How to pivot your business

a year ago   •   4 min read

By Dan Mulcahy

Change is inevitable and the future is all about changes. Read Dan Mulcahy’s article about how to pivot your business so that it becomes sustainable in the future.


“Pivot” has to feature in a list of the top three most overused words in the last 12 months. And it’s a strong field.


Companies, from micro enterprises to SMEs to corporates, have been advised to pivot their businesses to withstand the effects of the pandemic. Well-meaning advice, no doubt, but difficult to put into practice while facing a once-in-a-generation event.


That said, if there’s only the faintest sliver of a silver lining at this point in lockdown #3, it’s that Covid-19 is no longer a shock.  


On the other hand, the effects of the virus and the disruption it has caused businesses will be felt for a long time to come.


This makes paying attention to what a pivot can do for your business a smart investment in your future sustainability.


We’re all startups now


The term “pivot”, as it is used to describe businesses changing direction, is attributed to Eric Ries and Steve Blank’s books on the “Lean Startup Movement”.


For all the zeal of the average startup founder, it’s a given that a business model might undergo several iterations before truly finding product/market fit. 


In a simplified form, a pivot in startup land generally means coming up with a hypothesis about your solution and testing it quickly in the market. Based on the feedback, you’ll either double down and strengthen your product/service if it resonated with your intended audience, or discard it and move on to your next hypothesis if it didn’t.


In a pre-Covid world, this way of working was viewed as distinctly “startup” in nature.


Now, not so much.


The environment has changed, and drastically at that.


The disruption the virus has wrought means we’re all in a new environment. Businesses with a pedigree behind them that includes years, decades or even centuries have to adapt. And quickly.

So how exactly do you pivot?


Dig deeper into what your customers are telling you


Pivoting may come naturally to startups, but more established businesses have an advantage on their side that the newbies don’t. Customers.


The old adage that business is about people is true. 


For businesses who have been serving customers for years, there’s a rich seam of information to mine just by speaking to existing clients.

Knowing how you can make your clients’ lives easier is often an entry point to a pivot.


Provide the solution to a new customer need


The pandemic has introduced a whole lot of new customer needs. 


Just a few of the considerations businesses and people are dealing with that they weren’t just a year and a bit ago include keeping remote teams motivated, adhering to new health guidelines and how to entertain little children at home.


Think about how your business can ease a pain point in this new world.

Consider the environment


The virus has accelerated the pace at which sustainable solutions are becoming mainstream.


Sustainability is not a trend. Younger people are advocating for greener products and services to be prioritised as we reach an environmental tipping point.


When examining how to pivot your business, consider how you can contribute to a more environmentally-friendly world.

Awareness is increasing around the need to go green. A business that provides products and services to do this will help customers enormously.


A pivot doesn’t have to be drastic


Although a pivot can sometimes mean starting again from scratch, it doesn’t always have to.


Is there a complimentary service or product you could offer to add to what your business already provides? 


We’ve seen many examples of this practice from Ireland’s food businesses over the last year. Meal kits have exploded as a way for food businesses to earn revenue. They’ve also been warmly welcomed by a public bored with lockdown and looking for new ways to entertain themselves.


Ask if your customer profile is still the same


Although the pandemic is not the marketing masterclass any of us would have wanted, it has given us an opportunity to go back to basics. And understanding who your customer really is is as basic as it gets.


It’s also necessary.


As the pandemic has upended so many industries and segments of society, your ideal customers might no longer be in 2021 who they were in 2019. 


Your products and services might not require a pivot at all. But who you market to could.


Here, we find an excellent example from one of the tech behemoths.

Facebook, back in its infancy, was a network built for college students. Then it was aimed at consumers in general. In recent years, and even more so now, Facebook has actively targeted businesses as their new path to growth.


Let your customers know about your pivot


A lot is said about how pivots can help you stay in business and/or grow.


Not enough is said about how a pivot can help with relationship building.


Apart from answering a need for your customer, a pivot also provides you with an opportunity to get back in touch with a client. 


Whether they are a past or present client, a pivot in your business is an ideal opportunity to make contact.


Ask about their business. Understand what their challenges are, and share how your new product/service might be able to help them.


Many business owners are noticing how much easier it is to get people on the phone these days. We’re all missing human contact and conversation.


Make the most of this opportunity to place your pivot in the best light. Fingers crossed, we’ll be in a post-lockdown environment within a few months and that’s when the work for the recovery begins!

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