By Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Business owners are changing the way they sell to recover and grow during the coronavirus pandemic.
All three entrepreneurs on the WCBS BNB Bank Virtual Business Breakfast panel with Joe Connolly have adjusted their sales operations and strategies, increasing revenue as a result; they share advice to other owners on how to boost sales even in this tough economic climate.
1. Reduce Overhead
Satisfi Labs Co-Founder and CEO Don White says vendors are currently offering incentives for suppliers. You may be in a good position to negotiate.
See 5 Ways to Change Your Sales: https://t.co/8BgOJhLsMr
— WCBS Newsradio 880 (@wcbs880) October 22, 2020
“Now is a great time to shop for a better rate or a better priced option,” White said. “We were able to reduce our health costs by 40 percent going into 2021 just because of how we worked with our partner who wanted to retain us, and even though it’s 25 employees, they were very interested in offering us the ability to do that.”
The savvy tech entrepreneur says now is a great time to reduce your overhead going into next year.
2. Pivot to Boost Revenue
NTWRK president Moksha Fitzgibbons says small retailers should pivot online and attempt to move their current customer base to their e-commerce platform.
#2 Pivot to Boost Revenue
Moksha Fitzgibbons at @NTWRKLIVE developed an e-commerce platform for retailers to sell their products on a live stream.
— WCBS Newsradio 880 (@wcbs880) October 24, 2020
“I would say do as much as you can to build that online revenue and try to grow that as efficiently, as effectively as you can, and then, reopen that store in a safe way to bring back your customer base, as best you can, and introduce them to your online piece,” Fitzgibbons said in response to an audience question from Anita Manfredonia who owns a boutique in Flushing, Queens named Pippy & Lily.
NTWRK is a livestreaming e-commerce application that has helped retailers pivot from brick and mortar to grow digital sales.
One example Fitzgibbons shares on the Virtual Business Breakfast is Chelsea-based artist Mr. Flower Fantastic who designs elaborate floral pieces for live events and showcases, including making a floral masterpiece of Serena Williams’ Nike Air Max 97 sneaker for the 2018 U.S. Open. NTWRK has a creative content deal with MFF that will rake in “seven figures plus” in revenue this year after event cancellations temporarily set the floral artist’s business back.
3. Know Who Your Customers Are
A key to changing your sales is understanding who your customers are by digging into your transaction data and social media analytics.
“Influencer marketing” is the new word-of-mouth marketing. Happy to hear from a Queens boutique owner who will carry 3 Moms Organics’ product in her holiday baskets after watching the Virtual #WCBSBizBreakfast with @JoeConnollybiz.
— Neil A. Carousso (@NeilACarousso) October 25, 2020
“When we saw that it was a reorder, we put a handwritten note in there with an extra two-ounce bottle thanking them for ordering from us,” Jennifer Decker of Long Island-based 3 Moms Organics said of her personal touch.
Her customers became the company’s most influential spokespeople during the pandemic as they made their own posts and videos explaining and showing how their DEET-free product TickWise works to repel ticks and insects.
A combination of genuine influencer marketing and targeted Facebook advertisements accelerated 3 Moms Organics’ sales over 1,000 percent this year.
4. Help Others Who Are Struggling
White shared his conviction that the business community should help others who have been laid-off due to this crisis. One way to do that is through virtual networking made easier on LinkedIn.
“Some of those relationships have really benefited our company,” White said, noting that was not his objective. “I was able to provide them some benefits of either talking through what opportunities they were looking for, ways they can potentially help us, and then they would in turn say, ‘well, how can I help you?’ There was a reciprocal opportunity.”
His startup’s revenue doubled after shifting his sales operations from a regionally focused sales team to a vertical sales team whereby staffers focused on areas of expertise rather than geographic location since business travel was halted.
5. Be a Business for the Future
Fitzgibbons believes consumer behavior has changed permanently and entrepreneurs should look to fulfill needs in the marketplace.
“I used to go to Whole Foods all the time and now I order it through Amazon Prime.
I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a Whole Foods or certainly not with the frequency that I once did,” he shared, adding, “You need to think through that need case and make sure that you are well-positioned to be a business for the future and not one of the past.”
Watch the WCBS BNB Bank Virtual Business Breakfast with Joe Connolly here.
By Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Retailers that have grown their e-commerce platforms are the ones that are surviving the pandemic.
Sylvia Parker owns Magpie – a gift store on Amsterdam Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets on the Upper West Side. She told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by BNB Bank, “now is the time” for retailers to focus on building and growing their online presence.
“I know shop owners are really busy, but if they can take these couple of extra minutes or whatever to do it, then it’s worthwhile, obviously worthwhile,” she said.
Parker, with the help of a “tech savvy staff member,” recently built a new website using a “big e-commerce” platform that has templates. Her product photos stand out on the easy-to-navigate online store. She told WCBS 880 that she purchased a portable photo booth for about $100 from a local camera store to take product photos for her website and Instagram page.
By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Successful entrepreneurs will often say they find opportunities amid challenges, but the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a curveball at a formerly booming economy that has disrupted industries. Some resilient businesses are now growing after making key adjustments to how they sell.
Three local entrepreneurs who have pivoted, recovered and increased revenue in the last seven months share how sales has changed in the pandemic economy on the WCBS BNB Bank Virtual Business Breakfast, hosted by Joe Connolly.
“We started to see a lot of consumption late at night, which just spoke to the fact that people were home more, they were social distancing,” said NTWRK president Moksha Fitzgibbons.
He told the panel he was nervous in March when they were forced to shutter production. NTWRK originally was a platform that hosted highly produced and high-quality video content for businesses. Now, it is part of a hot trend of livestreaming e-commerce in which the NTWRK application hosts vertical live video for retailers that sell their products directly on the app to prospective customers that the startup finds for business owners.
“The more content consumption equated to more product sales,” said Fitzgibbons whose revenue doubled from March to April after the quick pivot. NTWRK is projecting a 500-600 percent increase year-over-year.
He explained on the Virtual Business Breakfast how he helps traditional retailers, such as Mr. Flower Fantastic, based in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, make creative content that translates to sales since brick and mortar and experiential businesses are suffering amid the pandemic.
“In short order, by end of year, we’ll drive seven figures plus revenue for (Mr.
Flower Fantastic) around exclusive product drops in our livestreaming e-commerce application,” Fitzgibbons said.
Don White, co-founder and chief executive officer of Manhattan artificial intelligence firm Satisfi Labs, saw revenue plummet to zero when all of his retail and entertainment clients – including Macy’s, Major League Baseball, Universal Orlando Resort and the Georgia Aquarium – were shut down in March. He credits their recovery to a shift of their sales operations from location to industry specialization by his staff since business travel was halted.
“Moving to a vertical sales team meant that someone who covered all the other aquariums could speak more intelligently about what aquariums are doing or need to get their customers back,” White explained.
“That verticalization and expertise goes a long way in terms of understanding of the category and truly being a partner with the client to give them the success that they need on the platform,” Fitzgibbons added.
Jennifer Decker, co-owner 3 Moms Organics, is up more than 1,000 percent this year, which she attributes to creative and educational content they use in targeted Facebook advertisements. Their most effective advertisement was what they call the “pink paper ad” in which Decker’s partner Lisa-Jae Eggert, who studied entomology and earth science, collected ticks in the high grass on the East End and demonstrates how they stay away from the border of a pink sheet of paper that she sprayed with their product TickWise – a DEET-free tick and insect repellant.
“She blew dry it to show even when it dries on your clothing that the ticks don’t want to go near it and that ad has definitely given us the most website sales,” Decker told Connolly and the panel.
White said when he made a “reopening roadmap” for the hospitality industry over the summer, he discovered one piece of content can be used in email newsletters, Facebook posts and advertisements, and other social media campaigns to acquire new customers within a limited marketing budget.
“I think it’s just very strategic, quality, small investments that can be transferred (across) a lot of channels,” he said.
Selling direct-to-consumer on their website is now 3 Moms Organics’ focus as opposed to traditional retail. TickWise is on the shelves of about 80 stores – many of which are seasonal on Long Island and closed in March. They are registered through the Environmental Protection Agency to sell in 48 states and Washington, D.C. 3 Moms Organics was recently approved by the EPA to sell in California and are pending approvals for Maine and South Dakota.
