“If you build it, he will come.” A classic line from an inspirational film. And, since, the Field of Dreams (and perhaps even before), we’ve bought into its premise. Create something amazing and awe-inspiring, and people will naturally gravitate toward it. Whether it’s a work of art or a great product, we believe that–if it’s good enough–it will be a beacon of light drawing people to it after it has been built. Step 1) build it. Step 2) they will come. That’s the way it works. Or, is it?
This past Monday at Toastmasters, I gave a speech (click here to listen) inspired by my reading The Barefoot Executive earlier this year. In the book, Carrie Wilkerson talks about the concept of filling your stadium. She tells the story of a guy who has a brilliant idea for a movie, creates it, and then shows it at a theater, only to have no one show up. She continues on to say:
What if instead you filled the theater to capacity and then you find out what these like-minded people want to see and hear and know? And then what if you serve them popcorn and sell them candy and soft drinks while they are waiting? And then you deliver the experience that they’ve chosen. Does that sound like a better way to do business? It’s kind of a reverse mind-set, isn’t it? It’s hard. Online they call it list building and offline they call it lead generation. I call it filling your stadium.
In other words, though it may be counter-intuitive, the best way to make a product launch successful is to build a list of customers before you even launch. Pack your theater before you show the film. Fill your stadium before you even step onto the stage.
Which Comes First, the Patrons or the Art?
It doesn’t matter how great your product or service is. If nobody knows about it, you won’t sell a thing. The truly successful are those who have built an audience before they’ve shipped anything. It’s infinitely better to have plenty of customers with nothing to sell than to have plenty of products with no one to sell them to.
True, you could create a brilliant product that just happens to catch on and go viral. But that’s the exception; not the rule. In business, you either build an audience who will want what you offer before you even offer it or you get lucky and find an audience who wants what you’ve already built. And it’s never really smart to put your faith in luck, is it?
What have you done lately to build your audience? Are you getting people excited about you or your company–or are you placing too much emphasis on your products? The art is nothing but an extension of the artist. Get people to fall in love with you, the artist, rather than you art. That’s how you create sustainable business. That’s how you get people to keep coming back.
So, no, it isn’t, “If you build it, they will come.” Rather, it is, “If you bring them, it will be built.”