You can use duct tape...even in marketing! An interview with Duct Tape guru John Jantsch where he shares his insight on how businesses can succeed no matter what the size. His blog is widely regarded as the leading blog on small business marketing. (Caveat: Small businesses generate millions and millions of dollars yearly so pay attention to John's insight - whether you're big or small.)
On Growing Your Business:
Nettie: Hi John, tell us about your new book, "Duct Tape Marketing: the World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide."
John: It came out in January what it is meant to be is a condensed version of the all the things I've learned in the last 20 years of working with small businesses. I've been helping them with their marketing for at least that long and this book is a very systematic, almost curriculum based marketing approach to doing this.
It is a template and road map with steps to take to grow a small business. If the small business owner follows this system marketing will come a lot easier.
Nettie: Why do you love small businesses?
John: (laughs) There's something in equal parts about it being both gratifying and terrifying and for the challenges that you have to meet for the companies.
It's s a whole different feeling in terms of the results that you want to get for these businesses. With small businesses, you're really working for the person that signs the check, directly with them in order to help their business grow.
Early on I did work for a large corporation and I got a check for 156,000 dollars and it was an error and the thing it was just an accounting error, but I remember that day thinking I could cash this check and no one would ever know. But it also served as a really good example of what happens in larger corporations where there is no accountability and no real drive to get anyone results.
So for me the challenge in working with small businesses is that you really have an opportunity to prove yourself and they really have an opportunity to see the results.
Nettie: It keeps you inspired?
John: Absolutely. It's like I'm growing with these companies. I look at it very seriously as a bit of a mission. I go out and talk to small business owners every day and I've been fortunate enough to find a way to help them grow their businesses. One of the ways I've been able to do this is to write a book and I am now hiring other coaches to use my system. This book is a way to get it out to greater numbers which really meets my goal of helping small businesses succeed.
I've been able to condense through this book, a way for them to do that and I see this as a way to help them reach their goals even if they don't have a consultant.
Vision, Differentiation and Marketing
Nettie: What are some key things small businesses need to understand?
John: They underestimate the advantage they have in their small business niche. One of the things I work hard is helping people narrow their focus. They don't have to dominate the larger world; they need to be the niche or expert that people turn to in their arena.
Another thing I really think they have to do is come up with a strategy to differentiate themselves from every one else in their market. I will actually copy the About us paragraph they have on their sites and go to their competitors and copy those and then I show them without the names how everyone is the saying they're the same.
So I try to encourage them to step outside what their competitors might say. They need to understand that their trade group or competitors are not their prospective customers.
Nettie: So they can rub shoulders with their peers, but their challenge is to really step outside and market themselves as different as all the others?
John: Yes, absolutely and you have to be good at the marketing. You can't own a business and not be good in marketing. A lot of people are hesitant not to toot their own horn and so a lot of times people have to get over that fear of what other people are going to say or think.
Nettie: Talk about that more.
John: I really think at the end of the day if you've got something that can make the world a better place, or a widget or tool that makes it easier for people to do something, then it's really important for you to get it out there and market it for the world to have it.
Nettie: What are some other ways to market that strategy?
John: Once you develop a strategy and really get the strategy and that includes interviewing your clients and seeing what they think is different than what others offer. Sometimes we all know too much and we think of all the things people should like about us or our companies, instead of really asking the client what they LIKE.
I had a remodeling customer for instance that the clients all said, "yes, they do great work and we expected that, but what we didn't expect is that every single day they cleaned up after themselves." You always need to look for what added benefit or process you're doing differently than your competitors.
On Lead Generation and Extending the Conversation:
Nettie: Three takeaways from the book?
John: People want the lead generation to just be magic. Lead generation needs to come from many avenues and a consistent and repetitive approach. It should always come from three things working together: advertising, marketing and referrals. Build the foundation and keep adding pillars to it – you're building your momentum.
Nettie: And you'll reach the tipping point?
John: Absolutely, it's when you start being seen everywhere.
Nettie: So the company becomes a brand sub-consciously even if the folks aren't turning to them right away.
Nettie: How many examples do you feature in the book?
John: There are many success stories I feature in the book with a lot of my clients. It's really about narrowing your business focus and standing out as the best offering. Consistently refocusing your message and building it online and offline. More and more upscale shoppers are going to the web too so that's really important. With the remodeler for instance we dramatically increased their profits by focusing on the upscale restorative process.
Nettie: What else on the marketing side?
John: You have to have a plan. What this book is really trying to teach is a plan. It may not be the world's greatest plan ever created, but it at least is a plan. Too many people don't spend enough time on putting a plan into focus and then getting the results.
Nettie: What about expectations in sales/marketing?
John: We really try to always ask our clients "Are you in business for thirty days or in business for thirty years?" You have to really understand that all of these things work together for the greater good and that takes patience. People need to look past getting instant gratification or thinking things just happen overnight.
Nettie: It's like PR too – a marathon not a sprint?
John: Right and you have to understand the online side too because people rely on that as well. The biggest thing to understand is people don't like to be sold to but they love to shop. People like to go to the internet and shop and compare. The way small businesses need to use the Internet is as an educational vehicle. To extend the conversation with a prospective buyer and to project their expertise from a lead generation standpoint. You can also use it to help further serve your customers by using your site as a How-to site where people can find resources for their problems or issues so they turn to your site for answers.
Nettie: You can almost set up a school to teach your customers whether they use this or not?
John: Exactly. Small businesses are in the education and community building business and the degree to which you can do that around your product are really important.
Nettie: What are big businesses missing that small businesses aren't?
John: Big companies that choose to still remain small are better off. What that means is the healthiest cultures in business are really built around a vision and that's whether you're big or small. You need that vision to guide you. It's just housed in a way in your company that it runs throughout the company and everyone has it in the company. The customers are attracted to it and your employees feel empowered by it.
Nettie: The vision is key and it's often something that is missing?
John: It can be because in a lot of cases that is what gets zapped out. SMBs really fail to provide what they could as far as vision and have that life and joy balance as well. There are too many folks out there who are working 80 hours a week and still aren't achieving what they want from their own business. On the other hand, if you have the vision and you really know what you enjoy and how you can best help people, the rest comes easy.