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CT Expert Insights: 7 Effective Small Business Marketing Strategies with John Jansch

Small businesses can find the task of marketing overwhelming and often don’t know where to start. Veteran marketing consultant John Jantsch demystifies this essential business function by providing seven straightforward, highly effective marketing strategies—even for those with limited budgets—for promoting a company’s products and services and attracting the right customers.

John Jantsch is a small business consultant, speaker, and bestselling author of several books, including Duct Tape Marketing. His latest book is The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur.



Greg Corombos: Hi, I'm Greg Corombos. Our guest this week on Expert Insights is John Jansch. He's a veteran marketing coach and award-winning blogger. He's the author of Duct Tape Marketing, and his brand new book is The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur, which you can find at Today, John Jansch joins us to discuss the seven steps to small business marketing. And John, thanks so much for being with us.

John Jansch: Hey, thanks for having me, Greg.

GC: Well, standing out as a small business, and specifically a small business, can be a daunting task, particularly if you have competitors in your field, which in most cases, you will. And so step one is figuring out exactly who you want as a customer. You call it narrowing your market focus. How do you do that?

JJ: A lot of times businesses are under the assumption, if I'm a remodeling contractor, that anybody who has a home is a customer. Or if I'm an accounting firm, that anybody who has to do their taxes is a customer. And what we find is, if we're in business for any amount of time, is that there is probably a narrowly defined ideal customer. One who values what you do that goes through your process that has the...first off the problem that you're great at solving and the means to pay for that problem. And that's not everyone. And so figuring out who that is, and then building your business and your messaging and your story really around attracting them, and addressing the problems that they have is just step number one.

GC: And so positioning yourself as a bathroom remodeler, as opposed to, hey, I'll fix anything, I'll redo anything in your house, is actually going to get a better response. Because the instinct would be, well, if I cast a wide net, I'll get more people.

JJ: That's right. And unfortunately, what happens with that is then, you know, then you're just kind of swimming in the same pond with everybody who says the same thing. But by having some narrow focus...and it doesn't have to be, I only fixed bathrooms. It might just might be geographic, I work in this particular area. Or it actually might be somebody who is meticulous about design, and that, you know, that's our specialty. In fact, we have an architect on staff so we can do a better job of designing your bathroom. So the key is just to figure out what you do well, figure out the problem you actually solve, and then go after the people you can deliver the most value for.

GC: Step two is positioning your business, figuring out what you do best and what that target market that you've defined in step one wants. And part of it is crafting a core marketing message that allows you to separate yourself from your competitors. So explain how do you give yourself that edge?

JJ: You betcha. So 90% of the websites out there, if you go there, above the fold right when you get there, it's going to say, here's what we do. We're remodeling contractors, or we're accounting, or we’re plumbers. I mean, we know that already. And so all you're really doing is making yourself like everybody else who is in that industry. What we want to do is find a way to address the major problem that our ideal client is trying to solve and make sure that above the fold, we're actually screaming, we promise to solve your problem. You know...people don't necessarily come to a website or look for a business. I mean, the assumption is, if you're a tree service, for example, that you can cut down trees, that you know what you're doing, that you have the equipment to do that. What we don't know is, are you going to show up on time? Are you going to clean up the job site? So what we do is, we actually interview our clients’ clients. And today increasingly, we look at their reviews, particularly their five star reviews. And what happens is we start hearing messages that really should be your core message. The example I gave is a real one. We are a tree service that...every single one of their reviews say they show up on time, and they clean up the job site. Well, that's the problem that other tree services are not solving. And so that's the message that we lead with, and we obviously accentuate that and amplify that in all of our messaging. But above the fold, you're going to see, we show up what when we say we are going to. We clean up the job site. Because that's the problem that they really saw.

GC: Step three is creating education-based marketing materials. In other words, give them something for free, get them interested in what you do. And if they say interested in what you do, then they'll come to you for actual business

JJ: Content, you know, is really the voice of strategy. It's not just oh, we need to have a blog, so we can write some stuff so hopefully, we attract some people. It is how you help people understand that you understand their problem, that you have a process to solve it. And a lot of times when people are thinking about, say, for example, thinking about hiring a marketing consultant, which I am, they don't wake up usually and say, I think I'm going to go hire a marketing consultant. They start by saying, why are my competitors showing up ahead of me? How come I'm always competing on price? They're looking for answers to the problem. And we have to actually kind of lead them to the fact that, hey, a marketing consultant with a system like ours can actually solve your problem. But we're never going to get that chance unless we gain the trust in order for them to say, yeah, these guys are different.

