In What Scenarios is a Strategy Pivot Necessary?


    In What Scenarios is a Strategy Pivot Necessary?

    In the ever-changing business landscape, CEOs and Directors often find themselves navigating through uncharted waters. From doubling client messaging during the pandemic to switching strategies after an algorithm update, we've compiled a baker’s dozen of firsthand accounts in which top corporate professionals pivoted their strategies in the face of unforeseen challenges.

    • Rebranding Existing Technology During Pandemic
    • Prioritizing Features for Sustainable Growth
    • Focusing on Direct Reader Engagement
    • Educating a Broader Audience Post-Attack
    • Optimizing for Voice Search Trends
    • Pivoting Online to Thrive During Pandemic
    • Diversifying Traffic After Algorithm Update
    • Strategizing Around Regulatory Changes
    • Expanding Product Range for Market Fit
    • Adapting to Data-Driven Market Demands
    • Surviving Investor Withdrawal During COVID-19
    • Shifting to Delivery Amidst Pandemic
    • Embracing Remote Work During COVID-19

    Rebranding Existing Technology During Pandemic

    My company, Mobile High-5, primarily serves small and medium-sized businesses, and these were the exact businesses affected by the two-month shutdown during the pandemic. Because the business climate was so uncertain, and this incident was unprecedented, our clients' default reaction was to pull back. We know from history that businesses that continue to engage with their customer base during bad times come out on top when things go back to normal, so we gave all our clients double their message allotment to use during this time at no additional charge.

    Secondly, our own survival was also at risk, because no new clients would take on the risk of adding marketing during this uncertain time, so we had to come up with something quickly. We saw an opportunity: businesses were providing curbside pickup so customers didn't have to come inside. Our technology could be re-jiggered to help facilitate this, so we rebranded one of our products into a curbside text alert product. Customers drive up, text in a keyword to a special phone number we provisioned for the client, and they get a text back with a short form to complete, telling the business their name and parking spot number. Inside, the business sees this, and now can two-way text that customer if they need clarification on an order, or to tell the customer they are coming out with their order.

    Because we already had this product fully baked and it really was just a rebranding, we hit the market first with this solution while many of the big POS systems and IT companies were still developing one. We believe our superpower is to always be nimble and to keep our ear to the street to see what problems we can solve.

    Barbara Casey
    Barbara CaseyCEO, Mobile High 5

    Prioritizing Features for Sustainable Growth

    In both healthcare and tech, there's no such thing as predictable. What we know today may completely shift tomorrow, and familiar, trailblazing ideas may lose their spark in a heartbeat. During CarePatron's earlier days, we've had such encounters. Features we wanted to include in our platform were taking too long to happen, stunting the overall business growth. We had to learn how to make compromises without sacrificing our vision and the quality of our work. We had to strategize and set things by priority carefully.

    Businesses, especially startups, often feel the need to address too many things at once. We learned that taking it easy, and analyzing both the bigger and smaller picture to understand what works best for the current landscape, is a much more sustainable business approach than hitting way out of our league to the point of excessive failure.

    Jamie Frew
    Jamie FrewCEO, Carepatron

    Focusing on Direct Reader Engagement

    It's not completely unforeseen, because the world of social media is in as much of a state of flux as traditional and new media sites, like the one I lead, have been in for years—but, like many news organization leaders, I'm confronted with the fact that traffic from some social platforms will likely dwindle as they de-emphasize news stories.

    So be it.

    I can't control what other platforms do. The best innovative ideas often arise from such scenarios, so my takeaway is to focus on what I can control. Rather than fret, I'm doubling down on improving audience engagement on our website and growing our email list to deepen my relationship with readers and donors who like what we're doing and want to support it.

    Carson Walker
    Carson WalkerCEO, South Dakota News Watch

    Educating a Broader Audience Post-Attack

    The 2017 Dyn Cyberattack, a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that disrupted major internet platforms and services, made businesses and individuals suddenly become acutely aware of the vulnerabilities in their digital infrastructure. This incident not only demonstrated the devastating potential of such attacks, but also marked a significant shift in public awareness and concern regarding cybersecurity.

