It’s a saying as old as time for budding entrepreneurs and dreamers: ‘If you build it, they will come’. This enticing promise has lured countless individuals into the realm of business, inspiring visions of eager customers flocking to their doors. But what if this age-old belief is more of a mirage than a mantra? What if it’s the very mistake costing you money?
Enter a new perspective, one that challenges this very notion: The Cornfield Paradox. Drawing from the captivating narrative of ‘Field of Dreams,’ and juxtaposing it with the eerie reputation of cornfields in popular culture, this paradox seeks to unveil a deeper truth about business and marketing.
Origin of the Cornfield Paradox
At the heart of the iconic (although in my opinion, absolutely crap) film, Field of Dreams, we are transported to the vast expanses of sprawling cornfields. Here, Kevin Costner’s character, driven by a mysterious voice, crafts a baseball diamond with the steadfast belief: ‘If you build it, they will come.’
Miraculously, the Chicago White Sox appear amidst the golden stalks, turning his dream into reality. This narrative paints an enchanting message — that the mere act of creation can naturally attract its desired audience.
Yet, when we traverse the wider landscape of pop culture, cornfields often tell a different tale. Far from being mere symbols of hope, they often set the stage for tales of suspense and horror. From chilling thrillers to gripping science fiction, cornfields hide lurking dangers, be it malevolent extra terrestrials or unseen threats. This stark contrast gives rise to what I refer to as The Cornfield Paradox.
Drawing a parallel to the business world, many entrepreneurs venture forth with a similar belief. Convinced that crafting a unique product or service will automatically lead to success, they overlook the evolving market dynamics and the competitors that populate this vast business landscape.
But as the Cornfield Paradox suggests, without visibility and the right strategies, this belief can become the very mistake costing you money. Like a traveller lured into a cornfield, unaware of what lies ahead, businesses can find themselves lost amidst countless others, obscured and overlooked.
Decoding the Paradox in Marketing
In the fast-paced world of business, particularly in the realm of digital marketing, there exists a treacherous pitfall: the presumption that if you create something, the masses will inevitably discover and embrace it. This flawed mindset, although seemingly benign, can lead to significant missteps, including misjudged projections, underwhelming investments in quality, and inadequate marketing strategies. It’s why so many people start a blog believing it will make them money, only to give up a few months later because they’ve poured their heart, soul (and often cash!) into it, and not made any money.
Blogging can create highly successful businesses. But you have to be smart about how you do it, or nobody will know it’s there.
One might assume that a well-conceptualised product or service naturally garners interest. Such an assumption fosters a dangerous complacency. It’s this very attitude that makes businesses project unrealistic incomes, emboldening them to make hefty commitments and outlays, only to find themselves grappling with severe shortfalls. The core of the issue? An underinvestment in the pillars of marketing: awareness, engagement, and quality.
Let’s dive into a real-world example: A few years ago, I collaborated with an app development client. Their concept was robust, albeit facing stiff competition. When they aimed for the ambitious milestone of 1 million downloads, the stipulation was clear: the success hinged on investment in the app’s quality, consistent content updates, and crucially, robust advertising. A million downloads, while aspirational, were achievable with the right outlay in advertising. However, their reluctance to invest adequately, coupled with a compromise on content quality, set them on a precarious path.
Despite explicit warnings and insights about the importance of marketing and consistent content engagement, they took the plunge, fuelled by the erroneous belief that merely launching would suffice. The result? Their downloads, or lack thereof, mirrored their marketing input. The revenue trickled in, insufficient to even break even, leading to the inevitable folding of the app.
This tale isn’t singular. Numerous businesses, blinded by the deceptive allure of ‘just build it and they’ll come’, find themselves in similar predicaments. It’s a testament to the fact that creation, no matter how revolutionary, demands more than mere existence in the market. Without active promotion, strategic engagement, and a commitment to quality, even the most promising ventures risk obscurity, overshadowed in the vast, competitive field of marketing.
