The Cornfield Paradox: How To Fix The Biggest Lie In Marketing

When I started out in business, I followed a few coaches and business/marketing experts. One of the things I came across more often than anything else was the notion that ‘If you build it, they will come!’

If you’ve ever seen Field of Dreams, you’ll understand why I call this The Cornfield Paradox. In the film, Kevin Costner plays the title role. He hears a mysterious voice talking to him in his cornfield one night, telling him, “If you build it, they will come.”

Deciding the voice is onto something, he builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield, and the Chicago White Sox appear, magically solving all his problems…

The basic gist of this (and its relevance to marketing) is the notion that by creating something wonderful, you will automatically attract people.

If you create fabulous products or services, people will naturally want to buy them.

And if you create wonderful content, people will automatically find it and read/watch it.

 

It’s a brilliant and wonderfully inspiring thought when you’re a fledgling business owner, just getting to grips with the myriad things required to get a business up and running. You pull yourself along with this belief that all you have to do is create your business, and customers will magically find you.

The problem with this concept, and why The Cornfield Paradox is the biggest lie in marketing, is that it doesn’t work.

Do any of these instructions sound familiar:

Blog regularly – preferably weekly.

Consistency is key – decide on a schedule and stick to it!

You need to blog for SEO, that’s how people will find you.

High-quality content is the secret to a good Google ranking.

This is all good advice, but when it’s coupled with an ‘If you build it, they will come’ mentality, it is fundamentally flawed.

Why?

Nothing good ever happens in a cornfield!

As many of you know, I’m a fiction writer. I’m a fan of fantasy, horror and various other genres, and I can tell you categorically that every time a cornfield appears, in any context, bad things happen.

Field of Dreams itself is a terrible film.

Cornfields are not where you will find the magical solution to all of your problems.

Cornfields are where you will find axe-murderers, aliens, cannibals, deranged lunatics, paedophiles, and innumerable other unsavoury characters and problems.

Nothing good ever happens in a cornfield, and this often-toted piece of advice coaches are so fond of is no different. THE BIGGEST LIE IN MARKETING is the notion that all you have to do is build it and they will magically come.

Here’s a truth bomb:

You can create the most fabulous content imaginable, but if nobody knows it’s there, nobody will read/watch it.

You can regularly produce blogs or vlogs week after week, be utterly consistent, optimise everything for SEO, and have a phenomenal Google ranking, and you’ll still get nowhere fast, because your content marketing method is based on a fundamental lie.

But don’t worry, all is not lost, there’s an easy fix… 

The Origins Of The Biggest Lie In Marketing…

I believe this mega myth of marketing originated in the early days of online marketing when the ‘If you build it, they will come’ model actually worked.

It’s not even that long ago since this wasn’t a lie, but a marketing true. When the internet was still relatively young, if you created a blog, and filled it with quality content, people would naturally find it, because there wasn’t the insane amount of content and information in the modern-day.

If you go back as little as ten years, Google something (especially something in a niche market) wouldn’t get that many results.

Now, you can Google exactly the same thing and end up with endless pages of results. Consequentlyt, even if you’re writing about a very niche subject, the likelihood of your specific blog post being the post that a large number of people find – enough to grow an audience organically – is slim. Simply writing good content just isn’t enough to get you discovered anymore.

There’s too much information on the internet, too many competing sites, too many posts discussing the same topics you are, and until people have actually read or watched your content and got to know you a bit, they won’t have any reason to favour your website other all the others on the same subject. Your Google search ranking helps with this – getting on the first page of Google will make it a lot more likely you will be found, but this isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s not a simple case of optimising everything with keywords because everyone is optimising everything with the same keywords.

SEO Isn’t Enough…

You’re not doing anything unique with your SEO, what is unique about your content is YOU.

SEO can’t convey your ideas and prove they are better (or at least different) to everybody else’s; why your methods are superior; why your products are unique or better than everybody else’s; why your services are better than everybody else’s; why your take on the world is worth them coming back and reading/watching over and again. It’s only once they’ve experienced you, come to know, like, and trust you, and bookmarked your site, that they’re going to automatically come to you when they see you’ve written about a subject.

