Sylvester Stallone is a talented actor, in addition to being an accomplished writer and director. But after the Rocky and Rambo movies, he was typecast in a certain role. The same can be said for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Carrey, and dozens of other actors in Hollywood.Hollywood isn’t alone in typecasting. In any industry, perception can often turn into reality. How potential customers perceive you can have lasting implications on the type of work you receive, and the sort of clients that seek you out.Is being typecast always a bad thing?Being typecast isn’t necessarily bad. You have to determine how you want your company, products, or services to be perceived in the marketplace. If your customers, potential customers, colleagues, or partners’ perception of you is different to your own, it may result in you being typecast in a negative way.Imagine if you worked with several nonprofit companies in your local area, and they all networked together, went to the same functions, and were well-connected. Soon or later, you or your business are bound to come up in conversation, possibly leading to discussions about how your company works with nonprofit organizations. One conversation leads to another, and then another, and suddenly a business owner who’s never worked with you is talking with another who’s never heard of you about how you only deal in the nonprofit industry.This is just one example; instead of nonprofits, it might be small businesses, or national brands, or that you only offer a very niche service — when what you’re offering is actually more diverse. Hence, being typecast in this way can cause you to lose out on new business.How to tell if you’re being typecast So how do you tell if you’re being typecast? Do you often hear, “I was unaware that you offered those services” or “I thought you only did XYZ”? That’s the first sign that customers or prospects have a perception of you different to your own. Another warning sign is when you receive frequent calls for services you don’t provide.You can also be typecast in the level of service you offer. For instance, clients might say that they assumed you provided a certain service such as copywriting, when in fact it was excluded from your offer.Another surefire way to be typecast is to go after identical jobs again and again, or show off the same type of work in your portfolio. Make sure the client list and portfolio you present to potential customers adequately shows the range of work you provide.How to prevent being typecastSo how do you change the way people perceive your business? It starts from within your company. You need to have clearly defined boundaries, such as the services you provide (and those you don’t) outlined. Once you know what your boundaries are, you can start communicating them.The next step is to educate people within your organization. Be sure to explain to employees, contractors, and partners what services you provide, and who are your target customers.Lastly, talk with your current clients about your service offering. You might be surprised to learn that some of your best clients were ignorant of some of the services you provide — or the level to which you provide them.We recently had a client outsource their email marketing to another company, simply because they were unaware that we also provided those services. They’re a great client; they simply had a misperception about the services we offered.Be sure to also state the range of your service offering on your website, and on any sales materials you leave behind with potential clients.
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