Build it and they WON ‘T come.

Not to your website, your store, your blog, and not even to your event. No matter how nice your brick & mortar store looks, how beautiful the graphics on your website, or what a great event you have planned, people won’t come just because you build, pay for or plan any of the above. It is STILL your job to bring them in the door. Recently a client of mine complained to me about an event he organized and sent out eblasts for… With 3 weeks to go, and without the response he wanted, frustrated, he considered cancelling it. My question:

What other PR have you done? Local publications emailed? Phone Calls to the Evangelical Networkers in your circle? Ads in the local publications or groups where your invitees would see it?  Good old fashioned phone calls?

Not your cup of tea? Then how about hiring a PR firm that knows how to get butts in the seats?

Are you waiting for your customers?

Because I work with small business owners I see this sort of thing often: someone has a great idea for a business, spends their last dollar and every bit of energy creating the perfect model, product or idea, and they leave no resources to market their creation. Most of the time they never even planned on marketing it. They sit in their beautiful storefront thinking people will walk in just because they opened their doors. Too often I’ve seen them close those same doors in a matter of months with no idea why it didn’t work.

It doesn’t work if you don’t have a plan; and I mean a Marketing Plan, not a Business Plan. How much will you spend per month and how is that money being spent? What print publications, if any, work in your market for your product? When and what pages of that publication will your target customers be reading? When do they listen to the radio? What TV channels do they watch and WHEN are they watching? Even more basic that that, who ARE your target customers? After your website’s built, HOW do you plan on bringing them there? Do you have a blog? Is pay per click advertising right for you? Are you using Social Media and do you know how to use it effectively?

If you haven’t asked yourself these questions you should start, and if you have and don’t know the answers, find someone who can help you figure it out. There are loads of smart marketing or advertising companies who can help you come up with a strategy that ensures you’re not wasting money. If you don’t know where to start find someone you trust who does as soon as possible so you’re not sitting there waiting for someone to notice your great ideas.

This post was originally written in 2010 and updated for today.  It is still true: you NEED a plan.

Giving Up Before You Try

A few months ago I was contacted by a small business owner with a unique product that no one else had. Most business owners would kill to have a product with no competition, but as Mary Kay said, “every cloud has a silver lining.” Pioneering New Products

The problem with having a product this exclusive is that YOU have to create the market. Smart companies have done this for years: the iPad is a recent example. It’s not so tough for a major company like Apple to create desire through huge marketing campaigns. For the small business owner with limited funds – not so easy.

This is where the internet has changed the game; through websites, Social Media – a compelling You Tube video – you CAN, with determination and some luck, create a market and by building a solid foundation, own that market for years or at least until a large company offers lots of money to buy you out, and then they can go and market your product.

The small business owners that came to me with their unique product did indeed have enough money to start down this path. They came asking for a comprehensive New Media Marketing plan, and that is what we delivered. Our standard advice for most small businesses is to build each piece as you go: a great website first, social media and email marketing next, blogging after you get the other 2 down, and then a calendar so that you stay focused and connected on all of the things you’ve set up and the other tactics we plug in as you go.

But when the proposal came the small business owner balked. Not so much at the price, but at the commitment creating a market would entail. That commitment was primarily TIME, the most valuable thing any small business owner has.

What they did next was a sure road to failure: they purchased a basic, not bad looking website with NO Search Engine Optimization, making them invisible online. They ran a few ads in Trade Magazines… and any traditional marketer will tell you : Save Your Money. If you’re not going to commit to consecutive months you’ll get zero traction.

What my small business owners really did is the Gave Up Before They Tried. Why? Probably so they could console themselves with having tried, when in reality they never gave their unique product a chance because they wouldn’t commit to the time and energy to take it from invisible to Out There With a Chance of Being Seen.

Any successful business owner will tell you that before they got to ‘successful,’ they worked tirelessly to give their company a chance at success. And I mean tirelessly. That’s what it takes.

I often watch small businesses start up with a flurry of excitement – money is spent on the store front, the products, the shiny new sign, and then Bam! They’re out of business in a matter of months. I wonder what the owner THOUGHT was going to happen. The moral of the story: If you build it they WON’T come. You need to build it and then ‘Enchant’ them in the ‘door.’

Not committing to really selling your business via a serious marketing plan isn’t fair to anyone, including yourself, and it’s a sure road to failure before you ever really try.