“I’m really tired of being pigeonholed as a ___________ – there’s more to me than that!”
Frustrating, isn’t it? When you’re categorized and put in a box that limits the fulness of who you are?
We are multi-faceted people and we want to be recognized as more than just a (mother/father/student/neighbor/waiter/chef/world’s-worst-driver).
But, when it comes to business, maybe we want to be pigeonholed. Does that sound counter-intuitive?
(factoid: the word pigeonhole is derived from the the small compartments where pigeons were kept. The meaning carried over to desks and other furniture where mail and documents could be stored/categorized).
Here’s the reality of business – each of us as professionals, and all of our companies, WILL BE pigeonholed. It is human nature to try to categorize people and companies so that we can maintain some sort of order in our memories.
What do I think of when Drew McLellan comes to mind? I think marketing, midwest, blogger, connector, loyal friend. That’s the “metadata” in my mind to describe Drew. I have him, in that sense, pigeonholed.
Why do I bring up Drew? Well, because I received an e-mail inquiry from him this morning about a client need, and he had me accurately pigeonholed as someone whose network is in that sweet spot (hey, Drew – tell your friend that the referral is on the way….!)
And when a someone needs a marketing firm, perhaps in the midwest, and especially with a need to build closer ties to their customers, who am I going to think of?
Drew McLellan. You see, since I have him pigeonholed accurately (and positively), I know whom to turn to.
There’s a lot of potential business in a (well-chosen) pigeonhole!
You’re either going to occupy some space in the minds of customers, or you’ll occupy no space. So, isn’t it better to clearly define your sweet spot and make that message abundantly memorable?
I want to be pigeonholed (accurately). Because that’s when customers know to call me. That’s when people know how/when to refer me.
But, then again, there’s another side of this coin, and it’s worth discussing. Have you thought about these questions (I’ll bet you have):
- What if I don’t fit in the box I’m currently in?
- What if my business changes?
- What if my business involves more than one thing?
These are tricky issues. I’ve written about them in the past, but I’d love to know your thoughts – how can you be well-positioned in the minds of your customers, while still maintaining the flexibility to evolve? When and how might you NOT want to be pigeonholed? Share your insights in the comments!
(For further reading – check out this excellent post by Liz Strauss: What Narrow Niche Already Loves What You Do?
Also on the blog: Four Ways to Get Out of Someone Else’s Box
Do you need clarity?