John Jantsch is a great marketing consultant who’s helping 115 consulting services, a writer of 5 books and founded one of the premiere marketing consultant networks of all time. He is also the CEO of Duct Tape Marketing that makes you successful by helping you up with SEO and marketing game.
Small Business Marketing Consulting with John Jantsch
Thanks very much.
You and I met at a conference some years ago and we’ve talked a little bit here and there. I was a guest on your show, and everybody seems to know who you are. I read his book. I took some courses with him. You’ve done an amazing job, but it didn’t start out that way. Tell us a little bit about how you get started?
I am your classic 25-year overnight success. I started like a lot of people. I had a job at an advertising agency. About five years into it, I decided I like doing my own thing. I like the variety of waking up every day and saying, “What do I feel like working on today?” I started my own firm without any plan and clue what I was doing other than I could hustle work. I did that in a traditional sense. I built up an agency in the way that I’d seen it done, but I found that I enjoyed working with small business owners. They were tough to work with because they had the same challenges and problems, but certainly never the same budget or even attention span.
About ten years ago, I decided what I needed to solve this frustration was a way to walk in and say, “Here’s what I’m going to do. Here’s what you’re going to do. Here are the results we hope we get. Here’s what it costs.”That was the genesis of Duct Tape Marketing and the Duct Tape Marketing System that attempt to solve others people’s frustration. What I discovered quickly was that the greatest frustration of many small business owners is buying marketing services. Everybody is selling a piece of the puzzle, and so integrating it and putting it all together with somebody who is willing to do that was music to their ears. That made Duct Tape Marketing take off. I was able to then create an online presence which turned into the books, which turned into other marketing consultants and agencies wanting to be a part of Duct Tape Marketing.
This is a great story because it starts with helping others. I love the idea of you walking in and trying to help others. When you did start, did you have a system in place, or were you just wanting to help others and you knew a little bit about marketing?
I’ve been in business ten years before I evolved to that idea where I know exactly who my ideal client is,
I know exactly what they need, and I’m going to package it in a way that is easy to explain and easy for them to decide whether or not to buy.
It was interesting to hear about how you did this because we all start that way. We all start with, “I think I know how to do something, and I think I can help others do the thing I know how to do. Now what else can I help you with?” We would call that a business coach, and that’s how a lot of business coaches start out. What happened later? What happened after you had your tenth client or your twentieth client? What changed?
What you described is very common and there’s nothing wrong with it. If you sit down and you write out your marketing plan and your business plan and you say this is exactly who we’re going to serve and how, there’s a chance to go out there. When the markets say, “Get out of here. We don’t need that. Nobody wants that,” and then you’re stuck. What happens to a lot of people is they figure out how to get paid for something, and then they evolved from there. After that tenth client, all of a sudden you’re not scrambling for business necessarily. All of a sudden you go, “Are these the ten clients I want? Is this the type of work that I’m best suited to do? Which of these clients am I able to get more value for because of the type of client they are or the type of problem they have?” That’s the point where you start choosing your clients instead of them choosing you. You have figured something out, and you’re at a different place than when you were trying to get client one and client two.
Is this how it evolved for you? It’s how it evolved from me. When you start out and you start looking at getting clients, you’ll take anybody who can show up with money. After you work with a dozen people, you figure out that some of these people are people you don’t like and don’t enjoy working with, so you decide, “Now I’m only going to take people I like and enjoy working with.” After that, you evolve too. Out of the last set of clients I had, what’s the one that got the most results the fastest based on my ability to deliver a service, information, skill, or a process? Did it go that way for you?
You get to the point where I talk to somebody for five minutes and have a good idea of whether or not that’s somebody I can help or that’s somebody that I want to help. When we say “you like” or “you want to help,” I don’t mean to imply the negative elements that might imply. If you’ve only got eight or ten clients because that’s what your capacity is, no single dynamic will suck the life out of you faster than having a couple of clients that you don’t have shared values with. They are demanding, they beat you up on price, they’re not nice to your people. That’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about an ideal client.
Would you be willing to share your five-minute screening process with us?
