The Virtual World – the time is NOW!

3 pillars of a successful virtual business

If you have a business that has been temporarily closed, this is why NOW is NOT the time to go into digital hibernation. It’s time to get out of that “we’re closed so what’s the point of marketing” mentality because it couldn’t be more FALSE! 

Businesses who stay in touch and keep investing, even if it’s just time and energy into their business are the ones that are going to prosper when this all blows over.

There’s a story out of America about Kellogg’s vs. Post. In the late 1920’s both companies dominated the market for packaged cereal. But when the Great Depression hit, Post did the predicted and cut back on expenses and advertising. Meanwhile Kellogg’s doubled its ad budget, moved aggressively into radio advertising and heavily pushed its new cereal, Rice Krispies or as we like to call them Rice Bubbles. Now you tell us which brand you recognise and still love to this day. Many of us would’ve grown up eating breakfast with Snap, Crackle and Pop. 


If you can market as hard as you can during this time, you’ll be the winner when the economy bounces back and stay ahead of your competitors.  

We’ve seen a 67% increase in clicks on ads on Facebook and Instagram. Yep, this is an awesome time to get online!

What is virtual?

The 3 pillars of virtual business:

  1. Website – Home base of marketing and communications 
  2. Social Media – social proof, personality of the brand, more informal 
  3. Email Marketing – your database 

BONUS – who you’re talking to is key to your messaging. Be specific to be terrific. 


The value of virtual 

  • TOMA (top of mind awareness). We have an accomodation client who’s traffic is on par this month compared to the same month last year, so client bookings may be down, but the dream is still alive! The value of virtual is that you want to stoke those dreams, get it out there to make sure people are aware that you’re still here, answering questions and are ready for them to book. 
  • Engagement, online engagement is at an all time high 
  • Adapting, innovating, systemising your business can make you come out even stronger
  • Beauty of digital marketing = test, analyse, tweak and test again

Stand Out 

If you speak to everyone, you speak to no one. 

In any kind of communication you have, if you’re talking to the masses, then you might get a very small amount of engagement. If you speak to someone and use their values and what they really stand for, you will get so much more engagement and feedback just by speaking to certain people and certain demographics. 

Why most target market talk is totally useless. When we’re talking about demographics there are certain things that are ‘high level demographics’ such as busy mums, small business owners or adventure seekers. But that’s not quite good enough in terms of how you’re going to talk to them and be really specific. 

Get into the mind of your customers and really go deep into thinking what they’re thinking. What makes them tick? What are going to be their buying triggers? Find out what their conversations are like, their personality traits, their values, attitudes, interests and their lifestyle. 


This kind of segmentation is so advantageous for small businesses because it allows you to engage in your product design and your marketing in a focussed way. If you use that psychology then people really feel like they’re being spoken to. 

Pillar 1 – How to get your website up to date with the new virtual world

Adapt your revenue streams! E-commerce is the easiest way to do that. You’ve got a product, get it online and get it selling! Another way could be through experiences – a virtual tour of your wildlife park or a mixologist doing an online cocktail class. All you need to do is take a clever angle on not just what you want to sell, but what people really want and are needing.

This is Sarah’s favourite website hack, the Grunt Test! If your website passes these 3 goals then you pass the Grunt Test:

  • What do you offer? Make it super duper clear! They need to know exactly what you’re offering within the first 5 seconds of visiting your website.
  • How will it make my life better? This is where you can add more sparkle, people are always wanting to know how they can make their life better.
  • What do I need to do to buy? This might seem obvious, but having a clear CTA is important! Whether it’s where they can shop on your site or how to request a quote, your visitors shouldn’t need to dig to find this information

User Experience

In relation to your website you really need to review the user experience. This honeycomb represents all the things you need to look at in terms of how your user interacts with your website. It all boils down into one thing –  intuitive. 

Valuable is in the centre of the honeycomb and you need to keep reiterating that value by asking some questions. 

How are you helping people in the bookings/buying process, making it clean and seamless? 

In the enquiries process, is there an autoresponder? Do people know what to expect? 

In downloads, is it easy and simple with not too many clicks (in order to build your database)? 

And is it mobile friendly? When people are out and about (or on the toilet) is it easy for them to quickly see what it is you do, are you being useful, are your products or experiences desirable, accessable, credible, useful, valuable and of course, findable.

Search Engine Optimisation 

Where’s the best place to hide a head body? The second page of google! 

