Not a Web Designer

Don’t Call Me a Web Designer

How Pivoting Your Business Could Boost Growth

As you may have read a few weeks ago, I was going through a mental slump and took an entire day to brainstorm my way out of it. The results were phenomenal, but while I felt mentally recharged, I certainly hadn’t solved any of the day-to-day concerns that I face in my business: rate of growth being among the most critical.

Like many young businesses, we were seeing bursts of growth and then stagnation, which is hardly something you can plan a year around, unless your plan is: “Be patient and don’t do anything risky (aka. exciting) for the next year, and then see if things have changed.”

The entrepreneurial spirit tells me that that sentence is pure evil.

So while going through a cyclical period of self-loathing when a business owner wonders why they ever got into this, why they can’t just be happy going to a 9-5 job like other people, and what happens if this just doesn’t work out, I read The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.

Well, full disclosure: I read about 90% of it because I realized about halfway through that it was not written for me. It was written for a startup that could attract venture capital, was large enough to have multiple teams, and was housed in a “facility.” I looked around the windowless walls of an office that’s just big enough for my desk and knew that the author wasn’t writing to me.

So most of the pearls of wisdom that he relayed weren’t applicable to my business, save one: The idea of the pivot. My mother always says, “If it feels easy and flows, then you’re probably heading in the right direction.” Pair that with the pivot and you get:

When a conflict arises, own it and then use it as an opportunity to adjust and evaluate rather than merely reacting.

After nearly four years, the fits and starts, all resulting in more-than-mild frustration for prolonged periods of time, led to lack of patience. I felt like I had no time and the time I spent was largely wasted (my biggest pet peeve). And increasingly, I was getting the sense that I was driving enormous square pegs into teeny-tiny round holes. Yuck.

Then I failed to land a rather sizable client who started out our third pitch meeting with: “We talked to someone in India this morning!” Double Yuck.

Despite my best efforts, many clients just don’t understand the true value of a good web designer versus any other web designer, that it’s not just about pretty pictures but about ongoing collaboration and effort.

So the pivot seemed like it might be a last ditch attempt to salvage what little patience I had left, and as always occurs with entrepreneurs who are backed into a corner, I figured, “What do I have to lose?”

For a few weeks, I pivoted the trajectory of the business away from being a design studio and towards an online marketing and branding strategy business. For the most part, I adjusted our marketing and correspondence to center around identifying and solving online marketing and branding problems instead of just completing related tasks.

And wouldn’t you know it? It has worked. 

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New clients have converted faster, our leads have been of higher quality, and – maybe best of all – I feel a new confidence in what we’re putting out there. No longer am I playing in the sandbox of web designers who struggle to differentiate themselves from crappier web designers. Now I have a proven system – our Vibrant Identity Formula – that I’d been using all along but hadn’t truly positioned properly.

I didn’t have to junk everything and start over. I merely needed to look at what had been working, study the needs of my clients, identify the inherent struggles and attempt to locate their sources, and then pivot.

As we head into a new year, if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or stuck in an aspect of your business, test out a new strategy. Think of the frustration as an opportunity rather than a quagmire. What do you have to lose?

Photo credit: mcdarius and Daniel

22-year veteran of strategy: brand, business, organizational, communications. Certified in project management and regulatory compliance. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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