It’s hard to do that because it has become gut. We are a marketing consulting firm. A great deal of the work that we do is focused on that local business that needs to draw local clients. For them, the online presence is the hub of their business in many cases. Sometimes that assessment is not necessarily talking to somebody face to face, it’s looking at the state of their website. It’s looking at what they’re trying to do. If somebody has got a WordPress website and they’re trying to blog and they get that they need to invest in content, but they’re just not there, they either don’t have the resources to get it done or there’s elements of it that are broken. Unfortunately there are a lot of unscrupulous folks out there that sell SEO and web design. We encounter very broken businesses all the time. A lot of times I look at a business like that and I am able to see that I can help them very quickly.
We had a tree service recently that just came online with us. They weren’t ranking for anything. They were a great business that has been around forever, and it was almost puzzling. They just had a bunch of things working against them that it almost looked like somebody sabotaged their online presence. We knew that if we cleared those up and did a couple of things, we’d get them great results very quickly. Sometimes it’s a combination of who we can help fast, who we think will understand our strategic approach and appreciate our strategic approach, and then we enjoy spending time with them too. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be somebody we want invite over to dinner all the time, but you certainly don’t want to have somebody that rubs you the wrong way every time you have a conversation.
What you might find when you work with small businesses that are looking for local clients, when you do look at their website, you got to be sensitive. I could see now that you’ve explained it what the process looks like from a surface viewpoint. I understand you go much deeper. You can look at a website and you get a clear idea of how well these little companies are set up to do business.
You start getting into personal and family dynamics in a small business. Things can get out of control quickly.
I worked with Chet Holmes and Tony Robbins. When Chet and I first got started together, he asked me to help him do something called a core story. The client was a dog food company and they were a family-owned organization. They were three generations, and the third-generation CEO is in place. He’s a descendant of the great grandfather. We have free rein to interview anybody we want and he wants the truth. He says, “I don’t want you to sugarcoat anything, we just want the truth about this organization.”
We went through and we did our entire interview process. As we’re interviewing people, we are finding out that the Vice President of sales three months earlier was delivering dog food on a truck locally. That was his qualification because he was a brother-in-law or some relative. When we went back to the CEO and said we need to start replacing some of these positions with professionals. I’m sure you’re good at having these interviews and making sure you don’t step on anyone’s toes.
You certainly become aware through experience. I will say that part of the reason I’m so passionate about this is also the salt of the earth. I worked for years with very large corporations. I almost roll my eyes when a large corporation wants me to do something, because I know the process that we’re going to have to go through to get a result and the politics and all that. With a lot of small business owners, one of the things that I love about this the most is that it is equal parts gratifying and terrifying. Working to get a result for somebody where you know that check is going to be signed by them and maybe they’ll actually make a decision about not buying something else for their family because they were paying you, that to me is a huge motivator.
Now you’re a year into your business or so, you’ve had several dozen, if not even close to 100 clients at this point. Where did you go? What happened? How did you evolve?
My 28 years in business has four significant chapters or pivots. I started it as a hustle for work. I was doing mostly project work for big organizations. I alluded to that idea of wanting to focus on small business, and that was a significant pivot, because at one point, we had 70 employees. We were working with mostly larger organizations, and 9/11 happened. That was a significant business moment as well as personal moment for a lot of people in the United States in particular. We lost two of our biggest clients related to that because there was a lot of uncertainty going on. That was a moment for me where I said, “This is when I need to make my change.”
I went all the way back to working by myself and started over again. I wanted to develop this marketing system, this Duct Tape Marketing approach. Even though I have been in business ten years, I was starting from scratch. The good news is I’m taking everything I have learned to that point and was able to get to the point where I had a full practice in six or eight months of going out and telling the world. Part of that was because I do believe that I hit on an innovation that the market was ready for with this idea of marketing as a system. That was chapter two. This is right around when people are starting to put their credit cards into the internet and buying things.
