Marketing: How to Pivot Successfully

Karen Lambert
Karen Lambert

Chief Happy

Posted on: 16th Mar. 2021

Plenty of companies are talking about it. But what is pivoting from a marketing perspective? Is it right for your business? And how can you implement it effectively? In an extract from the book “Running a Business in Times of Crisis” our Chief Happy, Karen explores the potential power of a pivot.



“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin famously said.

That his words resonate now is because he was describing something that should feel very familiar to every business. Life adapts. It finds a way to thrive when circumstances change. If it doesn’t, extinction beckons.

Let’s not get too hung up about the word pivoting. Pivoting may be ‘a thing’ right now, but it’s certainly nothing new. It’s one of the oldest – perhaps the oldest – concept of all: how do you know when you need to adapt to survive or thrive?

Here we explore:

  • What is pivoting and why should you pivot your marketing
  • The four main areas to pivot your marketing
  • Three main ways to pivot your marketing
  • How to review your tactics
  • A checklist for pivoting successfully

1. What is pivoting?

For me pivoting is a change of direction. Often, it’s a shift that takes something you already do or have and applies it in a different way. Pivoting can be large scale, but it doesn’t have to be.

2. Why pivot your marketing?

Pivoting doesn’t have to be about wholesale reinvention of what you do. It could mean changing the way you talk about it, or the audience you talk to. Not only can pivoting your marketing be extremely rewarding, it can also be far less costly and resource intensive than re-engineering great chunks of your business operations.

From a marketing perspective, pivoting typically means taking one of four routes:

Product: Creating (or, more usually, adapting) a product to meet a newly identified need or extend the product’s capabilities.

Positioning the company or product for a new group of customers.

Extending the reach of your product by launching into new geographic territories (e.g. launching in Europe) or taking your service online.

Changing the way you reach consumers. An example of this we’ll all be familiar with right now will be the Zoom call instead of the face-to-face meeting, but it applies just as well to upping your social media presence, increasing your online ad spend or boosting your SEO.

"No company has a crystal ball telling it what will happen next, so it’s important the marketing strategy (like every other part of the business) stays alert to the threats and opportunities around it."

3. How to pivot your marketing

Like marketing in general, there’s no one ‘right’ way of pivoting. It depends on many things: your products or services, your customers, your existing marketing strategy and plenty more. But in deciding what’s right for you, every business will need to consider at least some of the following:

Review your strategy

The pandemic has presented every business with a new set of challenges. For some, a slight adjustment may be all that’s required to achieve a marketing strategy fit for the new world. For others, major change may be required, such as shifting from digital being just one element of the marketing mix, to it becoming the prime method of delivery.

No company has a crystal ball telling it what will happen next, so it’s important the marketing strategy (like every other part of the business) stays alert to the threats and opportunities around it. Look at what your competitors are doing and how they are evolving. Look at what your metrics are telling you. Be helpful

Review the tactics

It’s important to be aware of the way things have changed for your customers too. We’re all dealing with a lot of additional ‘stuff’, which means attention spans may be lower, stress may be higher.

Build your brand: It’s harder than ever to achieve cut-through right now. It’s harder still when the recipient of your communications doesn’t know who you are. That’s why your brand matters massively right now – because familiarity and trust are two things that can turn your marketing into a message that hits home.

Raise visibility: Now Is not the time to go into ‘stealth mode’. Equally, there’s little point in making a big noise in an unfocussed way:

Be where your customers are; do more than digital, if everyone else is on social, consider how a mailshot or a phone call me be an immediate point of difference.

Customer journey:

Think about:

  • New customers: If you’ve pivoted to attract new customers, then this is a new segment and a new customer journey to discover. Take time to understand them.
  • New journeys: Even a familiar group of customers may be changing their behaviours to match the times. The journey to buying has changed. And the messaging required has changed with it.
  • New tunes: The ability to ‘read the room’ has arguably never been more important. This is about more than listening. It’s the ability to hear how the tune is changing, how the mood is shifting – and then adapting what you do to show you’ve heard and understood.
  • Tone:  What you say needs to be relevant – but it also needs to be delivered in a way that feels authentic and human.

Review your progress

Reviewing the effectiveness of your new measures is more important than ever right now because things are changing so fast. Schedule regular review dates to ensure you keep your ear to the ground, check what the metrics are telling you, and continue to pivot accordingly.

A final pivot

The curious thing about the sudden passion for pivoting is that there’s nothing new here in terms of the what and how. What’s changed for many businesses is the urgency – rarely have we needed to make such change so quickly. Rarely have we needed to educate customers at pace or bring them with us we shift from one of way of operating to another. Yet the tools of a successful pivot are much as they always were:

  • Listen and understand what your customers are telling you
  • Review your current strategy
  • Amend your tactics to match the strategy, taking account of your:
    - Brand
    - Visibility
    - Customer journey
    - Tone; and
    - Your potential to be helpful
  • Review progress and keep pivoting

This is an excerpt from the book “Running a business in times of crisis”, the chapter “Marketing: How to Pivot Successfully”, authored by Karen Lambert is available to purchase here.  The book covers topics including: 'Looking after your mental health whilst working remotely' and 'Promoting your business consciously in times of crisis'. ‘Making culture work remotely'



Karen Lambert is a career-long marketer with over 30 years marketing experience in regional, national and global organisations. She founded Happy Creative in 2005.



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