In the 1989 Kevin Costner movie, Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella hears a whispered voice that says, “If you build it, they will come.” The “it” is a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield. He builds it, and little by little long dead, baseball players, show up to play the game. Following the advice leads Ray on an adventure where he meets interesting characters all while facing the specter of bankruptcy. Ultimately, Ray saves his farm and gets to play baseball with his father who passed away years ago. As the movie ends, you see a long line of cars coming down the lane to watch the baseball game.

Since then people use the saying. “If you build it, they will come,” as a catchall phrase that any new business you start will succeed. Real life, unlike in the Field of Dreams, is much different. People will not come just because you build it. Just because you open up a new shop, customers just don’t flock to you. In a perfect world that’s the way it would work.

“If you build it, they will come.” After you opened your business, people flocked to your door – right? When you build your website, suddenly traffic went through the roof causing your server to crash – right? When you setup your Facebook business page, suddenly you developed more “Facebook friends” than you could keep up with - right? Wrong, in real life, it takes planning, effort, and money to get the word out.

I teach business and management at Harrison College in Fort Wayne, IN. I’ve teamed up with another instructor from an ebusiness class, whose class project is for each student to create a website along with a business plan for their new business. Two of the students are in my Project Management II class and their capstone project will be to plan their individual website project in their ebusiness class. I asked both students if these were real businesses, one said that no, and the other said that it was his wife’s business but he didn’t want to make it live because he didn’t want to overwhelm her with orders. “If you build it, they will come.”

I told them that unlike the movie, nobody would know if he built a website if he didn’t promote it. First, customers have to know that you are there and that’s where the planning, hard work, and money come in to play. You have to promote your business, your website, your social media sites, and anything else that you want your customers to know about your business, continuously. What are you doing to let your customers know that you are there?

Five Things to Increase Awareness:

1.    Develop a plan to build awareness that takes into account your customers, business, market, and competition. Who are your customers, what are their habits? How do they get their information? What business are you in? What are the norms for your type of business? How big is your market? What does advertising cost in your market? Who’s your competition? What do they do to build awareness?

2.    Implement your plan. Your actual plans will vary depending on your market and budget. A typical plan might be to start with drive time radio. (Go with TV ads if you have a big enough budget.) Run ads for three months. If you are comfortable with doing it, add segment that includes a message from the expert – you. You spend some time on the radio talking with the show host, and give homeowner tips about HVAC systems. Follow up with a run of newspaper inserts in the Sunday paper for a three-month run. In all of your advertising use specially coded (800) - numbers so you can trace the effectiveness of your advertising. Also, include a mix of non-traditional advertising, such as Facebook and Twitter ads. Much of your non-traditional mix will depend on your customer – if you know how they get their messages, you know what areas to places your ads in for maximum effectiveness. Don’t forget to use email-marketing techniques as well to stretch your awareness budget.

3.    Follow up – follow up new leads/customers with a survey to learn where they heard about you. This can be a simple online survey, or you can just ask a couple of questions when you have them on the phone. The most important questions to ask are how did you hear about us and why did you decide to give us a call today. By finding out the answers to these questions, you learn the effectiveness of your advertising, and you learn why they decided to call you today.

4.    If you are using traditional bulk mailing methods, consider including magnets in your mailings. Nobody ever throws away magnets. They wind up on the refrigerator and particularly magnets that have clips for holding papers never go away. Be sure to include your website address on any magnets that you purchase.

5.    Think of something different to get attention. Do something unique. Do something that nobody has ever thought of doing. Only don’t do something, as Herb Tarlek from WKRP in Cincinnati did like dropping live turkeys from a helicopter. Google it if you don’t know the reference. Think outrageous!

My website contains links to all the marketing articles I’ve written for the HVAC-Talk Newsletter. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of my new book, Navigating the Marketing Maze, click here. If you need a branding consultation, a complete strategic marketing plan, or help with marketing services, call or send an email to discuss your needs.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, and social media strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping companies deliver their message in an ever increasingly crowded market by helping HVAC dealers more effectively market their businesses without breaking their budgets. Contact him at 260-338-4554, or visit the Fracica Enterprises, Inc. website.