I started developing chapter three, to take what I was doing with my clients and start documenting it and selling it as of course. I was still doing the consulting work but I’ve now evolved to where I’ve also had an online extension of my consulting work. That led to a great deal of the content explosion. This is chapter four, which got me to the point where I started doing less and less consulting and almost focused completely on my online presence, on speaking, and on writing. That was about the point when my first book came out. Chapter five was the heating up of a lot of the requests I was getting from people who want to license the Duct Tape Marketing System and use our tools. Five or six years ago, I started the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network. One giant pivot and then extensions along the way to the Duct Tape brand.
I call it an evolution. It sounds to me like you have been going in the same direction, but you’ve simply gotten smarter about it. In a way, you’ve stepped up your game. You’re now helping a lot more people.
The consult network alone at any given time is currently working with 1,200 to 1,500 small business clients at any given day. Even through my speaking, I get in front of 10,000 people a year or 10,000 small business owners a year. Through our courses and webinars, there’s another tens of thousands of folks.
When a company begins to get traction or when the CEO or owner starts to get to the point where they are hiring people, it gets to the stage where we now need systems. Can you describe some of the things you did and what systems you chose and how you chose them?
In 1993, I met Michael Gerber. He’s the author of the book The E-Myth. It was the first book that touched on this idea. There are a lot of books on systems and processes, but they were all for big business. He was the first one that said, “Small businesses need to think this way. This is why you’re pulling your hair out, because you don’t have any systems.” I bought into that at the time at a very early stage. There are two types of systems that I focused early on that I teach people or try to cajole people into doing now. The first thing is as a business owner, it would be nice to delegate everything and get people to do stuff, but then they look at me and go, “But I have to pay people for that and I don’t have enough money to do that.”
The first thing I like to get people to do and what I did in my business was to do a list. Every day I make my to-do list, and I would start looking at that to do list. I would go, “If I want to make $100 an hour, what on this list is worth less than $100 an hour?” If I could free up the $5, $10, and $15 an hour work, then that’s going to give me more time to focus on the stuff that I know generates $100to $500 an hour. In some cases, you’ve got to get the stuff off your plate that you can’t do, you hate to do, or you shouldn’t be doing, so that you can then start to clear up your mind and say, “What would have the biggest impact if I were able to focus on that more?”
The first thing I did was create ways, either through relationships or through systems, to get stuff off of my plate that I hated to do or that I couldn’t do. I’ve had an outsourced virtual bookkeeper for fifteen years. That was absolutely the first part of my business that I completely delegated, because I hated it. It was a real drag and I didn’t do it well. That’s phase one. With phase two, if you’re going to scale your business, you have to find a way to create a repeatable system that others can operate to generate leads, to convert leads, and to deliver whatever product or service it is that you deliver. If you’re the owner of the business and you are still the sole rainmaker and the sole service provider, you will never be able to scale the business beyond what you can keep your arms around.
This comes from having struggled with each of these things yourself to be able to say it the way you did. You almost made it sound easy, but I know it’s so hard to do because as entrepreneurs and as solo practitioners, you feel pulled every day by clients and by responsibility, and you’re still running a family. Did you have a system for your to-do list, or do you make a quick to-do list before you would sleep the night before and wake up and follow it?
The to-do list became the breeding ground for creating systems. I would look at things on my to-do list and say, “This shouldn’t be on my list. This should be somebody else’s job.” I need to invest the time and energy to get this off my plate so I can focus. For a lot of people, that’s the first task. You have to get a lot of the stuff you shouldn’t or can’t do off of your plate so that you can focus on the priority elements. That’s what happens to so many people. They started a business and they got nothing but time, so they do everything. Then they get a client, and then they get two clients, and then they get three clients. Then they start thinking of getting some help, but then they have no way to train that help, to delegate, and to figure out what that help should do.
What I try to do with every solopreneur in my network is to get them to start outsourcing components of their work even before they need it, because by the time you need it, it’s too hard for you to take the time it takes to build systems. You want to start doing that from the very beginning. I attribute this quote to Seth Godin. “Business owners make their to-do list every day and think to themselves, ‘How am I going to get all this done?’True entrepreneurs look at that same list and say, ‘How am I going to get somebody else to do all of this?’” That mindset has to start in the very beginning, or you’ll find yourself buried. Get help before you need it, but get help through systems and then delegate the systems.
