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Duct Tape Marketing – Lessons from America

What does Duct Tape Marketing mean and what relevance is it to me? This short article is designed to introduce the concept of Duct Tape Marketing and to give some practical advice based on the idea.

What is Duct Tape Marketing?

Duct Tape Marketing is the name of the best-selling small-business-marketing guide from John Jantsch. ‘Duct Tape’ is, of course, a fabric-reinforced vinyl tape (typically black or silver grey) that is renowned for its versatility, strength and low cost. John Jantsch uses this metaphor to illustrate that the marketing techniques he prescribes are also low cost, versatile and practical. In fact an emphasis on practicality is a constant theme for him.  His primary intention is to educate small business owners and entrepreneurs about the benefits of implementing a practically oriented marketing system that is both highly effective and competitively priced.

The context

One thing evident from an analysis of marketing literature is the heavy preponderance of marketing academics (as distinct from practitioners) writing on the subject. This has resulted in a significant body of material based on academic theories and models. Author John Jantsch come at it from a different angle. Using his perspective and experience he recommends practical marketing advice and tips that cut straight to the issues at hand. In essence, this is the core of the Duct Tape Marketing process – marketing using practical activities that help to ensure that your company is known, liked and trusted by your target market.

Who is responsible for marketing?

This is, of course, a rhetorical question. There is pretty much universal agreement now that marketing is everyone’s responsibility, given its all-pervasive nature. Again, this is something John Jantsch wholeheartedly espouses. Marketing is not something tacked onto a small business, but rather an integral component from day one. Ensuring a strong marketing culture permeates all elements of your business is critical, as ultimately, marketing is about creating awareness for your product or service, gaining trust and finally delivering value.

“If you get nothing else from this book, get this: you are in the marketing business. Marketing is an all-encompassing outlook that must inform every activity of your business,” writes Jantsch.

The primary audience for Duct Tape Marketing is entrepreneurs and small business owners, people who typically perform numerous functions within their business. Multitasking as a skill is a prerequisite for most entrepreneurs. However, these entrepreneurs are also the very same people who often relegate ‘marketing’ to the sides as it drops down the ‘To Do’ list. This is also why the Duct Tape Marketing message is so important and so timely!

Key Lessons

There are three main areas covered in the book:

  1. Creating Trust – getting prospects to know about your business, like you and trust you.
  2. Generating Action – ensuring that these prospects act on their connection to you.
  3. Replicating Success – finding out what works and then concentrating resources for maximum effect.

Together, these three areas create a holistic marketing system.

1. Creating Trust

Creating familiarity with and trust in your company, and its product or service is one of the most fundamental components of any marketing activity. If no one knows about your business, how can you expect to make money? However, creating awareness and then trust is not as easy as it seems. We live in an increasingly media cluttered world where people receive a daily bombardment of different marketing messages from disparate sources. The aim of all entrepreneurs is to make their idea stand out from the crowd, and to get themselves noticed by their target market. Without trust there will be no action and without action no revenue.

The Duct Tape Marketing System commences with the notion of an ideal customer or client. The recommendation to entrepreneurs is to identify an ideal client (or clients) first, and to then decide how best to reach them. You decide where best to target your marketing activities. This necessarily means you are NOT trying to serve everyone. By limiting your focus, you increase your perceived legitimacy as someone who understands this particular customer’s needs.

Only after there is a good understanding of your ideal customer can you design appropriate branding, marketing materials and product features for this market. Jantsch emphasizes that you want to offer products and services for each stage of prospect/customer cultivation, from free educational offerings for prospects through to loyalty offerings for repeat customers. An additional key element is the use of the Internet to help create awareness through the creation of a website.

A final component implicit in the process of ‘creating trust’ is the need to undertake marketing activities with integrity. Generating awareness without engendering trust is not going to lead to any action in stage two.

2. Generating Action

Once you have created familiarity and generated an element of trust, the next stage is generating leads and encouraging action. In practical terms, this involves the target for your marketing activities (leads) acting on the messages and buying your product or service. It does not stop there however, as these customers can be vital in generating further custom or referrals based on their perceptions after their initial purchase action.

There are a number of methods suggested by Jantsch to motivate those prospects who didn’t act following the trust stage. Jantsch is a keen advocate of direct response advertising. This is advertising where the customer is enticed to engage with an advert or website. Typically this will take the form of a coupon, free offer, or discount in return for the prospect acting, be that providing data or clipping a coupon out. For example, on our site we offer a free business plan eBook in return for a name and email. The beauty of this model is these prospects are highly qualified leads who you can then market to. He is also a keen advocate of direct mailing where you send offers to appropriately targeted leads.

With all of these methods, the message from Jantsch is clear – these are not activities that should take place in isolation. These activities need to coexist with appropriate PR and other marketing activities. Marketing needs to take many measureable forms where you can clearly identify responses (and actions) to specific activities so as to ensure that the various activities you undertake are driving action. For example, Web analytics products such as Google Analytics can be used to manage the effectiveness of disparate marketing activities that result in customers engaging with a website.

The final component to the lead generation initiatives relates to referral-based marketing. On this Jantsch is unequivocal:

‘If you provide a product or service that helps people solve problems and meet needs, then you are doing a disservice to your customers and the world … if you don’t actively seek referrals.’

3. Replicating Success

The final section advises the reader to analyse which marketing activities have worked and to do more of them. The emphasis now is on planning, with Jantsch recommending that goals be set, budgets worked out and a marketing calendar prepared for the year to come. The key marketing activities for the year will be correlated with the achievements of the previous year. The focus is on goal setting with clear metrics related to revenue and profitability with specific activities put in place to achieve them.

Alan Gleeson is the Managing Director of Palo Alto Software, Ltd, creators of Marketing Plan Pro® powered by Duct Tape Marketing. He holds an MBA from Oxford University and an MSc from University College, Cork, Ireland. For further information on planning visit and

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