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Changing Your Product Offer: Why It Works

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You’ve developed an excellent team, a sense for business and your drive for success has never been so infectious. You see opportunities everywhere and you’re ready to take the next step to become a top player in the business world. But there’s just one problem:

You aren’t actually selling anything.

Maybe your business never got off the ground, or perhaps it used to be successful, but changing times have seen your revenue diminish. The COVID-19 crisis has changed the way many products are consumed. However, Coronavirus certainly isn’t the only reason why your offer may no longer appeal (or may never have really appealed) to a mass market. There could be any number of reasons as to why your product isn’t performing as you’d want. 

Here, we often look at cashing out and calling it quits. Terminating business operations entirely and moving on to new projects. But this is not your only option. When you have a brand that works on a fundamental level, yet the product you’re offering is failing, it’s time not to give up on your business, but change what your business offers. 

Don’t waste all the time you’ve spent on company formation; use what you have and move forward in new directions. 

Famous Examples of Product Changes

Nokia is a well-known manufacturer and producer of mobile phone technology, but the brand actually started life as a paper mill. Nokia proudly boasts on its website that it “found and nurtured success over the years in a range of industrial sectors including cable, paper products, rubber boots, tires, televisions and mobile phones.” Throughout their 150 years of business, Nokia has moved with the times and searched for new paths of development, rather than crumbling when their product sales started to lose their potency. 

Netflix could be considered a more modern example of a business that changed its product rather than relinquished its brand. Netflix began as a DVD rental service specialising in delivering films to homes. Yet, as online culture developed and DVDs started to lose their appeal, instead of throwing in the towel, the platform used the resources it had to grow into one of the most notable brands in the world. 

These are not exceptions to the rule either. Many other examples exist. Avon began as a booking-selling business, Colgate used to sell candles and soap, and toy company Hasbro started life as a textile retailer. 

Why Does Changing Your Product Work?

Often referred to as a business pivot, the process of changing your product without eliminating your brand is designed to allow you to avoid starting again from square one. When you pivot instead of restarting, you’ll see the following benefits:

  • Your team is still there: Keep your business, keep your team. You don’t have to go through any process of rehiring or re-arranging your team under a new outfit, or devising new policy. If your team works, don’t break it. By pivoting, you can keep all the valuable members of your business and just point them in a new direction. 
  • You keep all your assets: Building space, suppliers, equipment, mailing lists, websites; any asset you own now can be retained for use under your new product offering, rather than having to make massive changes. 
  • You maintain your networks: Over your business lifecycle, you’ll have built networks and contacts. Some will have little value now — like industry-specific suppliers — but others can still help you grow. Investors, financial experts, couriers, marketers, designers; keeping your brand helps you maintain these networks.
  • You have consumer notoriety: Your product might not be what consumers want right now, but are you also known for your great pricing or customer service? Your brand reputation is something that can aid your development in new markets. If you’re pivoting into a similar niche, your reputation can mean access to an established customer base.
  • Your history aids your results: Got a good history of onboarding customers, meeting deadlines or turning investment into profit? You can use this history to garner new interest in your business pivot.

The caveat of a pivot is that it only works if you have a business worth saving. If your product and your brand are weak, then there is little point in trying to save it, and you’re more likely to face more of an uphill battle by holding on to a broken system than starting fresh. But, when there is value in the business, but the product is all wrong, changing what you sell could help you become the next Nokia or Netflix. 

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Sean Jacobson

I'm Sean, a former HR and business consultant providing you insights into the business world for Leader to Leader.

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