I assume that this is a lot of what’s in your five books. Can you tell us a little bit about how the books break out, and maybe even the chronology of how they came about?
Duct Tape Marketing was the distillation of my marketing system. I had people ask me how long it took me to write that book. I said about twenty years, because it was how I approach marketing.
It has remained popular. I wrote it ten years ago now. A lot of what I talk about is strategy. We didn’t have social media, but it’s the whole strategic approach to marketing and the whole systematic thinking about marketing that has kept that book a top seller today in the small business marketing category.
Two years later, I had written an e-book on referrals. Before I had ever written Duct Tape Marketing or anything else, that was my entree into selling. I had a course on referral generation, because I looked around and found that most businesses tell you a great deal of their business but very few of them do anything about it. That was my entree into the online sales world. It turned into my second book called The Referral Engine. Those two books are by far my most popular books today still and thankfully have done well.
My third book, I wanted to take a real personal turn. It is called The Commitment Engine. I wanted to write about a more personal story. That book has not sold as well as my other books, but the people that do grab that book, the messages and the notes I get from them are much more passionate about what that book has meant to them. It does have a lot more self-awareness in it and vision for business and how to build a culture that is based in that vision for your business. Then I wrote Duct Tape Selling to bring some of the principles of marketing, particularly the inbound marketing and things that are going on today that are standards in marketing.
I believe that effective salespeople think more like marketers. That was my attempt to bridge that gap and bring sales and marketing together. I co-wrote the book SEO for Growth. While the name implies that that’s a very technical tactical book, we intentionally put the word “growth” in the title because SEO has evolved to the point when we’re talking about SEO, we’re talking about web design and content and social media at the same time. SEO has been elevated to a strategic level in my book.
I envy your ability to churn them out. That’s ten years and five books. I read your first book and I loved it. I thought you were right on. I thought that you made it easy for people to see the path that you were laying out. It leads to what you’re doing now with the consultant network. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about this?
There have been other people that have done a similar thing. You’ve been involved in an organization that built a licensing approach. It all comes back to helping small business owners. As an independent consultant, I can help about twelve or fourteen at a time. I wanted to build a big agency. To me, the way to have that same impact was to teach other people how to do it. Not necessarily clone myself by any means, but give other people the tools that allowed them to be successful in this business and to help small business owners in a way that I have continued to find effective. I built the infrastructure to support that, and it has grown. We started with five or six folks that flew into Kansas City and we talked about marketing. I gave them a binder and said good luck and we’ll talk in two weeks, to the point now where we’re at about 115 consultants.
We have a full online portal, we do live events together, we do bimonthly training, we have all kinds of guests come in to our events as well as on our monthly training, and we have relationships and partnerships with dozens of software and tool providers that not only provide special arrangements for us from a pricing standpoint but also provide additional training on the use of those tools. It all centers around these packages that we have been able to assemble so that a consultant who may be lacking years and years of marketing experience can walk in and confidently sell a $40,000 or $50,000 engagement, knowing that they had the ability to deliver all the things that we needed, web design, content, social media, reputation management, and even paper print advertising.
That’s the true definition of a certified consultant, someone who can deliver the same transformation as the original owner and the original product. 115 is quite a network. At this point, you can boast that you have almost nationwide coverage, would you say?
We’re in fourteen countries, as well as the United States. Admittedly most in North America, but we have a very active group in Canada, a few in Australia and the UK, a couple of interesting places like Singapore Vietnam, the middle eastern country Bahrain. We are a spread-out bunch these days.
If someone is interested in this whole idea of working with you and learning what you know how to do so they can have a readymade business and start getting some clients, how would they find out more about this whole consulting network that you’ve built?
The easiest place is an extension of Duct Tape Marketing, but it’s DuctTapeMarketingConsultant.com. There’s tons of resources there. If you’re interested, every other week I do a live discovery call where we outline all the benefits and answers to questions. We like to think that we’ve assembled the resources there that that you can decide if this is going to be a mutual fit.
John has generously offered to give us a nice discount on the online audit. You want to talk a little bit about that?
One of the one of the tools that our consultants use and absolutely love if you’re considering the consult network or if you just have a business that you want to understand your online presence better, we’ve developed a very comprehensive Total Online Presence Audit. It’s not a veiled sales presentation at all.
What you’ll do if you acquire the audit is we’ll look at your website under the hood. We’ll look at your analytics, we’ll look at your traffic, we’ll look at your content, your reputation out there online and with reviews, and we’ll look at the competitive landscape. We’ll come back and we’ll sit down for an hour and give you a full report on the issues we’ve found, things that need to be fixed immediately.
“Here’s a plan for your content going forward. Here are the recommendations that we have that we think are the highest priorities.”It’s something you can take to an agency that you are working with already today and say, “Do all this stuff.” It is a way to find out where you have some issues and how you can make some immediate improvements, whether you hire us to do any of it or not. You can see testimonials on the page of folks that rave about the value that we deliver for that. The cost of that is $799, but the link in the show notes will have a little coupon code there for you that will give you $100 off.
It’s useful. If you have a running business, what do you have to lose? A few hundred bucks? Give it a shot. This sounds like a fantastic tool. You’ve helped us get a great idea of what you’ve done and even some of the mistakes that you’ve made in the evolution of what a classic entrepreneur. You’ve evolved from being that classic entrepreneur to a successful business owner. You’ve held up a great example for many of us. Where is your passion today?
I don’t think it’s changed that much. Where I spend my time on that passion has changed, but I still maintain four or five small business clients. I run a good-sized organization now, but there’s still nothing that gives me more of a charge and looking at a keyword ranking report on my tree service and seeing it go up and knowing that that’s turning into phone calls and leads and business for them. That will never change. I am very passionate about that. Where I spend a great deal of my time though is creating that passion in others and creating that spark and that excitement and giving them the confidence and the tools to go out there and build their consulting practices. That’s where I spend a great deal of my time. As we get older, we start looking at the total impact that we want to make. That’s my ability to make the greatest impact, because I’m not only helping those 115 consulting practices but obviously the multiplication factor of the ten to fifteen small businesses that they’re helping at any given time.
I call you a conduit. You enable others to change the world through the work that you’ve done and through the systems you’ve provided. Would you agree with that?
It may sound dramatic, but I do think that that’s what we’re doing. There’s a lot of ways that people can make their mark, some more recognized ways to do that than others, but small business to me is the Bedrock of most countries’ economies and most countries’ political state and most countries’ well-being and quality of life. Focusing on helping that sector is a way that I can dramatically impact the world.
As we get older, our viewpoint shifts. If you think of a person looking straight ahead and they look at what’s in front of them every day and they look at the issues and the daily problems, we raise our sights up. We start to gaze at a higher level. From that place, what is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to change the world?
When I was consulting, I could help ten or twelve clients. Now as my consulting network, I don’t know what the capacity for that 300 or 400 consultants. What if I could teach those 300 or 400 consultants to go out and teach other million businesses and consulting agencies and business owners to get their life back? By virtue of the fact that they have figured out how to get this marketing thing to work in a small business or as being an entrepreneur, which to me is potentially one of the most freeing and gratifying options that we have available to us today, I’ll keep doing this for five more years personally. Another ten or twenty years of others carrying it forward could impact millions.
There are going to be listeners who right away are going to say, “I want to do that too. I want to help you. I want to help myself by following in your footsteps.”How can people get a hold of you if they have a question about anything you said today?
The easiest is DuctTapeMarketing.com. My e-mail is John@DuctTapeMarketing.com. Those are the easiest ways. There’s a contact page there, you can find it through there. I’m on Twitter and Facebook at Duct Tape Marketing as well.
Thank you so much. This has been such a pleasure catching up and hearing all about your fifth book and all the great stuff you’re doing. Thanks for showing up and thank you from the perspective of all the people that will be touched by your words going forward.
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- John Jantsch
- Duct Tape Marketing
- Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network
- The E-Myth
- The Referral Engine
- The Commitment Engine
- Duct Tape Selling
- SEO for Growth
- Total Online Presence Audit
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