Is your business experiencing cash flow issues? Are your products or services becoming outdated with advancing technology? Is your small business preventing you from living a life you love?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s likely time to “pivot” your small business.
In this episode of Priority Pursuit, Victoria Rayburn breaks down what it means to pivot a business, seven signs it’s time to make a change, and how to pivot a small business.
Victoria Rayburn is partnering with Treefrog Marketing full time.
In addition to sharing when and how to pivot a small business, in this episode of Priority Pursuit, Victoria also shares that she is closing Victoria Rayburn Photography—her wedding photography business—to partner with Treefrog full time.
While Victoria feels so honored to have been able to photograph hundreds of weddings for incredible couples, she ultimately realized that owning a wedding photography business wasn’t ever going to give her the freedom she wanted for her and her family—regardless of its success or streamlined systems.
Victoria has been educating, coaching, and consulting other photographers and creative entrepreneurs on business, marketing, and SEO since 2018. While she intended to slowly stop photographing weddings and pivot her business to strictly coaching other small business owners, she and Kelly realized in December 2022 that they could better serve small businesses together.
Victoria is now a full-time member of the Treefrog team and serves as our chief brand evangelist. She is available to coach, consult, and develop small business’s marketing strategies, SEO strategies, and more.
For more details about this partnership and to hear why Victoria ultimately decided to leave the photography industry, please listen to the audio of this podcast available at the top of the page or wherever you listen to podcasts.
What does it mean to “pivot” your small business?
First of all, what does it mean to “pivot” a small business? You might be listening/reading and thinking that pivoting means you have to change your business entirely. But, that isn’t the case. Pivoting is simply making strategic adjustments to yield desired results.
In other words, pivoting involves making small changes to your existing business so that you can increase your profits, work less, or achieve whatever it is that your goal may be.
Seven Signs It’s Time to Pivot Your Small Business
While we’ll discuss how to pivot a small business in a moment, first, we need to discuss seven signs that it may be time to pivot your business.
1. Your small business isn’t giving you the life you want.
This is The Priority Pursuit Podcast, and as our regular readers/listeners know, this show is all about building a life and business that you love. So, the first sign that it’s likely time to pivot your small business is that your business is no longer allowing you to live a life you love.
Maybe your business requires your constant attention; perhaps you’re working nights and weekends; maybe your relationships, health, or general well-being are suffering because of your business. If so, it’s likely time to pivot.
Don’t misunderstand. There will likely be seasons where you have to put your head down and work harder than most. But, if your small business is constantly taking a toll on your personal life, changes need to be made.
2. Your small business isn’t allowing you to serve your team well.
Another reason to pivot your small business is if you can’t serve your team well. Perhaps you need your employees to work and be available around the clock. Maybe you aren’t able to pay them livable wages or the salaries they deserve. Perhaps you have a high turnover rate.
As important as it is for you to build a business that works well for your life, it’s just as important for your business to support your team. If you aren’t currently able to pay your team well or show them that they’re valued and appreciated, something about your business likely needs to change.
3. Your customers’ needs change.
Another reason to pivot ASAP is if your customers’ needs change. For example, their needs could change because of new tools or technology, changes in people’s knowledge, changes in priorities, or for countless other reasons.
For example, during peak COVID, dine-in restaurants had to pivot pretty drastically if they wanted to survive, and many of those that did, figured out delivery and takeout options so they could meet their customers’ needs.
Global pandemic or not, the world is constantly changing, and as a result, it’s important to make sure your products and services meet your customers’ needs.
4. Your products or services are outdated.
If your products or services have become—or are likely to become—outdated, it’s time to pivot your small business. For example, think about Netflix and Blockbuster. When these companies started, Netflix delivered DVDs to your home, and you had to physically go to Blockbuster to rent movies.
With the emergence of online streaming, Netflix pivoted its business model to make movies and TV shows available from an app. Blockbuster, on the other hand, kept its same business model, was forced to declare bankruptcy, and closed in 2014.