Decker and Eggert used their time wisely in the first three months of the pandemic to apply and receive the Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise Certification (MWBE), which has opened new doors for additional revenue streams.
“(We’ve) networked within them to learn a little bit more about what we should be doing and what we should be targeting,” Decker said of recent certifications.
White, in an answer to an audience question from debt settlement attorney Leslie Tayne, Esq. of Tayne Law Group in Melville, Long Island, said he has made connections on LinkedIn that has replaced in-person networking during the pandemic.
“I have been open to helping people that were unemployed as a result of the pandemic, and honestly, some of those relationships have really benefited our company,” he said, stressing his personal conviction in members of the business community helping each other through crises.
Learn sales advice, growth strategies and ideas on pivoting and starting a new business to fill a need in the pandemic economy on the WCBS BNB Bank Virtual Business Breakfast with Joe Connolly. Watch the program above.
By Neil A. Carousso
Learn how you can spot and take advantage of sales opportunities to recover and grow at the WCBS BNB Bank Virtual Business Breakfast with Joe Connolly on October 15. See the program and how to participate here.
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Don White, co-founder and chief executive officer, of Satisfi Labs, Inc. was not sure his Artificial Intelligence company would survive the coronavirus pandemic, but since March he made several quick pivots that has led to his sales doubling year-over-year.
“We’ve transitioned from a regional sales team to a vertical sales team,” White told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by BNB Bank.
His sales team had previously focused on national clients by location, which allowed account executives to schedule a number of in-person meetings with clients and leads to maximize business trips. When the pandemic halted non-essential travel, White, along with many other business owners and individuals, saw the value and efficiency in video conferencing platforms.
“We give your customers expertise, someone that knows ski resorts in-and-out, someone that knows the museum industry in-and-out, baseball in-and-out,” he explained. “That’s a pretty big shift for us.”
White believes it is a viable, long-term shift with promising early results.
Satisfi Labs’ clients are in sports, entertainment, hospitality and retail – all of which had been shut down and severely impacted financially by the coronavirus pandemic. His most notable clients include Major League Baseball teams such as the New York Mets, the National Football League, Hilton hotels, Universal Orlando Resort, Macy’s and more. The startup provides automated customer services through its proprietary A.I. platform that allows its clients to swiftly and accurately communicate with customers while enhancing customers’ tangible experience with the brand.
When gatherings were banned due to the pandemic, Satisfi Labs’ monthly revenue plummeted 85 percent.
“Now, someone who covers the Georgia Aquarium can now cover an aquarium in California and have the same relationship,” White said, continuing, “We originally felt that at least one or two face-to-face meetings a year were required for relationships, but I think now the world has adopted that digital relationships are just fine and video calls have replaced the fly in.”
In addition to making a key structural change, Satsifi Labs launched “COVID Assistance” in the early weeks of the pandemic as a way to help other businesses communicate with their customers about their pandemic responses and business changes. White said they are offering the product for free as a way to attract new leads.
“That’s a way that I think we twisted it to say, ‘Look, let’s help you first, let’s not come at you with a pitch right away, but let’s do something to help you get out of this. And when you come out of this, hopefully, you’ll remember us,'” White said.
He told Connolly and Carousso launching an adjacent service at the outset is a proactive approach other businesses can learn from in responding to a crisis.
“It’s just a unique way to build relationships that we hadn’t done in the past,” he said.
He is hopeful those leads will convert to clients who may want to streamline their customer experiences post-pandemic when it’s clear what market changes and consumer demands have taken shape.
“Our talent pool has so much increased by having remote has a non-issue,” he said, telling WCBS 880 he is starting to restore salaries before rehiring employees this fall.
“The workplace of the future, you’re going to see more diversity, which I think is a big focus of a lot of companies,” said White, adding, “And now, you’re going to see all these talent pools that are not typically in your recruiters’ network just open up. I think it’s going to be better for business overall.”
He noted that mothers who want to return to the workforce, but are raising children, now have an opportunity to work from home and be a productive employee, as it has proven to be efficient for many companies and industries over the past four months.
“You’re going to see people come back, have families and be able to work more easily,” White said.
