If You Build It, Will They Come?

Laypeople who look down on marketing ? especially long-copy, hard-sell direct marketing like e-book microsites ? say, ?If your product was any good, you wouldn?t have to promote it with such hype.?

Doctors, attorneys, and other professionals have traditionally held that point of view, along with many others.

Nice to think so, but na?ve. Sad to say, it doesn?t work that way in the real world.

?The expression ?If you build it, they will come? is not true,? said Steve Murphy, CEO, Rodale Inc., in an interview with Fast Company (3/05).

?We had lots of great properties at Rodale, but not enough of them were known. We needed to expose them to the mass market.?

Does your product or service ?sell itself?? Or do even good products need great marketing?


46 thoughts on “If You Build It, Will They Come?

  • Bob, I have to admit that I’m a sucker for the long copy pitches we see from you, AWAI and many, many others. For me, some of them represent a free lesson in good copywriting. I put them into my swipe file.

    I am torn between the effectiveness of short and long copy, and I read other people’s opinions about them (Nick Usborne and Ken Evoy, in particular).

    But, I’m not torn about whether one should promote one’s product or service. Mr. Murphy from Rodale is right. There are just too many options for our customers today. If you’re not in front of them with an intelligent, compelling message — long or short — they won’t go looking for you. My $.02.

  • A good thing to mention might be Apple. Thinking back to the mid 90’s and prior, their print ads looked a bit like their website does now – very long-copyish. (For instance, look at their OS X page.) And they’re presently the apex of cool, hip, and so forth.

    But on the other hand, the long copy seems to be the antithesis to their ethos – beauty in simplicity.

    What does that say?

  • The difference between hype and information is, I think, completely in the eye of the beholder. Some people respond well to the style of someone like Ted Nicholas; others prefer the more subtle (but just as ingenious) Seth Godin. If you tink Seth’s books are anything but long-copy sales letters for his consulting and speaking gigs… read them again.

  • One of the markets I sell into – the accountancy market – sees itself as very much ‘marketing averse’. What that means is they are averse to what they see as marketing. However, they respond well to what they see as practical, useful and helpful information. And that’s what we use to market products.

  • There’s a generational thing going on. Seniors, I find, are impressed with the majesty of a well-made pitch. Teens, on the other hand, see directly behind the curtain of marketing, and would rather get that little Wizard of Oz out and see if he can dance.

    The rest of us are somewhere in between. And I’m sure long-form copywriting is still extremely effective for a lot of people. But I bet the trend is towards short and useful, instead of long and flowery. My top piece of evidence: consider the medium we are all using to communicate right now!

  • Good marketing is a catalyst – it drives the offering to its true market position faster. This is particularly true when the market has not completely aligned its problem/need to the new solution.

    In rapdily changing, highly competitive markets with high barriers to switching, great marketing creates critical first mover advantage and reduces the probability of “false negative” market launches. In less competitive, slower moving markets, the advantage of good marketing is usually less obvious.

  • Dear Bob,
    I’m writing from germany and may have an interesting point to make for you folks overeas. In the January issue of “Absatzwirtschaft”, a top-ranking german marketing magazine, the title story was about the ability of the germans to innovate — and about their inability when it comes to marketing their innovations (wich they leave to the americans, very often. Example: The Apple iPod).
    In today’s crowded marketplace, you clearly cannot hope to market your product successfully without “marketing”, even if it’s an innovative product.
    Rosser Reeves told us decades ago, that the world won’t automatically beat a path to the man with the better mousetrap, if the world doesnÄt know this better mousetrap first. So that’s the job of marketing, wheter it be ads, mailings, PR, blogging or other tactics: to tell inform people about new products — and make them want them.
    For me it is crystal clear that even a good product needs good marketing. (And you can’t save a bad one with any amount of marketing effort, BTW).

    Kind regards,

  • Well, I think you know the answer to that one Bob. If you don’t tell the world how great your product is, how will they know?

    Yeah, word of mouth comes into play later, but you gotta toot your own horn first….and then add all the happy customers comments as testimonials later… -:)

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