When you’re in the day to day of running and growing a business, it’s tough to stop, think and change. Pausing to pick your head up, assess the market, your customers, successes, failures, and look ahead to what’s next is something that often get’s pushed to the side or only happens when it’s a dire emergency.
Here at Growth Street, we spend our time constantly looking out to the market and looking ahead – both for ourselves and our clients. I’m meeting new people every day and constantly listening, asking questions and learning. I am innately curious and lean in when I hear something new or a different perspective. I’m always turning over the rocks, digging deeper and diagnosing the problems to get to solutions. When you’re listening, you’re learning. When you’re learning, you’re pivoting. In basketball terms, a pivot is all about keeping one foot in place while moving the other. Keeping one foot grounded lets the player reposition for a pass or shot. Pivots in business are about repositioning – keeping one foot on the ground while moving the other to make a new move. Here at Growth Street, we just pivoted our business. There is incredible power in pivoting and I wanted to share our story.
But first, let’s get something out of the way. There are some pretty big misconceptions and excuses I hear as reasons why not to pivot:
- Companies only pivot because they are failing. B.S. Are there businesses that are failing and decide to pivot to shift gears to succeed? Sure. But there are way more businesses that pivot in order to stay in and ahead of the game as the game is changing around them. The Growth Street pivot is an example of pivoting to stay ahead as the market and our clients are changing. Netflix is a great example of a company in a perpetual pivot. For the past several decades, they have stayed in-tune with their market, which is no easy job considering how fast the world of programming continues to change and how fickle us binge-watchers continue to be. Netflix consumes insane amounts of data and information about their customers – who they are, what they watch, which recommendations they click on and watch (or don’t) – and their market. They are in complete lock-step with both and their ability remain a leader in their space proves the power of pivoting.
- It’s really hard. B.S. Building a business is really hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Pivots require work, but can actually be one of the most eye-opening experiences for a business. They require soul-searching, stopping other things to focus, getting really really clear on why you exist, what you stand for and who you serve. They insist on calling bullshit on misconceptions and preconceived notions. They demand truth-telling and trust falls and setting aside what might have been true before but is different now. So, what’s the alternative to not doing the hard work? Your competition eats your lunch, your customers slowly drift away, you blow thru funding, employees seek out other places to work. These realities are all way harder. Keeping your brand and product in lockstep with your customers and market is job 1.
- We have too much other stuff going on. B.S. There’s always going to be a list of reasons why not to do it. We help our clients pivot on the regular and it definitely requires prioritizing. Having just gone through our own pivot, I know the focus and discipline it took to get it done. To be completely honest, I could have done a better job of pushing more to the side to make it happen, but the reality is we’re running a business while we’re changing – no easy feat for any company. Does it require prioritizing deep thinking on your company’s customers, vision, mission, value prop and positioning? Yes. Does it take time away from other stuff? Yes. But what’s the cost of not doing it? See #2.
When I founded Growth Street Marketing back in 2013, the value proposition was focused on helping our clients market smarter to grow faster. We delivered that through a variety of branding, marketing and experience services and differentiated ourselves as the agency-alternative. The business was born out of a big gap I experienced first-hand as CMO and in-house practitioner for a number of Fortune 500 and start-up companies. Finding the right partner, who was truly aligned with my business goals and could become a strategic extension of my team was tough. Layer on the start-up budget constraint and desire to move fast and it’s even harder to find a team to fit the bill. I needed and wanted a way to infuse new thinking, ideas, strategy and execution without paying an expensive agency or managing a bunch of freelancers. The solution didn’t exist and Growth Street Marketing was born.
Over the past 6 years, we’ve been listening and learning. The evolution for us was observing that, in addition to the smarter/faster branding, marketing and experience services we provide, we are playing a bigger, more strategic role for our clients. That bigger role is growth. Branding, marketing and experience are a core part of that growth for sure, but there is even greater value when those activities start by looking at the business from a holistic perspective. It’s like going to the doctor with an ache or pain. She’ll ask you a whole bunch of questions related to your body and overall health in order to form the diagnosis. When a client says, “We need a new logo” or “We need to create a demand gen campaign,” there are two paths we can take. Path one is: “Great, when do you want to get started?” Path two is: “WHY.” Not all clients want to go to the why. Some just want us to execute the logo or the campaign without the strategy and we’ve realized those aren’t good clients for us. Can we do it? Sure. Will it have a huge impact on the company’s growth if we just do it in a vacuum without asking the bigger questions first? Nope. One of the benefits of a pivot is getting really clear on who you serve, and who you don’t.
As our thinking and expertise evolved, it became apparent that solving challenging growth problems is the value we provide our clients. That might manifest itself in filling a gap as a fractional CMO, telling a new story, transforming a traditional brand and product offering, building a go-to-market strategy, redesigning a website, launching a demand gen program, pivoting with a rebrand or a whole host of other strategies and tactics, but it starts with surfacing the gaps and then decided how to close them.
Back to the basketball analogy, our one foot on the ground is marketing, and our pivot is growth. We go beyond marketing and deliver the know-how to grow. The name “Growth Street” was at our core in 2013 and is now more meaningful than ever. We even own the registered trademark for the name (whoop!) and I’m thrilled to launch our new brand identity, website and messaging. We decided to drop the word Marketing, which was a tough decision. At our roots we are marketing and still stand for that. The difference is that, while we still deliver marketing services, we deliver more. We consistently hear from our clients that we are more than marketing because we take a bigger, broader, deeper view, surfacing new information to help them see the problems and opportunities differently. That’s Growth Street.
Are we still smarter/faster? Heck yeah. Are we still the A Team of brand, marketing and experience pros? Always. Do we still drive measurable results? All the time. But the bigger value is that we are growth partners. It’s what sets us apart from the traditional agency and consulting firm model. If you just want an ad campaign or a new logo or some copywriting on the fly, we’re not your people. If you think you already have all the answers and don’t want to look holistically at your business strategy, we’re not your people. If you want to pay for fancy office space and overhead, we’re not your people. If you want to move at a glacial pace with a big overpriced strategy engagement, we’re not your people. On the other hand, if you want bigger thinking about how to look at your business to get ahead, now you’re talking. If you want to dig in together and learn what you don’t already know, then we’re your people. If you want stellar, nimble work, that’s us. If you want a true growth partner, let’s talk.
Change is the only constant and it’s fast and furious. Your market is changing every day with new competitors shaking up the landscape. Your customers’ expectations are changing every minute as they interact with other brands. Staying in-tune with the market and your target audience is paramount to creating and driving long-term business value. Pivots are power when done well. They create an opportunity for your brand to tell a new story and connect with existing and future customers. They define your market and whitespace, creating a value proposition that differentiates. They drive your priorities and make your marketing and selling more effective and efficient. A pivot breathes exciting new life into your brand and can jump-start growth in a powerful way. Most importantly, a pivot is grounded in what you stand for – at your roots, where you first planted your foot firmly on the ground. In an ever-more-noisy market, standing for something means standing out.
Moving with conviction comes from a place of confidence. Pivots are just an organized way to make a new move. Whether it’s a subtle shift to the left or a full rotation to the right, a pivot positions your business to take a bigger shot and create more value. And, with the right growth partner, you’re ready to completely change the game. Giddy up.
Photo credit:Ross Findon