I used to think that pivoting was a bad thing. While working at a young software company, there was always a bit of an eye roll whenever we learned that our business model was changing.
Since working for—and with—several young companies, I now recognize that pivoting is an inherent part of starting a company. It’s being responsive to the market: the foundation of product-market-fit.
It’s also about being smart enough to know that your initial hypothesis is unlikely to be proven true. Even though your guess was well-researched, your interactions with prospective customers are bound to reveal misunderstandings.
These findings can at first be painful to accept, but you’ll be better prepared if you expect them. Once you’ve made your prediction, identify the results you expect to see if your hypothesis is proven true and the results you expect to see if it’s proven false.
While customer willingness to buy is the most common indicator, you’ll also want to identify leading indicators. For example, who do you expect to be enthusiastic about the product? What do you expect their response to be?
Observing leading indicators like these can also help you to avoid being over-responsive.
For example, perhaps you’re conducting discovery interviews with customer success team members. You notice that their response is less enthusiastic than the marketing professionals you happen to meet at networking events. In this case, you may have the right product but you’ve misunderstood who the problem impacts the most.
Instead of changing the product, you can change the target audience.
Discovering what not to do is something to celebrate. Plan ahead to determine what indicators you should expect to see if you’re on the right path and the ones you should expect to see if you’re on the wrong path. The earlier you’re willing to acknowledge results that disprove your business model, the sooner you can pivot.
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