Pushing Social was intended to be a social news blog similar to Mashable. I had a good start and felt good about the topic. But within a few months growth began to stall. The signs were imperceptible at first:
- Visitors were leaving the blog within 7 seconds. Obviously no one was reading our content.
- Articles weren’t getting shared on Twitter and LinkedIn, the primary distribution channels for our content. The blog was getting read or shared.
- New articles were getting harder to write. I’m not a journalist and my waning enthusiasm showed that my heart wasn’t into my work.
But I’m stubborn.
I believe that persistence wins which meant I needed to redouble my efforts. But doubling my effort doubled my frustration.
Pushing Social was failing despite my work ethic.
By the fall of the summer of 2011 I knew something needed to change. Thankfully I realized that the change needed to start with me.
The Pivot Mindset
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson
In the last 5 years, tech startups have adopted a paradigm shift popularized by Eric Ries’ bestselling book “The Lean Startup.” Ries’ premise is that startups can systematically experiment and optimize their way to success. Ries encouraged entrepreneurs to rapidly change and improve their business model until they found a successful strategy.
This mindset celebrates evolution over revolution. Nimbleness over stubbornness. Successful companies were often ones that were able to find the right business model before they ran out of cash (or “runway” in startup speak.)
While reading The Lean Startup I kept asking, is it time for me to “pivot” from my Mashable-inspired blog to “something” different?
I realized that I was being persistent about the wrong thing. My goal was to start a business that published information that would help business owners. It didn’t matter if my tactic was a Mashable-like social news blog or something else as long as I succeeded before I ran out of money or patience.
This was one of those “inflection” points that changed everything.
During 2011 and 2012 I rapidly tested dozens of different marketing-related subjects and content types until I found the format and editorial schedule you’re reading today.
Is It Time For You to Pivot?
Ask yourself three questions:
Am I excited about writing my next blog post?
Pay close attention to your “gut”. It’s easy to write about subjects that you care deeply about. Your passion is linked to your vision and you’ll feel stress and discontent when you aren’t working toward your goal.
What is your vision or your “deeper” why?
Are your numbers going the wrong direction?
Your blog and/or business needs other people to succeed. Declining readership, subscriptions, prospects, or fired-up team members point to business with a chronic illness.
Is your blog and business performing well?
Do you have a hunch?
I’ve long been a skeptic of hunches. They felt unscientific, biased, and unreliable. However, when I remember my best decisions I see how profitable hunches can be.
Remember that a hunch isn’t a wild-ass guess. A hunch happens when you’ve reviewed the data, spent time thinking deeply about your problem. A hunch is your subconscious connecting the dots before your conscious-mind arrives at a decision. The best hunches re-frame your problem in a completely new and plausible way.
What was your latest hunch?
How to Pivot
I’ve helped several businesses shift their strategy “mid-stream”. It isn’t easy or fun but it’s manageable if you follow these steps:
Step #1: Start With A Hypothesis:
A hypothesis is well-articulated hunch. Your hypothesis should offer an possible answer to a well defined problem.
My hypothesis back in 2011 was: Business owners know they need a blog but they don’t know how to start. This hypothesis led me to create a content strategy focused on helping business owners “start” successfully.
Step #2: Create Quantitiative Ways to Measure Success
Define what it means to succeed. This means getting comfortable with a few numbers that objectively describe your performance.
For me I wanted to see an increase in:
1.Time spent reading a blog post
2. Readers sharing Pushing Social content on Twitter
3. Readers giving me permission to contact them with email.
These metrics kept me honest.
Step #3: 30-Day Sprints
Quit creating strategies that take months to implement. You may not have that long.
Instead, focus on developing, implementing, and evaluating new ideas within 30-days. Your goal is to find what doesn’t work quickly so you can focus on the bets that show success.
I’ve discovered that ideas that take longer than 30-days to test usually require too much time or money. Short sprints deliver rapid feedback which is critical to pivoting to a new subject.
Step #4: Get Out Of Your Own Way
You don’t know “jack” about your readers.
The only reader that you can accurately predict is yourself. Your assumptions are simply guesses. Do yourself a favor and test everything. I’ve seen many blog publishers confidently kill their blogs by making the wrong assumptions about their customers. They believed that their viewpoints and perspectives accurately reflected their reader’s outlook and desires. They were wrong.
Get out of your way and start asking questions. Listen to the answers. Let real data and conversations inform your hunches.
Step #5: Know When to Go “All-In”
Push all your chips into the pot when you find the right subject, reader, and/or business model.
Spend whatever it takes to leverage your success and turn your insight into a competitive advantage. The goal isn’t to endlessly dabble. The goal is to find what works as quickly as you can and turn it into profit, authority, or social good.
On July 31, 2012 I realized that I had found the right topic and audience for Pushing Social. But I didn’t have the time to go all-in because of my day job. So I decided to leave the 9-5 day job permanently and that decision has made all the difference.
Is it time for you to pivot?
Let’s talk about it here.