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Start: Mark Evans

Risks and rewards of the strategic pivot Add to ...

One of the key ingredients for any entrepreneur or startup is having a strategic vision. It's about determining a point of pain and knowing the direction you want to take your company.

But what happens when your vision doesn't resonate with consumers? What if the product or service you devise leads you down the wrong path?

For many startups, this scenario spells disaster. After pouring effort and money into a particular strategic focus, it can be difficult - if not impossible - to backpedal. Many companies scramble by making small tweaks, slashing prices or spending more on marketing, sales and advertising.

For some businesses, this approach works. But when it doesn't, the writing on the wall appears quickly.

A more ambitious - not to mention risky - approach may involve starting from scratch or ripping a product down to its foundation. This exercise is not for the faint of heart, but for a company willing to take a leap of faith, the trouble can be worth it.

This process has been described as a "strategic pivot" because it involves retooling part of a company's business model. One of the most esteemed thought leaders of the strategic pivot is Steve Blank, an experienced entrepreneur and popular blogger.

An example of a real-world strategic pivot involves one of my clients, Visibli.com. When the company launched last year, Visibli - which was then known as Assetize - set itself up as a way for Twitter users to monetize their activity and following. Whenever someone clicked on a link within someone's tweet, it generated a relevant advertisement. The more people clicking on these links, the more the Twitter user got paid.

For whatever reason, this idea did not catch on - at least to the extent that Visibli expected - and the company had to take its technology in another direction.

After exploring different opportunities, Visibli relaunched with a new product called the Engagement Bar. For companies and individuals who sign up for the service, the Engagement Bar appears at the top of someone's Web browser any time they click on a link within the user's Web site, blog or Twitter stream.

The Engagement Bar can be used to extend the company or individual's brand, as well as offer additional content, videos, social network streams, e-commerce and advertising.

Visibli is aiming its Engagement Bar at social media users, publishers and brands that want to expand their digital footprint.

Whether Visibli's strategic pivot pays off is unclear. But by taking a risk and reinventing itself, Visibli grants itself another opportunity to create a service that may capture the imaginations of companies and individuals.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting, a digital marketing and social media strategic agency that helps companies create and tell their stories to customers, bloggers/media, business partners, employees and investors. Mr. Evans has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. He is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh and meshmarketing conferences.

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