8 Smart Brand Pivots


Here at SmartBrand HQ, we’re undergoing exciting changes.  As a natural progression of our business model, we’re continuing to build on our own brand and services through finding new ways to help our clients achieve their goals.  Exciting new approaches have arisen from our team, all of which are being integrated into a new communication strategies and goals.

Throughout this internal process, we’ve continued to build on our client’s successes, while uncovering the opportunity to metaphorically “pivot” our primary business functions and goals.   We’ve read insights from many resources, and have found one to be of true value that we thought you’d find helpful as well.

In  Lessons Learned , Eric Ries coined the term “pivot”, and start-ups took serious note to develop companies that can quickly change directions, while remaining grounded in their valuable experience. With a focus on both the past and the future, this became a cry for the adaptation in business now considered required in today’s volatile market.

These pivoting brands understand that they may stray from their original vision, but not the practices and principles that lead each step in their development. A true pivot is a refocus of the past and not a brand new adventure.  More than a 2.0 version of the first concept, a pivoting company leans into the future with its past knowledge as the anchor.

Ries identifies eight unique pivots – each with their own focus and intent:

  1. Customer Problem:   A customer pivot allows you to repurpose the same product to address a different problem for the same customer.  Consider Starbucks, who pivoted from selling coffee beans and espresso machines to brewing and serving drinks.
  2. Market Segment: Take your existing product or service and use it to solve a similar problem for a different set of customers. This may be necessary when you find that consumers aren’t buying from you. This can also be more of a marketing pivot, than a product/service change.
  3. Technology: Engineers often fight to take advantage of what they have built.  Their best pivot is to re-purpose the technology platform – to make it solve a more pressing, more marketable, or simpler problem.
  4. Product Feature:  Take special care to pay attention to what your customers are actually doing, rather than what you want them to do. You may need to focus and remove features, or perhaps broaden features to offer a broader solution.
  5. Revenue Model:  One pivot is to change your focus from a premium price/customized solution to a low price, commoditized solution. Another common variation worth considering is the move from a one-time product sale to monthly subscription or license fees. Another is the famous razor versus blade strategy.
  6. Sales Channel: Startups with complex new products often start with direct sales and building their own brand. When they find how expensive and time-consuming this is, they need to use what they have learned from customers to consider a distribution channel, e-commerce, white-labeling the product, and strategic partners.
  7. Product Vs. Services:  Products or services can be too different or complex to be easily sold. Now is the time for bundling support services with the product, education offerings, or simply making your offering a service that delivers a core product.
  8. Major Competitor:  What can you do when a new major competitor jumps into your brand’s space? You can charge ahead blindly, or focus on one of the above pivot strategies to build your differentiation and thrive.

In each of these forms, change isn’t simply adding a new feature in hopes it will create overarching change.  Key to pivoting is identifying trends from metric data and real market experience, then finding the optimized product/service to fit the market.  The trick is to make this transition without leaving your core market, or worse – hurting your credibility.

Before pivoting, look for multiple data points.  As no product can satisfy every customer, no pivot should be made based on a single response from a customer, friend, or press source.  If your internal team is frustrated, that’s a perfect first sign of the need to pivot your business model.

Before you do decide to pivot, seek your investors and advisors help so there are no surprises.  As a brand in change, your ability to adapt in chaos is key to your growth – no matter what size company you are.

Is it time for your product or service to pivot its brand strategy?  We’d appreciate your sharing your experience with our readers!

Is Your Business In The Cloud?


By now, you’ve likely heard about cloud computing.  I get asked frequently about what it is, and what it means to brands.  Here’s a brief explanation that might help you “get your head into the cloud”.

What is Cloud Computing? In somewhat technical terms, Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

In layman’s terms, if you’re using a web or internet-based application from a major provider like Google or Microsoft, you’re using cloud computing. Congratulations…you’re in the cloud!

The term “cloud” is used as a metaphor for the Internet, based on a cloud illustration that is used to explain computer network diagrams and structure. Most cloud computing providers offer common business application online which can be accessed through a web browser.  The software and data for this service are stored entirely on remote servers.

