If you’re looking for hope and optimism in the middle of the Coronavirus outbreak, look no further than the way businesses have responded. Thousands have pivoted in order to meet the demands of their communities and industries – and they’ve taught us many valuable lessons along the way.
Pivoting is the New Normal
Under normal circumstances, businesses study market trends, evaluate their sales data, poll customers, conduct in-depth market research studies, and ultimately decide to pivot over a period of many months.
There’s nothing about today’s circumstances that are “normal.”
In the middle of today’s global pandemic, pivoting has become rapid and commonplace. Here’s a very small sample size of what we’ve seen:
- The site search tool Yext has partnered with the U.S. Department of State to launch a COVID-19 informational hub that’s able to quickly share travel alerts and other related information. Yext has already developed sites for multiple states.
- Thoughtful Human is a greeting cards company that deals with very challenging topics, like death, grief, and cancer. More recently, the company has shifted gears to focus on pandemic-related issues like quarantine. And in addition to selling greeting cards, the company is partnering with BetterHelp Therapy to provide free virtual therapy (available via phone or text).
- Club Vino is a wine tasting event club – something that normally wouldn’t thrive in the age of social distancing. However, the company’s founder, Marco Castelanelli, has been quick to pivot. Customers can now place online orders for home tasting packages that include themed bottles, printable tasting notes, food pairing suggestions, video links to online guides, and more.
- A handful of automakers – including Ford and GM – have temporarily pivoted their models to focus on producing ventilators, respirators, and face masks.
There are thousands of other examples. From small businesses to global corporations, pivots have defined the 2020 business year. But while it may seem easy and natural from the outside looking in, smoothly switching gears requires very careful planning and execution.
The Art of a Successful Pivot
Whether you’re anticipating a pivot as a response to COVID-19, or you’ve been contemplating a shift for months, successfully transitioning from one focus to another is challenging. Here are some important tips and principles to keep in mind:
- Follow the Data
Gut instincts aren’t enough to justify a pivot. If you’re going to shift from one type of business into another, you have to focus on objective metrics and hard data. Furthermore, you have to interpret the data – not spin it to fit your agenda.
“When evaluating the health of your current product as well as alternate opportunities it’s easy to let your inner sales mode take over to find the right piece of data that validates your current plans,” entrepreneur David Chait writes. “This might feel like a victory in the short term, but in the long run you’re ignoring powerful lessons.”
Look for the data, but let the data tell the story for you. Don’t focus on one specific data point at the exclusion of all the others. Take it as it comes and make a decision based on the full findings.l
- Rethink Your Branding
Sometimes it’s possible to pivot and keep your same branding. Other times you have no choice but to transition on all fronts. If you’re switching industries and completely transitioning with your target audience, a new brand is necessary. Use a tool like TRUiC’s business name generator to get some ideas.
- Update Stakeholders
You can’t just up and leave in the middle of the night like 1984 Baltimore Colts. A successful pivot requires clear communication to all key stakeholders. This includes investors, employees, customers, and business partners.
- Act Quickly
As this current crisis shows, you can’t take too long to pivot or the opportunity may pass you by. It’s imperative that you act swiftly and move with discipline and purpose. Indecision and overthinking will leave you paralyzed and prevent you from moving.
Adding it All Up
If pivoting were easy, we’d see fewer businesses fail. It’s a difficult proposition that requires careful planning, precise execution, and a distinct boldness. But if you’re willing to think outside the box, it’s something that could pave the way for long-term success. Use this current pandemic as an opportunity to shift and/or study how others are pivoting.