If you’re anything like me, you’re perpetually trying to improve your business. I read a lot of material produced by other entrepreneurs to make sure I stay on top of trends and the most current research that can help me be a better business owner. My companies are my babies, and I want to be a good parent.
We have to be wary consumers of entrepreneurial advice, though, and there’s one trend that is particularly troubling to me because it eats away at the core reasons you and I had for starting our companies in the first place. Pivoting can be lethal to your business, and here’s why.
Pivoting, explained simply, is finding out what your customers want and altering your product until you satisfy your customers. Now in theory, trying to please your customers doesn’t sound like a bad thing, right? Here’s the problem, though: assuming that you started your business because you had a philosophy and a product that you believed in, pivoting can end up being nothing more than incremental steps that carry you further and further from your vision.
In fact, not only can pivoting move you away from your vision, but it can also do real harm to your bottom line.
I’ll share a story that illustrates how dangerous pivoting can be: When I wrote my first book, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, I thought I knew exactly who my target audience was. I was absolutely certain that my readers would be male, recent college graduates. I’d created marketing plans with that reader in mind, and I was shocked when I didn’t see immediate sales to my expected demographic. I’d missed my mark, and for whatever reason, my book wasn’t selling as well as I’d hoped … at least not to the people I thought it would.
As it turned out – before I could revise the book and re-release it, hoping to get the readers I’d hoped for – I discovered my book did have a market – a really good one. It just wasn’t what I expected. I was shocked when I started getting feedback from middle aged women who were telling me how valuable they’d found my insights. I did have natural readership – one who identified with and valued my methods – and if I’d revised my book to chase after another set of readers, I’d have lost the ones I had. Had I pivoted … altered my product … I’d have missed out on the customer that already existed – for the product I really believed in.
So pivoting can not only mean that you’ll miss out on the natural customers who want what you’re producing, but there’s also a principle at the core of pivoting that’s a problem. You’ll see advice about producing a minimum viable product (MVP) to test market customer reception. The problem with MVPs is that they’re necessarily watered down, poorer quality offerings than what you’d produce if you were really going all in with a product launch. It’s my position that if you’re truly invested in a product you believe is a unique, high quality offering, then you’ll find your customers. Putting out a lousy representation in order to test the waters will ultimately damage your brand and dilute the effect you’re trying to create in the marketplace.
My advice when it comes to pivoting – or any other entrepreneurial trend – is to remember why you started your business in the first place. Any trend or new concept that moves you away from your vision for your company deserves closer scrutiny and a skeptical eye. Finding your authentic customers and then earning and keeping their confidence is a much sounder course than shifting your direction in search of an easier road.