GC: Step four is never cold call. And it seems a little bit like step one. In other words, you want to narrow your focus. And in the beginning, it's figuring out who your customer is. And this one, it's don't advertise or market in a broad way. Figure out again, who your customer is, and figure out a way to entice them. So just putting out the, “hey, we do this” ad isn't going to be as effective. So how do you tailor messages where people understand that, yes, this niche is exactly what I need right now.

JJ: Well, so the idea behind never cold call, I mean, obviously, you know, ways in which...our prospects buy today is the biggest thing that's changed. I mean, they don't have to listen to our messages. They don't have to get take our phone calls. They don't have to, you know, they don't have to have their doors open to us to come walking straight in. I mean, they are in control and in charge of kind of how they interact with anybody that's really trying to sell anything. So the idea behind that is really more along this idea of trust. So never cold call. Certainly, having somebody search online and find that customers are saying great things about you is an aspect of that. Having your customers, talk about you and give referrals is an aspect of that. You producing great content that makes them want to come back next week and the next week is an aspect of that. And that's really kind of the biggest point that I was getting at is, you know, just running… We have businesses that do this all the time, you know, just running Google AdWords ads is kind of like cold calling. You are going to get a percentage of the folks who have an immediate need, maybe, for what you do. But you're not going to get those, what I think are probably more ideal situations and customers where they're going to come to know, like and trust you, and ultimately become advocates for you.

GC: Step five is earn media attention. Essentially find out who the journalists are that cover would do and be available to be a source for their work, whether it's TV or radio or print or internet or whatever it is. In some businesses that obviously is fairly easy to do. If you're a doctor and it's flu season, you could be, obviously, a source for someone in the media. If you run a craft shop, however, there's not necessarily major news stories that deal with that. So if it's not something that's often in the news, how do you nudge your way in there

JJ: Today, you know...and again, some of these steps are universal, but they have evolved. Today, a huge part of earned media is social media. Sharing good things on social media, having things to say that people want to share, having great content on your website that people want to link to, you know, is an important part of that idea of earning media. So it's not just the traditional publications. A lot of the traditional publications are slowly dying and going away. But the idea of getting people to share and earning mentions has become a huge part of social media.

GC: Step six is to expect referrals. And essentially, this is kind of training your customers to become an ambassador for your business, and in turn, creating new clients and new customers for you. How do you get your customer in that mindset?

JJ: Obviously, you have to be referable. They have to have a good experience. I mean, that's, you know, hopefully that goes without saying. But what a lot of organizations do is they do great work, and they have a happy customer, and they have a happy solution. And then, you know, maybe they go back 60 days later or once a year and say, hey, anybody else who needs what we do? And sometimes that helps, it works, but it's so out of context by that point. I like to tell people that you have to design your referral touchpoints. And the first one is really in the upfront. We know you're going to be so thrilled with what we've promised to do today that we're going to come back to you in 90 days after, 60 days after we deliver this result. And we're gonna make sure you're happy, and at that point we'd love it if you'd introduce us to two other people. So here before somebody’s even become a customer, you're planting the seed for that. Now, obviously, you have to then have the process to go back and collect those referrals and make sure that they're happy. But it's such a strong positive message on the front end. We know you're going to be happy, we're going to make sure you're happy. And then we're going to let you tell somebody else how to be happy. So you know, get over this idea of I'm asking or begging for business. You're allowing your customers to actually help somebody else get a great result,

GC: Just about a minute left in our conversation with John Jantsch. And the final step, step seven, is live by a calendar, which is all about organization. That's essentially mapping out a plan in order to put the first six steps into practice. So what are the best practices for that?

JJ: Well, so what we like to do is, I mean, some businesses are great. They can do a whole year plan, and that can be okay. But, then life happens. So what we like to think about is quarters. Let's have two or three major objectives this quarter. Let's map out our content or what we at least think we're going to do in social media and maybe in blogging and things. Because it makes sense, you know, to meet our overall objectives, rather than just kind of waiting on Monday, like a lot of people do, and say, what should we write about this week? So it keeps you on task. It keeps you focused on your highest priorities, so that you don't just get bogged down and drifting because, you know, life happens, and the to-do list blows up, and you don't get to the things that should really move the needle.

GC: You're not organized, things don't happen. And if you don't put them on a calendar, they often don't happen. So, John, excellent advice. We obviously just scratched the surface. Folks can certainly go to your website to learn more. Thank you very much for your time today. We greatly appreciate it.

JJ: My pleasure.

GC: John Jantsch, veteran marketing coach, award-winning blogger, author of Duct Tape Marketing. The new book is The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur: 366 Daily Meditations to Feed Your Soul and Grow Your Business. You can find that at I'm Greg Corombos. This is Expert Insights.

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