In order to keep off the second page of Google one great thing to do is blogging. Build your blog around questions and answers, Google will love that! They love it when you create the answers for them. 

Top tip for blogging: look at the suggested searches when you start typing into the search bar, these are the things you should be putting into your blog, whether it be in the title or a subtitle. Because that’s what people are searching for.

No one will go to your website looking for blogs, they search for blogs then find your website!


Pillar 2 – How to use social media effectively 

Using social media effectively will keep your customers engaged. Your website is NOT a build it and they will come scenario. So social media is an awesome way to get people to your website, use social media to engage and then redirect them to your website where they will do all the booking and buying. What’s interesting and unique about your business is a great thing to create content around. Storytelling about your business entices people to want to know more. 


How to create an authentic position and voice:

  • Talk about your purpose 
  • Your principle, what do you stand for 
  • Making sure people understand and can get behind the things you believe in. This also goes into your target audience, who you want to connect with
  • Passion point, this can be both positive or negative. For example the palm oil installation at Taronga Zoo or SeaLife at Darling Harbour where they educate people who come through the aquarium about the dangers of plastic in the ocean. The reasons these work is that they are both clever, entertaining and educational. When you show passion about whatever it is you’re interested in, it brings a greater sense of bonding to your audience. 

Another thing that an authentic position gives you is a competitive advantage, if people believe in the same things that you do, they’re way more likely to buy from you. 

Social is great for:

Customer sentiment and getting feedback 

  • For example, we have a client who was developing a new product and when it came to the packaging label design, we put up an Instagram story for people to vote between two options. It got great engagement and after 24 hours there was a clear winner on which label people liked the best. What that did was 3 things: it built excitement, audience ownership and engagement with the brand.


  • Just letting people know that you’re still around, even if your doors are shut right now. Keep talking to your audience and let them know what you’re working on or what inspires you day to day. 

Personality of your business

  • Really show what your business is all about and what you stand for. Here at Spicy we like to show off our awesome creativity and team culture through our social, while also reminding everyone about our environmental stances. Awarded in the top 100 sustainable businesses on the Northern Beaches 😉

ROI can happen, and it does, especially within e-commerce and product based businesses but it can be a bit deceiving in terms of what people expect when they’re starting a social media campaign. It has to be part of the holistic idea of your digital marketing strategy, don’t just think you can put up a few posts and the sales will start flowing in. Every aspect of digital marketing goes together like peanut butter and jelly, and that’s why it works! 

Pillar 3 – Email Marketing, keep in touch with your raving fans 

Email Marketing is great because you own the database. Any business broker will tell you, your database is one of your most valuable assets. It’s awesome to be able to build an email list of people to market to who are ready to buy, or who have bought from you in the past. You can track who’s engaged with your emails the most, or who has made the most bookings or purchases. 


The social algorithm changes all the time, the people who see your posts could change on a day to day or weekly basis. But with your database, you’re always in control. You’re in control of who sees your messages, how they see it and when they see it. You can talk to past customers in a different way than how you talk to prospective customers. You could offer a discount to people who have booked or purchased over a certain number of times which is awesome! It allows you to really tailor all those messages to who you want. 

But how can you build your database you may be wondering? Brainstorm ways that people can exchange their email addresses for something you’re offering like initiating a login system, getting feedback forms, providing a downloadable PDF or doing giveaways or cross promotions with other brands that have a similar target audience.

The number 1 key to email marketing is to provide value! Keeping emails personal, interesting and giving them special offers they can’t get anywhere else. It’s all about what’s in it for them, and remember not to spam or you’ll have people hitting unsubscribe in no time.


If you’re going to take one thing away from this blog, let it be this. Ready… Fire… Aim. Take action! 

Whatever it may be, just get it out there. If you’re holding back because you’re worried it’s not yet perfect, then you may end up holding back forever. If you don’t get it out there then no one can give you feedback or recommend you. Get it online because you can always test it, analyse, change and retest. That’s the beauty of digital! There are so many analytics and reports you can review on how many people are interacting with your site, your social media and your database.

Small business is all about building relationships and that’s what you can really focus on right now. Pretend your customers are your friends! Ask them what they want and get them involved in your business now.

Something you can really focus on right now are these 3 pillars of a successful virtual business. The businesses who will prosper the most when everything goes back to normal are the ones who are staying active now. 

Perfection isn’t king. Action is king. Be bold, give it a try and keep refining! 

Download our Virtual World Checklist here to see how many you can check off to improve your virtual business.