Today, we’re going to talk about the biggest single mistake people make when launching a product (or service, for that matter): living on the “field of dreams.”

Baseball Game

In the classic movie Field of Dreams, a disembodied voice in a cornfield promises Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner’s character), “If you build it, he will come.” In the movie, “it” is a baseball diamond where the cornfield used to be, and “he” is Shoeless Joe Jackson, a long-dead baseball player. Spoiler alert: Ray does build “it,” and Shoeless Joe does come, but the process nearly costs Ray his entire world: his home, his marriage, his daughter. Yes, things work out, but talk about cutting it close!

In our little fantasy world as entrepreneurs, we turn this into, “If you build it, they will come.” But in our fantasy world, “it” is whatever crazy product we have dreamed up, and “they” are our customers… lots of them.

It doesn’t work that way in real life, and it never has.

Here’s the number one thing you must do to have a successful product launch: validate your product. There must be somebody out there (who is not your mother) who is willing and eager to buy your product before it even exists. If not, you are barking up the wrong tree, and you need to rework, improve, or abandon your idea, right now.

How do you know somebody wants to buy your product? Pre-sell it! We’ll talk more about what this means in later posts, but the short version is that you need to find real customers and get paid real money before you even create the product. If enough people are willing to pay you for something that doesn’t even exist, then you’re onto something. On the other hand, if no one is willing to put their money where their mouth is, all those comments like, “Wow, that’s a really neat idea,” don’t mean a hill of beans.

So, before you even start building the product, make sure someone out there really wants it. Then, thank your mother for her interest, and find somebody else who really wants it. Once you’ve found a few of those people, then—and only then—you might be onto something.

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