Top Startup Misconceptions: If You Build It, They Will Come (and Pay)

In my effort to provide useful information to entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs, I share helpful articles that I find around the web and think can help my followers move your businesses forward. Often, people write asking me to elaborate on those articles so I started a series that does just that. I recently posted an article from RockthePost about common misconceptions people have about launching a new company. The last of those misconceptions that I want to tackle here is the cliche that if you build it, they will come. 

Everybody’s heard the phrase “if you build it, they will come.” Unfortunately, that’s simply not true in the world of startups and it’s even less true that “if you build it, they will come and pay you for it.” This pesky assumption is the downfall of many a new business and combating it is precisely the goal of the super popular lean startup movement, which advocates the creation of a minimum viable product (or MVP) that you can quickly get feedback on to verify that customers will, in fact, come to get what you have to offer.

There are two main facets to this assumption that entrepreneurs need to be sure to overcome in their strategic planning if they want to be successful when building their new companies:

Firstly, this assumption is based around the idea that whatever product or service you’re going to offer is something that customers want enough that they are willing to pay you money for it. This is actually a HUGE assumption. Customers are simultaneously very fickle and very stuck in their routines. That means that while they may not be loyal to whatever they’re using now to deal with the problem that you intend to solve, they’re likely not going to want to put in much effort to switch. That means that it will take some work to convince them that it’s worth their time and effort to incorporate what you offer into their routine, but then don’t expect a huge ton of loyalty once you’ve won them over. They switched to you and they will be willing to switch away from you if a better option presents itself.

In order to make sure that you build something customers actually want to pay for, you should follow some guidelines:

  • When you’re first fleshing out your idea, stop thinking about what you want to sell and start thinking about what customers want to buy.
  • It’s much easier to sell something that solves an immediate problem or fills an immediate need than it is to sell something that “would be nice to have” but isn’t a necessity.
  • Start getting feedback from those in your target market as soon as possible and incorporating that feedback into your product development.
  • Make the cost – in money, time, and effort – of switching to your product or service as minimal as possible. I can’t stress this one enough. Humans are creatures of habit and we’re mostly pretty darn lazy so if it takes a lot of effort for me to start using what you have to offer, I probably won’t ever start.

Secondly, this assumption is also based around the idea that people will even know your product or service exists. Even if you have the greatest offering ever and everyone would want to buy it, if nobody is aware of the fact that you’re offering it, you still won’t see success. Drastically underestimating the time, energy, and cost involved in promoting a new business is one of the top mistakes that new entrepreneurs make. That’s why it’s so important to create a thorough marketing plan that lays out all of the ways you’ll get the word out about what you have to offer and how much time and money that will cost you. Don’t expect to shoot out a press release announcing your launch and have customers knocking down your door. You’ll need to do much more than that to get the attention your business needs to thrive. If you need to learn the basics of marketing a small business, try checking out my Curious course or picking up my book and jumping ahead to the section about developing your marketing plan. 

In the real world, the  saying “if you build it, they will come,” is false and harmful to aspiring entrepreneurs. The truth is that if you build it, you’re able to spread the word effectively, and they like what you have to offer they will come. Not so clean cut and easy, but a much more realistic way to look at building a customer base.


Thanks for watching another episode of New Venture Mentor! If you liked this video, please let me know by liking it on Facebook and YouTube and sharing it with anyone who would find it helpful. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel and to email updates and to follow me on social media so that you never miss any info that could help your business succeed. 

One Reply to “Top Startup Misconceptions: If You Build It, They Will Come (and Pay)”

  1. I was part-owner of a café and business center, located close (but not close enough) to the main-street of a busy area of the city, but it took a very long time to get people to come, visit and pay… After some years, we had to “close shop” and move on in life. We learned plenty of things from this experience regarding “location, location, location” and word-of-mouth marketing, etc. I have written a piece on Open Forum:

    Five Lessons Learned from my Start-up — And why I’d Do it Again, January 19, 2009.

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