Gary Knight, CEO, WOLF, explains why tech start-ups have to be agile to succeed, and not wait for a pandemic to tell them to diversify
Businesses, whether they’re established, starting up or looking to grow, all have one thing in common. The need to be agile and aware. And, if the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that businesses, particularly tech businesses, can adapt to a changing market and they can do it very quickly.
But, we don’t necessarily need a pandemic to tell us to change. In our experience we had already made a strategic decision to pivot which carried us into the pandemic eyes wide open.
Despite enjoying success with Palringo, the first messaging app to go live on the Apple App store, we still looked to adapt what we had. Why? Because we invested in understanding our market and recognised the need to diversify. In doing that we created and launched WOLF (World’s Online Festival), a new offering built on the foundation of the previous Palringo offering.
Tech start-ups need to recognise what customers need and want very quickly; it is constantly changing. WOLF evolved itself based on customer behaviour. Our users loved using our live audio feature to perform, so you know what we did, we added shows and interactive stages to the app!
Rebuilding on the foundations you have and taking your brand into a new direction can completely transform a business. I believe that so many businesses who had to ‘change it up’ to respond to COVID-19, will see the benefit of demonstrating such agility – even though it forced them way out of their comfort zone.
Business leaders may soon realise that diversifying and changing the offer should have come sooner. The braver and less cautious leader of the future will be much more open to change and, I believe, will be one of the legacies left from this experience that we are living through. In our experience, there were four key considerations in looking to diversify:
- Ask tough questions
Rather than trying to convince your market what they need, ask them what they want. Sounds so simple but you’d be amazed at how many businesses forget that.
Look at how your customers engage with your brand and service and react to what you see. You have an audience there that are already engaged with your brand, if you can offer them even more they’ll stay with you and help you grow your revenue. So ask them what it is you need to know about your brand, they hold the intel.
It’s important to understand that customer feedback will always play a vital role within a start-up business so never stop asking. It isn’t just for the first year, it’s something that should always be considered. And, ask the tough questions too, don’t just ask the things you want to hear.
Ask them, create it then deliver it – and repeat.
- Don’t rely on stats alone
Every business is sometimes guilty of focusing on the numbers but much more insight can be garnered from feedback from your stakeholders – employees, prospective customers and existing users are all key.
Numbers can be great to paint a general story of course, but analytics alone can be misleading and encourage poor decision-making. Ultimately, they lead to an assumption; ‘sales were high because of that’ – unless you ask your customers it’s all just based on theory.
By all means be led by your metrics and KPIS, but to truly understand the ‘question of why?’ then ask the deeper questions in order to decipher fact from assumption and make informed decisions based on the fusion of numbers and user feedback.
- Take your people with you
The people that live and breathe the brand are the people that every leader needs behind them. Take them with you and pull on their knowledge when looking at how you can diversify your offering.
They understand the brand, its customers and its values so don’t appoint external experts straightaway, go to your people first.
Task them with identifying new trends, to come up with new ideas or innovations. Often, it’s the customer service teams that hold the knowledge. They speak to your customers every single day, what are they hearing, what do they see?
Engaging your team also shows you back them which can do wonders for motivation and morale.
- Test it
Once you’ve introduced changes and diversified what you offer, test it. If it hasn’t met the mark, change it.
Make changes in small steps and keep what works and discard what doesn’t.
Once you have extended your offering or changed what you do, that doesn’t mean that’s forever. Plenty of businesses have made the move and later retracted it. If it isn’t right then change it again. Just remember to ask your customers why it didn’t work first!