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This article was published on March 3, 2020

How to keep your existing clients when pivoting your product

It's all about keeping customers in the loop

How to keep your existing clients when pivoting your product
Albizu Garcia
Story by

Albizu Garcia

CEO & Co-Founder, GAIN

Albizu Garcia is the CEO of Gain, a platform that automates the content marketing and publishing workflow. Albizu is a serial entrepreneur w Albizu Garcia is the CEO of Gain, a platform that automates the content marketing and publishing workflow. Albizu is a serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of digital media and agency experience.

During the life of your business, there may come a time when it’s necessary to pivot. Maybe you’ve discovered a problem that your product doesn’t currently address, or you want to focus on a different customer segment by launching in a new market. 

Whatever the reason, keep in mind that a product pivot isn’t a cure-all or something to take lightly. You should only consider pivoting when it’s clearly necessary. 

But how do you know when it’s time to pivot your product? 

Perhaps there is too much competition, and your product no longer stands out as an original solution. Maybe there’s one aspect of the product that gets the most traction, and the other areas seem to be moving slowly. Or, you might notice that there is little to no progress in your company’s development and it’s hit a plateau. These are all signs that it’s time to pivot.

[Read: Everything I wish I’d known before we rebuilt our product]

When you decide your business should shift, it’s important that you don’t forget about your current customer base. You don’t want to risk confusing or alienating your clients. After all, they’re one of the most important parts of the pivoting process.

Here’s a look at how you can keep your existing clients while pivoting your product.

Do it as soon as possible 

In my experience once you have decided that a pivot is necessary, you shouldn’t drag your feet. Momentum and speed are essential in the success of your business.

A slow pivot can leave your company hanging in limbo and prevent it from focusing on your customers’ needs. The need to pivot quickly is especially important if there are current trends towards which your customers are shifting. Pivoting early also helps prevent wasted time, money, and effort.

You can begin pivoting as soon as possible by doing it in stages, rather than all at once. For instance, my team and I started communicating our own product pivot in “phases” to make it less overwhelming for our clients. The added bonus is that it also made the process easier on our product team.

Request and listen to customer feedback

Client feedback is incredibly valuable before, during, and after a product pivot. Input from your customers can help guide the direction of a change, confirm that your pivot is on the right track, and help advance your product.

You should arrange demos of your prototype, set up focus groups, send surveys, conduct interviews – whatever is necessary to get feedback from your loyal customers. You’ll want to find out which aspects of your product are essential to customers, what they would like to see changed, and any preferences you may not have considered. The more information you have available, the more you’ll increase your odds for a successful product shift and get prospective customers excited about it, too. 

Collecting and analyzing data is also a crucial part of pivoting a product. Look at user data to learn as much as possible before changing your product. By diving deep into the minds of your users, you’ll be able to respond to their needs and move your product in the right direction.

Lastly, you should put your customers at the center of your product shift. After all, they are the ones using it and they know it best. Without input from your clients, you risk redesigning a product that’s off-base and doesn’t meet the needs of your market.

I believe that listening to our customers is what keeps our product fresh and innovative. By keeping the lines of communication open, my team and I have been able to have in-depth discussions that lead to identifying new opportunities. Typically, we ask our customers if they’d be willing to speak with us for a few minutes about their experience with a specific feature. 

If you’re worried about how your customers might react, I can tell you that knowing the specific topic we wished to discuss with them, they tended to agree more often and open up about other needs they may have as well. So just be upfront what you’d like to discuss and why you’re doing it.

Create a communication plan

You may already have a detailed plan about what changes need to be made and what needs to stay the same on the product side. So once you’ve solidified this plan, then it’s time to communicate the pivot company-wide.

Be sure to discuss:

  • Why the company has decided to shift 
  • What exactly will be changing
  • How the pivot will affect specific individuals and departments

Communicating the product pivot to customers is the next step. Essentially, the internal communication plan you create can serve as a foundation for how to inform your customers, so it doesn’t hurt putting a bit of extra work into making the internal plan a success. 

I recommend you tell a story, share why the pivot makes sense, and what it means for your customers. You should be receptive to feedback and be prepared to answer any questions that your clients may have. 

When we pivoted our product, we learned the importance of aligning product and marketing teams. For instance, changing too much of the product messaging before the entire product has pivoted can be confusing to customers. It’s really important to keep your messaging consistent and truthful about what your customers can actually do or not do with your product while you’re transitioning. If you’re updating things in phases, you don’t want to over-promise your pivot.

Check-in continuously

Once you’re done pivoting, you’re not really “done.” It’s essential to check in with your customers regularly during a product pivot. Their input is vital throughout the entire pivoting process – not only at the beginning, or when the pivot finishes.

Regular check-ins save you time from getting things wrong and having to make last-minute changes. Each time you change something, it’s a good idea to check in a few weeks later to see how customers are adjusting to the update. Keeping a pulse on what your customers are thinking and feeling will set up your business for a successful transition.

A successful product pivot involves customers

Deciding to pivot your product is a massive deal. As much as the changes are about the product, focusing on your customers during this time is key. Include your clients as much as possible during the pivoting process, and you’ll increase your chances of keeping them.

Like what you’ve read? On Growth Quarters, we strive to go beyond generic ‘fortune cookie advice’ and learn directly from the people who have walked the walk. And this summer, at TNW Conference 2020 in Amsterdam, we’ll take Growth Quarters offline again with a vibrant program dedicated exclusively to sustainable business growth. Listen to keynotes from leaders from the world’s most successful companies and get actionable guidance to help you grow professionally. Get early bird tickets now and learn more about the Growth Quarters track

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