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August 05, 2013

If you build it, will they come?

by Judi Wunderlich

My title comes from the great movie Field of Dreams. In it you’ll hear a repeated sentence, “If you build it, he will come", telling the star, Kevin Costner, to build a baseball field in the middle of his corn field, and his father, a former pro player, will come. Psychologists call this ‘magical thinking.’ That’s when you expect an unreasonable outcome, yet you hold onto that thinking and move forward anyway.

“How do you plan on letting people know about and find your product/business?” Ask this question to anyone who has created a mobile App, a new web site or blog, or a start-up business, and watch the magical thinking as they try to tell you how they plan to advertise or market their product or business. More often than not they won’t have a concrete plan to advertise, promote or market, so they’ll instead go on and on about the merits and features of their product/business, holding onto a naïve assumption that “if I build it, they will come.”

With an estimated 3 out of 4 start-up failures in the first 12 months of operation, I’d be willing to guess that most of them did not have a well thought-out marketing plan, so while their product/business might have been fantastic, if no one knows they exist, being fantastic isn’t very profitable.

If I were a venture capitalist, I don’t think I’d take on a new business unless they have a well-laid out plan; or perhaps if the product were so amazing, I’d take them on, and stipulate that with my funds, they come up with some great marketing ideas and write a plan. If they don’t have marketing expertise, I’d have them hire a Consultant to get them started and help them execute the plan.

Let's face it: The odds of your product/business becoming the next Facebook through word of mouth and organic growth, and little to no marketing, is about as likely as getting hit by lightning - 3 days in a row.

So what do you think? Do so many start-ups fail because of magical thinking?


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