Your initial "great idea" may have served as the perfect catalyst for your startup, but as time goes by, the realities of the marketplace set in and circumstances change. Given the sobering fact that a high percentage of startups fail within five years, it's often necessary to engage in the fine art of pivoting - altering your strategy and approach to the market in order to survive and even prosper.
Here's a look at pivoting strategies that can keep your business going and help maintain a steady flow of customers:
Be objective about what your data is telling you. We all tend to favor information that seems to confirm the wisdom of our current strategy, but it's essential to take an objective look at what sales and customer behavior data is telling you. Stay alert to changes in purchasing trends and other market conditions that can affect your startup, especially in negative ways that demand some response on your part.
Engage customers in your pivot strategy. Startups fail for different reasons, but one, in particular, can't be ignored or denied: customers no longer want what you have to offer. If the time has come to upgrade your existing products or launch an entirely new offering, give your current customer base an opportunity to react to the proposed change. Through surveys, focus groups, or even personalized face-to-face encounters, sound out your most loyal customers and get their input.
What would they like to see changed? What aspects of your product line might be safely kept in place? What preferences do they have that you might not have considered? Getting this kind of valuable input upfront tilts the odds of future success in your favor, while also paving the way for a more enthusiastic reception from future, prospective customers.
Gauge the impact your pivot strategy will likely have. Every change in strategy has consequences, intended and unintended. Rather than just blunder forward, take time to assess how your new approach will impact all relevant stakeholders, including your employees.
If you intend to restructure your business, launch a new product, radically alter the way you market your company, what will that mean for the people who work for you? Will they have more work to contend with or less? Will you need to bring on additional staff or cut back? It's important to predict (as accurately as possible) how your pivot strategy will change current workplace conditions, so no one's caught by surprise—thereby avoiding an unnecessary drop in morale or productivity.
Whatever your strategy, don't put off implementation. Change is never easy, so there's always the temptation to procrastinate. (After all, waiting one more day to pivot your business probably won't matter, right?) But every day you put off implementation increases the likelihood that your startup will suffer the loss of customers and revenue, while the competition gains in strength.
Once you make the decision to change, start the process and get things rolling. Communicate to key players and invite feedback along the way, hopefully avoiding costly errors or gaps in your strategic approach.
Startups that remain flexible and demonstrate a willingness to change are the ones with the best chance of staying in business for the long run.