Pivoting is a popular term for making a quick, often dramatic change from your original business focus. It’s often associated with venture capital-backed startups. But there are lots of ways to pivot, and your small business may be able to improve business or fend off a slump by learning how to be flexible, making small changes in order to follow customer demand.

Small business pivots are all about meeting the needs of your customers and helping your business to grow.

Get Customer Feedback

The first step to a successful pivot is to think about what your customers want or need from your business that you haven’t anticipated in the products or services you currently offer. The first type of data that will help you identify these wants and needs is customer feedback.

You can get customer feedback in a variety of ways: engage your customers in conversation; send out a survey via email; ask questions on your social media accounts; put a questionnaire or survey up on your website or blog. Look through the feedback you receive for patterns that indicate customer interests, especially any that are unexpected or not currently on your priority list. It’s possible you’re already getting the feedback you need; think back to customer interactions to recall if you’re getting any common requests.

Scan Your Financial Data

Financial figures are the second type of data that will help you identify customer wants and needs. Scan your sales figures to find where you might be receiving unexpected amounts of income. If a product sideline is becoming a main seller, you’re looking at an opportunity to pivot in order to meet this unanticipated customer interest.

Expand into the Interest

Identifying a mostly untapped area of customer interest is great for a small business, because it means you’ve found a way to increase income. However, you shouldn’t drop your mainlines and pour all your budget and effort into this untapped area. Small investments can show you if there’s enough interest to support growth in the area, so look for ways to expand your offerings in a new area without neglecting your main business focus.

For example, let’s say your business’s main source of income, historically, has been in servicing small engines. You’ve noticed increasing sales of parts and accessories, and you want to expand into more retail sales to accommodate customer demand. You don’t close your service department; rather, you continue running it as usual while you expand your retail space and sales department, a little at a time.

Here are ways you might dip a toe in the parts and accessories water: You could add a new product line. Perhaps you’ll renovate some storage space into additional retail showroom space. You might divert some of your marketing budget to advertise your expanded product lines. You could hire a part-time sales person, or invest in sales training for one of your current employees.

Change and Analyze

As you’re making these changes, keep track of customer interest by continually gathering and analyzing feedback and, of course, watching your financial figures. If the sales keep growing as you invest in changes, you’re on the right track. If you notice sales leveling off or dipping, it might be time to hold back on additional changes until you see customer interest growing again.

When you approach pivoting by making small changes, you can tap into new areas of customer interest without making high-risk investments. A pivot should always enhance what you’re already doing and grow your bottom line. That’s a winning approach for a small business, enabling you to keep your overhead manageable while increasing your profitability and keeping your customers happy.

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