What Wild Cherry Can Teach You About Your Business

Remember the Wild Cherry song, “Play That Funky Music” No? Let me sing some lyrics for you…

Yeah, they was dancin’ and singin’ and movin’ to the groovin’

And just when it hit me somebody turned around and shouted

Play that funky music white boy

Play that funky music right

Play that funky music white boy

Lay down the boogie and play that funky music till you die.

(Now do you remember? Thought so!)

What most people don’t know is that Wild Cherry started out as a hard rock band. The song represents a true story about how audiences during the disco era wanted them to “play that funky music” instead of their normal set. So, they changed their musical style – and voila – they had a huge hit on their hands.

In short, Wild Cherry listened to what their audience wanted – and they changed their music accordingly.

In the business world, this is called “pivoting” your business. It’s a change in strategy without changing your vision (check out this great Fast Company video for more information).  The term was coined by Eric Reis, and describes how some companies drastically changed their business course before they saw great success. For instance, did you know that YouTube originally started as a video dating site? It’s true! And look at them now…

They successfully pivoted their business model – and everything opened up for them.

Although the term is used in terms of startup businesses, any business could benefit from a pivot.  Chances are, your business – like your best relationships – will change over time. What worked five years ago may not work today. What your customers wanted five years ago may be a “be there, done that” today.

So you, as a business owner, have a choice.

You can keep on doing what you’ve always done.

Or you can pivot your business and give your customers the “funky music” that they really want.

If you’re not quite seeing the business results that you want to see, put your ear to the ground and confirm that you’re giving people the right services (or products) at the right time. Are people asking for new and different “things?” And if so, are you listening to them – or are you putting them off figuring that, “That’s a good idea, but we don’t have time for that right now.”

The thing is, the right pivot can keep your business constantly relevant. It doesn’t need to be drastic (such as changing from a rock band to a disco/funk one.) Nor does it mean changing your entire business model.

It’s simply taking what you know and meshing it with what your customers want today – not last year.

Consider ways you can pivot your own business. You may find that a slight change in strategy can bring you incredible amounts of success.

Now, get on with your bad self and keep playing that funky music. You’ve got a business to run.

4 replies
  1. Amy C. Teeple says:

    I am going to be singing that song all day!

    I have to admit that I was so surprised by the YouTube dating site reference that I had to fact check it for myself. (Not that I doubted you, but I was curious about how long that lasted.)

    Pivoting – or at least being open to pivoting – is crucial when you are in business. When I first started my own company, I had just left a job where I did more SEO analysis than writing, so I wanted my company to help with all things SEO and online marketing. I quickly realized that I couldn’t effectively do all of this alone, so I shifted my focus back to my specialty – SEO copywriting – and the business (and my sanity) kept moving forward.

    Recently, I realized that although I had “sort of” offered blogging services in the past, I never focused on them. I was all about optimized web pages. By expanding my focus to a broader sense of online web marketing writing – including blogging and landing pages – I was able to pivot my business and land more clients (without losing the ability to do what I love).

    Great reminder! Thanks!

  2. Matthew Newnham says:

    Great post as always, Heather.

    Of course, I couldn’t possibly remember that song [nope, even though I do seem to remember where it was playing and who I was dancing with – oops, busted!].

    I’d also add that staying true to our vision works best, in my experience, when we base that explicitly on the outcomes we are seeking to help others experience – based of course on our innate talents and passions.

    So Wild Cherry were hopefully really all about sharing the joy of music [doing it in a way that gave them a profitable business, so they could keep on doing what they loved]. We’ve probably all seen examples of companies that pivot successfully, only to find that it fizzles at some point, because it was more about the “stuff” they were selling than either the real outcomes for them and their customers.

    P.S. Speaking of musical pivots, did you know that power-crooner-cum-opera singer Michael Bolton also started off as a hard rock act?

  3. Katherine Andes says:

    Another way to pivot is to simply see what your clients are asking you for. If they are asking, they are wanting. For example, I used to tell clients I couldn’t build them a website as well as write for one. Lost a lot of jobs that way. I started building sites for some of them and that’s turned into a large chunk of my business. Some of my clients asked me for PPC and I looked into that, but quickly determined it wasn’t a sandbox I wanted to play in …

  4. Heather says:

    Matthew…wow, I had no idea that Michael Bolton was a hard rock act. Perhaps it was the mullet that he used to have? Ah, mullets. How glad I am that they are (mostly) gone.

    Well, in most places. :)

    Katherine – GREAT point. It’s easy to get too laser focused on existing services and say, “I don’t handle that…sorry.” When instead, whatever “that” is could be a great new profit center for your business. Or, if nothing else, you could set up a partnership with someone who does provide the services your clients are looking for. Referral fees are pretty nice too….


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