While the film Field of Dreams made the phrase “if you build it, they will come” inspirational for its characters and widely popular in colloquial use, it is altogether misguided to follow Kevin Costner’s revelation in the world of small business.
Let’s translate that phrase into the language of small business: having big ideas and executing on them with passion and professionalism does not necessarily mean that customers will simply come to you – especially via word of mouth, and even moreso for young businesses. Build a great idea without the proper support and infrastructure around it, and you may find yourself standing in the proverbial empty baseball field.
Customers are saturated with options in many markets – from fitness to food to finance. The factors that lead them to your small business’ door are more complex than the outright quality of your products or services, even if you truly are innovating and creating in ways that surpass the competition. Many of these customer motivators are based on social signals rather than performance appraisals, some conscious and some unconscious: how long have you been around? What sort of Yelp reviews do you get? Does the entrance and signage look attractive?
Imagine that you operate a bakery. You may make the best croissant in town, but customers aren’t able to taste it in advance to make their purchasing decision. Consumers are increasingly disinclined to spend money in order to assess a business’ quality of work. Promotion and creation of that social proof – the promise that you can give your customers what they want on their terms, rather than yours – will get them in the door. Product quality will keep them coming back and turn them into advocates.
You’ve built an amazing business, but getting people interested takes the savvy and willingness to work hard outside of perfecting your product. Understanding what your prospective customers want to know, do or obtain is the first step to creating a sustainable business model.