Direct Marketing Mythbusters: “Build It and They Will Come” (What a Big Fat Lie)

“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.”

Steuart Henderson Britt

It’s worth noting that when Costner was advised to ‘build it’ the ‘they who came’ were not paying customers, they were moochers -none of the dead ball players actually paid to use the baseball field. Nobody in the movie paid to watch them play. So if you aren’t in the business of making money then build it and they will come makes perfect sense.

For some reason there is a belief that just building a product is enough to drive customers to your door. I don’t know why this came about – but for now I am going to blame Field of Dreams – although for some reason I suspect this happened before 1989.

“Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door” – incorrectly attributed to Ralph Waldo Emmerson in the late 1800′s. So the myth has been around a while and if I was a more diligent student I could find something earlier.

However, if you are genuinely in the business of making money then you need customers. Nobody or nothing else can give you money.

And marketing is the art of getting and keeping customers. So best we spend some money on marketing rather than on building it or making that better mousetrap.

Personally, I don’t really care how good the product is, unless someone buys it, and you make money on the transaction. So yes you need a good product but you also need to be able to sell the product in sufficient volume to make money.

Drayton Bird is fond of saying something along the lines of “Great marketing of a bad product will only kill it faster.” The product lingers on long after the glow of the great marketing has subsided.

Build it and they will come/ build a better mousetrap is more about cart before the horse, in the world of making money.

You need to know you can and be able to sell the thing before you ever make it or waste precious dollars on product development. Generally speaking, there are millions of people who can make and a relatively few who know how to sell. The selling of the product is the hard part. Best figure that part out first.

Once you know how to sell your product, then the making part is easier. The added bonus is, if you find out in the sales and marketing testing phase there are benefits and features you need to add to the product that your market wants then you don’t need to go and rebuild the product from scratch.

It’s much easier just to build an product the market wants in the first place.

Build it and they will come: Myth Busted.