As a renowned marketing guru and small business coach, John Jantsch has become a leading advisor on how to build and grow a thriving business. In his trusted book for small businesses, he challenges readers to craft a marketing strategy that is as reliable as the go-to household item we all know, love, and turn to in a pinch: duct tape. Duct Tape Marketing shows readers how to develop and execute a marketing plan that yields more revenue and ensures the longevity of small businesses. Taking a strategic, systemic approach to marketing rather than being constantly won over to a “marketing idea of the week” helps small business leaders establish a solid“sticky”foundation of trust with their customers that only grows stronger with the application of more and more metaphorical tape. You’ll learn how to turn your marketing efforts into a lead generation machine and move far beyond your week-to-week strategizing to create long-term plans for your business’s continual growth. Plus, the revised and updated edition of this industry-leading book includes all new tools, rules, and tactics that respond to the ways social media and digital developments have shifted and evolved the marketing landscape. Let's face it: as a small business owner, you are really in the business of marketing. This practical, actionable guide includes fresh ideas that stick where you put themand stand the test of time.
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About the Author
John Jantsch is the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing System. For more than twenty years he has coached and consulted small business owners and independent professionals in simple and low-cost methods for growing and promoting their businesses. His blog, Duct Tape Marketing, was recognized by Forbes magazine as the best blog on small business and marketing.
Read an Excerpt
Duct Tape MarketingThe World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide
By John Jantsch
Nelson BusinessCopyright © 2007 John Jantsch
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIdentify Your Ideal Client
When I talk to groups of small business owners at workshops, I will often make the statement that when you properly target your clients, you will discover that you no longer have to work with jerks. I always get a laugh when I say this, but I can also see people in the audience nod in relief.
You can choose to attract clients that value what you offer, view working with you as a partnership, and want you to succeed, but only if you have a picture of what that ideal client looks like.
The primary purpose of this foundational step is to help you identify, describe, and focus on a narrow target of clients or segments that are perfectly suited for your business. This may actually include the discovery of several ideal segments.
I want to emphasize this notion of ideal for a moment. I intentionally use this term to help introduce the concept of business relationships. In healthy client/ business interactions, the idea of a relationship is at the forefront of all dealings. In a healthy relationship, both parties have responsibilities, needs, and goals. Helping each other get what they need is a given in a good relationship.
In a healthy small business marketing relationship, the same applies. So, this notion of ideal customer comes with some givens. When you create a fully functioning marketing system, one that produces predictable results, you gain the confidence to choose who you see as an ideal client. That's not about snobbery; it's about basic survival. Clients who don't respect the value you bring, don't pay on time, and don't do their part will drag your marketing business down faster than any other business dynamic.
If you don't take this step seriously, not only will it be difficult for you to grow your business predictably, you will find yourself with ill-mannered customers.
The Ideal Prospect
One of the reasons we focus so much attention on this notion of defining an ideal target client is that all clients were at one time prospects. So, in effect, what we are really doing here is getting you to define and focus on your Ideal Prospect. Much of your marketing focus, at least initially, will be on creating more and more Ideal Prospects or leads. You will eventually come to the point where you can predict with a fair amount of accuracy that if you generate a certain number of Ideal Prospects, you will in turn convert a predictable number of those prospects to customers.
Let History Guide You
One of the easiest ways to start to get this picture of who or what makes an ideal client is to take a close look at the customers your business has attracted to date. You may find that some segment of your existing business makes up a very focused market. I suggest that you create a spreadsheet of your existing customers and create as many columns as needed to add as much detail as you can about each. Start with the name of the firm or individual, their industry, the service or product they purchase, and the revenue they generated in the last three years or so. We will add more information to this, but once you complete this most basic review, a faint picture of your ideal client will begin to come into focus. Another very positive potential outcome of this initial exercise is that many business owners will then also be able to clearly identify markets that they should drop. Holdovers from past business initiatives or old directions can muddy your brand and may in fact be costing your business more than they return.
As a rule of thumb, at this point you should consider firing about 20 percent of your past customers simply on the basis that they no longer fit into the picture of your current business. That may sound a bit harsh, but I suspect that neither you nor they are profiting from the relationship at the moment. Set them up with another supplier and everybody wins.
In order to get started drawing the clearest possible picture of your Ideal Prospect, we first focus on identifying common physical characteristics. Marketing folks call these demographics.