The savvy tech founder and new-age employer evolved in his belief about how A.I. will disrupt the workforce. He told Connolly on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight in December 2018 that Artificial Intelligence would not destroy jobs, rather, it would add an efficiency to compliment skilled laborers. As a result of the pandemic with more than 30 million Americans receiving unemployment benefits, White now tells WCBS 880 it will “replace some roles,” meaning A.I. will replace menial tasks like emails while creating new, advanced jobs.
Listen to the WCBS Small Business Spotlight Podcast on the RADIO.COM app or on the media player above for creative sales methods that could be viable for your company and to hear about Don White’s personal battle with COVID-19 and how he and his family have recovered since they fell ill in March.
Shining the spotlight on mental health needs of health care workers
This interview is part of Entercom’s “I’m Listening” Campaign for Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention. If you are in a crisis or have a family member or friend who needs help, you are not alone: Call 800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741 for immediate help.
According to Jennifer Feist, her sister, Dr. Lorna Breen was in the middle of “a firestorm of illness” in March and early April dealing with COVID-19 at her Manhattan hospital and simply “couldn’t do it anymore.”
Dr. Breen’s suicide in late April grabbed headlines in The New York Times, shining a spotlight on the crisis of physician suicide, a crisis her sister said she never knew existed. As a result, Feist, a Charlottesville, Virginia attorney co-founded (with her husband Corey Feist) the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation, dedicated to protecting the well-being of physicians and health care professionals.
The foundations website says Dr. Breen spent her career in practice at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan and became the director of the emergency room at the Allen Hospital in 2008. It was in that same emergency room, early in 2020 that the COVID pandemic hit hard. Dr. Breen’s father, also a physician, told the Times how his daughter described for him “an onslaught of patients who were dying before they could even be taken out of ambulances.”
Feist sat down for an interview with us for the Entercom “I’m Listening” program, aimed at removing the stigma of asking for mental health help. Dr. Breen’s family had no idea she was struggling so badly early in the year. They knew the pandemic was beginning to arrive and they knew Lorna was working almost nonstop. Dr. Breen had no medical history of mental issues, no challenges that anyone knew of with anxiety and depression. Her risk factor for suicide was “she was a physician.”
Feist said it was the perfect storm.
“She was an emergency room physician in a global pandemic in the worst place in the world to be doing the worst job,” Feist said. In the middle of her work, Dr. Breen even contracted COVID-19, but was back at work within days of having been cleared to return. The spiral seemed to continue for Dr. Breen. She took a leave of absence and traveled to Virginia to seek help there. She died by suicide in late April.
Today, Feist and her husband are advocates for mental health care for front line medical professionals.
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“This is a real crisis and I didn’t know about it until my sister died,” Feist said.
“Physician suicide is at a crisis point in this country as is nurse suicide,” Feist added, pointing out that the rate of burnout anxiety and depression self-reported are “off the charts.”
The Feists’ are working with Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine on a bi-partisan bill in the U.S. Senate called the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. A companion bill for the House is also in the works. Both bills are aimed at preventing physician burnout, suicide in the medical profession, and providing mental health care for professionals who need it in the health care industry.
Feist said, “I believe there is a culture stigma in the community that says ‘you have to be tough, you can’t be a snowflake to get in here. Don’t say you need help. Don’t say you are scared. Don’t say you are worried.’ That’s got to change.”
The foundation is also focused on reforming the culture in medicine, including the licensing and credentialing process for doctors and residents.
“There is no shame. This is part of life,” says Feist. “It’s important what we learn and what we do about it.”
We asked what we all could do to help our health care providers. Feist said it could be as simple as reaching out to your own doctor or health professional to ask them how they may be doing in this stressful time. She says she often wondered what would have happened if someone would have asked that of Dr. Lorna Breen when they noticed she was struggling.
“I’d like to see health care organizations; I’d like to see hospitals; I’d like to see the hospital where my sister worked; others like that to provide mental health support, not just when there is a crisis and the house is on fire, but before there is a crisis,” Feist said. “Let’s provide the support for these people that they need.”
Neil A. Carousso executive produced Entercom New York’s video content for “I’m Listening LIVE,” which aired and was published across the digital platforms of WCBS-AM, WFAN-AM & FM, WCBS-FM, WNSH-FM, WNEW-FM, WNYL-FM and WINS-AM.