bit of money-making potential of their own. You could present a live virtual webinar or training session, or hold a mini-conference, for which you charge for admission, for example.

Customer Service Audit Checklist

Reimagine, finesse, and refine your customer experience offering with a full audit.


It doesn’t even have to be directly related to your main line of business. If you’re confident (really confident) in your culinary skills, you could offer an online cooking class. Or you could pull an NPR and start a wine tasting club for your business. Donate some of the proceeds to a good cause to maximize participation and goodwill for your company.

A few more ideas to consider:

  • virtual happy hours or Q&A sessions
  • online fundraisers
  • website profiles/accounts for customers, with personalized landing pages
  • a public Spotify playlist featuring music in rotation at your office
  • freebies included in orders (tea bags, candy, branded pins and stickers, etc.)
  • handwritten thank-you notes, or 30-second thank-you videos

Reward Your Most Loyal Customers

Your customers deserve recognition—especially the ones who stuck firmly with you throughout 2020.

Why not reward them with a discount code or free product or service? Or, how about asking them if they’d like to join a “premium” mailing list to receive special newsletters and updates featuring exclusive offers, bonus content, sneak peeks, and so on? You could even make them “preferred” customers who enjoy priority status in receiving services or get early access to new products.

Many people love earning these kinds of perks—so much so that they’re willing to pay for them. That means you can boost your bottom line by allowing customers to pay for their own rewards. It’s the same business model that airlines, credit card companies, and—more recently—Kickstarter campaigns and Patreon accounts use to drive customer interest, loyalty, and retention.

A few more ideas to consider:

  • discounts or rewards for referrals
  • different reward program tiers
  • a “secret” page on your website only accessible to people with the right code, or people who know where to look

Use Live Chat!

Live chat is the fastest and most effective way to connect with customers online. It helps website visitors find the information they need, gathers useful information for your business, and initiates customer service and sales conversations.

If you do business online, live chat is essential. In our virtual-first world, it’s no longer a nice-to-have but a necessary component of any online experience. It’s the equivalent of a friendly, capable front desk receptionist greeting people as they walk into your business’s physical location.

Uses of live chat:

  • clear up questions about product and features
  • explain your pricing structure and incentives
  • connect visitors to the right specialists and departments
  • invite visitors to take advantage of exclusive deals
  • answer FAQs
  • offer real-time support for any website issues
  • make online transactions seamless

Ruby has the live chat services you need to build your business and create unforgettable customer experiences in 2021. Our live chat is powered by friendly, professional, US-based agents. We’re trusted by more than 10,000 small businesses to deliver an above-and-beyond, exceptional customer experience, every time.

We train each of our specialists to deliver tailored responses to establish and support your brand. They spring into action within 60 seconds of receiving a chat request, using the information you provide to support your customers. Think of us as an extension of your team, except we’re available 24/7/365 at a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee.