Gini Dietrich

Stuck In a Rut? Pivot Your Business.

By: Gini Dietrich | January 31, 2012 | 

In 2010 we announced Arment Dietrich was no longer a PR firm.

It was pretty amazing to see what happened, almost overnight. Clients and prospects, alike, stopped asking us to do only publicity and instead began to bring us in on integrated marketing communication programs.

Even though we were constantly demonstrating our capabilities, we weren’t seen as an integrated firm until we drew a line in the sand.

I didn’t even realize I was doing something trendy, or what the startup world calls “pivot,” I was simply responding to client needs and to the big shift the web was creating for the marketing and communication industries.

It turns out, about six months earlier Eric Ries introduced the idea in a blog post called, “Pivot, Don’t Jump to a New Vision.”

Pivot is used to describe smart startups that change direction quickly, but stay grounded in what they’ve learned. They keep one foot in the past and place one foot in a new possible future.

I envision the business owner standing with one foot firm on the ground (the vision) and the other foot pivoting around to test new markets, new products, new services, and even new customers.

We discovered this very early in the building phase of Spin Sucks Pro. Because of all the speaking I do to CEO organizations, I wanted to build an online business that taught small- and medium-sized organizations how to do their own PR and marketing.

But through research, surveys, and examining the current Spin Sucks audience, we discovered business leaders were not the right target. We pivoted to another audience: PR and marketing professionals.

On one hand you have an established business (Arment Dietrich) and a startup (Spin Sucks Pro). Both are still focused on the vision, but pivoting to react to changing trends, be flexible, and grow.

The challenging economy is not behind us. We’re still doing more with less. In order to compete, we all have to be flexible and adapt.

Consider pivoting in your business the next time you think your vision or your strategies are wrong.

Special thanks to the very hilarious image from Grasshopper Herder. This blog post first ran in my weekly Crain’s column.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I’ve had to do some of this, only on a smaller scale with my business. When I got into this, I had one vision, and I quickly understood that it wasn’t very sustainable or practical. And it wasn’t necessarily what the market wanted, it was more what was right and what the market needed, and it’s worked. It’s the small shifts in thinking that can make a business more important and profitable.

    • ginidietrich

      @KenMueller Exactly. And too many business leaders will completely change their vision or rewrite the business plan, when all they need to do is make some minor changes.

  • ginidietrich

    @Mark_Harai Morning!

    • Mark_Harai

      @ginidietrich Happy Tuesday to Gini! It’s always great to see that great big smile and winning attitude in my stream : )

    • Mark_Harai

      @ginidietrich You have waaay too much delicious looking food on your Pinterest! Off to get a bite : )

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  • Essential! Great advice here @ginidietrich !! I’ve done this several times over the course of my life as an entrepreneur … recently I did it with my marketing site – started off really dry … slight pivot towards a more creative angle and, well, it’s working and I love it! Being flexible and having a clear goal is essential – being reactive and constant tweaking is distracting!

    • ginidietrich

      @Ameena Falchetto You totally did just pivot, didn’t you? Focus, vision, and having a clear goal definitely are the way to go. It’s a lot easier to focus when we know what we’re trying to achieve.

  • MichaelBowers

    This is a great recommendation, as usual. By really understanding your market and customers changes may be warranted. This doesn’t mean you have to blow everything up and start over. Making a shift will allow you to maintain your current talent and still attack the market more effectively.

    • ginidietrich

      @MichaelBowers We must be on some weird wavelength. I was just thinking about you and I flip over here to see your comment.

  • lesmckeown

    This is a good use of pivoting. In the startup world, it’s almost always a pretty cynical way to blag more funding from VC’s by people who aren’t true entrepreneurs (“OK, that didn’t work and we burned through all your money, but we’re really excited about this new thing so give us some more…”).

    Nice one.

    • ginidietrich

      @lesmckeown Oh if only I could use it to get more funding. Clearly I’m doing something wrong! You good? I see you’re leading off Sarah’s month of guest bloggers. Looking forward to it!

