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Product Strategy

Navigating the Turn: Recognizing When It's Time to Pivot Your Product Strategy

24 Oct 20234 mins read
Andrea Saez
Navigating the Turn: Recognizing When It's Time to Pivot Your Product Strategy
By Andrea Saez
CONTENTS
  • What’s in a pivot?

Picture this: You're cruising down the highway of business success, your product strapped securely in the backseat. Suddenly, you spot a roadblock up ahead. Do you slam on the brakes? Do you swerve into the unknown? Or do you execute a well-timed, strategic pivot?

Driving strategy

Product strategy is pretty much like that, where the ability to pivot can mean the difference between a dead-end and the scenic route to success. 

Let’s take a look at what pivoting means and when is the best time to do it.

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What’s in a pivot?

The most important thing is to not see pivoting as a sign of failure or a desperate Hail Mary. It's a strategic shift in your product or business model, based on insights you've learned from the market, your customers, or your product's performance. Think of it as a course correction, not a shipwreck.

Now, onto the million-dollar question: When should you pivot? Timing, as they say, is everything. Pivot too early, and you might miss out on potential success. Pivot too late, and you might find yourself stuck in a rut.

Here are some telltale signs that it might be time to change direction:

  • Dipping key metrics: If your key business metrics are starting to look like a downhill ski slope, it might be time to consider a pivot. Whether it's user engagement, revenue, or customer acquisition, a consistent downward trend is a clear signal that something needs to change.

  • Stagnant business growth: If your business is stuck in a plateau, and your growth graph resembles a stubbornly flat pancake, a pivot could provide the yeast to kickstart your growth.

  • Changing market requirements: Markets, like seasons, change. If you find that your product no longer fits the market's needs or that the market has evolved, it might be time to pivot to stay relevant. Remember, product-market fit isn’t static, it is continuous!

  • High churn rates: If your customers are leaving faster than a cat in a bathtub, it's a glaring sign that something isn't working. A pivot could be the solution to retaining your customers and attracting new ones.

  • Misalignment with vision: If your product no longer aligns with your company's vision or values, a pivot could bring you back on track. After all, a product that doesn't reflect your vision is like a compass that doesn't point north.

analysis

How to pivot effectively

Recognizing the need to pivot is only half the battle. The real challenge lies in executing the pivot effectively. It's not just about changing direction; it's about doing so in a way that sets your product up for success in its new trajectory. Here's a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to help you navigate this crucial turn:

Step 1: Conduct a post-mortem

Before you can chart a new course, you need to understand what led you off track. This is where a product post-mortem comes in. Conduct a thorough analysis of your product's performance, user feedback, and any attempts you've made to improve the situation. 

Ask yourself: What was our original hypothesis for the product, and how did reality measure up? What do our metrics tell us? What feedback have we received from users? What strategies have we already tried, and how did they pan out? This post-mortem will give you valuable insights to inform your pivot and help you avoid repeating past mistakes.

Post-mortem on the product

Step 2: Restart the discovery process

Once you’ve written down all learnings, it's time to look to the future. Go back to your users and conduct fresh research to understand their needs and pain points. This is your chance to get creative and explore new possibilities. Remember, flexibility is key during this stage. Don't limit yourself to the confines of your current product. Instead, approach this process with an open mind and a willingness to venture into uncharted territory.

Step 3: Choose pivot options

Based on your post-mortem and discovery, consider your options for pivoting. This could involve focusing on a specific feature that's resonating with users, changing your revenue model to better align with market trends, or even shifting your target audience to tap into a more lucrative market segment. The goal here is to identify potential new directions that are not only viable but also align with your company's broader vision and capabilities.

Step 4: Experiment

Before you commit to a new direction, test your ideas. Run small-scale experiments to gather data and feedback on your proposed changes. This could involve A/B testing, user interviews, or even launching a minimum viable product (MVP) to gauge market response. The aim is to gather as much evidence as possible to inform your decision. A pivot is a significant move; you want to ensure it's the right one.

ab testing

Step 5: Decide to abandon or pivot

After your experiments, take a hard look at the results. If the data supports your new direction and you believe it can lead to a scalable and sustainable business, then it's time to execute the pivot. However, if the results are less than promising, it might be time to consider abandoning the product. This can be a tough decision, but remember, it's better to cut your losses early than to continue pouring resources into a product that's unlikely to succeed.

Conclusion

Pivoting can be an emotional rollercoaster. It requires courage, resilience, and a dash of optimism. But remember, some of the most successful companies today, like Airbnb and Slack, owe their success to a well-executed pivot. 

As we wrap up this journey, I invite you to take a moment to reflect on your current product strategy. Could a pivot be the scenic route to your success? Share your thoughts, experiences, and, of course, your favorite road trip snacks. And while you’re at it, try not to scream PIVOT!

pivot

Andrea Saez

Andrea Saez

PM and PMM leader
Andrea is passionate about product management, growth strategies and community engagement. From writing to hosting talks and events, she loves having the opportunity to learn, talk, and engage with customers and apply product-thinking to scaling companies....more
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