“No, it’s Iowa.”
Every time another baseball postseason ends, I’m reminded of the quiet corn field in Iowa that becomes a baseball diamond in Field of Dreams. In the beginning of the movie, Ray hears the famous line, “If you build it, he (his father) will come“. Ignoring mounting debt and the doubt of those around him, Ray builds the baseball field. And at the end of the movie, it switches from “he will come” to “they will come” as cars line the road to pay a few dollars to visit the field… and take care of Ray’s money problems.
Too many new solopreneurs and freelancers take the same approach, though, when building their businesses. They think that if they build it, and build it well, the customers will flock to them. Whether they are graphic designers, copywriters, contractors, or massage therapists, most service providers think that they can let the quality of their work stand for itself. They sit there, waiting for people to recognize how good it is and come rolling in.
And they keep waiting, and struggling, and getting increasingly frustrated. It’s common for them to blame the quality of their work and buckle down to improve their offerings. That never works because it doesn’t solve the real problem. In a market landscape that’s filled with noise and options, you can’t rely on people stumbling onto you or putting in the effort to seek you out. You have to go to them. Quality is important, but you have to focus on getting your message out to your audience.
There’s an idea thrown around by content marketers who are building blogs and other online properties that can apply to all new business owners, and especially those that provide a service. It’s called the 80/20 rule – and it’s not the 80/20 rule that you usually hear about (that’s the Pareto Principle, and that’s useful for solving a whole different set of problems).
By 80/20, they mean that 80% of your time should be spent promoting the content that you spend the other 20% of your time creating. Are the exact numbers important? Not really. Is the general ratio critical? Absolutely! If you are building a service business, you should be spending a solid majority of your time promoting yourself and what is left over developing your skills and your “portfolio” of services.
I coached an architect once who had an amazing ability to create 3-D representations of buildings by hand. It was half art/half science and totally impressive. Her portfolio was amazing…and no one ever saw it. She kept working on her skills because she was more comfortable with that than sharing her work. When she asked how she could get more clients it was obvious that she had to put her time and energy into reaching out and sharing her work. Instead of refining what she already knew how to do, she had to get it in front of the people who could become clients.
She was hoping her prospects would stumble upon her work and hire her without having to put herself out there at all. But even Major League Baseball relies on marketing and advertising – as evidenced by the ubiquitous commercials leading up to the World Series. In the real world, no one would come to Ray’s little field in an Iowa cornfield unless he let people know about it.
Whether it’s 80%, or 73%, or 91%, when you are building your business, spend the majority of your time spreading the word about what do. Have confidence that when your customers do “show up” you will be ready for them; but keep front and center the fact that you have to get them first.
Build it. Go tell people about what you built. And then they will come!
This article originally appeared at Business 2 Community. You can find it here.