September 17 2020

Time to pivot

Ask any experienced entrepreneur and they’ll tell you: change is something of all times.

At The Reference, we also have experienced change for ourselves many times. In a sector that went through many highs and lows before finally maturing, we have had our fair share of challenges that eventually would make us into the full-service digital agency we are today. Change is inevitable. And that’s a good thing, because without it, there would be a lot less innovation. Without change, we wouldn’t have smart devices, ecommerce or digital communication platforms that keep us connected despite everything going on in the world right now.

time to pivot editorial

Claiming we live in a time of big changes, feels like an understatement. We’ve rarely had to collectively adapt to a new reality like the one we’re facing today. The way we work, the way we do our shopping, the way we communicate; we have formed a lot of new habits over a short period of time. Habits that inevitably will remain in some way or form, even when we can safely return to our offices, or go out without the need of a facemask.

In a market context like the one we’re in today, it’s dangerous for organizations to simply stick with the strategies and tactics they’ve been employing for years. Nor is it a good idea to be hyper-focused on short term problems and look for solutions only for them.

As is often the case in business, we can take some learnings from the world of sports. When a basketball player sees no way out and has to get past a defender, he momentarily keeps the ball close to his chest, pivoting to find new, alternative ways towards his goal. This short period of analysis opens up a variety of options: team mates can break loose from the competition, defenders can show a moment of weakness or new routes towards the end goal – the hoop – open up. Just like in business, this action goes fast, with rapid decision making resulting in an alternative route towards the same goal the team has been working towards all game: scoring baskets.

As an organization, you as well can keep the ball close to your chest for a moment to pivot. We have identified five clear steps that make up this process.

First, you need to make a good analysis of your situation. I tend to look primarily to customers in this analysis. What are they doing? Which challenges do they face? Do they still interact with your brand in the same way?

Then, you will have to formulate an answer to this new reality. You’ll need the right amount of agility to achieve this, because not everything you try will magically work the way you expect it to. Working fast and monitoring results to adjust where needed, is the key message here. On this front, many established businesses can learn a thing or two from startups. They have been perfecting growth marketing techniques for years.

Fortunately, we’re able to collect and analyze more relevant data than ever to help us determine the effectiveness of our actions. In order to be able to focus on this data, though, you will have to start automating the less intensive aspects of your marketer’s jobs. This will free up time and space for your marketing team to focus on the stuff that makes an impact.

This data-driven approach to automation inevitably means you will have to take a good hard look at your current technology stack. Do the tools you are currently using still support you where you need it? More than once, we’ve come across organizations that appear to be stuck because their legacy systems are holding them back. This while we live in a time where there are more flexible solutions than ever to help your organization work with the best tools for your needs, faster and more flexible.

And finally: if you’re working in a new, more agile way, with different technologies, do you still have the right competences within your team to make this all work well? There might be some gaps in the skill set you need. And some team members might see a shift in their job descriptions. It’s time to have a good hard look at the competences you have in-house and re-invent your marketing team.

If you follow these five steps, you will eventually find the same result as the basketball player I was writing about earlier. Just like him, you will have a variety of new options that allow you to continue working towards the business goals of your organization. And that’s what it’s all about in the end: to remain able to achieve the things you have envisioned for your company. That’s why I’d like to stress: don’t lose yourself in short-term thinking, nor in the strategies that have serviced you well over the years. It’s time to pivot.

Anja Cappelle

Co-managing director The Reference

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