Let’s Agree on What We Mean by Pivot
It is an element of thriving, not just surviving. While we can volley on whether a gin distillery that was producing hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 outbreak or, that a SCUBA gear company reconfigured equipment so that it could be used as a ventilator is a pivot, let’s clarify. What we mean for this discussion we are focused on the future growth of an organization. Kudos to those who stepped up to help during the COVID-19 crisis. What you were doing was historic, selfless, and an amazing contribution that was desperately needed. Those actions will forever be part of your societal values story and engender loyalty. Some of those actions are pivots but, most small-batch distillers will return to their core – I am counting on it!
What we are considering here is pivots that can be huge swings or much less disruptive course adjustments. Either way, successful pivots mean acknowledging and communicating that something in your marketing stack is not working. It is the smart marketer’s ability to see that what was once creating amazing growth has seen its day.
Pivots of the future will no longer be the sole miracle stories of entrepreneurial minds and heftily funded teams in companies that are already leaders in their industries. These have no lack of labs, research teams, software developers, and advanced development methods with their cozy lounges and coffee bars.
The New Pivot
There is an upside for marketing executives as they emerge from the once-in-a-career shift caused by the pandemic. It’s the realization that adapting strategic approaches for better results is possible, and even ingenious, even if it upends plans. Being bold, taking risks, and being decisive is the stuff of those out in front. 2020 reinforced that there are gaps in our marketing, and in the marketplace, to be filled. If we find a way to fill them as a leader, it can lead to unprecedented growth.
Pivots should be a new element of our growth strategy that is supported by a shift in culture, funding, creativity, and investment in tech or research. Once recovery accelerates, it can be a way to growth recovery and the channel to leverage new opportunities in our future.
While this period of pivoting is unparalleled, there have been many iconic companies who have had to transform to survive. By transforming, sometimes with a complete 180-degree shift, these well-known brands have pivoted to staggering success.
One of the most illustrative pivots we may have forgotten is Twitter. Twitter was once the company Odeo. The former podcasting platform was ravaged by Apple’s launch of iTunes podcasts. Their response saved them, and they went on to be who they are today with almost $8B in equity as of this writing.
Pivots are Distinct from Innovation
Innovation is charged in its definition. Sometimes it is part of a mission statement, or it is a nod to a company culture that is intended to nurture free-thinkers, innovation is not the same as a pivot. Innovation is a deliberate plan to expand markets or the intentional development of a new market or creation of a new product in the face of foreseen changes. Pivots mean advancing your current business to serve your current market or a new market in the face of an unanticipated change.
Right now, the most distinctive contrast in pivots and innovation is that pivots are often not part of marketing’s strategic planning process. One may argue that “there is no crystal ball that allows our team to plan a rapid shift so, it is not expected that pivots are part of strategy”. While that is true, marketing executives are expected to be agile. Successfully leading a team through change means intentional building of organizations that have the fuel and engine to move fast. This is very different from innovation. With innovation, it is expected that time, research, testing, failing are part of the process. With successful pivots, those luxuries do not exist. Even so, you can prepare.
Pivots as a Strategy
Think about pivots strategies as course-correcting before the next crisis hits, a competitor’s launch turns your offerings sideways, or an emerging technology change that overturns the foundation of your core deliverable. What can impact your company to deeply affect marketing or people in related functions like sales, advertising, and fulfillment? Now, figure out ways that you can course-correct – pivot – to recover quickly. and that a change in marketing approach can overcome?
Be bold and critically see your current marketing strategies for what they are. Are you leading in the industry with this approach? What superior options exist? Are you focused on certain social strategies because they are “proven”? if so, so is everybody else.
Winners of past pivots asked:
Who are we at the core that is distinctly different, valuable, sustainable, irreplicable that can be extended to meet customer needs or, that can expand or market?
How can we build on customer interactions in a way that is important to them, and which they would trust our ability to deliver?
What satellite vision do we have in our data, customer interactions, supply chain relationships, employees that we are not using but that could expand our market or, be a game-changer in delivery that makes us essential?
How to Execute Successful Marketing Pivot Strategies to Prepare for Disruption
Start with These Three Big Questions
• Who are we at the core that is distinctly different, valuable, sustainable and irreplicable that can be extended to meet customer needs or, that can expand our market?
• How can we build on customer interactions in a way that is important to them and, in a manner that they trust our ability to deliver?
• What satellite vision do we have in our data, customer interactions, supply chain relationships and employees that we are not using but that could expand our market or, be a game-changer in delivery that makes us essential especially during times of disruption?
Asking these questions will start dialogues and idea exchanges that will lead to identifying effective responses to disruption.
• New Strategy Think: Uncharted territory, Unexplored CX.
• Understand upstream and downstream supply chain impacts.
• Map out risks and points of changing relevance related to messaging, ad campaigns tactics, delivery/fulfillment, customer service, pricing.
Lori Johnson is a marketing strategist with focus on entering new markets and increasing organization value.
Lori founded Appara Digital Marketing following her success in global marketing in technology and specialized consumer services. Leading up to the formation of Appara, she held various global marketing positions in voice, mobile and infrastructure technology. While establishing brand recognition and working on deals shoulder-to-shoulder with company leaders, Lori also built partnerships with industry leaders such as Motorola, Samsung, Telefonica, Vodafone and others.