Little White Marketing Lie #5: We’re Just One Great Marketing Idea Away from Success

Little white lies are falsities we tell people (and sometimes tell ourselves) that we believe to be benign, harmless. But little white marketing lies like this one may be hurting our businesses: Little White Marketing Lie #5: We’re just one great marketing idea away from overnight success.


Most of the time, ‘overnight success’ is achieved only after years and years of hard work and much trial and error. It’s not about one great idea. Success is usually the result of trying one more time, and one more time after that. It’s about experimenting, refining and continually improving. It’s about demanding the best of yourself, and then asking for a little bit more.

All of history is on my side on this one.

As Thomas Edison, the famous U.S. inventor famously said, “Genius is 2% inspiration and 98% perspiration.” And maybe he said it even better in his autobiography when he simply stated, “There is no substitute for hard work.” And that’s why so many people prefer to believe the myth that it will be a great idea that brings them success – after all – who wants to work hard? Who wants to fail? Repeatedly?

Edison did, and if you want to succeed, you’ll adopt his mentality. He didn’t view himself as a failure, even though he failed hundreds of times while trying to invent the light bulb. He told reporters who asked him about those hundreds of failures that he’d merely succeeded in determining what didn’t work. And knowing what doesn’t work is important, too. Knowing what doesn’t work keeps you from going down the wrong roads, chasing phantoms (apparitions like the myth of “overnight success.”)

The truth is, you’re closer to success than you realize.

You already had a great marketing idea, that’s why you’re in business.

The idea of your business may not be unique in and of itself, but how you do business can be.

There aren’t shortcuts and there are few serendipitous ‘post-it-note’ accidents that result in overnight business super-stardom. Not to mention the fact that you don’t want to go down in history as a one-hit wonder! History is replete with companies that had a great idea or business concept and started strong, but got stuck.

Take Steve Jobs, for example, who said, “Stay hungry, stay foolish,” speaking at a commencement address Year after year, project after project, Steve Job’s company and products took the market by surprise, and by storm. Without demanding and fostering an innovative and unique internal culture, it’s likely that his great ideas would have been someone else’s to capitalize on.

For most successful businesses, the secret isn’t in having a great marketing idea.

Amazon sold books, hardly innovative and there were many booksellers in the business before them. There’s nothing new about what they did. But HOW they sold books, how they fulfilled orders, the ease and convenience and value they built into doing business with them – that was their genius. Doing it right, over and over again, and doing it differently than the others.

It’s not what they do, it’s how they do it.

Lands End? Zappos? Again, there is nothing particularly innovative about selling shoes or clothes. But these businesses are genius – and consequently successful – because of the way they fulfill orders, the way they stand behind their products and the culture they provide for their employees. Believing that happy employees will translate into happy customers, they built their policies and business around this core value.

So don’t focus on trying to discover a genius offering. Instead, channel the bulk of your creative energies into perfecting the customer experience your business provides by (1) delivering on your promises to the customer, every time, and (2) making the customer experience at your business unique, different from competitors and more than the customer expects, in ways that are attractive and meaningful to your customers.


Elizabeth Kraus –
365 Days of Marketing is available on in print and digital formats.