Replace Your Pivot
A little strategic thinking might save you from an expensive pivot.
“Pivot” appears to be the buzzword du jour among those attempting to launch the next innovative mobile app. The design and development cycle for mobile apps tends to be short, fast and aggressive. It’s not uncommon to change course (pivot) when a new competitor enters the scene. Often it’s the overlap of some “killer features” which sends the team back to the drawing board. Anyone who has worked for a large corporation can tell you how refreshing it is to work so nimbly and lean that you can turn on a dime and in a new direction, but working so lean that you eschew a bit of crucial upfront strategy work may lead to needless pivoting.
Hand to hand combat
Entrepreneurs are eager to start development and see their vision come to life so they stake claim to a specific user need and define the minimum viable features to support the users’ tasks. Then, midway through development a competitor seemingly steals the unique value proposition — and thus a pivot to redefine the feature set and/or marketing message. Launching an app in an established category with a task-based feature set is akin to a ground war. You’ll run ragged trying to realign your features, as well as the marketing message, not to mention the story you tell your investors.
Fight an air war
Auditing the competitive landscape by itself is not enough. It’s important to understand users’ goals and new or existing motivation for them to want a product from your category. Start by considering their goals then abstract it to find a broader value proposition. You may be able to find opportunity in a less saturated corner of that category. For example, rather than owning “photo-sharing” what if you owned “digital memories”? Would your initial vision still fit in that space? How would you empathize with users’ needs in support of how they capture, share and re-live memories? So, what began as an app that could ease the task of sharing photos is now opened up to a myriad of new opportunities where the experience is far more personal and not based on tasks.
Viewing the landscape from this new higher perspective allows you to react to approaching competition with more confidence. And the next time you pivot may not mean turning blindly into another ground war.
Originally published at www.mind-arc.com on May 14, 2013.