If cloud computing is information processing remotely, then cloud branding represents an entirely new way to connect with others.  It’s a most powerful way for brands of any size, whether a small business or large corporation, to begin using the cloud to establish their brand’s presence.  Not only is this a new platform for online brands, but it’s a paradigm shift for bricks and mortar businesses – retail, health, food, services all will have a brand “in the cloud”.

The most amazing part of this new brand platform is that 80% of it is already in place, and is ready to be used at low (often free) prices.

If businesses are adopting cloud technology in a major way, then “Cloud branding” is the latest hot area for brand marketers to embrace and engage.  Bigger brands, like Amazon, Salesforce and Google are already well established in the cloud, and are branding both products and services aggressively.  For these brand giants, it’s a cloud-leveraging bid by tech companies to create and own the consumer computing experience, thereby building loyalty by being woven through all aspects of the consumer’s digital life.

For smaller brands, the cloud represents an entirely new horizon of options to build their brand’s awareness.  Here are a few examples:

Cloud Member Groups: Consider working with groups that share your brand’s common values to cross-promote, collaoborate, and create new projects that will benefit your bottom line. These groups might include members from other groups who serve as “ambassadors” to an even wider audience of cloud based members.

Cloud Services: You might use the cloud to offer a discount to other cloud-based businesses or referrals.

Cloud Learning: Nearly everyone has been trained in some form of cloud learning  Your brand might take this process and integrate it into your core messaging to reach a wider, growing international market.

Cloud Strategy: Developing on-the-fly solution to events that happen in real time.  Businesses will need to remain open and flexible to new ideas and opportunities – and having this strategy as part of your marketing mix is essential if you’re engaging your market in the cloud.

Cloud Filing: Tagging/categorizing your brand’s data, including images, communications, accounting, etc – will help you become a relevant player in the cloud.

Cloud Currency: If you’re feeling creative, why not create your own brand “currency”?  Trade with other companies for products or services your small business may need now, but not have the cash flow to acquire immediately.

So how have you engaged the cloud?  Do you have plans to expand your brand in this important technology?  If so…how?  We’d love to hear your story and experience.

SmartBrand Launches theEXCHANGE February 17th


It all began in 2009 with a series of unstructured conference calls for our eco-networking group, Project ecoBrand.

We’d host monthly chats with members of that community as a means to have them connect with one another, while learning more about their companies and developments. The telephone conference events were well received, and many made business connections that carried them far beyond the simple phone networking we conducted.

As our firm became increasingly busier, the opportunities to develop additional meetings became less frequent – and the telephonic networking events came to a slow halt over the course of the summer.  The idea, however, was still in our minds.

At the end of 2009, we went into our annual planning session for the new year, and the idea of hosting online networking sessions came again from our team at SmartBrand.  As we often do, the plans were germinated online in our collaborative management system Basecamp.  Each member stepped up to take on a portion of the task – Michael Clawson developing the logo designs to choose from, with Patty Clawson working with the strategy team to position the product and develop the name.

Each of us had a role in how we might best launch a new series – what the topics might be throughout the year, and working toward a common goal of providing our network with a new opportunity to help develop their businesses.

And so we launch theExchange on February 17th…a networking opportunity created by the diverse and talented team of working professionals at SmartBrand, who were interested in presenting a small group platform to share ideas and discuss the strategies that matter most.

This month, we’ll feature our Affiliate and Sales Coach Alice Heiman as she’ll present a short overview on “Networking Your Way To New Business”.  Alice normally charges a substantial fee for similar webinars, and so we are very lucky to have her presenting with our team to a new audience for free.

And so, in future months, you can expect theEXCHANGE to bring you:

• Featured monthly Guest Speakers

• Live Q & A

• Interesting Commentary

• Advise and Antidotes

• Valuable information on marketing, advertising, sales, social media and design strategies

• And of course, Networking

We hope you’ll join us, and provide us with some feedback so we can make these events truly beneficial for everyone who attends.  If you’d like more information, simply download the PDF from our website here.

%d bloggers like this: