Review: Duct Tape Marketing

Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide by John Jantsch

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This guide is bursting with small business marketing strategy and tactics. It’s well-written and practical, based on extensive firsthand experience. The system advocates an expanded version of the marketing funnel, content marketing, digital marketing, and lead conversion.

I found welcome advice about creating a core marketing message, positioning, and generating referrals. All of those are areas I’ve been working to refine for OptimWise.

I read this because I found the Duct Tape Marketing site and podcast years ago. I really liked The Referral Engine.

The Duct Tape Marketing System

  1. Develop Strategy Before Tactics. Define your ideal client, communicate your key difference, and filter your tactics through your strategy.
  2. Embrace the Marketing Hourglass. Expand the marketing funnel to turn new customers into advocates and referral partners. The path: know, like and trust, then try, buy, repeat, refer.
  3. Adopt the Content Publishing Model. Commit to producing content like a publisher. Consistently produce content that builds awareness and trust.
  4. Create a Total Web Presence. Having a website isn’t enough. Promote it through SEO, social media, offline efforts.
  5. Orchestrate the Lead Conversion Trio. Generate leads with referrals, advertising, and PR. These amplify each other.
  6. Drive a Lead Conversion System. Create a systematic approach to nurture and educate leads and orient new clients.
  7. Live by the Marketing Calendar. Create monthly projects and themes, weekly action steps, and daily marketing appointments.

Identify your ideal client

Steps to discover ideal clients

  1. Profit: which clients are most profitable? Which service or type of engagement is most profitable?
  2. Propensity to refer: which of these clients refer?
  3. Demographics: what demographics do these clients share?
  4. Behavioral markers: what makes these clients tick? What triggers them to look for someone like you? What behaviors can you target (attending certain conferences, joining civic or nonprofit causes, etc.)
  5. Biographical sketch: how would you spot the ideal client? What words and images make up their “picture”? Give these profiles personal names.

Questions to ask

  • What problem do you solve? Do you sell peace of mind, status, pain relief?
  • Where are your ideal clients located? Are certain areas or patterns more desirable?
  • How do ideal clients make buying decisions? Committee, bid, RFP, referral, search engine, etc.?
  • How can you reach ideal clients? Associations, publications, mailing lists, networking, etc.?
  • What irritation/frustration in your industry do clients deal with, that you can fix?
  • Does the target market value your expertise enough to pay a premium?
  • Are other companies already thriving in this market (proving viability)?
  • Ideal prospect = physical description + what they want + their problem + how they buy + best way to communicate with them

Discover your Core Marketing Message

Don’t claim to be different on quality, good service, fair pricing. These are expected. Your difference must be in how you do business, how you sell; the experience.

To help uncover your positioning, ask your clients:

  • Why did you hire us?
  • What do we do that others don’t?
  • What’s missing from our industry?
  • What could we do that would thrill you?
  • What do you put up with in this industry?
  • What would you do if you owned our business?
  • Create a talking logo to answer the question, “What do you do?” Formula: action verb (I show, teach, help) + target market (business owners, Fortune 500 companies) + how to X (solve a problem, meet a need)

Core Marketing Message: What’s the chief benefit of doing business with you? How can you easily communicate your difference?

Produce marketing content that educates

Create content partnerships with strategic partners (co-brand ebook, invite to guest post, offer seminar to their customers, etc.).

To write case studies, interview clients and ask these questions:

  1. What solutions were you seeking when you hired us?
  2. What did/do we provide that you value the most?
  3. What has been the result of working with us?
  4. What would you tell others who are considering hiring us?
  5. When asking clients to write a testimonial, ask them to write it as though they were recommending your business to a friend who was considering hiring you.

A web presence that works day and night

Summarized in our post 7 deadly assumptions about online marketing success.

Run advertising that gets results

Two-step direct response advertising

  1. Run ads that offer the reader a free report, sample, or something of high perceived value. Ask them to visit website and exchange basic contact info for this valuable info.
  2. Send the report to all who respond, and market to this group like crazy.

To develop a good info product, think of how to help readers avoid the pain of paying too much, wasting their time, losing something they value, or encountering frustrating situations. The info product can be a white paper, webinar, audio, workshop, email series, etc.

To evaluate advertising options, ask:

  1. Does it allow you to specifically target your ideal prospect?
  2. Does it provide high ROI?

Advertising options

  • Direct mail is likely the best option for most small businesses. Purchase very targeted lists and do small tests.
  • Telemarketing is ineffective for lead generation, but can be useful in following up on other forms of marketing.
  • Internet ads, including PPC, can be effective. They can be placed quickly, targeted, and tested.
  • Start with direct mail, get a predictable response, then add other forms of advertising to expand and enhance your message.

Direct mail is an ideal target medium

Sales letter formula

  1. Headline. Scream, “This is worth your time!”
  2. State the problem. Show that you realize their problem and understand their frustration.
  3. Stir up the problem. Draw a picture of what the problem is costing them in money, time, frustration, status.
  4. Paint a hopeful future. Reveal what life could be like (or what it’s like for others like them).
  5. Outline a solution. Show that you know how they can get relief. Layer on the benefits of your solution.
  6. Answer objections. Address those that prospects have posed.
  7. Make an offer. Offer free report, workshop, or other free or low-cost info product.
  8. Call to action. Tell them why and how to contact you.
  9. P.S. Always include a P.S., the second most read part. Restate your offer or chief benefit.

Headline starters

  1. Ask a compelling question: “Do you know why …?”
  2. State your offer: “Free report reveals 101 ways to …”
  3. Identify the target: “Mechanical engineers find that …”

Ramp up a systematic referral machine

Educate your referral sources with one sheet with following info:

  • How to spot your ideal clients
  • Your Core Message
  • Your referral marketing process: how you’ll contact the referral, what you’ll say, how you’ll follow up
  • CTA: the best way to refer you: actual words to use, how to pass lead, web address
  • Create a blank copy of your referral source education document and send it to referral network, asking them to fill it out so you can better refer them.

How to reward referrers

  • Offer discounted prices
  • Give gift
  • Give your product/service
  • Recognize at referral appreciation dinner
  • Acknowledge their contribution online and in newsletter
  • Refer business to them
  • When you meet with a new client, say, “We know that you’ll be so thrilled with our service that at the end of 90 days we’ll ask you to help us identify 3 other people who, like you, need this kind of result.”

Create a strategic referral partner network

  • Find businesses with same ideal client target
  • Ask good clients who they like to buy from
  • Invite partners to contribute to newsletter, blog, etc.
  • Use, rate, and review partners
  • Bring partners together to network
  • Get businesses that serve the same target market to offer a free product/service that complements what you sell, or is at least of interest to your target market
  • Offer to businesses that serve your market to provide a service for their customers. Example: offer to accounting firms to complete a free marketing audit for each of their new small business clients.

Referral offers

  • Offer influencers a trial service in exchange for endorsement, testimonial, speaking gig, etc.
  • Offer 20% refund each time client refers someone, up to 100%


  • At end of your presentations, ask participants to complete a very brief survey to help you improve your presentations. Offer a free info product in exchange. The comments can be used as testimonials.
  • Give attendees a simple one-page note-taking handout with your contact info.
  • If you must present info that you’re not passionate about, inject something personal you are passionate about (hobbies, interests, etc.).

Commit to your marketing with a plan

Marketing habits

  • Send handwritten notes to thank clients for their past support and business. This will generate work and referrals.
  • Call 5 clients and briefly interview them about ways you could serve them better. This can also help you discover your USP and Core Message.
  • When you cold-call, simply offer a free resource (tip sheet, checklist, report) on your website. Don’t try to sell anything. Follow up with those who get info.


What small business marketing efforts have worked well for you? Leave a comment. Do you need help making your website a marketing machine? Contact us to see how we can help!

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