Netflix survived—and even thrived—because it adjusted to keep up with technology to better serve its customers. As a small business owner or leader, it’s important to think like Netflix. In other words, if your products or services are or are becoming a thing of the past, it’s time to pivot.
5. You’re experiencing cash flow problems.
Another reason to pivot your small business is if you’re experiencing cash flow issues. In other words, if you aren’t bringing in enough money, you likely need to make a change.
Now, sometimes, cash flow issues can be a result of simply not charging enough. This is why it’s so important to know your business numbers so that you know exactly what you should be charging for each and every project or product.
Cash flow issues can also be a result of poor marketing. If you’ve listened to/read past episodes of Priority Pursuit, you know that we work with small businesses day in and day out and that we regularly remind small businesses that having a great product or service and offering an excellent customer experience are only part of running a successful small business. Having an effective marketing strategy is also a necessity.
If your marketing isn’t currently working or if it could just be better, tune into “Episode 103: The Best Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses: The Flywheel Marketing Method.” In this episode, Kelly and Victoria break down the exact marketing strategy we use at Treefrog to help small businesses grow—some by more than 800%.
While cash flow issues can be a result of not charging enough and not marketing your business well, cash flow issues can also be a result of offering a product or service that just isn’t in high enough demand. Basically, to keep your doors open, you have to sell something that actually solves your ideal customer’s problem. If your product or service doesn’t do this and you aren’t generating enough revenue to meet your goals, you need to pivot.
6. Some of your products or services are performing better than others.
On the flip side, another sign it’s time to pivot is if you have one or a few products or services that are performing drastically better than others.
For example, perhaps you create online courses on various subjects, but you realize that your course on a specific subject is by far your most profitable. If that’s the case, it might be wise to shut your other courses down, focus on the most profitable course, either add to it or create other courses around the topic, and adjust your marketing and business as a whole around that one particular subject. Afterall, this is clearly what your customers want.
7. You aren’t getting the results you want.
Last but not least, another sign it might be time to pivot your small business is that you aren’t seeing the results you want.
Again, lack of results could be a sign of poor marketing, but it could also be a sign that it’s time to make a change. For example, perhaps you’ve hit a plateau; maybe you’re doing all you can but you’ve peaked within your market; or maybe your current business model simply can’t support the finances or freedom you want for yourself and/or your team.
You—and your leadership team—can control what your small business looks like. So, don’t forget that if you don’t like it, you can change it.
How to Pivot a Small Business: Six Small Changes that Can Lead to Big Results
There are countless reasons to pivot, but how do you actually pivot a small business?
As a reminder, pivoting doesn’t mean you throw out your entire business model and start from scratch. Instead, it means you make strategic adjustments. More often than not, pivoting is a slow but sure process.
You likely won’t be able to pivot everything tomorrow as you may have contracts you need to fulfill or inventory you still need to sell, and you’ll most definitely need to update your marketing strategy and materials for your pivot. But, when you know where you want to go, you can start making adjustments to get there.
To help you get started and give you some guidance, here are six ways you can pivot your small business:
1. Focus on what’s working & ditch what isn’t.
The first and arguably easiest way to pivot your small business is to focus on what’s working. Like we discussed before, if there are products or services that are performing better than others, focus on those. Or, if there are products or services that aren’t working, get rid of them. From there, you can create other offers around the effective products or services, and free up your time and resources by getting rid of those that don’t.
For example, at Treefrog, we used to offer organic social media development as a stand-alone service. At one point, this served our clients well.
However, with the development of new platforms, reels, and social media just becoming more demanding, we realized that we no longer had the capacity to serve small businesses well through our organic social media service at a price that most of our clients could afford.
As a result and with the exception of a few of our agency partnership clients who are willing to make the investment, we no longer offer organic social media services as it was one of our least-profitable and most time-consuming services. While we know this decision was disappointing to some, it has allowed us to put more energy toward services that better serve our clients—like our fractional CMO service.
