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Challenges Can Often Uncover The Biggest Opportunities

I play in a local murder mystery show. Last week, I caught up with my cohorts from the theater company for the first time in months.

Since early March when the pandemic forced all public venues to be closed, our weekly shows in Ottawa's Little Italy, which have been frequently sold out for years, came to a screeching halt.

That's when Peter Dillon, the owner, made the bold move to pivot to an online version of his popular show. This is not only a great example of a business that pivoted with the help of online video conferencing, but also one that seized a new opportunity that never existed before.

Here's how he did it.

First, he took one of his do-it-yourself shows (he calls them professionally hosted “U-Dunnit Mysteries”) and modified it to the online world. It's a facilitated show where audience members get to play the characters via Zoom, and a staff member (playing a character in the show) facilitates the event.

During the show, a “murder” happens and everyone becomes a suspect. No one knows who the culprit is except for the facilitator. Participants now have to ask questions and, at the end of the show, guess. There are quite a few twists and turns, and even a virtual “lie detector” test, during the show.

He called it ZoomMystery.com.

At the time COVID hit, Pete Dillon was scrambling. But after launching his new show, his business went from a zero cashflow position to a huge homerun. 

There are many reasons why the show took off:

  • By now, people are not only becoming familiar with the new technology because of working from home, but also are facing a relatively new issue called “Zoom fatigue” or “Zoom burnout.”
  • Along with being fed up with isolation and stress from the lockdown, people are craving for the chance to connect with each other.
  • While clients typically book these shows for parties and events, corporate clients are clamoring for this new version because it's an ideal team-building exercise given the current climate.
  • In other words, this new model gives clients a chance to take a break from being on “Zoom for work” to being on “Zoom for fun.”

As Pete Dillon said in a recent radio interview, “We had no choice, but then we saw it as a perfect opportunity.” And now, even as the lockdown eases, his new show has created an entirely new business model that's not going away.

Here's the thing.

Whether your business was or wasn't affected by the pandemic, chances are you may have had to pivot for other reasons at some point.

Perhaps you're simply looking for a change, a way to switch gears, or add a new revenue model to your existing business.

It doesn't mean you have to drastically change your entire business. Sometimes, you only have one important problem that needs to be addressed, or there's only one aspect of your business that needs to change. For example:

  • You can take one feature of your service or one aspect of your business and turn it into its own service.
  • Conversely, you can package different services together into a whole new offering, or add/merge a smaller one into a larger suite of services.
  • You can change the platform on which you deliver your service or add a new delivery method, such as going online, using an app, converting it into a serialized service, etc.
  • You can productize your service by turning it into an off-the-shelf offering, such as an audit, a course, a series of worksheets and checklists, etc.
  • You can also take a portion of a larger offering that's typically customized and productize it, such as a service that starts with a fixed-priced audit followed by a tiered delivery.
  • You can sell subscription-based services that have different levels of your involvement, such as coaching groups, discussion groups, masterminds, walled content, agile coaching via “office hours,” etc.
  • You can focus on a different type of client by positioning yourself for a new market or vertical, or you can “try it” first by simply creating a campaign or a one-off offering for this new market to see if there's a fit and that it has potential.
  • Or you can monetize an existing portion of your business, such as recording yourself while delivering services, or packaging previous deliverables (with the client's permission or without identifying them), and turning them into a sellable product or ad-supported content.

Just as Pete Dillon did, you don't have to change everything. You can take just one portion of your business or service, and adapt it to the online world, for a new market, or with a new delivery platform.

Sometimes, new opportunities can arise from the most challenging situations.

Oh, I almost forgot. The reason we got together last week was to shoot several short scenes for an upcoming commercial. I only have two short parts. If you want a laugh, check out this 30-second clip.

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