      • @ginidietrich @lesmckeown we need a basketball analogy here. The passer is always pivoting on their pivot foot to find the open person. Just a business should be doing should someone or ones beat them to market making them a me too.

      • lesmckeown

        @ginidietrich The only thing you’re doing ‘wrong’ is building a real business instead of just trying to scam funders 🙂 All good here. Working, teaching, writing, occasionally sleeping…

        • @lesmckeown @ginidietrich She took my whole Bazooka Joe Comic Collection and I haven’t seen one dime of ROI yet!

  • You can also pivot if you get stuck in a root too like us mountain bikers do. Road bikers tend to stay stuck though. Something about the skinny wheel.

    This is really smart advice Gini I bet many talented people and great businesses fail because they think they can’t or shouldn’t make turns when necessary due to changing business conditions or situations. Like your friend with the Groupon knock off maybe could of done had he found an aspect that could take him in new directions?

    • @HowieSPM Root? You are a root, you rut head………..:). And now that you are a Green Mountain boy, you are also a mountain biker too?

    • ginidietrich

      @HowieSPM I don’t know why I allow you to comment here. I should ban you and your Livefyre points.

      • @HowieSPM Don’t fret. She’s all bark and no bite. @ginidietrich

        • @jasonkonopinski @ginidietrich @bdorman264 been s mountain biker since 1988 before all of you were born.

          Uhm…that was the year my fiancee was born ACK!

        • lesmckeown

          @HowieSPM @jasonkonopinski @ginidietrich @bdorman264 I was 32 then, and had given up anything involving motion.

      • @ginidietrich You need my twitter traffic of 3.7 people to keep your AdAge ranking

        • ginidietrich

          @HowieSPM Could you add more Twitter traffic, then?

  • Being able to see the need to pivot is one part, actually having the courage to do it is part 2. We started out early on planning to be “The web design firm to local business”. Well, despite our efforts, that was NEVER going to happen. Our local businesses are a decade behind in terms on technology, online business, etc. What we ended up being, made 100% more sense. We ended up being the right arm to marketing, design, digital, PR & advertising firms. We ended up be on of the few custom development firms that gives completely custom development across multiple platforms, while understanding how to work side by side with marketing professionals and the like. We are highly technical, but speak everyones language.

    Pivoting for us was so logical that we should have done it sooner! Its all about embracing change. Some people can do it, others, sadly not so much! Kudos to you for embracing it & making the change that was best for your business and your clients!

    • ginidietrich

      @sydcon_mktg Isn’t it funny in 2012 you still can’t be the web design firm to local business? PEOPLE! YOU NEED A WEBSITE!!

  • TheBaumGroup

    RT @Soulati Stuck In a Rut? Pivot Your Business. via @ginidietrich #YSM

  • Never knew there was a label to what I’ve been innately offering for some time now — social media marketing with a PR core. Rings a bell of solid capabilities, doesn’t it? Thanks; and whatever is needed to declutter the string so the light bulb can go click.

    • ginidietrich

      @Soulati | PR We’re trendy without even knowing it!

      • @ginidietrich @Soulati | PR Obliviously trendy 🙂

  • In a world where companies try (and fail) to embrace the “shoot the dogs that don’t hunt” and “eat your children” responses to change, this certainly leaves fewer bodies behind 🙂 Interesting to think about whether Hubspot is right that there is a shift from the buzzwords of SEO and Social Media towards the more embracing “inbound marketing” phrase … I wonder how many SEOs are contemplating this particular “pivot” move.

    • ginidietrich

      @Glenn Ferrell Apple has done this since the 90s. Trying things, pivoting, and retrying. Although it’s reserved for startups, it’s interesting to see the innovative and creative companies using it without attribution.

  • Pivot, reminds me of basketball. I play a couple of times a week in a game where the “old guys” often match up against the younger. We beat them regularly because we understand how to set a reasonable pace, we play with our heads up and we pivot.

