How to Pivot Your Business During Times of Uncertainty

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Pivot means to turn, shift or change direction. It’s probably the top business buzzword now and maybe in years to come. It’s also on the list of the most annoying words because you hear it every day.  I’ll try to minimize its usage (grin).

In the blink of an eye last year, business as usual ground to a halt. The pandemic forced businesses to change strategies to survive. Even Amazon has had to adjust. It was forced to only accept delivery of essential products into its overworked warehouses. Now you know why your order was a month late.

Pivoting can result in simple tweaks or radical changes. It depends on your needs. Whatever pivot means to you, one fact remains. If you want to grow, especially during uncertain times, you have to adapt and change. Here are ideas on how to pivot so your business will survive and stay on top in 2021.

When To Pivot?

Survival is one reason to pivot. However, going through a rough patch might not mean completely transforming your business model. Often, if you had a formally a successful business, and you know your fundamentals are sound, you just have to weather the storm, for it will soon pass. Changing direction means starting all over again with new processes, techniques, products and services. It would be difficult and expensive to turn back.

Keep in mind a pandemic isn’t the only reason to pivot. Here are other instances when you should consider it.     

  • It seems your business has peaked. You’ve improved efficiency and expanded, but sales remain flat.
  • Your competitors are leaving you behind. They made smart changes to remain relevant. Sure, you could try to catch up, but making significant changes and new ways of thinking may be the better option.  
  • Your customers change on you. Uncertainty significantly affects them. When they worry about job security, they tighten their belts. They search for cheaper options or postpone purchases.
  • Trends can also shift loyalties. Your fans might prefer what’s currently hot. If you’re selling yesterday’s trends, you’ll lose customers. Oldsmobile, once trendy, saw their demographics age and sales decline due to its “grandpa” image. They didn’t change and failed.
  • Your bestseller is gathering dust on shelves. You wake up one day to discover demand for your number one product has declined. Maybe it has lost its appeal.   
  • Visits to your webpages and social media accounts are decreasing. Minor adjustments could fix this. But, if a downward trend continues, consider making changes.
  • You’re shifting to a different product line. Did you know that William Wrigley Jr. sold soap first and baking powder? His giveaway was chewing gum, which became a much bigger hit. When you stumble upon a better idea, it’s time to reinvent your brand.  

I’m sure there are other situations in your industry that will call for pivoting. Watch out for these signs and be ready when you reach a crossroad.

Ways to Pivot

  • Innovate.  

Your competitors may come up with a bright idea. It’s okay to follow their lead. Nokia sold the first SMS-capable phone and soon, other companies followed suit and improved on the technology.

You can always learn from your competitors. But, copying shouldn’t be your strategy. Instead, become an innovator. Improve upon what others are doing.

  • Add a new service.

Find more ways your business can serve people working or staying at home. Delivery companies similar to Postmates are now buying groceries for customers.   

Why not bring your product to people at home if they can’t come to you? Blink Fitness hosted virtual workouts for free while Orangetheory shared 30-minute videos daily. They found ways to serve customers during lockdowns.

Trend Micro has boosted protection for customers with Pay Guard. This free service provides a more secure window when shopping or banking online.

You might have to spend to provide add-ons. Trust me, it’s a worthwhile investment. With just little extras, you can stay relevant and gain more customers.

  • Reinvent your brand.

There are many stories of successful business pivots. Take the case of Twitter. It began as Odeo, a podcasting platform. But it couldn’t compete against iTunes. The founders saw the writing on the wall so, they transformed the company into Twitter, a blogging platform.

Chipotle introduced their “Chipotlanes” as a response to digital sales and consumer demand … this BEFORE the pandemic. Their digital sales have almost doubled since then, and they have been wildly successful responding to what people are concerned about – keeping safe and ordering from their phone.

  • Reinvent your products.

What do your customers need in 2021? It’s a question that should be foremost in your mind. Is it comfort, safety, security, convenience or savings? Which of your products can provide any of these? Focus on their qualities.

As a business, your purpose has always been to answer needs and provide solutions. The key is finding what’s most important now. Instead of just selling your products, highlight their benefits. Update your market research and ask your Facebook Group what is important to them now.

  • Do something off-the-wall.

If you think farm animals and virtual meetings don’t mix, you’re wrong. Sweet Farm, an animal sanctuary, relied on physical visits to bring in additional funding. Donations dried up because of lockdowns. In response, the group launched Goat-2-Meeting. This is a service where a farm animal can join in any meetings to break the monotony.

Businesses, including Fortune 500 companies, have requested appearances. If you want to liven your next Zoom session with a cameo by a llama, a virtual tour for your kids or just get someone’s goat (pun intended), check them out!

  • Market through other platforms.

Now is time to think about other digital platforms if you’re only active on a few. Mom and Pops shops are now on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Everyone has to adapt to a changing business landscape. I suggest reading our article on 2021 trends if you want ideas. 

It will take time, but what about starting a podcast or make videos if you haven’t done either. Creating a presence in one or both is a way to pivot and expand your marketing channels. You can get noticed when you do something new. Make sure you have excellent content if you want to hook your customers.    

  • Market your skills.

IT professionals are in demand these days. This is an understatement, as many of them are far overworked. Just imagine the number of calls they get because people can’t connect to the internet or set up Zoom meetings.

If you’re an online marketer, you have many opportunities. You could offer courses on starting a digital business, fixing a computer or making a frittata via a virtual meeting. You could be a tutor, teach a new language or become a Yoga instructor.

Take inventory of your skills. Consider all possible sources of revenue. Aside from selling products, sell yourself.

  • Retool.

Shine Distillery & Grill, a restaurant, is busy by not serving food and drink. The company is making private-label hand sanitizers instead. Where did they find the recipe? There are tons online. The owners were giving sanitizers away before lockdowns, so you could say they had a head start. Right now, the company is earning thousands of dollars a day with this.

Speaking of the obvious, making reusable masks is the choice of new entrepreneurs right now.  If you’re into private-labeling or dropshipping, why not add masks to your product line?

So, could you retool to provide a different product? You might already have the platforms and physical assets to produce or market new items. With no or little investment, a new product can increase revenue.

  • Shift to a different business model.

We have an article on starting an eCommerce business that might interest you. Already mentioned above are dropshipping and private-labeling. You can also consider wholesaling, retail arbitrage, subscription services and print-on-demand. Any of these can complement your existing business.     

  • Partner up.

Adversity makes strange bedfellows. I saw small business tie-ups last year I wouldn’t have imagined. There’s no shame in seeking help from others. Doing it solo may no longer be wise, especially when facing inevitable strong headwinds.

I wouldn’t mind offering concessions to form a partnership that can be beneficial in the long run. It will help if you consider it as an option.       

Short-term and Permanent Pivots

I’d bet that Shine Distillery & Grill are not closing their restaurant business for good. Short-term pivots are usually aimed at solving pressing problems. Making unrelated products or slashing prices to improve revenue are examples. Keep in mind that large companies had to close branches to remain afloat.  

Making gradual changes as a transition to a larger pivot can be part of your long-term strategy. For instance, if you want to focus on a specific product line, you might have to let go of other items … but do so gradually, as you likely have an existing customer base using your older product line.

You’ve proven to be resilient, but I suggest you start preparing on your Plan B or Plan C. Making changes in the future without careful thought and planning can harm your business. Resilience alone won’t guarantee growth. It does, however, help you survive. The right planning and steering helps you thrive.

Do you have other ideas that can help businesses grow in 2021?  Share with us below how you plan to pivot your business

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