Why Some Entrepreneurs Don’t Want to be Pigeonholed

Once or twice a year, a new software entrepreneur tells me they “don’t want to be pigeonholed.” This inevitably means they didn’t want to declare a clear focus and specialty.

They don’t want to cut off any possible customers they MIGHT sell to or something they COULD build.

It’s a normal human response to keep your options open, but it doesn’t help you grow a successful business.

Buyers want to buy from specialists who have declared their focus. That “pigeonholed” their companies, products, and services.

All things equal, we prefer to buy specialist products or services that “just do the thing we want for people like us.”

It’s possible to be too narrow when you are starting, but it almost never happens.

Our inside-out entrepreneur brain always has a wider aperture. “We make AI tools for sales and marketing.”

Outside-in buyers have a narrow aperture. So does the Google search, which mirrors the way our brains work.

What specific kinds of AI tools? For which kind of businesses? What specific use cases? Which one are you in this crowded space?

When I asked these entrepreneurs what they did, they gave me very general responses that would get lost in the noisy world.

Maybe if they bump into someone and have a long enough conversation they can sell something. But their message won’t be heard and the sales conversion won’t happen unless they are face-to-face.

After your undeclared startup experiments to find a focus, product-market fit and efficient customer acquisition happen when you declare yourself more narrowly.

Anything that scales up that is popular and successful has narrowed in, relative to what they could build and who they could sell to. It’s never not there.

They became KNOWN as the BEST at SOMETHING IMPORTANT for SOMEONE SPECIFIC. Especially when they started growing fast in the early years.

This is simple positioning and a normal sales and marketing strategy.

And it’s more important than the quality of your software code to your eventual success.

Too bad if VCs think your specialty is too small for their “VC-scale” business model.

Focused “founder-scale” businesses have a much better chance of succeeding for practical founders than their over-funded generalist peers.

A declared specialty is required to build a successful business. Can you see my specialty?

In the marketing, sales, and growth game…


Are your products or services “pigeonholed” enough to be known as the leader in what you do for the right kind of customers?


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