What your current customers have to say will help you to pivot your company and turn your solution into something that really solves a need. That’s a common problem that many startups run into; they create a product that they think customers will want, but their product doesn’t really solve a need.
You might also find your product solves a need for your customers, but then your customers’ needs change. You don’t necessarily have to change your product, but you have to pivot to solve a different, more pressing problem for your audience.
So, listen to your customers, find out how they use your product, what it’s missing, what features they want, etc. Your customers could be using your product in ways that you never thought of before, and that could be key for a successful pivot.
If your product isn’t selling, it might be because you’re trying to sell it to the wrong market segment. For instance, maybe your product isn’t right for consumers, but it’s the perfect solution for corporations who have more use for it and more money to spend. This is another instance where you don’t have to change your product at all, you just have to change who you market it to.
For instance, the company Eloqua started as a chat/messaging application for financial services, insurance and real estate, but it never really made an impact with those industries. So the company pivoted their market segment to companies who were looking for an easy way to increase lead generation. Eloqua was later acquired by Oracle for $871 billion. Without really changing their product, they found a new segment of customers that really needed them.
Sometimes when startups create a product, it might be too difficult to sell to the consumer in a way that they understand how to use or how to solve their problem with it. This means your product might be more successful as a service. While you can help consumers along by investing in support services and educational offerings, you might want to consider offering a service instead.
On the other hand, your service might need to turn into a product in order to scale your business. For example, James L. Kraft sold cheese wholesale to local merchants door to door before scaling it and turning his business into the company you know today, Kraft Foods.
For software and SaaS startups especially, the key to a successful pivot may be found in one of your product features. Pay close attention to what your customers are doing with your product. You might have expected them to use your product in a certain way or love your main platform feature the most, but you might discover that they have a greater need for another feature.
That’s what happened with Flickr. Flickr launched as online role-playing game platform, which included a small photo-sharing feature. Their customers weren’t as obsessed with the game as the company thought they would be; instead, they loved the photo-sharing feature more. By pivoting with their product feature, Flickr became a huge success and was acquired by Yahoo.