Common Misconceptions in Marketing
The realm of marketing is awash with advice and maxims, some tried-and-true, while others, despite their wide acceptance, can lead ventures astray. At the heart of these misconceptions is the seductive belief: ‘build it and they’ll come’. This phrase, while poetic in its simplicity, masks the intricate realities of achieving business success.
First, let’s unpack this belief. The notion that merely constructing something of value will magnetise an audience is beguiling. It suggests that the world is ever-watchful, waiting to pounce on the next big thing. However, this is far from reality. The market is a cacophonous arena, with myriad voices vying for attention. Without the right amplification, even the most resonant messages can get drowned out. This is one reason we’ve seen such a huge rise in the popularity and success of social commerce; it combine building the thing (an eCommerce business) with ensuring the thing is visible (by widely promoting it on social media using quality content, influencer marketing, and other strategies).
It’s worth noting that some of the most commonly espoused marketing advice – maintaining a consistent blog, optimising for SEO, churning out high-quality content – is undoubtedly beneficial. Yet, in isolation, and without a strategic foundation, these tactics can fall flat. It’s akin to building a sleek racing car but forgetting the fuel; the potential is there, but it’s rendered static.
Now, let’s address the mistake costing you money: underestimating the investment needed in marketing and brand awareness to reach set goals. This isn’t a call to drain your coffers on flamboyant ad campaigns. Instead, it’s about realism. Recognise the correlation between the magnitude of your goals and the requisite investment – be it financial, time, or effort.
Consider a scenario where you have ambitious goals but lack the significant £4-6K/m outlay for a comprehensive marketing strategy. Do you abandon the dream? No. Instead, you adapt, innovating ways to achieve those goals. This might mean reallocating funds, dedicating more time to learn marketing nuances, or training a team member to handle specific tasks. It’s precisely the reason behind initiatives like the Divine Blogging method, which I teach. It’s designed for those who might not have deep pockets but possess a fervour to achieve their goals.
Marketing isn’t just about money, it’s about perspective. Understanding what’s achievable with the resources at your disposal and crafting a strategy in alignment with that. If there’s a disparity between aspirations and budget, the solution isn’t to despair but to equip oneself with knowledge, adapt, and press on.
Navigating the Cornfield: Strategies for Visibility and Growth
Realising that your business is a single ear of corn in a huge field filled with very similar cobs can be overwhelming. So what makes one stalk stand out from the rest? Well, here’s a fun fact about fields. I used to be an archaeologist, and one of the first things you’re taught as an archaeologist is how to identify crop marks.
No, I don’t mean ones made by aliens (although god knows you’re asking to be abducted standing around in a cornfield. I’m talking about regular crop marks that occur because of what’s going on beneath the surface of the field. If there’s a building buried under there, where the walls stand there is less soil for the crops to root in; the space is taken up by stone.
If someone built a ditch there at some point then later filled it in and levelled out the field, the earth will be far less compact where that ditch runs and have a much higher water content and different minerals and nutrients. When crops grow over these areas, they react differently. Walls and other solid structures lurking beneath the topsoil stunt growth. Crops are shorter, less healthy. Where ditches and other dug out features exist the opposite is true, crops are healthier, grow taller, they’re lush by comparison to what’s around them.
If you have a birds eye view of a field with buried features beneath it like houses, ditches, graves, you can see them outlined in the crops. To stand out in the cornfield, you need to make sure what’s going on beneath the surface is nurturing your business, not stunting its growth. Here are a few things to bear in mind…
Understanding Your Audience
A quintessential starting point is recognizing and understanding who you’re trying to reach. Casting a net wide may seem tempting, but specificity often brings better results. Knowing your audience’s demographics, psychographics, and preferences helps in tailoring your product or content to resonate profoundly with them. By aligning your offerings to their needs, you not only enhance engagement but also boost conversions.
