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.

Download

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.

Additional reads you may find interesting...

View All
Title card with text: Targeting and tools: small business marketing, Mike Gaydos, DSG Digital Marketing
Small Business Tips

Ruby partner feature: Targeting & tools—small business marketing with DSG

Wall clock nearing 8:00 on pink background

Using virtual receptionists for part-time answering

Person talks on phone in snowy outdoor environment
Small Business Tips

How to manage difficult customer conversations this holiday season: 3 examples + tips

2021 Legal Trends Report: gavel with scale of justice on desk
Legal Practice Tips

Clio 2021 Legal Trends Report: in summary

Content marketing and social media tips: side view of photo editor working in a creative office
Small Business Tips

Content marketing & social media: 4 easy tips for getting started

A single pine tree on a rocky summit
Small Business Tips

Meeting customer expectations during a holiday season like no other

Person at desk in front of computer waiting on phone
Receptionist Tips

Have trouble handling the emotional weight of phone calls? You’re not alone.

Choosing a business number: overhead view of faded yellow vintage telephone with notebook and numbers on monochrome background
Small Business Tips

What your phone number says about your business

How to find and analyze your website traffic: two people look at a computer in a bright office space
Small Business Tips

How to find and analyze your website traffic

Using virtual receptionists for part-time answering - Ruby

Using virtual receptionists for part-time answering

What is a conversation worth: illustration of a confused person with complicated calculations hovering above their head
Small Business Tips

What is a conversation really worth? We calculated the exact dollar amount.

Top 3 legal marketing strategies for 2022: man looks at laptop
Legal Practice Tips

Top 3 legal marketing strategies for 2022

24/7 live chat: a Ruby chat specialist and a potential new client use computers in split screen with a live chat window between them
About Ruby

How Ruby’s 24/7 live chat solution grows your business and saves you time

Why empathy matters for your business: person listening to another person in cafe with laptop, papers, and coffee
Small Business Tips

Why empathy matters for your business

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers—an illustration of two people with crowns surrounded by flowers
Small Business Tips

SEO and branding: star-crossed lovers

Try Ruby Risk Free

Call to talk to a live virtual receptionist and hear why 10,000+ companies Ruby.

Call Ruby Sign Up
Sales Support

Already a Ruby customer?

Let’s get started.

Ready to turn more callers into customers?

Missed connections translate to lost revenue. With Ruby, you have a partner in gaining and retaining customers. Plus, we’re so confident you’ll love our service, we offer a 21 day money-back guarantee*.

*Ruby is delighted to offer a money-back guarantee to first time users of both our virtual receptionist service and our chat service. To cancel your service and obtain a full refund for the canceled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner. Some restrictions may apply.