The New World: The Original Corporate Pivot

Happy Columbus Day! In honor of Christopher Columbus we're going to take a look at the first American business pivot.

Christopher Columbus, subject of the hit nursery rhyme “In 1492 Columbus Sailed The Ocean Blue” is often hailed as a hero despite failing at his intended goal. The mariner famously declared he could reach Asia by sailing westward from Spain thus partially circumventing the globe to establish a more efficient trade route. We all know now that he didn’t but rather discovered The New World. Columbus figured this out too and realized it could be a potential problem since he had taken a small fortune in investments for the voyage and was now on the hook to find that new trade route he promised.

Columbus didn’t think of this as a failure. He knew what his investors really wanted was wealth and if he pivoted this potential roadblock into a positive the investors would still consider the voyage a success. Columbus had noticed the local inhabitants of this new land were wearing gold and he also thought they could be used as new labor force. It wasn’t the silk and spices he set out to find but he wasn’t coming home empty-handed. When he returned to Spain he used his pivoted sales angle and pitched it as a new world with new opportunities. It’s a business strategy that should sound similar. Some of the most successful companies today actually started out as something completely different than what they are now.

Flickr came from a computer game that’s players started using its photo-sharing tool aggressively; Twitter was originally Odeo, a social network for podcasting until iTunes cornered the market. Instagram started, as Burbn an app that had more than just photo features but the creators worried it was too clunk.  And Pinterest was focused more on helping customer find sales of their favorite items as Tote until they noticed their users were mostly using the site to catalogue or “pin” things they liked. These companies kept their finger on the pulse of their customers, and it allowed them to pivot and cater to the market properly to become hugely successful.

It’s crucial to know what your customers really want. Unfortunately they rarely just come out and say it. You have to pay close attention and the best way to keep an eye out for trends in the voice of your customers is through consistent and efficient surveying. Don’t wait until it’s too late to pivot, schedule a demo today!

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