So much change happens within and around a startup. If you can't keep up and adapt accordingly, you'll fail. Being able to roll with the punches and pivot when you need is a necessity. The question, then, is this. When do you pivot? How do you discern which changes are worth paying attention to? At what point do you implement something new that you've learned?
Every company has to deal with these questions. When you're a new company, every decision and change is amplified, so you've got to continually place a lot of focus here. At Text Request, we've pivoted a lot. Possibly more than we wish was necessary. Here's a few things we've learned throughout all the change. They might seem simple when they're outlined like this. But if you haven't experienced them first-hand yet, you'll be a lot better learning from this article than having to live through them. Trust me.
Build for Your Customers
This one boils down to following market demand. It doesn't matter how technically great your product is if nobody wants to use it. There's hundreds of great ideas that burn out every year simply because there wasn't a good market for them. Whatever you're doing or creating, get customer/user/client feedback constantly. As you're testing out marketing channels and various targets, this will help you tailor your product(s) and service(s) specifically to the channels and targets that perform best.
As you learn what aspects and changes make or break potential customers' decision to use you, you'll need to pivot towards whatever is getting the most demand. For us at Text Request, had we really focused on this sooner, we would have grown (and still be growing) a lot faster. We eventually pivoted in the right direction, and gave customers what they really wanted. But starting out, we should have made the appropriate changes the second time we heard a suggestion instead of the fourth or fifth.
Build for your customers. When your first users as a group tell you to add or change various features or go in a certain direction, you'll do well to pivot. Unless you're simply in the wrong space completely, which means you need to pivot for a different reason.
You need to follow the path of least resistance when trying to grow quickly. You can't possibly know which path that will be until you've tried them all! Test everything. Product variations, target markets, distribution channels, ad platforms, online communities - everything. You won't know what works until you try. So try everything. When one or a few things begin to stick out and show promise more than the others, pivot in that direction.
At Text Request, we've been slow to try new things. A common tendency for startups (which has applied to us at times) is to go in a direction you're already familiar with. To choose growth methods you've used before. Often times, the best direction for your business will be one you've never experienced or worked in. You can't rule something out before you've given it the same attention as another option.
After you've tried everything, you've got to focus on what's working best. Even if that means neglecting channels that work, but that don't work as well as others. What works best will change periodically as you grow and enter different stages of development. At every stage, you need to be open to pivoting based on what's working for that stage.
Follow the Money
This one seems obvious, right? In practice, it's less obvious. It doesn't necessarily mean follow whoever's paying you the most (though it could mean that). Even if you have an awesome product or service, people won't care about it until you can help them make more money. You could increase sales, which makes them more money. You could save them time and stress, which equals more money. You could provide more information or opportunities, which can be used for more money.
When you're trying to quickly grow a business, you need to pivot in whichever direction shows the most money exchanging hands. That's where you'll likely find your initial niche, and that's how you'll be able to grow exponentially.