The majority of startups fail. For every success story of garage-born ideas that rise to billion-dollar enterprises, there are hundreds of companies that just didn’t work out and had to shut their doors.
With the landscape so full of ruthless competition, founders need to be ready to adapt their business to changing market conditions. The word of the day: pivoting.
The product or solution you have could be brilliant, the market ripe for the taking, and the team behind the company, rock solid — but if the results just keep disappointing, it might be time to think about pivoting.
Pivoting is essentially adjusting your strategy in different ways, while maintaining the same broad goals. By pivoting, you could find new sources for growth without having to start over from scratch and ditch everything you’ve already built. The three main areas you could tweak or pivot are the customer base, the problem you are solving, and the focus of your product.
New customer segments
The first place to look is your customer base. Could you take what you have and offer it to a new set of customers? For instance, you might have a delivery service which envisioned could be a B2C solution, but you could offer the same delivery infrastructure to businesses and pivot over to a B2B angle. You might have to change the marketing and messaging, and maybe even make some small adjustments to the product itself. But this could open up a potentially easier way to acquire revenue streams to fuel the next stage of your business.
When you dreamed up your product, you would’ve firstly identified a problem that you were looking to solve. However, if it turns out that the market isn’t all that interested in your current solution, you could take what you have learned about what your customers, and build something that better suits their needs.
Take for instance Wrigley, the chewing gum company. It actually started off a soap and baking powder firm. When the founder, William Wrigley Jr. got the idea offer free chewing gum as a part of the package, he noticed that his customers were more interested in the gum than the soap and powder, so reinvented the firm accordingly.
Change feature focus
It’s a given that products will evolve as a firm matures. But sometimes, you might not realize what features customers value most about your product. By taking focus on those features, it could add more value to users and attract more momentum.
Take Instagram for instance, which started off as Burbn, an app for users to check-in at different locations, make plans for future check-ins, with some gaming elements, as well as photo sharing features. When they concluded that the app had become too cluttered, the creators stripped everything except the photography bits — which was what gave users the most value.
Alternatively, similar to the ‘new problem’ pivot, the issue with the product could be that the functions are simply too narrow and aren’t meeting all the user’s needs. In this case, instead of emphasizing a particular feature, you could add more features to your product and increase its usability.
YouTube is a nice example of this. It started off as a video dating site which attracted little attention, so when the founders realized that restricting what people could upload was hindering the value of the platform, they opened YouTube up for user generated content.
So if things aren’t working out just yet, don’t panic. Consider your business model, and see how different opportunities could be exploited, and how the product could be changed to solve different problems. Change is a natural part of startups, and taking that risk might just bring a unicorn-shaped reward.