For consumers, demographic characteristics include:
For commercial or business clients, demographic characteristics include:
Number of employees
Type of business
Geographic scope of business
Again, this isn't a score-keeping exercise. You want to keep an eye on characteristics that your best or ideal clients have in common. Look for patterns that never occurred to you previously.
This is a tougher one, but may bear fruit if you can tap it. The characteristics that fall to the emotional side are what market research firms would call psychographics. The study of psychographic characteristics gets at the emotional makeup of prospects that may give clues to how they make decisions and whom they will ultimately like and trust.
Discovering common emotional characteristics is a bit more of an art than science-but it's an important art. What you are looking for here are things like values, fears, desires, and goals. What do they want out of life? What are they not getting? What do they need to know to feel comfortable? What's holding them back? Let me stress here that there is nothing inherently manipulative in this type of reflection. The point of defining your Ideal Prospect is simply to understand how your company can deliver the greatest value to everyone you work with. Understanding the emotional decision-making process of your prospect is an important piece of that equation.
One of the best ways to accumulate this type of information is to retrace many of your sales calls, including the ones where you did not get the results you had hoped for. Many times, the objections, questions, and resistance that your prospects pose are really clues that you have not gained their trust or answered their emotional needs when making a purchase.
Another clue to this type of research is to understand lifestyle patterns of your Ideal Prospects. Sometimes being on the lookout for hobbies, interests, books and magazines they read, musical preferences, and travel tastes can produce a deeper glimpse into what your Ideal Prospect really cares about.
Know, like, and trust-It's a fact that people often like people who have the same interests. For the small business marketer, building business on relationships may be very much about doing business with clients who have similar beliefs and interests. This isn't a popularity contest, but all things being equal, a buying decision will tip to the business or salesperson the buyer likes the most. All things not being equal, a buying decision will tip to the business or salesperson the buyer likes the most-it's called human nature.
What's the Problem?
Let's revisit our definition of marketing here-getting people, who have a specific need or problem, to know, like, and trust you.
Without a need or problem, you don't really have a market. So, what's the problem? What are your customers attempting to solve when they buy your products or retain your services?
I define problem, for our purposes, very broadly to include needs and wants. A problem may well be getting their computers to talk to each other, but it may also be a burning desire to look good to their peers.
The point is not to necessarily understand or judge what people are really buying as it is to identify and acknowledge what you are really selling. Here's the cold hard truth-no matter what you think you are selling or providing, it is the customer who ultimately determines what you are selling. You don't sell goods and services, you sell solutions to problems.
So, what do you really sell? Is it peace of mind, status, pain relief? State this revelation as bluntly as possible, and your marketing business will benefit immediately.
Location, Location, Location
For some businesses, location is a primary marketing issue. Retail businesses, for instance, commonly depend on a certain defined trading area for clients. Some businesses discover that shipping a product or even making sales calls beyond a certain area is cost prohibitive. It can be helpful to plot on a map the location of your current clients to determine if you have a trading pattern or if certain geographic areas are more desirable in terms of target market concentration.
Businesses that don't feel any real geographic constraints should complete this mapping exercise, as you may discover patterns that lead you to pockets of business. In other words, there may very well be a concentration of businesses in certain industries that you serve that you were not aware of until you actually pinpointed the physical location of each client. Hanging a customer pin map on the wall can be a fun way to keep the focus on your clients too.
How Clients Make Buying Decisions
It's important to understand how your ideal clients come to a buying decision for your product or service. Is it by committee, bid, RFP, gut feeling, referral, impulse, or some other process? Perhaps there is no real pattern here, but if you can understand a little more about how your ideal clients buy, you can focus on setting up your education system to address their decision-making process.
Best Ways to Reach Them
Some narrowly defined markets are very easy to reach; others are very difficult. One of the considerations when defining and ultimately narrowing a target market is to be confident that you can actually reach them to help them know you and learn to like and trust you and your company.
Is there an association that serves this market? Are there publications focused on this market? Can you buy mailing lists made up of this market? Can you network with this market? Add these details to your spreadsheet to help the picture to come into even better focus.
The Value Factor
One of the guiding principles of the Duct Tape Marketing approach is the ability to charge a premium for your products and services within a chosen target market.
You cannot make a market out of people who should need what you offer, even if they desperately do need what you offer. When making the final determination of whether you should narrow your focus on a given market niche, you must determine if this market values what you have to offer enough to pay a premium for your expertise and understanding of this given market.