    The same principles apply to business, really it is a ridiculously simple concept that people miss. Don’t panic and don’t rush. When you watch where you are going and pay attention to the flow of the game it is easy to shift gears and adjust your focus.

    • ginidietrich

      @TheJackB This is a really good analogy. Don’t panic and don’t rush completely make sense for both business and basketball. Was it Wayne Gretzky who said keep your eye on where the puck is going to go? That allows you to adjust your focus really well.

      • @ginidietrich Yep. Actually it is the sort of thing that you can talk about with any sport. Rich Gannon has a nice riff on how experience helps a quarterback.

        “Meanwhile, if you’re an experienced driver, you see everything. You’re able to anticipate. You’re able to avoid collisions. That’s really the difference. It’s experience. It’s being a master of your domain. It’s being so prepared that the game really slows down.I can remember late in my career, I could walk up to the line of scrimmage and I could see a corner at 10 yards, and the other one at like eight and a half. I could just see that. I could visually say, “OK, there it is.”You’re so far ahead of it.”,0,3635365.story

        • ginidietrich

          @TheJackB That’s like anything else, right? I remember when I was a few years out of college and watching my boss run a meeting. I thought, “How does he know all that?” I learned several years later it just comes from experience.

        • @ginidietrich Yep. When I was a kid my dad/grandpa used to say “You can’t screw an old head on young shoulders.” I hated hearing it but now I can’t say it enough.

          There is no substitute for experience which is why I wonder about companies that have gutted middle management.

  • PattiRoseKnight

    I remember the dropped jaw during the meeting when you announced we aren’t doing PR anymore. I was fairly new and I wanted to jump up and say “YOU GO GINI” but didn’t. I AM NOW THOUGH! Even then I knew you made a wise decision even though I was the minority. My hats off you you work husband!

    • ginidietrich

      @PattiRoseKnight LOL!! I would have laughed really hard had you done that. You totally would now.

  • Surely pivoting is a good technique, so good that it’s also one of the best moves for self defense. Is there a way to dodge hits in the business world too. 🙂

    Also keeping one foot on the ground and moving the other can be a general rule also in everyday life, to remain balanced.

    • ginidietrich

      @Andrea Hypno That whole one foot in front of another thing, huh?

  • BestRoofer

    In our business (Roofing) we have made the decision to “Pivot” away from new construction work. This has been a great decision, driven by my COO. Now we are focused solely on re-roofing and repair work. Change does not happen overnight, but life is much better and we can focus on providing better service to our customers.

    • ginidietrich

      @BestRoofer Wow! I didn’t know that, but it totally makes sense. So now you focus on pre-existing homes that need new roofs?

      • BestRoofer

        @ginidietrich we do some homes, but most of our work is commercial or industrial.

        • ginidietrich

          @BestRoofer Got it! Good for you. That sounds like a really smart strategy.

  • Great, tactical example of pivoting. It’s amazing how a shift in how you presented something you were already doing changed how your business was perceived.

    • ginidietrich

      @Collectual Isn’t that funny? Perception truly is reality. We said we’re a PR firm. People equate PR to publicity. So that’s all we were asked to pitch for new business. Then we changed messaging and suddenly people see as an integrated marketing and communication firm…even though we’ve always done that work.

      • @ginidietrich Amen, Gini. And good for you. @Collectual

  • @ginidietrich , when you told me what you were doing with your business, back in May, 2010, I thought you were both wise and courageous. I still think you’re both. And I’m definitely going to think about what “pivoting” can mean for my own business this year.

    • ginidietrich

      @KensViews You pivoted your business last year. You don’t necessarily need to do it every year.

      • @ginidietrich Didn’t so much pivot my business last year as get much smarter about my marketing, thanks to your elegantly simple advice. (PR industry improving certainly helped, but your counsel helped me maximize it.)

  • ifdyperez

    @MargieClayman @spinsucks @ginidietrich muchas, muchas gracias 🙂

    • MargieClayman

      de nada! @ifdyperez @spinsucks @ginidietrich

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