There is a wildly popular saying, If you build it, they will come. At this point, many may not even know where the phrase originated from. So, let me start by helping you out there. This phrase came from the movie Field of Dreams and was referencing a baseball field for dead players to come play ball.
Yep, that’s right. You’ve been hanging your hopes and dreams on a line from a fictional baseball movie.
The more I focus in on Black-owned business, I am surprised (but not shocked) that we place little to no value on marketing our products or services. And I’ve heard on too many occasions, this notion that if we build something, especially those who are in the non-profit realm, they (our people/desired customers) will come.
That’s bullshit and you know it. But you still don’t want to invest in promoting your business.
The truth of the matter is that we tend to stay, by and large, in our comfort zones. This means you sell and market to people you already know. I see time and time again how we struggle to network, to follow up, to engage with new potential clientele.
The idea that if you build your business clients will come is inherently false. Stop it, Black people. Just stop it.
Let’s talk about what you need to build to get them to come. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in business awhile, you must build:
A brand message – Your brand message should tell your customer what you’re all about. That may come with a tagline, the imagery you choose to use, the places you show up, and more. Spend some time thinking about what message your company puts out into the world.
A consistent look – If your logos, colors, images change all the time, how can we tell it’s you? Take time to think through your color scheme, the look, and feel of your logo and, overall, how you want to show up in the world. There will be times (in the future) when you want to upgrade your brand. When this time comes, you must do this in a structured way. Think the old Windows logo vs the new one. The same 4 squares, the same 4 colors, with a more modern look. Be strategic with how you make updates to your branded look.
An online presence – You must have an online presence. Consider that your website is your digital storefront. Much like a real storefront, if your shop looks a hot mess, I’m going to pass you by. The same thing applies to your web presence. Even if you can’t afford a professional website, consider a domain name pointed at your social media page. Or consider a low expense, DIY site such as Wix. Or Squarespace.
I cannot stress this enough. You must invest in marketing. This may mean business cards, postcards or brochures, ad space in popular publications your customers use, and online ads on platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. Other ways to market are to attend networking meetings or look for platforms you can speak and showcase your expertise. Ask for referrals or testimonials.
There are many guerrilla marketing techniques you can use that are free or low cost. Such tactics typically take a lot of time and energy. But one way or another, you can’t get around the fact that you must market. If you aren’t setting aside dollars to get the word out there, don’t expect potential customers to know you exist. Plain and simple.
Bottom line – people do not magically know your business exists simply because created it and opened your doors. You must tell the world…or at least tell your target market. So, my challenge to you is to move forward with a marketing plan. Check out my 1-page Simple Marketing Plan for you to make this super simple.
Go forth and be #Profitable