What does the Dot-com bubble, Tulipomania, the 80s recession, September 9/11, and the 2008 financial crisisall have in common?
Distress. They were all times of distress. Times most would rather forget and wish they never happened or came again. But despite our disapproval, these situations keep coming and while they’re bad for most businesses, a select few still manage to survive.
In the words of Charles Darwin; “It’s not the strongest that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one that’s most adaptable to change”.
Now, with the rise of the current global pandemic, your creativity as an entrepreneur is being called into question. As economies slowly shut down, and big corporations weaken, while the weaker ones are almost lost. Your entrepreneurship dreams may be facing its toughest foe yet.
“… never let a good crisis go to waste”—Winston Churchill.
You might be asking; what is the best way to adapt and handle the difficult hand you’ve been dealt with? Is there even a way to survive and thrive from this crisis? The answer is yes, and the solution is to pivot your business.
The concept of pivoting your business was first coined byEric Ries. Pivoting describes a strategy of changeability. Creating agile businesses, that can react quickly to market conditions, without compromising your vision.
Today, most companies have attempted to incorporate this philosophy by constantly testing their data, hypothesis, product testing, and other activities meant to keep them ahead of things happening in their market environment.
Ries identified pivoting as the solution that’s functional to not only big cooperation but start-ups. One that can keep them ready to tackle matters that others are clueless about, a way to face-off competitors, build enthusiasm, and increase growth across various industries.
Making your customers the center of your pivot strategy is key to your success in times of crisis. Seek to engage meaningfully with your customers, through conversations, support, and communication. Then redirect and improve your services to meet the peculiar needs of your customers during these difficult times.
When done right, the result for supporting and maintaining this level of relationship with your customers is their continued patronage and unwavering loyalty. In the end, you’d have got brand ambassadors in the millions.
Fair warning though. A lot of entrepreneurs also get this wrong by bombarding their customers with insensitive, insincere, and outright useless goodwill messages that don’t care about the inputs of their customers.
To get this right, the key is to keenly listen attentively to your customers, and only speak with your actions.
Your creativity as an entrepreneur is what got you this far, you’ll need to utilize the same creativity in making sense of the information and data you’ve gathered from your customers. A good place to start is by leveraging your assets and resources and channeling them to meeting the needs of the season.
Consider how Uber transforms their whole brand and assets, during these trying times, going from ride sharing to labor sharing. Or how Panera has pivoted her restaurant stock with the Panera Grocery Program. A program the company uses to provide essential groceries that are no longer in huge supply in supermarkets to its customers. All it takes is creativity.
While pivoting your business may be an option for handling competitions, don’t annihilate yourself in the process. In the words of Curtis E. Sahakian “Partnering is one of the most powerful tools in business,” and Bill Gates agrees that; “Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning.”
Consider the recent partnership between United Airlines and Clorox, makers of cleaning products. Naturally, it’s quite difficult for two unlikely companies to collaborate. But, with the sense of pivoting, this collaboration would ensure that terminals and airlines are extra cleaned after use, a superb way of enhancing customer trust in the safety provided by the system, a true win-win.
It’s understandable that businesses today value immediate results over slow progress, but, when dealing with pivoting your brand, most times the process may be slow and needs repeating before you could reap the rewards.
So don’t be discouraged. Keep adapting to the changing needs of your consumers. Remember Coca Cola’s defunct Black Cherry Vanilla? Today it’s Coca-Cola Cherry Vanilla and Orange Vanilla, or Amazon’s Fire phone? Now we’ve got Fire TV, and don’t forgetGoogle’s social media pivot, Orkut, which was later replaced by Buzz, Google+, Allo, Google Shoelace, and Google Wave, all defunct.
The message is simple: Be on your toes. Reach for the skies and don’t be afraid to stretch into industries connected to yours. Don’t let the fear of failure, or failure itself, be a reason you never tried or stopped trying.
It’s crucial you remember that pivoting your business doesn’t mean exploiting customers. Don’t follow the footsteps of NFL’s legendary player Tom Brady andthe promotion of his poorly named ‘Immunity Blend Supplement’, ‘Protect,’ in the middle of the pandemic. A move that made his Protect appear as if it could resist the COVID-virus, making some critics outrightly denounce his supplement as a ‘Snake Oil’.
Don’t let this be you. Avoid messages that exploit the negative feelings your customers are going through. Ensure your tone doesn’t cause fear, unease, aggression, anxiety, sadness, or disgust. Customers are seeking peace and relief from the already turbulent times, so make sure your messages are well thought out and filled with empathy.
Your brand name is an extension of the value you hope to create, so take the time; research your niche, look at your competitors, brainstorm as many unique names as possible, filter them thoroughly, and finally test them with as many people as you can to avoid falling into the same situation as Brady.