Now, you’ve likely heard the saying, “The riches are in the niches.” If you can niche down and only offer what’s already proven to work for your small business, you can likely drastically lighten your workload, better serve your customers, AND make more money.
2. Focus on what you & your team enjoy.
Another way to pivot your small business is to focus on what you and your team enjoy. Now, it is important to know your numbers, and it isn’t a wise decision to focus on something that won’t work just because you like it. So, be sure to make this decision based on data.
However, as your small business matures and you try different things, chances are, you and your team will discover that you simply enjoy some offers more than others.
For example, Victoria thought her dream was to be a wedding photographer for all of her days, but she realized that she actually enjoyed coaching other small business owners more. As a result, her plan to pivot her business was to fully focus on the services within her business that she truly enjoyed: coaching, educating, and consulting.
If there’s an aspect of your business that you and/or your team really love and you know would be profitable, consider pivoting your business to focus on whatever that is. This kind of pivot might be exactly what you need to feel joy within your small business again.
3. Adjust your products or services to better meet your customers’ needs.
Another way to pivot your small business is to adjust your products or services to better meet your customers’ needs.
Wise small business leaders know that they need to be open to customer feedback so that they can make improvements to better solve their ideal customer’s problem and adjust products and services accordingly.
For example, if you’re a SAAS company, is there a feature that needs to be added to better serve your users? If you’re an electrician, could you include a warranty for your work? Or, if you offer packages of any kind, is there something your customers really want that you could add to your packages? Or, if your packages are too big or robust for your best customers, are there features you could remove to better meet their needs and save you both time and money to ultimately make your packages more profitable?
This process is going to look a little different for every small business, but businesses that solve problems and are willing to make adjustments to better serve their customers are often the businesses that succeed—assuming they have a clear message of course.
4. Make your products & services more valuable by offering a great client experience.
Something else you can do to pivot is simply to make your products and services more valuable by improving your client experience.
Now, the number of people who visit malls drops more and more all the time, but imagine that you’re in a mall looking for a new bag, and in this particular mall, you have two options: Gucci and JCPenny.
You can visit both stores and leave with a new bag, but as you likely already know, one store is probably going to be drastically more expensive than the other. While some of this is due to product quality, even more of this is due to client experience.
At JCPenney, you will likely walk to the bag section, go through the two or three disheveled aisles of bags they have available, and won’t ever be asked if you need assistance. Then, when you check out, your bag will be put in a plastic bag, and you’ll be on your way.
When you go to Gucci, on the other hand, a salesperson will greet you at the door, ask what you’re looking for, personally walk you through product options, and delicately package your purchase in a beautiful box and then put that box in a beautiful bag surrounded with tissue paper. You’ll also likely also receive instructions for caring for your bag.
Now, most small businesses start with a JCPenny-mindset, meaning they meet needs and offer average customer service that gets the job done. However, a relatively easy way to pivot your small business is to improve your customer experience so that your products and services have more value.
Like the other pivoting methods we’ve suggested, this is going to look different for every small business. But, perhaps you could make sure that you have a flawless onboarding process that includes a welcome gift for your clients; maybe you could fill your waiting room with cucumber water and high-end snacks; perhaps you could put systems in place to make sure your clients receive nothing but frequent, flawless communication from you and your team; or maybe you could add little surprises for your customers that they just don’t see coming. For example, if you’re a dog groomer, all of your pups might leave your salon with a seasonal bandana and treat.
Basically, if you can systematize under promising and over delivering—which you can learn more about in “Episode 14: 4 Easy Ways You Can Under Promise & Over Deliver to Your Customers”—you can charge more. While creating a great client experience will take a lot of thought and planning, this can be a wonderful way to pivot your small business, make more money, and stand out from your competitors.
5. Refocus your target audience.
Now, the next pivoting tactic we want to discuss often takes a lot of work because it requires adjusting much of your marketing, but it can be highly effective, and that is refocusing your target audience.
