Mastering the Art of Product Pivots: How to Plan and Execute a Product Pivot Successfully

Mastering the Art of Product Pivots: How to Plan and Execute a Product Pivot Successfully
Vivek Dev Jacob - How to Plan and Execute a Product Pivot
This article has been contributed by Vivek Dev Jacob, a Startup Founder (stealth mode) and an active member of the startup community.

Product Pivot is both a painful and inevitable phase for any startup to achieve growth.

Pivot is one of the most painful phases that requires a strong commitment from your team to spend those long sleepless nights endlessly fixing codes, bugs, features, testings, doubt on better traction, and so on.

Pivot at the same time is one of the most inevitable phases as per the old saying “Innovate or die”. At times, wrong pivots can lead to shutdowns if not done properly. I am here to discuss some best practices with interesting real-life examples to help you understand Why, When, and How you need to initiate a pivot for your startup.

Here are 6 steps that I would recommend based on my interactions with some startup founders that I know from my connections:

1. Acknowledging the Need for Change

Pivot Pyramid
Pivot Pyramid

In 2016, Selcuk Atli, CEO and Co-founder of Bunch, introduced the Pivot Pyramid as stated in the above image.

The need for change could be in terms of Growth, Tech, Solution, Problem, and Customers.

Let's break down each factor mentioned in the pyramid to understand better:

  • Customers: They form the core foundation of any startup. Any problem statement you plan to solve, the solution you offer, and the tech you plan to implement must be aligned with your ICP (Ideal customer profile) pain points. If you plan to switch in your customer profile, you need to reconsider all the remaining parameters in the pivot pyramid.
  • Problem: Your problem statement might be something that doesn’t exist or is irrelevant to the customers. You need to check for the Problem Customer Fit - this is a newly crafted term from my end. In simple words, if the problem statement and the customer are on the same pace - bingo you got this!
  • Solution: The above two steps you have figured out - that's a decent milestone achieved. Now the real challenge is the change that you make in your product needs to accelerate growth to achieve decent market leadership.
  • Growth: Ultimately all the changes mentioned should lead to growth, which is at the top of the pyramid. At times you need to tweak your growth strategy and channels based on the market dynamics, or else growth becomes tough.

Below are the famous examples of Pivots at each stage for some named products:

Famous Examples of Pivots
Famous Examples of Pivots

At the end of the day for any pivot decision you need to rely on data for each level mentioned in the pivot pyramid.

2. Redefining the Vision and Strategy

Define a new vision and strategy based on which part of the product needs to pivot as mentioned in the Pivot Pyramid. You must closely monitor your product analytics based on Daily active users, User feedback, and competitor insights. In my honest opinion, ultimately your daily interactions with the customer should be the moat rather than being obsessed with the competition, this will help you define your competitive advantage.

The founder also needs to make a clear timeline to achieve PMF (Product Market Fit), or else all the efforts being put into product pivot might go in vain.

3. Develop a Road Map

Clearly explain why your product exists and your approach to running it. This could be a mission statement, tenets, or principles. The important thing is that you believe in them, and by pinning them at the top of every roadmap it will be clear if what follows in the roadmap doesn’t match your principles.” — Ian McAllister, Director of Product Management at Airbnb.

A road map is more than just a document that you may want to simply sit and draft, without having a clear goal or objective that needs to be accomplished. The road map also involves getting strong backing from your team and other stakeholders including your investors. The road map cannot be a piece of music for the ears, it needs to be backed by data. You might need clarification about the types of metrics to be used to measure the success or failure of your new product.

Not to worry here are some tips that would help you define the metrics for your road map:

  • Spell out the metrics early on: By defining them early for your new product, you have better clarity during the development phase, before it's shipped to your customers.
  • Scientific Approach: Even before defining your metrics you need to define a hypothesis, test, and measure. The metrics you decide to choose depend on the stage of your product, type, industry, and size of the company. Narrowing down on the important metrics is important to avoid unwanted noise. At the end of the day, all these metrics have to align with the larger business objectives that need to be achieved.

Below are some sample metrics that will help you understand from a business standpoint.

Pivot Road Map Metrics
Pivot Road Map Metrics

How to Create an Effective First Product Roadmap?
A product’s success is one of the main factors that make a business successful. Check out how you can create an effective first product roadmap.

4. Transparency in Communication

You have to openly communicate the pivot plans with all your stakeholders be it - customers, employees, and investors. Any sort of communication gap with the above-mentioned stakeholders will result in shooting in the dark. Clarity in terms of progress, addressing concerns, and openness to feedback at all levels is something non-negotiable.

5. Implement the Pivot

It is always advisable that you implement the pivot in a series of small steps that are trackable and also do not create unnecessary burdens for your team. As I mentioned at the start of this article ‘Pivot is a Painful process’. All I am trying to point out is maintaining your team morale is important during such a transformational period to ensure the pivot is a success. When I say Pivot has to happen in a series of steps which has to be in line with the Pivot Pyramid as mentioned in the first point. Every team has to make a shift to align with the Pivot - Tech, Product, Growth, Sales, Operations.

6. Iterate and Measure Your Progress

Here, you need to do faster tests, iterate, and follow the loop, as rightly mentioned in the Lean Startup methodology.

MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

I would always recommend the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) approach to ensure efficiency and faster tracking of results.

Once you are ready with your MVP you need to start testing this with a small group of your existing users who can give you the right set of feedback - it could be on regarding your landing page, User experience, and ability to solve the customers' problem. These days it's easy to gauge daily active users and retention with the help of many product analytics that are available in the market. Your job doesn't end by just tracking those analytics in a CSV file. Jokes apart. You need to infer those analytics into actionable items at high priority as stated in the above diagram of the Lean Startup methodology. All the learnings need to be documented for internal visibility and also to expedite the next steps that need to be taken.

All said and done, a Pivot is inevitably painful. You need to have a proper pivot plan as mentioned in the above steps and, above all, a healthy alignment with your customers, investors, and team.

Should You Pivot From Your Main Idea? | How Did It Turn Out for Other Startups?
Pivoting means a change or shift to a new strategy, it doesn’t always entail a drastic overhaul. Discover if you should pivot from your main idea.

Must have tools for startups - Recommended by StartupTalky

Read more