Build A Better Mousetrap: It Begins and Ends with Marketing

Jan. 1, 2005
The Mousetrap Series Begins. Initially published in 2003, this series is about how to build a better mousetrap and make your business more successful.

Note: The Mousetrap Series Begins. Initially published in 2003, this series is about how to build a better mousetrap and make your business more successful. The concept is to examine some of the marketing issues, from internal and external sources, that impact your business. This multi-part series will be the subject of this column for the next several months.

Will The Telemarketing Laws Affect You?

Maybe I should ask if these laws hurt your business. The national do-not-call list changes the shape of small business marketing. Many companies depend on telemarketing to drive business. Now, they must find other ways to do it.

The new laws aren’t the end of telemarketing. You can still call consumers you’ve done business with in the last 18 months. You can also call people who contact you for three months.

But what if you’re a poor contractor whose customers call you ever other year? Well, tough.

Mess up, and the fine is $11,000 per incident. It’s your typical government solution. Beat that wire nail with a sledgehammer. Complain about the economy while you enact laws that make life harder on business.

Ironically, the worst abusers will figure out ways around the law (think twice as a consumer before you enter that sweepstakes in the mall). Its small businesses like yours that will be impacted.

Fortunately, there are solutions. It’s the old tried and true. Instead of outbound telemarketing, small businesses will turn to print. They will use newspaper, direct mail, and lots of marketing.

Direct marketing offers a number of advantages. Its low cost compared to broadcast. You can turn it on and off as needed. You can target. Because you aren’t limited to 15 or 30 seconds, you’ve got time to build a case and sell.

Uh oh. I forgot. Most small business print marketing is:


So our mousetrap series will focus on print. I’ll share ways you can improve your marketing, increase its effectiveness, and you earn more money. You might want to download my Comfortech notes from the Freebies section of the Service Roundtable ( to use as a companion. Some of this stuff has to be seen to be understood.

Marketing Is Not An Option

The first thing you must understand is that marketing is not an option. You must market to grow.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was quoted as saying, if a man can make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, the world will make a beaten path to his door.

You’ve probably heard that before. Do you believe it? I don’t.

Take Microsoft, for instance. Despite their PR, Microsoft doesn’t have a better mousetrap. Microsoft isn’t an innovator. They’re more like the Borg from Star Trek, The Next Generation.

  • They assimilate.
  • They buy technology from other companies.
  • They find creative ways to eliminate the competition.
  • Most of all, they market very, very well.

Want another example? What’s the best sports insole? Most people will answer Dr. Scholls because that brand is the market leader.

However, there’s a little known company called Spenco that produces the insole podiatrists tend to recommend. Spenco doesn’t do a lot of marketing. Dr. Scholls does.

By the way, that Emerson quote we mentioned earlier is something he never actually said.

His actual statement was written in a journal as follows: “If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.”

The mousetrap quote was written by an ad guy, Elbert Hubbard, who attributed it to Emerson 28 years after Emerson died!

Emerson had the great thought, but it took a good copywriter to make it a memorable thought. In many ways, that is the essence of the Mousetrap series. You may have a great products and services, but unless you can communicate well, you’re doomed.

And communication is the mission of marketing. So stay tuned because over the next several issues of Contracting Business HVACR Hotmail, we’re planning to get down and dirty with the print aspect of marketing.

Matt Michel spoke at HVAC Comfortech 2004 on marketing This rant was solely the opinion of Matt Michel, CEO of the Service Roundtable (, an organization dedicated to helping contractors prosper. Matt is also the publisher of Comanche Marketing, a free marketing e-zine. Subscriptions are available at You can contact him directly at [email protected]. Or send your comments to Contracting Business at [email protected].

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.