    Before the attack, the general understanding and concern about DDoS threats among the broader public and many smaller businesses were relatively low. DDoS protection and mitigation strategies were primarily concerns for larger corporations or those in specific tech-heavy industries. However, the high-profile nature of the Dyn attack, impacting major websites like Twitter, Netflix, and PayPal, highlighted the widespread implications of such security breaches.

    In response to this sudden surge in awareness and demand for information on how to protect against such attacks, we had to pivot our strategic approach significantly. Originally, our content strategy primarily targeted tech-savvy users and enterprises with a deep understanding of cybersecurity issues. However, post-attack, it became clear that there was a broader Total Addressable Market (TAM) that needed to be educated and informed about these risks and the protective measures available.

    As a result, we shifted our content strategy from highly technical solutions aimed at a narrower audience to more educational content that could appeal to and assist a wider audience. This included developing beginner-friendly guides on what DDoS attacks are, how they can impact an individual or business, and straightforward steps for both immediate and long-term protection strategies. Additionally, we expanded our outreach efforts through webinars, partnerships with educational platforms, and collaborations with influencers outside the traditional tech sphere to spread awareness more effectively.

    This strategic pivot not only allowed us to address the needs of a suddenly expanded audience, but also positioned our company as a thought leader in the space, capable of responding to emerging threats and educating the public. As a result, we enhanced our brand's trust and credibility, broadened our customer base, and ultimately increased our market penetration.

    Dan Taylor
    Dan TaylorPartner,

    Optimizing for Voice Search Trends

    Sailing across the unpredictable waters of the digital marketing world has taught us the art of agility and resilience. Let me share an instance where we had to pivot our strategy due to unforeseen circumstances, and the invaluable lessons learned from it:

    With the sudden rise in voice search popularity, we realized our existing SEO strategies might not fully capture this new user behavior. We pivoted by integrating voice-search optimization into our services, focusing on conversational keywords, local SEO, and structured data to improve visibility in voice search results.

    What was learned: This pivot taught us the importance of staying attuned to technological advancements and user behavior trends. It highlighted the necessity to continuously evolve our SEO strategies to meet users where they are, whether it’s typing on a keyboard or speaking to a voice assistant.

    Marc Bishop
    Marc BishopDirector, Wytlabs

    Pivoting Online to Thrive During Pandemic

    Our initial business model heavily relied on industries that were hit hardest by the pandemic. It became clear that to sustain and grow, a pivot was essential. We shifted our focus towards sectors experiencing growth during this period, such as e-commerce and online education, tailoring our services to meet their unique digital marketing needs. This pivot not only helped us survive but also thrive, opening up new avenues for business.

    This experience taught us the invaluable lesson of agility in business strategy. It emphasized the importance of being adaptable, constantly monitoring the external environment, and being ready to pivot when necessary. We learned that resilience is not just about weathering the storm but also about finding ways to dance in the rain. This mindset has since become a cornerstone of our business philosophy, ensuring we remain flexible and proactive, regardless of the circumstances we face.

    Vaibhav Kakkar
    Vaibhav KakkarCEO, Digital Web Solutions

    Diversifying Traffic After Algorithm Update

    Google recently rolled out a new algorithm update, called the Helpful Content Update (HCU). Unfortunately, this update caused many niche-site owners to experience a significant loss of traffic, either partially or completely. As a result, we had to modify our traffic strategy from solely relying on organic search traffic to a combination of SEO and social media. It's crucial to diversify our traffic sources to safeguard our assets and prevent the risk of losing all of our traffic at once.

    Jason Vaught
    Jason VaughtPresident, Houston SEO Company

    Strategizing Around Regulatory Changes

    At the start of our business, regulatory changes significantly impacted it. Numerous restrictions affected our client base and revenue streams.

    Our stakeholders brainstormed potential responses, and developed a new strategic direction aligned with the altered regulatory landscape. We explored opportunities to diversify revenue streams, by offering alternative financial products or expanding into related markets.

