by Colin Thompson

"Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

A client of mine once asked me how I thought she should best spend her marketing budget to get her business to the next level. She had read about numerous programs with marketing and PR gurus who promised to "reveal the secrets" of creating instant results" and "dramatic increases in business" for "special offer" prices ranging from $100 up to $100,000.

After a brief conversation discussing the relative merits and ethics of some of these approaches, I asked her if she offered a great service --if she thought it was a 9 or 10 on a scale from 1 to 10. When she hesitated for as long as she did, I read her the following story from Steve Chandler's wonderful book The Story of You. It goes like this:

The key to marketing excellence is less to do with marketing than it is to do with excellence

"How do I promote my book?" a client named Dillon asked me.

"Go write it again," I said.

"How do you mean?"

"Go through your book, sentence by sentence, and write each sentence over again."

"You must be kidding."

"I will tell you the quote from Robert Frost that I have up in my office to remind me to go back and do all my writing over again, once more with feeling."

"What is the quote?"

"Frost said, 'No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.'"

"I have to cry?

"It would help."


"You have put your head into your book, but not your heart. You have not only put your head in it, but you have put your fast-forward, greed-head into it. You are racing forward to the future sales of the book with no care for the poor reader. There is no gift for the reader if you do this so fast, as part of your rush-rush life of multi-tasking and enforced busy-ness and a longing to live in your own future."

Dillon thought for a moment and then said to me, "Write the whole thing over?"

"At least once," I said.

"Do you have any idea how hard that would be?"

"I do."

In our next session, she told me she had decided to spend a chunk of her marketing budget to do some additional training in her field. She also had generated a list of a dozen or so things she could begin doing immediately to increase the value and quality of her service.

So here's the point:

In my experience, the key to marketing excellence is less to do with marketing than it is to do with excellence. It's not that marketing is completely unnecessary --it's just that when you take the time to do what you do extraordinarily well, a little bit of marketing will go a very long way.

Do an experiment

  1. Rate your own products or services. How good are they on a scale from 1 to 10? If you're not yet at a 10, what would a 9 look like?  Or depending on where you are on that scale, what additional skills or services would take you to an 8? A 7? A 6?
  2. Next, take the next month off from marketing and focus on getting your number up by at least one. You can still tell people about what you have to offer --just take the money, mental energy and creativity you would have been spending on marketing your business and for the next month, pour it into making the business excellent.
  3. Find a copy of the children's story Good Lemonade and read it. Amazon has some used copies, but you may well be able to find it at your local library.

Have fun, learn heaps, and enjoy developing your better mousetrap!