Creating something of value is just the beginning. Ensuring it reaches the right eyes and ears is where effective promotion comes into play. To do this you need to focus on raising your visibility and influence. A few strategies include:
Paid Ads: While organic reach has its merits, paid advertisements, especially in platforms frequented by your target audience, can drastically improve visibility. It’s an investment, but with the right targeting, it can offer substantial returns.
Partnerships and Collaborations: Joining forces with complementary brands or influencers can amplify your reach. It’s a synergy where both parties benefit, tapping into each other’s audiences for mutual growth.
Remember, effective promotion isn’t about splurging on every available avenue but strategically choosing the paths most likely to bear fruit. Blindly spending on promotions without a clear strategy is a classic mistake costing you money.
Engaging and Retaining Your Audience
Once you’ve caught the attention of your target audience, the journey has only just begun. Retention is as crucial, if not more, as acquisition. Here’s how to ensure they stick around:
Customer Service: Quick responses, addressing concerns, and providing post-purchase support can turn one-time customers into loyal advocates.
Community Building: Cultivating a community where your audience can engage, share, and feel a sense of belonging can drastically improve retention rates.
Creating Value: Continually offering something of value, be it through informative content, exclusive deals, or innovative products, keeps your audience engaged and coming back for more.
To sum up, navigating the marketing cornfield requires a blend of understanding, effective promotion, and sustained engagement. With these strategies in place, your venture will not just survive but thrive, avoiding the pitfalls and mistakes costing businesses money.
In the modern business landscape, there are numerous instances that underline the importance of visibility and outreach, offering cautionary tales and success stories. These real-life examples reiterate that solely relying on the ‘build it and they’ll come’ mantra is a mistake costing you money.
Airbnb: In its early days, Airbnb’s founders realized simply launching their platform wouldn’t guarantee instant success. Instead of waiting for hosts and guests to discover them, they employed a clever tactic: integrating their listings with Craigslist, a more popular platform at the time. This strategy helped Airbnb tap into an existing user base, effectively boosting its visibility.
Dropbox: While the cloud storage service had an innovative product, they knew that wouldn’t be enough. Dropbox implemented a referral program, offering additional free storage space to users who introduced their friends to the platform. This led to a massive increase in sign-ups, proving that a well-thought-out promotional strategy can make a significant difference.
Pebble: Once a darling of Kickstarter and an early innovator in the smartwatch space, Pebble’s decline can be partially attributed to its inability to match the marketing might of competitors like Apple and Samsung. While their product was highly rated, their brand failed to remain top-of-mind for many consumers due to a lack of sustained visibility and outreach efforts.
Quirky: A platform aimed at turning inventions into marketable products, Quirky had a unique business model and even managed to secure substantial funding. However, despite having an innovative platform, they struggled with outreach, failing to establish a clear market position or effectively communicate their value proposition to a broad audience.
In both the tales of success and the warnings of what not to do, there’s a consistent theme: understanding the importance of outreach and visibility. These real-world examples serve as potent reminders that businesses must avoid the perilous mistake costing them money of believing that mere creation guarantees success.
The BIGGEST Mistake Costing You Money
Much like the alluring, yet deceptive, cornfields that promise prosperity but often hide axe murders, homicidal aliens and monsters, the belief that merely building something of value will attract a flocking audience is a mirage that many fall victim to.
Proactivity is the key.
Crafting a quality product or writing a compelling blog post is just the starting line. The real race involves ensuring that your creation reaches the right audience, resonates with them, and convinces them of its value.
The deceptive belief in marketing – that ‘building it’ is enough – can lead businesses down a path of disillusionment and, more tangibly, significant financial loss. It’s not just about creation; it’s about communication. It’s about understanding the nuances of your target audience, being visible where they are, and promoting in ways that strike a chord with them.
For those eager to harness the power of content marketing and keen to navigate the complexities of today’s business world, I have a proposition. Sign up below, and receive the first chapter of my book, Divine Blogging, for free. It’s time to turn the Cornfield Paradox into a lesson learned, not a mistake made…