Don't have an answer for this one? Look around for companies that already seem to be thriving in this market. You may be able to find the answers you are seeking based on some readily available information they publish (more on competitive research in the next chapter).
Is It a Viable Market?
Okay, now it's decision time. By this point you should have discovered all there is to know about your Ideal Prospect. Now you've got a decision to make. Is this a viable market?
Is the market large enough to support your business growth goals?
Can you easily promote your business to the decision makers in this market?
Does this market value what you do enough to pay a premium?
I want to reemphasize my call that you take all that you have learned in this chapter and commit your business to serving one or more very well-defined market niches-at the exclusion of all that don't fit your narrow ideal market description or segments.
By focusing on a very specific market niche you are free to develop products and services tailored to its specific needs. Your language and processes then can send a very clear signal that you do indeed understand those unique needs.
Many times niche markets can be easier to communicate with. A specific industry will likely have a trade association, publication, or mailing list readily available. Personalizing your marketing to this easily identifiable group and identifying them by name (construction company owners, salon owners, or chronic headache sufferers) will dramatically increase the effectiveness of your communications.
When you focus on a narrow target market, you will often encounter much less competition and hold a competitive edge over generalists who claim to also serve this market.
My Dirty Little Marketing Research Secret
I have to tell you that the one place I turn to keep myself rooted in how the world thinks and buys-you know, marketing research-is People magazine.
Personally, I don't really care what Mary Kate Olsen's next big move is, but for about twenty years running, more people turn to People than any other magazine, and that speaks volumes about what the editors at People have got going on. A tough thing for some small business owners to swallow is that it doesn't really matter what you like or dislike, what matters is what your target market likes or dislikes. If your target market is men and women ages 25-54, then People magazine is a gold mine of research for your target market. (Think it's a woman's magazine? Well, 33 percent of People readers are men-about 12 million.)
So, what we're talking about here is research. Read (or at least scan) People magazine for these reasons:
Get a feel for what the majority of Americans want to fight, find, lose, gain, have, give, or embrace.
See design and copy that is easy to scan, read, and digest.
Uncover story angles that could apply to your organization's PR.
If you already read People, maybe you have a sense of what I'm talking about. If not, carve out an hour, go to the library, and grab about ten issues and start looking through the pages with this new view in mind. You might find some real nuggets. Plus, now you can tell your friends that you only read People for research purposes.
More Than One Segment
In some cases you may need to segment your market into several very distinct markets. This may be because your ideal target markets have different needs for your product, or it may be because different products or services that you offer appeal to different, distinct markets.
Many businesses practice this approach already, but when a Duct Tape marketer takes this tack, it is with the intent of creating marketing that is tailored to the needs of this specific market niche.
Don't have an ideal client yet?
To locate hot market opportunities, think about problems and ways to solve them. In other words, look for people, industries, or companies that have a problem that no one is solving and target solving them. With this approach, it doesn't really matter if they are big, little, new, or old-the defining characteristic is a need. Some of the greatest market innovations in history have taken this approach.
I read once that that Steven Jobs of Apple Computer defined the target market for the iPod as "people who didn't want to carry around 10,000 CDs." That definition likely explains why young and old, techie and non-techie could be seen snapping up iPods faster than stores could stock them.
So what problem exists that you could solve, that could define an entire market opportunity? Is it small businesses that can't afford a certain solution? Is it people who don't need full service? Is it someone who wants something faster, smaller, or hassle-free? People who don't like paperwork? Companies that want same-day something? A market of people in transition?
Residential real estate agent Melinda Bartling decided to focus on marketing to women with changing lifestyles. She knew what she was doing had caught on when Mary, a friend she networked with, referred Melinda to a friend of hers who needed to downsize her home. Melinda thanked her for the referral and then asked why Mary didn't refer her friend to Mary's own son who sold real estate. She told her that he would have been too impatient and that she chose her because that was her specialty!
Her Web site, www.mychanginglifestyle.com, is a valuable resource for local buyers as well as sellers and women relocating to the area. Any woman coming on board with her firm also has the opportunity for meeting other women with similar interests.
What irritation in your industry does everyone just live with? When have you heard your clients or even your competitors mutter, "That's just the way it is in this business"? Start looking at things differently!
Excerpted from Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch Copyright © 2007 by John Jantsch. Excerpted by permission.
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