    This new strategy also included proactively communicating with existing and potential clients about the regulatory changes and how Uplift Legal Funding can still support their needs within the new framework—and it helped to boost company revenue by 30%.

    Jared Stern
    Jared SternManaging Member, Uplift Legal Funding

    Expanding Product Range for Market Fit

    A memorable scenario where I had to pivot my business strategy occurred during the early stages of a new online retail venture. Initially, our focus was on a niche market, offering specialized products. However, after a few months, it became clear that demand was significantly lower than anticipated, and our business model was not sustainable long-term.

    In response, we conducted thorough market research and customer feedback sessions to understand where we were misaligned with our target audience's needs. This led us to pivot towards a broader range of products, incorporating items that, while still within our brand's ethos, appealed to a wider audience.

    This shift required a complete overhaul of our inventory, marketing strategies, and even some of our supply chain relationships. This is when I learned the critical importance of flexibility and responsiveness in business. It underscored the necessity of staying closely attuned to market signals and being willing to make tough decisions quickly. Additionally, it highlighted the value of direct customer feedback as an integral part of guiding strategic direction.

    Jason Vaught
    Jason VaughtPresident, Houston SEO Company

    Adapting to Data-Driven Market Demands

    We were facing an unprecedented decline in sales due to changing search engine algorithms and new, upcoming competitors, so our international e-commerce platform had to pivot its business strategy, adapting swiftly to marketing changes.

    Our international e-commerce platform delivers across 220+ countries, and we analyzed sales data to identify the rising product categories and areas of decline. This data informed a strategic pivot, directing resources toward burgeoning markets and adjusting product offerings to match consumers' demands. We proactively changed our marketing strategy by leveraging analytics data to meet customer demands.

    I learned during tough times that staying responsive to data insights is essential for thriving in an ever-evolving marketplace.

    Dhari Alabdulhadi
    Dhari AlabdulhadiCTO and Founder, Ubuy New Zealand

    Surviving Investor Withdrawal During COVID-19

    We were in the middle of a funding round, and had a commitment from a strategic investor. We were going to use the funds to hire a sales team and build out the product. We were about 80% of the way through the funding process when COVID-19 hit. The investor pulled out, and we were left with no funding.

    We were in a panic, but we knew we had to move quickly to figure out how we were going to survive. We went through our burn rate and figured out how long we had until we ran out of money. We then began to look at how we could cut costs and keep the business running. We made some tough decisions and cut staff, but we were able to keep the business afloat.

    We also had to pivot our business strategy. We knew that the world was changing, and we had to change with it. We refocused our product and began to look at new markets. We also shifted our sales strategy and began to focus on digital marketing.

    Matthew Ramirez
    Matthew RamirezFounder, Rephrasely

    Shifting to Delivery Amidst Pandemic

    Initially, our business model heavily relied on ambiance and in-person experience, which was rendered impossible overnight.

    The pivot involved quickly setting up a delivery and online ordering system to maintain operations and serve our customers from a distance. We also expanded our menu to include items that were more delivery-friendly, and began offering "meal kits" that customers could cook at home. This required not only a technological shift, but also a mindset shift in how we viewed our service and interaction with customers.

    From this experience, the key lesson learned was the importance of agility and resilience in business. We realized the necessity of having a flexible business model that could adapt to drastic changes in the market or operating environment.

    Alex Cornici
    Alex CorniciFounder & CEO at, The Traveler

    Embracing Remote Work During COVID-19

    One scenario where we had to pivot our business strategy due to unforeseen circumstances was during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic unfolded, we faced challenges such as court closures, social distancing measures, and changes in client behavior. In response, we quickly adapted by shifting our focus to remote work arrangements, virtual consultations, and leveraging technology for case management and communication with clients. We also expanded our online presence through digital marketing and social media to reach potential clients who were increasingly relying on the internet for legal assistance.

    Through this experience, we learned the importance of flexibility and resilience in the face of unexpected challenges. We also discovered new opportunities for innovation and efficiency that have continued to benefit our firm even as the situation evolved.

    Hunter Garnett
    Hunter GarnettManaging Partner and Founder, Garnett Patterson Injury Lawyers