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Gary Vaynerchuk: Now, more than ever, is the time for businesses to think about innovation

Gary Vaynerchuk, chairman of media and communications holding company VaynerX and active CEO of VaynerMedia
Gary Vaynerchuk on how business can innovate during coronavirus crisis

As we navigate through this current landscape and uncharted waters amid coronavirus, a lot of businesses are going to find themselves in challenging situations. Many small and local businesses have been forced to close, and the businesses lucky enough to stay open have had to adjust to a changing business climate, remote employees or losing business from customers and clients who are pulling back.

But crises can also present innovation and positive change if you use the time to think outside the box and stop asking yourself "why" and instead question "why not?"

Here are a few things to think about as we get through this unprecedented time.

Maintain perspective

First of all, family and loved ones over everything! I think we can all agree that if you and your loved ones are healthy, you've got so much to be grateful for right now. The way I think about calibrating challenges in business is by putting them in the context of overall life: There's just nothing in the business world that matters more than the health and well-being of the people closest to me. Business matters, but it's important to put it in context of what's actually going on out here.

Serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk says businesses should begin to innovate in this time of crisis by thinking outside of current strategies and concepts that have always been available.
Mary Stevens | CNBC


Now, more than ever, I believe it's time for businesses to think about innovation. It's about thinking outside of current strategies and concepts that have always been available.

Innovation can come in two forms: The first option is marketing innovation. Now may be the time to start the process of learning Facebook and Instagram ads as opposed to things like outdoor media or going to the Chamber of Commerce.

It could also be the time for executives and CMOs at many big companies to really become deep practitioners in digital advertising and get back in the trenches.

The other form is innovation in your product or service. For example, barbershops might not be able to cut hair right now, but what about those scissors and soaps and beard oil some of them have in their shop? Now may be the time to start a Shopify store and experiment with that e-commerce store that may lead to some extra sales when we get back. Restaurants can consider getting on delivery apps or creating packaged food that they can ship around the country.

[This could] be the time for executives and CMOs at many big companies to really become deep practitioners in digital advertising and get back in the trenches.

Big hotel brands could also potentially donate some of their rooms to health-care workers. Or what if they took the food they deliver as room service and turn it into a food delivery to people in their area?

Not every idea will be a good fit for every brand — depends a lot on their resources, their DNA, persona and what they feel comfortable with. But now's the time to ask "why not" instead of "why."

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Tell stories

I think storytime is a big concept, too. I think right now is a great time for businesses to start the process of telling stories around things like how they got started, their biggest mistake or their craziest experience. It's a practical concept for many right now, since we're not working in offices and don't have the option to create content at work. It's a good opportunity to take a step back and start digging into that "origin story."

Every CEO probably has a handful of key executives that help them run their organization. What if they sat down and did "storytime" with each of them to talk about their career or why they decided to work at the company?  

As another example, an executive at a hotel brand could start a content series where they talk about, say, the master sommelier that they employ, or interview the head of a department to share some interesting insights about a part of the company most people never get to see. They might also interview the people who do room service and share some of the most fun experiences they had interacting with customers or the craziest things people tried to order.

Again, every brand has its DNA, and I'm not saying my ideas here are right for every brand. But giving people the option to relate to different people and stories within your organization creates more opportunity for connection.

I'm really into wine. If a hotel brand did an interview with a sommelier, that may capture my attention and subconsciously lead to me giving them my business for a big event in the future!

It's super important to understand that people buy from people. Right now is an interesting time to tell stories and show people who you are. 

And finally, be patient

We're just going to have to wait this out. Whether it's a few weeks, a few months or whether it goes away and comes back later in the year, it's just going to take patience to get through it.

TUNE IN: Watch Gary Vaynerchuk on CNBC's "Closing Bell" with Sara Eisen and Wilfred Frost today at 3 p.m. 

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.