For years, conventional online wisdom seemed to be summed up by that oft-misquoted line from the movie Field of Dreams: “Build it, they will come.”
Build a site, and people will come. Even if your site was just going to sit there, web pages gathering digital dust — the prevailing wisdom was you gotta’ have a site.
If you’ve ever built a site only to have it sit there virtually invisible–or if you want to avoid this fate–I think I may have a few solutions for you.
Maybe that line from Field of Dreams actually has something to it. In the movie, the main character hears a voice telling him to build a baseball diamond so a forgotten and maligned baseball team can return to play there.
To me, that line isn’t just about the building, it’s also about the intention put into planning the field and executing the build; and it’s about the baseball — the action that unfolds on that field of dreams.
When I think about “build it, they will come,” I’m thinking about the before and the after, the context. We know life happens within a context, and yet when it comes to things like building an online business, it seems all reason flies out the window, and suddenly it’s OK to just focus on “the middle.”
Let’s talk about what happens before and after you build your site — those things that make all the difference towards drawing and keeping your crowd.
In the beginning, plan
First, you need to be willing to take a stand, and then identify precisely who you want to start a conversation with.
To use some standard online shorthand, we’re talking about choosing a niche and an audience. And a lot more.
Nowadays, you can’t just put up a pretty site. There are plenty of pretty sites with nothing to say.
An online business that works begins with a vision, a mission, with someone willing to stand out by taking a clear stand.
Before we ever plan a site, we first ask some basic questions:
- Are you willing to lead? Ready to step up and take a stand?
- Are you willing to learn how to create valuable content for your crowd, regularly?
- Are you willing to do the work necessary to find out where your crowd is, and how to talk to them?
In the middle, build
We’re not just talking about building the site: that’s the fun part. That’s why most people like skipping to the middle.
Designing a site can be loads of fun — colors and logos and clever, pithy tag lines. But nothing’s more disheartening than hearing the chirping of crickets once you’ve launched that colorful site.
To avoid that fate, not only have we planned our business with our distinctive message and our audience in mind, but in addition to building that site, we’re also going to build some value, and then build relationships.
Here’s some value-building things to consider:
- What will our audience read (or watch, or listen to) to get my message quickly once they arrive?
- How will they interact with my message? What am I going to offer them when they arrive?
- What kinds of relevant, ongoing conversations will I start with my audience?
- How will I really get to know them, so I can learn to solve their needs over time?
- What products will I offer them to solve these problems?
After building, continue the conversation
This is where we see most sites die.
They launch something that might be great, and then leave it alone.
Maybe they have a blog, but that alone is not usually enough to sustain and grow a business.
There’s gotta’ be some action: invite your crowd to stop by, involve them in the conversation.
On the Personal Web, relationships are what sustain your business.
Don’t just blog, also consider reaching out, developing relationships:
Here are just a few of the things that are working on the Personal Web:
- Send emails with valuable information relevant to your audience
- Post helpful comments on other people’s blogs
- Guest-write posts for other blogs
- Post relevant, branded articles on article sites.
Build the right structure, with your vision and voice, and for your crowd, and “they” will come: your traffic, your audience, your readers, your raving fans.