We all remember that iconic line from Friends where Ross shouts “pivotPivot!” at Rachel and Chandler as they move the sofa upstairs. Perhaps the reason that line is so funny is that the word somehow loses its sense of meaning and just becomes a funny noise and instruction. 

Pivoting, whether in a business or more colloquial sense, isn’t a term heard everyday; so, what exactly does it mean? 

A business pivots when it makes an important strategic change to the product or service it provides to better meet the demands of the market.

The usual aims:

  • Usually: to increase sales aims
  • Drastic cases: it’s just about survival. 

Pivots can be major, like changing the entire business model, or something more minor, like focusing efforts on one product / service line. 

The reason pivoting is important…

  • It demonstrates a company’s ability to change with the times
  • Sometimes even be a few steps ahead of the times! For example, adapting your niche to work with cannabis companies on branding. 

Recent drastic global conditions such as the pandemic, the rise of TikTok, the metaverse and even Brexit to an extent demonstrate the 21st century’s zoom in professional change and therefore further need for adaptability.

Unless external circumstances force you into one suddenly (such as Covid-19), pivots need to be carefully thought through and planned – and typically led by what your customers are telling you. 

A big change to your strategy will require meticulous restructuring and reorganisation everywhere else in your business. It may also require a major injection of funds to finance it. Make the wrong move, or even just time it wrong, and the success of your business is at risk. 

So… how does one plan for a pivot:

  • Analyse performance highs and lows. Take a thorough look at your business and how it’s currently performing. Start with key performance metrics to see where your business might be struggling. 
  • Note the opportunities arising in the next 3-6 months. Note these alongside any other major assets you perceive your business has, from specific services. List your opportunities – most of these should hinge on pre-existing strengths, but you should also consider advantageous external circumstances, too. 
  • Brainstorm. Set up an idea session for yourself and everyone else on your team. At this point, you should be generally considering ways your business can improve rather than explicitly thinking about pivots. One approach to aid this process is to come up with a list of assumptions: 
    • Listing what you already know about your clients (and the evidence you have)
    • What you believe about your clients (and how you can test that) 
    • What you have no idea about (that you can explore). 
  • What do you have the budget and time for? Consider the resources you have available. How big a change can you afford to make? How urgent is it? What level of expertise and capacity exists within your team and are there any big gaps? 
  • Create a consumer idea/ the ideal demographic for your business and where it is going. 
  • Re-evaluate. Given what you now know – alongside any new options that have presented themselves – evaluate the pivoting options available to you. Consider the ramifications of each option.
  • Test, rinse, repeat. Put your research into practice. Prepare to continue to engage with your users throughout, and be ready to change direction when the situation arises.

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