At Handwriting.io, we have been selling an API product into the B2B market for eighteen months. However, we kept seeing early on that companies were often strapped for engineering resources, and integrating an API that helps marketing departments scale handwritten communications continually fell to the bottom of the priority list. Then, eighteen months in, an interesting thing happened -we noticed companies and individuals were looking to send digital communications in their own handwriting style - not just handwritten notes sent in the mail.
It's important to remember that the startup you first set out to build will not resemble the company you are operating five or ten years later. Startups, and businesses in general, evolve and take on a life of their own. I have learned it is so important to keep your finger on the pulse of the current market, what customers are saying and how your team is functioning. You'll need to address questions like--how is the product performing in the market? Is the product easy or hard to sell? What kind of value does the product provide in the current climate? Is it generating revenue or not?
If you are asking yourself these questions and the metrics [and your gut] are telling you that something is off, you'll need to move quickly to better understand the unique challenges of your business and pivot appropriately. These are five key strategies to successfully pivot the startup to maximize the chances of success.
Encourage Employees to Develop New Solutions
Listen to your employees, embrace the incarnation of new ideas, and allow them to build products on the side. You may not initially recognize the long-term benefits these exercises may have for the company, but they can also turn into the inspiration for a needed business pivot. It also instills an innovative approach within the company that will drive employees to develop tremendous solutions. The side projects empower workers to envision technologies that they feel are vital to the company and can spark the next company breakthrough.
Build a Basic Prototype Before Pivoting
If you are thinking of pivoting, build a very basic prototype and see if people use it, see value in it, and provide candid feedback. We built a prototype texting app (now called ScribbleChat) using all of our patented handwriting technology and received valuable feedback from investors, friends, family and even some of our API customers. Feedback in the early stages of development is vital to determine where the product will have the greatest impact. The conversations around the first prototype may even reveal new ways to enhance the product. The prototype will enable you to determine early on whether the product is the best fit for the company.
Make Sure You are Iterating All the Time
If the sales cycle is too long for the product in your particular category, something may need to change - people, process and/or product. Analyze all aspect of the sales discussion, as a minor shift in how the product is positioned can make a drastic difference in your bottom line. Effective communication around the company can drive a startup to success. Make sure you are iterating all the time to ensure your product is in demand and provides more immediate value to your target prospects.
Don't be Afraid of Change
Changing the positioning of the company may seem scary, but it's also where the magic often happens. Making an adjustment can better improve the company's position in the long-term future, even if the current change was minimal. Be sure to calculate the risk against the reward before making a decision that will impact the startups future. It's always important to think about not just how much your product may be used, but also its potential uses - and that may realize some unforeseen potential for your business.
Keep your Investors Informed
Make sure your investors are kept in the loop. If you think the company strategy is going to change, start planting that seed with your team, board of directors and shareholders at least three to six months ahead of time, so there are no surprises. A drastic change without careful deliberations with your investors can seriously strain the relationship and make the pivot seem insurmountable, especially if there is resistance. When it comes to raising funds for a new product, you will need their full support to move forward with your revolutionary idea.
As a founder of a startup, it can be extremely difficult to separate yourself and your business from your original idea - the idea that may embody your passion and hard work for years, but may just not be working. Therefore, you need to accept the realization that even the best ideas require evolution, adjustment, and pivoting to enable the business to move in a happier and healthier direction.
About the Author
Eloise Bune is the founder and CEO of Handwriting.io. Since founding the company in 2011, Eloise has overseen the development of Handwriting.io's patented handwriting replication technology, while also heading B2B and B2B2C sales and operations. With a passion for personalization solutions, Eloise has been instrumental in guiding Handwriting.io to the launch of its new app, ScribbleChat, to enhance conversations on its advanced messaging platform featuring "handwritten" text, emojis and animations. Connect with Eloise on LinkedIn and Twitter. For more information about Handwriting.io, visit handwriting.io. For more information about ScribbleChat, visit getscribblechat.com.