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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Is Your Business a Penguin, or a Pigeon?

Written By: Steve Woodruff | Comments Off on Is Your Business a Penguin, or a Pigeon?

You’ve seen those nature documentaries before – the countless thousands of penguins crowded onto Antarctic ice, all looking the same, squawking the same, shuffling around in a barren landscape of sameness.

How would you pick out one particular penguin among the masses?

That may be how your business looks and sounds to your customers. Just another penguin. Until you rise above the noise and differentiate.

When Seth Godin wrote the classic marketing book Purple Cow, this was his main point. No one notices just another cow that looks like all the others. But if you spotted a purple cow in the field? That would stand out for sure!

One of the greatest challenges for every business is to stand out. To rise above the noise. And to do that effectively, we cannot parrot the language of all the other providers in our category.

“We provide end-to-end solutions to help leverage leading-edge technology toward higher-velocity bottom-line results.” Jargon. Biz-speak. Sounds like everyone else.

That’s penguin language.

To win in a noisy marketplace, we have to choose a very specific, differentiate market position. We have to have the courage to narrow our focus, define our bullseye customer, and choose our high-impact, memorable message.

In other words, we need to pigeonhole ourselves.

Now, I know the knee-jerk reaction that comes whenever that word is used. “We don’t want to be pigeonholed! We might lose opportunities over here or over there!”

Let me give you three reasons why you do, in fact, want to proactively pigeonhole yourself.

  1. You have a business sweet spot – something that you do particularly well, which is profitable and in line with your strategic direction. Shouldn’t you be actively pursuing that “best fit” work, instead of settling for projects and customers that are not a good long-term fit?
  2. No company can be remembered for a bunch of different things. At best, you’re going to get one pixel of memory in the minds of your audience. Narrow your message down to that most important message – the thing for which you want targeted referrals.
  3. You and I WILL BE pigeonholed anyway, since that is how the human mind works. Do we want to placed in some random area of memory, or does it make more sense to let our audience know exactly what our ideal pigeonhole is?

One of the best ways to pigeonhole ourselves in the minds of our existing and potential customers is to use a vivid analogy or metaphor – something that bypasses the brain’s filters and grabs hold of an existing memory hook.

For instance, there are thousands and thousands of business coaches, but if someone tells you, “I’m the Mercedes of business coaches for new women entrepreneurs,” we now know that a good referral is a specific demographic looking for high-end, top-notch services.

That’s pigeonhole language – a specific, memorable word picture – that rises above the penguins.

Distilling the focus and message of any business is the key, not only to strategic clarity, but also to making a business referral-ready.

The process of gaining that professional clarity has been the core of my consulting career for many years, and is now contained in my just-launched book, Clarity Wins, available on Amazon. My goal is that you will embrace your pigeonhole and prosper by activating the most effective business-building tool ever devised – the targeted referral!

Article written by
Steve Woodruff is known as the King of Clarity. In a world full of noise and distraction, Steve helps businesses craft a message so clear that they can be heard, remembered, and referred. In over 30 years of business experience, he has consulted with companies ranging from solo startups to Top Five Pharma. Steve lives in Franklin, TN, and is the father of five (boys).