How to Iterate or Pivot in Times of Turbulence

how to iterate

Periodically, a major event will upend an industry or a market — or, as in the case of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the world. These events can wreak havoc on carefully-laid plans. Suddenly, your marketing strategy is no longer relevant. Or the market you’ve been targeting can’t afford your pricing. Or your product no longer fits the needs of your audience like it used to. Dramatic changes require you to think through how to iterate or even significantly pivot.

But this is a strength of agile startups — you don’t have to go through bulky leadership hierarchies or move massive infrastructure in order to move in the ways you need to. Startups can identify opportunities and jump on them quickly. Here’s what to think through during times of turbulence to position your company for growth.

1. Consider the Industries You’re Targeting

Start by rethinking the industries you’re targeting. Have the current changes negatively impacted the industries you currently serve? If so, you may want to consider shifting who you’re targeting, especially if the changes will have a long-term impact.

We have yet to see how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect industries over the next months and into 2021. Maybe things will bounce back to normal, but the likelihood is that certain industries will experience longer-term effects. For example, independent restaurants, which operate on low margins, may not recover for quite some time. 

You’ll have to make an educated guess on how turbulence will impact an industry over time. But if you’re seeing warning signs for a key industry that you currently rely on, it may be wise to add a new industry to your lineup or shift away entirely from an industry.  

2. Evaluate Your Marketing Plan

There are three ways your marketing plan may need to pivot during times of turbulence. First, you’ll need to be sure your messaging isn’t tone-deaf. At the very least, you’ll need to acknowledge how events are affecting your prospects and customers. You may also want to offer content and resources designed to help them deal with the challenges they’re facing, particularly as they relate to the problems your products or services solve for.

Second, how people consume media may change as a result of the turbulence. For example, time spent listening to podcasts may be down if people aren’t commuting to work, while time spent on social media may be up. People are less likely to be searching online for certain terms (in the current situation, live events, for example), while other terms will be searched in higher numbers (like home office equipment). You may need to pivot the channels or types of marketing you’re doing to accommodate. Another example from the current crisis is that we’re seeing companies reallocate event marketing budgets to content marketing.

Third, based on new opportunities brought on by the changes, you may uncover a new use case for your product as it exists currently. You may be able to target a new market or industry as a result.

3. Re-Measure Product-Market Fit

If the world of your prospects has changed dramatically and it’s looking like it will stay that way for a while, you may need to iterate your product accordingly to better meet new needs. If your competitors make the shift and you don’t, your customers are likely to move to the product that’s a better fit. 

To identify if you need to iterate your product, talk to your customers. Find out what new needs have developed, what new challenges they face, and how their day-to-day routine looks in the new normal. Quickly shifting to meet new needs could put you at the top of your product category, even if you’re currently not a top player (think Zoom vs. GoToMeeting or WebEx in the current crisis). 

Insights on How to Iterate or Pivot 

These three major categories are where most of the opportunities to iterate or pivot lie, but there are others. To find additional opportunities, look at what other industries or product categories are doing and see if you can apply what you see to your own business. Talk to prospects to see where needs are going unmet. And dig into newly-developed pain points to uncover new problems you could solve. In times of turbulence, opportunities about for those who are willing to iterate and pivot to take advantage of them. 

Want to learn more about our SolutionLab workshop, where we help you iterate your software product? Get in touch.

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