Your Google ranking is important, I’m not saying SEO is not important, it is.

It helps you get visible, it helps you get found, but the problem with SEO is that there is a perception that all you have to do to create a successful business is have a website and create good content that’s SEO-optimised, so people find you on Google.

Just build it, and they will magically come…

It does not work.

There are three things that you have to do to make sure that your blog is successful (check out my post on The Golden Trident: Three Magic Steps For Kick-Ass, Killer Blogging for more info).

The third step for kick-ass, killer blogging is that you have to HUSTLE!

It’s not enough to write good content, you have to get out there and tell people about your content. Share your content, spread it to the four winds, so that as many people as possible become aware of your content.

If you do that, then they will come, but they won’t just magically come wondering out of the cornfield and find you simply because you’ve written something.

The Cornfield Paradox…

The paradox occurs because so many people who decide they want to start a business buy into the biggest lie in marketing. They get interested in business, they get invested, they start learning about marketing, and they come across all these coaches telling them that all they have to do is ‘build it’, and people will find them.

So they build it, and they wait.

And they wait, and wait, and wait, and…TUMBLEWEED!

Nothing happens. And a great many people in this situation, when they reach this point, conclude that the reason blogging isn’t working because content marketing doesn’t work.

They reach this conclusion fairly quickly.

They start blogging. They keep it up for a few weeks, maybe even a couple of months. At the end of that couple of months, they’ve poured their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into a weekly blog post. They’ve published at the right time, consistently, and sent out a newsletter to their list.

Nothing is happening.

The reason nothing is happening is that they’ve just started out. Their list consists of their friends (who aren’t really interested in their business), and a couple of people they know who genuinely are interested in business, but aren’t necessarily interested in the specific part of business that these blog posts are discussing.

Becuase they’re so new, they basically have no list. The few people on it aren’t their ideal clients, and they aren’t reaching anyone new.

They’re writing great content, but they’re just writing it and leaving it there. They’re expecting people to find their content, because they built it, and when nobody does, they conclude that blogging doesn’t work.

It’s not a viable marketing option, so they stop blogging.

I understand why this happens, but the mistake (and the paradox) is that if you’re not blogging, nobody will find you, but blogging, on its own, is not enough to make people find you., okay? So, if you stop blogging, nobody will find you. If you blog, but don’t do anything to promote your blog post, nobody will find you. So, you’re missing a key part of the puzzle here, in that if you build it, and tell people about it, they will come, okay?

If you stop blogging, nobody will find you.

If you blog, but don’t do anything to promote your blog post, nobody will find you. So, you’re missing a key part of the puzzle here, in that if you build it, and tell people about it, they will come, okay?

If you’ve bought into the ‘If you build it, they will come’ mentality, you’re missing a key part of the puzzle: if you build it, and tell people about it, they will come!

How To Fix The Biggest Lie In Marketing…

You have to get out there, share your content on social media, build your online networks, advertise your content when needed, and comment on other people’s blogs. Take the time to read their posts and leave a genuine comment; let them get to know you. Get them interested enough in you and what you’re saying that they click through to read your own blogs, and comment in return. Tweet out your posts, share them on Facebook, Instagram, and any other platforms you have.

And here’s the important part: you don’t just need to share your blog posts specifically.

You need to spend an awful lot of time simply building an online presence.

Whether you do it yourself or pay somebody else to do it for you, you need to be an active online presence. You need to be a person who more than just their blog posts.

At the time of writing this, I am personally failing in this regard and have been for a couple of months. I’m sharing my posts, but nothing else. Why? I don’t have time. Business suddenly got a lot busier this year, my workload has more than doubled and I had to let a few things go for the sake of my sanity. I’m in the process of outsourcing everything I no longer have time for, but in the interim, my social media marketing is next to non-existent.

And it shows.

The massive growth I saw in the first quarter of this year stalled in the second. And it’s all because of a very simple question I guarantee your audience is asking…

But What Else…?

You can’t constantly say, “I wrote a blog, read it. I wrote a blog, read it. I wrote a blog, read it,” because people get bored.

Even if your content is absolutely fabulous if you never say anything other than, “Read my blog post!” at some point they’re going to stop because they are over-saturated.

