We started our business by focusing exclusively on a specific ecommerce platform. This taught us a lot about two types of customers: online retailers and creative firms that wanted to offer ecommerce services to their clients but needed an expert partner to pull it off. Our business pivot feet were planted in Magento (product/service offering) and online retailer/creative agency (customer).
Last year our team decided to pivot away from Magento; but we weren’t 100% sure where to go next. So we went from a very narrow platform-centric focus to random projects for non-profits, law firms, health care providers, and even student organizations on platforms like WordPress, Drupal, and Google Apps. Virtually anyone was a potential customer because of the wide-application options for these systems. We took on our share of scrap work, which any experienced web professional will tell you is the worst kind.
Prime the Pump
Knowledge about customers and products/services increases momentum. And momentum is super important in any team sport, including business. We killed momentum by breaking the pivot rule. Plus I spent far too much time analyzing circumstances when we should have been out talking to customers and trying new things. Without momentum we never reached a tipping point.
Think of business momentum as a well that requires you to prime the pump in order to produce water. At first you pump vigorously but generate very little water. Stall at this point and you’ll have to start over. But if you continue pumping through the initial lackluster results then you’ll generate a steady stream of quality H2O. With momentum established, less effort is required to maintain water pressure. Violating the pivot rule was like walking away from one well to start over at a new one. It felt like we were always working hard but not getting the results we wanted.
Focus on Adding Value
Positioning ourselves as platform experts attracted ultra-complex projects. It was nearly impossible to accurately estimate and bid on work because we were tackling stuff that had never been done before. In hindsight we should have charged 2-3x more and disqualified the prospects who balked at the quote. But a price hike like that would have been impossible without fine tuning our positioning strategy and putting up the cash to align with Varien Magento, inc as certified partners (at the time it cost $5k). We balked at the expense, but could have recouped it in one enterprise deal.
Sidenote: It should be clear that customers don’t buy features, they buy benefits. If you provide a solution to a problem instead of features then clients will gladly pay you more money. The danger facing web services firms in hitching themselves to a platform instead a problem is that their service becomes a feature commodity. That’s why we are now focusing on ecommerce business problems and then adeptly using a number of tools and ecommerce platforms to solve them.
Get Back in the Game
Violating the pivot rule created a painful ride over the last few months. Meanwhile, retailers keep requesting help with their ecommerce stores. Based on our KISSinsights survey, 60% of visitors to this site today can’t find what they’re looking for because they want a) one of the modules from our old Magento store or b) help figuring out Magento development. We still believe that stepping away from Magento was the right thing to do at the time; but we should have leveraged our knowledge of ecommerce customers. We’re going to remedy this misstep.
Instead of jumping into another ecommerce cart community, we’ve become an indispensable resource for retailers and their online stores. We removed the components that customers didn’t value enough to be profitable (super complex development of core platform software) while adding new high-impact offerings for an ecommerce website such as conversion optimization, SEO, user-testing, analytics, and email marketing (see Blue Ocean Strategy).
Customers are already much happier with the best ecommerce mix of services for their business. And elias is finally primed to grow.