John Jantsch is a leading marketing consultant for small businesses and founder of Duct Tape Marketing. In our podcast, John encourages web designers to step up their game, describes his Marketing Hourglass approach, and talks about the biggest mistake small businesses make.

With over 25 years of experience, John Jantsch is a top marketing consultant for small businesses and the founder of Duct Tape Marketing, named by Forbes magazine one of the 100 Best Websites for Entrepreneurs.

John trains and licenses independent marketing consultants, coaches and agencies on the use of the Duct Tape Marketing System around the world. He is an in-demand speaker and a best-selling author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Referral Engine, and The Commitment Engine.


Think of Yourself as a Marketing Strategist

As a marketer who specializes in small businesses, John thinks that it’s not enough today to be a good web designer to succeed, you have to step up your game to be able to help your client with their marketing strategy:

“There’s a lot of deprogramming and a lot of therapy involved in some cases. It’s not just designers. I mean, it’s SEO people. It’s content people. That marketing is a system, and if this stuff doesn’t all work together … In fact, that’s why I think, as a web designer, if you’re not elevating your game and basically saying, ‘No, I’m not a web designer. I am a marketing strategist who happens to also design websites,’ it’s very tough. Because if somebody comes to you … I mean, I’m sure you see this all the time. Somebody comes to you and says, ‘We need a new website.’ Okay? For whom? What message? What’s your brand promise? What’s the customer journey like that?

A lot of designers who are certainly good designers understand that they have to get that information. They have to understand that information if they’re going to develop a good product. Well, that’s marketing strategy. So as a web designer, if you’re not saying, ‘Okay. Stop, business owner. We’re going to now do strategy. We’re going to understand what your customer journey is. We’re going to understand what your editorial plan is before we actually start designing anything.’ The problem with that, of course, is if you’re set up just as a designer, it’s going to be hard to get paid for that kind of work. But if you don’t do that work, you can’t do a good job. So it’s really kind of a catch 22, I think, for a lot of folks.

I mentioned at the beginning of the show, we have a network of independent consultants. Well, about of third of those consultants are former web design firms who have now realized they have to add these other services or they’re just going to be seen as a vendor. There are definitely a lot of people who are doing great work on their own, freelance. Somebody comes to them, says, “I need this great site.” They design a great site, and they ship it, and they’re done. But I think to truly elevate your game, you have to think of yourself as a marketing strategist, and you have to probably position yourself as such because the website is frankly a tool for marketing. It’s become such an essential tool that, I think if you want to survive in this world that we live in today, start thinking about leading with strategy first.”


What Is the Marketing Hourglass?

When marketers think of a sales funnel, they would usually start with a large target group and somehow squeeze a few clients down through the small end of the funnel.

However, John has been promoting for years a different and more holistic approach that he calls The Marketing Hourglass. We asked him to describe this approach:

“The whole idea of the funnel is to get a whole bunch of people excited, then keep that marketing to the ones that show some interest, and voila, a few of them will pop out and they’ll be customers. For a lot of people, that’s where they end the journey. The idea of the hourglass. In fact, if you think about the hourglass shape, yes, there is a funnel aspect to somebody coming to know, like, and trust your business. But, once they try and buy, that’s where, to me, the magic happens. The greatest source of lead generation for many businesses is a happy customer. So the idea of the hourglass is that we put the emphasis on the customer experience after, in fact, the buying experience. After somebody is all revved up and wants to buy from us, we keep the excitement just as high by focusing processes and campaigns specifically on these seven stages of know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer.

People talk about demand creation. I think that the world we’re in today, the job of a lot of marketers is just organizing behavior. It’s these behaviors that people want to go on these journeys people want to go on. We just have to understand them and put ourselves in the right place, answering the right questions, meeting the right objectives at each of those stages, those changing stages of the journey. We actually use the marketing hourglass as a tool, in same cases, to design an entire set of tactics. It’s as simple as saying, “Let’s understand a buyer journey. How do people find a business like ours? Once they find a business like ours, what makes them like that business? What makes them want to know more? How do we build trust?” And so on. Try, buy, repeat, and refer. That we actually build our entire tactic map around the journey of those seven stages.”


Two Common Mistakes Small Businesses Make

We asked John what common mistakes he usually sees that small businesses make, when they try to get more clients. This is what he told us:

“I’d say the two biggest ones that I see is that they believe everyone is their customer. If I’m an accountant, anybody who does a tax return, or anybody who has a business is my customer. That sort of broad approach leads to nobody thinking they’re your customer. So really narrowing your focus on who do you serve? Who has the problem that you can solve?

I’ll give you an example. A tree service that we worked with believed anybody who had trees that needed to be cut down was their customer. We surveyed their customers. We actually talked to them. We just kept hearing over and over and over again that they show up when they say they’re going to, and they clean up the yard when they’re done. So the problem that they were solving was that and not the fact that somebody had a tree they needed cut down. Because the belief was anybody who cuts trees down can do that, but they won’t show up when they say they’re going to, and they’ll leave a mess.

So by understanding that that was the problem they were solving, that was the unique thing that they actually offered to the world, we were actually able to use that as a message that really targets and attracts people who care about that. They care less about price. They want that service. They want that convenience. They’re busy working adults. They need that appointment time set up. That’s who actually … People don’t think about that as targeting, narrowly targeting, but what it allowed them to do is attract people who appreciated what they did and would pay them a premium for it. That’s mistake number one.

Mistake number two, particularly in the last 10 years, is that with every new channel that opens up, every new platform that opens up, I feel like I have to be on there for some reason. We work with all these business owners that, again, local business that are on Twitter, and they’re tweeting to nobody. It’s like, “Why are you expending the energy or the belief that you need to be there? Let’s find, based on your strategy, where your people hang out, where you can put your priorities.” Let’s face it. You only have so much time. So what’s going to be the valuable, the most valuable return on your time spent. Let’s do less, but let’s do it better.

That message. In fact, I sometimes joke and tell people my biggest value that I bring to people is to tell them what not to do sometimes.”