As your business grows and the world changes, you might find that your products or services no longer serve your original ideal customers well or that you need to niche down to a more specific audience. And, if that’s the case, it’s time to refocus your target audience and adjust your products and services accordingly.
This is actually something that we’ve had to do at Treefrog over the last year. You see, our team has a heart for serving small businesses through marketing. As a result, for years, we would do anything and everything—no matter how small or time consuming—to help small businesses grow. And, as a result, we pretty much turned into task takers.
While we certainly still have hearts for small businesses and will continue to offer resources—like this podcast, courses, and other marketing tools for solopreneurs and tiny small businesses and have ala carte service options that small businesses can choose from on a project-by-project basis—we’ve had to refocus our target audience for our main and most profitable service: our fractional CMO service.
Essentially, small businesses can hire our team to serve as their chief marketing officer. We put together a strategy for the business, and from there, we oversee the implementation of the strategy—some of which includes us overseeing a business’s in-house marketing team and some of which includes our team producing and implementing tactics on our clients’ behalf.
Now, this isn’t a service that most solopreneurs or truly small businesses are ready for or can afford. As a result, we’ve had to refocus our primary target audience to small businesses with revenues of $10 million or more.
Again, this isn’t to say that we no longer serve the smallest of the small businesses or small businesses that are somewhere in between. But, to serve our clients to the best of our abilities, to bring in revenue that allows us to have lives and businesses we love, and to operate within our zones of genius, this is a change we’ve had to make.
6. Make personnel & process changes.
Last but not least, you can pivot your small business by making personnel and process changes. More often than not, small businesses start as one person or a very small team handling every aspect of a business.
However, as your small business grows, you and your leadership team should—ideally—be able to spend less time on nonprofitable tasks and more time on the areas of your business that actually generate money. (If you want more information and inspiration about this, check out Sell Like Crazy by Sabri Suby. The very beginning of this book gives a beautiful overview of what business owners and leaders should and shouldn’t be focusing on day to day.)
But, ensuring you have a team and systems that allow you to focus on the most important aspects of running your business is critical to your business’s long-term success. This suggestion might not require pivoting your business offers, but it does require pivoting the way your business works internally.
Pivoting your small business takes time & an effective marketing strategy.
As we wrap up this episode, we want to remind you that pivoting your small business doesn’t mean throwing all of your hard work out and starting from scratch. To pivot successfully, you need to make small, strategic adjustments based on data, your customers’ needs, and the life and business you want to have to yield the desired results.
With this in mind, it likely isn’t wise to pivot your small business overnight. After all, you may still have contracts you need to fulfill and you do need to keep money coming in the door. Pivoting is typically a slow but intentional process that requires system, offer, and marketing strategy changes.
Now, maybe you’re listening to/reading this episode and you know exactly where you want your business to go. Or, maybe you’re listening and you know that something needs to change, but making changes terrifies you.
Either way, you and/or your team work way too hard to have anything less than a life and business you love. So, if what you’re doing isn’t working or isn’t giving you the results you deserve, it’s time to make a change, and pivoting your small business may be the answer.
Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode
- Victoria Rayburn Photography
- “Episode 103: The Best Marketing Strategy for Small Businesses: The Flywheel Marketing Method”
- Treefrog Marketing’s Fractional CMO Service
- “Episode 14: 4 Easy Ways You Can Under Promise & Over Deliver to Your Customers”
- Sell Like Crazy by Sabri Suby
- The First Step to Effective Marketing for Small Businesses: Writing Your Marketing Guiding Statements
- Receive 50% Off Your First Order from Photographer’s Edit
- Learn More About Treefrog’s Small Business Marketing Resources & Services
- Join the Priority Pursuit Facebook Community
- Follow or DM Treefrog Marketing on Instagram
- Follow or DM Kelly Rice on Instagram
- Follow or DM Victoria Rayburn on Instagram
The Priority Pursuit Podcast is a podcast dedicated to helping small business owners define, maintain, and pursue both their personal and business priorities so they can build lives and businesses they love.
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