If You Build It…They Won’t Come | Small Business Marketing

Life isn’t like Field of Dreams. Just because you build something it doesn’t mean anyone will use it.

Open for Business Sign

Most businesses fail because of their marketing and sales, not bad products or services. (Tweet That

Just because you open a business, create a killer product, offer top-notch consulting services at competitive prices, or incorporate yourself doesn’t mean that people will flock to give you money. The fact is that most businesses fail because of their marketing and sales.

Not for lack of great ideas. Not for lack of an amazing product. Not for lack of talented team members, dedicated founders, or even bad financial planning. Ultimately they fail for a failure to move enough units. They fail to create enough buzz and attract enough customers.

All because they didn’t make time for it. That’s what happened to me.

A business is born…and then what?

In January 2010, I decided to start a consulting business. Granted, to skip ahead in the story, it was July 2011 before I had my first client…and that is the point.

  • I had all the credentials. I had just won a major industry award. I had a known name (brand) and was respected among my peers.
  • I had permission from my boss. He encouraged me and actually shared the best piece of business advice I’ve ever received (I’ll share that later).
  • I had the support of my wife. I had encouragement and advice from my best friend, who is someone I look up to in business. I had everything…except a marketing plan.

What’s in a name?

I even had a name…and had spent hours coming up with it. It changed by the time I got my first client.

Great, so I had credentials, support, and a name…and yet no one came knocking. I was employed full-time as the head of marketing for a DVD-based instructional company so money wasn’t an issue. I didn’t need the business, but I really wanted it. I wanted to do this full-time someday…and the reality was that I wasn’t doing the most important thing to make that happen…marketing myself.

Look at your calendar

When I did start to pick up some clients, I all-to-often noticed the same problem with them. They spend inordinate amounts of time on product development, hiring programmers, coding this and that, and making things look pretty and they leave marketing for the end of the day or for the weekend. Marketing got their leftovers.

When I looked at their calendars, less than 10% of their time was spent on marketing. I told them to flip the numbers for a while. Focus on getting customers or clients first, and then perfect the product.

Stop honing your craft

When I decided to get into consulting my fear was that the product was not worth the price…in other words that my expertise and advice was not worth what I was charging. So I kept honing my craft…and never got to actually charge for it.

Don’t get me wrong, honing your craft is important. Continuing education is important. Staying on top of trends and learning from others is critical.

But first you need business. You need customers trying your product. You need clients trying your services.

And it’s OK if you suck at first. Or, like me, you discover that your product is already worth it.

I’d spent five-plus years honing my craft. I was already considered one of the best in the business. I didn’t need to keep learning, testing, and planning to make my services worth the price. I just needed to sell them.

What about you? 

Are you holding back on launching a company?

Have you already started one but have no or too few customers?

Are you scared of marketing? Unconfident in your product or service? Afraid to be told it’s not good enough?

Or perhaps you just plain don’t like the marketing? (That’s why people often hire me…I am amazed at the number of business leaders who just hate this part of it.)

What is holding you back from marketing your business or yourself more?

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  • It’s not ego-driven at all. It’s “I want my family to eat” driven.

    Do it!

  • Yes to all of the above. :0)

  • I’m with you on that one Bret. In a world where everyone claims to be an “expert” I have a hard time marketing myself in that light. It seems all the advice point to “Toot your own horn. Really loud.” When you are a one-man show, it’s hard to “sell your business” because it equals selling yourself. Hard to do!!

  • Katherine Leicester

    Talk about timely. Where is the time to create content and still go out and meet those who believe as I do and want my efforts?

  • Marketing is a squishy thing – advertising, freebies, speaking engagements, take art here, do an art fair there, blog, make new friends, carry business cards and hand them out all the time, take on more visible jobs, get known and be remembered. But it never feels measurable.

    There are so many people (especially on the internet) who claim to be art marketing experts and (for a fat fee) can help. (Or you can always just buy their quickly outdated books.) They have formulas, and every single one has conflicting ideas.

    Yeppers, I don’t like marketing because it isn’t tangible, definite, measurable, or ever finished.

  • Time is one of the things holding me back. Some of it though is also FEAR that I may come across as too self-centered. This is not my goal.