This is especially true in business.

If you have a personal blog, it’s a bit different. The very nature of your blog posts means the information you’re sharing differs vastly; you’re sharing an insight into your life, sharing quite a lot about yourself. Your topics will change from week to week, and it will always be of interest to your followers because that’s why they’re following you. You might have a lifestyle blog, and they’re interested in your specific lifestyle, or a hobby blog and they’re interested in your latest creations, or it could be a photography blog and they’re dying to see your new photographs.

If you’ve got a blog that constantly has completely fresh content, this it isn’t quite as true. But if you’re writing a business blog and blogging about a specific niche subject in business, or you’re a coach blogging about business in general, and all you’re doing is telling people to read your blog posts, they’re going to hit a wall. They’re going to shut off and stop reading, because they’re thinking, “I’ve read five posts about this, and they’re great and everything, but what else?

This is the awful truth about the nature of our consumerist society.

People are always thinking, “Great, but what else?”

It’s the buy one, get one free mentality. You buy into something and expect to get something else as well for free.

You say, “Read my blog post!”

They say, “Sure! Great! I’ve read it. What else do I get?

This is how we evolved into a system in which list-building hinges on giving away freebies and opt-ins, because it’s not enough to write a post and at the end of it, say, “If you want to read more of my blog posts, sign up for my newsletter!”

Because the response will always be, “Great, I’d love to read more of your blog posts, but what else?”

There will always be a “but what else?”

The Golden Ratio…

The “but what else” where the cornfield paradox is concerned is telling people about you, and your business, and your blog, in such a way that you’re only expecting them to ‘buy’ into it a small part of the time.

The golden ration is 80/20.

80% of the time, you should let them get to know you, seeing what you do, and gain insights into your daily life.

You might ask them questions, share behind the scenes snaps, useful information beyond your own blog, inspirational quote or memes. You want to build engagement and get a conversation going. Craft a living, vibrant relationship with your online followers, so that they actually know you quite well outside of what you write in your blog.

If you can build that kind of relationship with your audience, and grow an engaged audience, they will happily read your posts week after week and you’ll reach a point where you don’t need to tell them you have new posts for them to read. They will learn what day you post on and go looking for them.

For example, there is a blog I read religiously, The Bloggess, and she doesn’t have to email me to tell me that she’s got a new blog post, because I automatically check her site weekly. I know new posts will be there and I know they’ll always be funny.

There’s a video reviewer that I follow, who puts out three or four videos a week. I’m not even on his newsletter list, because all his newsletter does is send me a link to his new videos, and I know what days he posts them, so when I’m sitting having my lunch on those days, I automatically go to his site to watch the videos while I’m eating my lunch.

The same is true for my favourite channels on YouTube: I know what days Denise Duffield-Thomas, and Marie Forleo‘s videos come out every week, so I go and look for them.

Why The Biggest Lie In Marketing Is A Paradox…

The Cornfield Paradox is paradoxical because it does and doesn’t work.

If you create content, if you’ build it’, people will come and you will develop an audience, but only if you go the extra mile and tell people you have built it. Tell people enough about yourself and what you have built to ensure they are interested enough to keep coming back and remain engaged, interested and reading/watching the content that you’ve put out.

Are You Struggling With Your Content Marketing?

If (like me) you find there simply isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done, and you’re at the point where you need to delegate some essential elements of your business, don’t worry, I totally get it. Content Marketing isn’t for everyone. It’s time-consuming, often tedious, and requires a phenomenal amount of time, effort, and expertise.

Why not let me do it for you?

Unsure about hiring a copywriter? I totally get that too. That’s why I offer all new clients a totally free blog post to test run my services before they decide whether to invest. Grab your free post (no string attached!) now!

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Hazel is an author, copywriter and blogger. She has published several books and short stories, including The Uber Author Planner, Chasing Azrael, a Urban Fantasy novel, and Bleizgeist, a Dark Fantasy novella. She has had several academic papers published internationally. Hazel is currently working on two exciting new books on blogging: When the Phoenix Dances, and The Divine Blogging Design, due for publication in 2016 and 2017, respectively. She is also currently penning Death Becomes Me, the second novel in her Urban Fantasy series.

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