For businesses and non-profit organizations, this iconic quote from the 1989 film Field of Dreams conjures images of customers or donors flocking towards you intent on giving you money.
“They won’t know why,” says the movie, but it implies that customers will simply gravitate to you because of this accomplishment. Whether that goal is launching a new website, starting a new marketing campaign, or rebranding, customers should be flocking to you. Shouldn’t they?
There are plenty of questions as to why this iconic misnomer fails, but we’re going to settle for three.
- How do consumers know you’ve built something?
- Why make the community come to you? You should be there with the community.
- Did good data help you build it or are you “trusting your gut”?
HOW DO CUSTOMERS KNOW YOU’VE BUILT SOMETHING?
Short of Silicon Valley secret startups or VC-backed apps designed to disrupt, the whole idea of a business doing anything in “stealth mode” or in secret is a bit ridiculous. Even when the project is complete, do you want to start at square one? Nope.
Let’s use the example for a new e-commerce website. You’ve spent the better part of six months (likely more) on design and development. Tens of thousands of dollars. All the testing. All the organizing. You’re in the theater, the curtain rises, your investment is live and center stage. Except there is one problem—no one is in the audience. No one knew to come.
Here are some tips on raising awareness in your community about your project, in this case, your new website.
- Share the story of the new website; why you are building it, what features were needed, etc.
- Use your existing website to announce the new one with blog updates and graphics.
- Send special invites out via email blast — maybe even give them an incentive for first purchases.
- Share blog posts, design screen shots, and other new features on social media.
WHERE IS THE COMMUNITY? BUILD IT THERE.
What makes the “they will come” portion of the quote even more difficult is the fact that your business or organization’s community is already located somewhere.
In the movie, you see a line of headlights stretching to the horizon. Flocking towards the field, drawn by some unknown force.
Don’t expect your community to flock to you. Go to them.
From injection molded motion transfer parts and stainless steel tank trailers to posh waterfront resorts and vacation destinations — your industry or organization has an interested community.
Does your community congregate at trade shows? Is there a popular trade magazine either in print or online? Does LinkedIn have a group discussion? Does the community use popular #Hashtags?
The point is, make sure you go to your community. Don’t try to make them come to you.
DID GOOD DATA OR YOUR “GUT” DECIDE?
If you build it. Then they will come. This is a classic IFTTT statement. While IFTTT (IF This Then That) is primarily a coding concept, the same principle applies to marketing logic.
The age of guessing is done. The dangers of habitual marketing with a mindset of, “This is how we’ve always done it,” are well documented.
Simply choosing a marketing scheme based on your “gut” or your intuition is the equivalent of marketing blindfolded.
Facebook and other social media channels support detailed reporting. Email distribution platforms deliver critical open and click-thru rates.
Current marketers should be swimming in data.
Being awash in data also means you need to separate the signal from the noise. Understand the data and use it to formulate actionable business intelligence. Outline your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and understand what data from each tells you.
When the time comes to make a marketing decision, the decision needs to be backed by data and not “gut” feelings.
CONCLUSION: MY COMMUNITY SHOWED ME WHAT TO BUILD. DATA SHOWED ME HOW.
If you build it, they will come. The phrase sounds great, but like most marketing ideas it represents the tip of the iceberg.
If your business or organization is about to “build it,” let’s talk about some ideas on how to gather community insight and evaluate predictive data.
ENGAGE YOUR COMMUNITY
Regardless of your industry, there is a community of people interested in talking about it. From trade shows, community groups, or online forums, find out where they’re talking and join the conversation.
- Ask the influencers. While sounding overly simple, identifying your industry’s online community leaders to get insight or feedback can be a huge help.
- For broader input, don’t be afraid to create a survey. Exchange opinions for something of value. Coffee gift cards, product samples, or other branded rewards can go a long way.
- Get social. From asking your Facebook community to open questions in a LinkedIn Group, social media is meant for sharing. Encourage your community to share their insights.
There is a mountain of data available. Tap into it. However, be smart about the weight you assign each data point and assign a goal each metric is meant to measure.
- Learn to love data. Dive into your Google Analytics, create and evaluate funnels, find the beauty of Search Console, and always compare apples to apples.
- Trust, but Verify. Google is great, but not the only provider of data. Use other evaluation tools to like Piwik or Kissmetrics. Other great data sources are Pingdom and W3Counter.
- Visualize Your Data. One of the most helpful insights to online behavior is tracking. We recommend services like Mouseflow or Hotjar to get a highly visual insight into your user experience. Click maps, experience sampling, and surveying all help to give a crisper image.
By staying connected to your community, listening to your customers, and remaining in tune with your data you won’t say: If you build it, they will come. You’ll say: Our community is looking for it, they’re already there.