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How to Know When to Pivot Your Startup Idea: A Guide for New Founders


As a new startup founder, you're excited about your idea and ready to jump into building your product. But before you start investing time and money into development, it's crucial to make sure you're on the right track. This means seeking feedback from your target customers and pivoting if you need to.


Pivoting means adjusting your approach or product based on customer input, research, or internal data. New founders typically think pivoting means they failed or that their idea wasn’t good enough when it actually means you are succeeding at becoming an expert on the problem you are solving. Here is how we recommend you find out when to pivot your startup idea.


Don’t Build in Isolation

Building your product in isolation is a common mistake that often leads to failure. Without feedback from your target customer, you won't know if you're heading in the right direction. This is where the Lean Startup methodology comes in handy. By asking open-ended or rank-based questions with no bias about your messaging and product, you can get valuable feedback from potential customers.


Example Lean Startup type questions are:

  • How do you currently solve problem X?

  • Why do you solve problem X that way?

  • On a scale of 1-5 would you use a solution like Y?

Some more tips on putting together research surveys and conducting research interviews


As you move forward, test the effectiveness of your product in solving the problem the way your customer wants, and then polish the UI and UX. Throughout this process, it's crucial to have a target customer and to understand how they want to solve their problem.


Pick your Target Market and Customer

Without knowing your Target Market and Target Customer, it will be extremely hard to get in front of the right people for feedback and to know which feedback you should listen to.


Your Target Market is a group of people that you target based on [1]:


Demographic: These are the main characteristics that define your target market. Everyone can be identified as belonging to a specific age group, income level, gender, occupation, and education level.


Geographic: This segment is increasingly relevant in the era of globalization. Regional preferences need to be taken into account.


Psychographic: This segment goes beyond the basics of demographics to consider lifestyle, attitudes, interests, and values.


Behavioral: This is the one segment that relies on research into the decisions of a company's current customers. New products may be introduced based on research into the proven appeal of past products


Your Target Customer is a specific type of person from your Target Market who has the problem you are solving, you know how to get in front of them with messaging that relates to their life circumstances, and you have a specific reason for targeting them. The specific reasons might be their willingness to pay or being underserved in the market.


For example, Uber targeted the rich Lincoln car users at first because they knew scaling in that business would be hard, so they needed to go after the wealthy first as they wouldn’t need to change their behavior around using a car service and they would be willing to pay for better car service.


Testing your assumptions

When you're just starting out, it's important to stay lean and validate your assumptions before investing in development. One way to do this is by building out a landing page with a no-code platform such as Wix, Squarespace, or Hubspot. This will help you build out your waitlist and validate your messaging and the demand for your product.


You can interview people as they visit your landing page to better understand what they actually want and need. The feedback you get will save you time and money for product design and core features selection for your MVP before you start development. The landing page can also let you test pricing by redirecting pricing page buttons to your waitlist page. This is the two-step process that Buffer used to validate their Product Market Fit and make sure their pricing and features were correct.


I also recommend doing mockups with platforms like Figma or Marvel, which will let you wire up buttons to create a prototype to test your UI, UX, and user product journey. You can update these based on the landing page feedback as well to save you additional time and money with development.


Where to find people to interview and survey

To reach your target customers, you don't necessarily need to rely on paid ads. By understanding your target demographic, you can easily figure out where they spend their time online and physically. Go to these places and start conversations or add value to the online spaces to start getting engagement (this is actually the basis for how SEO works). As a startup, you need to do unscalable things in a scalable process at first to get your foot in the door.


For example, you can go to forums and comment when someone asks a question about the problem you are solving, in a way that is value-based, not sales or lead-based. Then, you can bring up what you do and see if they will talk to you for feedback and information discovery.


Conclusion

At the end of the day, only your target customer can tell you when you need to pivot. Building a startup is a loop of taking in feedback, adapting/pivoting based on feedback, and then rinsing and repeating this process before and after major product decisions. As you grow, you can start to scale up and automate these processes, but when you are starting it is crucial for you to find and talk to your target customer.




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