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!


Since its roll-out recently, bloggers and marketers have been talking about the value and potential of Google+Pages for business brands.  Is Google+ Pages going to be the right platform for every business?  Of course not.

No doubt, some brands will hop on any channel and follow the next bright, shiny object, and yet nearly all the pundits agree – every business should consider building a presence there starting right now.  Seriously…right now if you haven’t.

Claim your stake, right?

Get your page before someone else does, right?  Yes…in part.  But that’s just the very start of why you should build a presence on Google+Pages.

Google lives throughout the internet.

Between search engine dominance, and products like Gmail, Google Reader and Android – Google is clearly a dominant force with staying power.  Even if Google+Pages changes its format – the very fact that your business will build a legacy on the web the sooner it starts engaging Google’s portals.   Even if you’re hesitant to dive into Google+ because of Facebook’s viability in social networking, it’s important you own your piece of Google+ for ranking purposes alone.

Unfortunately, it IS more work.

Marketers are constantly faced with more fragmentation and new channels as a daily reality.  Which platforms will grow in dominance in the next year remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Google+ is entering the race to stay.  The fact is – your business brand will need both platforms to communicate to different audiences – and you’ll have to reach out in greater segmentation to them, with more targeted messages.  Equally important is the ability to listen to feedback, and respond when necessary to customers.  Many will be on Facebook – and many will also be on Google+.  It’s important to have a strong presence in both.

So it’s your turn… are you in, out or sitting on the sidelines with Google+?  We’d love to hear your opinion and feedback.

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.

Questions Every Start Up Should Ask Themselves

This blog post by Jason Cohen at Building 43 was so good and on target, we SmartBranders thought you’d appreciate the insight and advice.

You’ll want to read it all on their blog, but here are the questions recapped:

  1. In one sentence, what does your product do and who buys it?
  2. In one sentence, why does someone buy your product?
  3. What one thing is most responsible for preventing sales?
  4. What’s one thing you could do to get more feedback from customers, potential customers, or sales you’ve lost?
  5. If you had zero revenue from now on, on what date would you run out of money?
  6. If someone handed you $100,000 today, how would you spend it to maximize future profits?
  7. If you were forced to hire someone today, how would you define their job such that they would contribute enough revenue to cover her expense?
  8. Which of your business operations do you hate?
  9. What initiatives could be done half-assed without significant impact?
  10. If you could get one solid hour of advice from a guru you respect, what would you discuss and what would be the goal of the meeting?

What’s missing in these important questions from your experience?

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