In this episode, we discuss how John got started in marketing and how he started Duct Tape Marketing.
John gives tips and advice how freelancers and moonlighting professionals with day jobs can start their own agencies.
We also discuss the best ways for professional service providers to generate leads and get new business today.
About John Jantsch
John Jantsch has been called the World’s Most Practical Small Business Expert for consistently delivering proven real-world, small business marketing ideas and strategies.
John frequently consults with small and mid-sized businesses, helping them create marketing plans and organized marketing systems that smooth the way for steady growth.
He is a veteran speaker and workshop leader with over 500 successful events under his belt.
His blog was chosen as a Forbes favorite for marketing and small business and his podcast, The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast — a top-ten marketing show on iTunes — was called a “must listen” by Fast Company magazine.
Huffington Post calls John one of the top 100 “Must Follow” on Twitter, and Forbes named Duct Tape Marketing one of the 100 Best Websites for Entrepreneurs.
He is the featured marketing contributor to American Express OPENForum and is a popular workshop and webinar presenter for organizations such as American Express, Intuit, Verizon, HP, and Citrix.
John’s practical take on small business is often cited as a resource in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and CNNMoney.
John Jantsch is the Peter Drucker of small business marketing tactics.
– Seth Godin
Lead Generation and SEO books:
Questions I Ask John Jantsch
- Before building Duct Tape Marketing into what it is today, did you leave a comfortable salary job to start a “risky” new business?
- What things do you love about Kansas City? Favorite places, food, teams, characteristics, etc.?
- What is working today in terms of lead generation for professional services companies?
- What do you tell would-be entrepreneurs with day-jobs that need the steady paycheck and benefits to provide for their families?
- The $10k Question: if you woke up tomorrow with all your knowledge, but none of your business assets or connections, what would you start working on today?
About Duct Tape Marketing and John Jantsch
Phil Singleton: Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Local Business Leaders podcast. I’ve got a very special guest today with me, John Jantsch. He’s a Duct Tape Marketing consultant, a speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine, the Referral Engine, and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
His latest book SEO For Growth, it’s a great book I co-wrote, The Ultimate Guide for Marketers, We Designers, and Entrepreneurs, is changing the way the world thinks about SEO. Hey, John. Welcome to the show.
John Jantsch: So glad to be here, Phil. I’m so glad you’ve gotten into podcasting. I’ve been working on you for years.
Leaving a Day Job to Start a New Business
Phil Singleton: It’s only been three years, right? All right. Well, there’s a couple of things I wanted to dig into today. The first one we want to talk about and ask you is something I’ve been asking everybody that’s come on the show. Before your success with Duct Tape Marketing and building the Duct Tape Marketing empire, early on in your career did you have the point like a lot of us do where you left the safety of a corporate job or something that seemed a little less scary and then you maybe jumped out into the world without a safety net, so to speak, and came into a port where you’re going to be an independent consultant or something where you’re going to try and start your own business? Explain that scary feeling and how you went from there.
John Jantsch: Yeah, I suppose mine isn’t the same as a lot of people. Actually my whole career I’ve owned my own marketing consulting firm for coming up on 30 years. I got out of college, went to work for an ad agency for about five years, and felt like I wanted to do my own thing. I liked hustling, I liked selling.
I didn’t like doing the same thing day in, day out. I just without any real plan I started my marketing consulting agency, which was really code for going out and hustling projects. Anybody who said that I had a problem or had some marketing need I said, “Sure, I can do that.”
Probably five or six years into that I decided that I really enjoyed working with small business owners. Unfortunately, that also came with the frustration and the fact that they never had the same budgets or attention spans or resources. I, this is around 2000, said, “You know what I need to do in order to sell that frustration and for me to profitably grow a business is I need to start a marketing consulting firm where I walk in and say, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do, here’s what you’re going to do, here’s the results we expect to get, here’s what I cost. Take it or leave it.”
Everyone is selling a piece of the puzzle…it’s very hard for a small business owner to put any of that together in a strategic sense
– John Jantsch
I guess that was that moment where I said I’m going to change everything about how I go to business or go to market with my business. In trying to sell my greatest frustration I think I ultimately maybe accidentally tapped into one of the greatest frustrations still today for many small businesses. It’s actually hard to buy marketing services as a small business owner. Everybody is selling a piece of the puzzle, a fraction of this and, “I’ll do this for you” and, “I’ll do that”.
It’s very hard for a small business owner to put any of that together in a strategic sense. My proposition was kind of music to their ears. That was really the genesis of Duct Tape Marketing. I decided if I was going to turn marketing into a product I was going to have to give it a product-like name and thus pivoted and changed Jantsch Communications, which was a catch-all for any kind of work I could do, to Duct Tape Marketing.
Phil Singleton: Awesome. At that one point where you actually left the ad agency was that a scary moment at all? Where were you in your life? Were you married, had kids yet? Didn’t have kids yet? Obviously there was probably a salary and you were like, “I’m going to be on my own.”
John Jantsch: Yeah. I had three kids and one on the way. Nothing to lose (ha ha).
Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. I guess at that time you had enough confidence or you knew that you would go out and be like, “Hey, I’m going to do this”?
John Jantsch: Back before we called it the “side hustle”, I was side hustling.
Phil Singleton: Got it.
John Jantsch: I had a pretty good idea that there was a demand for what I was doing and I could make a living doing it really before I made the ultimate leap.
Phil Singleton: So day one, so to speak, you had either clients lined up or at least had a pretty good target of where you were going to go. It wasn’t like you were struggling for months and months to get a new client.
John Jantsch: That’s right. I had a couple pretty good sized clients that I was doing work for. Really, essentially, project work. I wasn’t designing or getting print done or anything for them. I was managing it all. It was work I could do really evenings and weekends.
Phil Singleton: How far in do you think you were like? I know at my last job I was really only three or four years out of school into one corporate job and it was scary to jump out into the world. Once I did it for a little while it was like “I’m never going back” type of a thing. Is that kind of how you felt pretty early on?
John Jantsch: Yeah, I didn’t like the job. There was nothing really holding me. My father had been an entrepreneur. I had seen that lifestyle and he represented manufacturers and so there’d be one in one day and one out another day. He didn’t know how he was going to make a living one year and then he was … I’d seen how you deal with that. That wasn’t scary to me. That seemed kind of normal actually.
What do You Love About Kansas City?
Phil Singleton: Interesting. Okay, obviously we’re both here in Kansas City. I love to ask this question, though, especially people that are here. What things do you really love about Kansas City? I want to get specific here about favorite things that you like to eat. Actually name names. I know you’re into sports. Everybody says they like all of Kansas City sports teams. I think everybody also has a secret favorite in their heart that if they had to pick one they’d pick that one. Let’s get down into what John Jantsch’s favorite Kansas City things are.
John Jantsch: Well, sure, I do have to preface this with this is the only place I’ve ever lived. In terms of comparison I’m not a very good person to ask.
Phil Singleton: But you’ve been everywhere, man. You’ve traveled everywhere.
John Jantsch: I do travel everywhere but I’ve never lived anywhere else but here. I like the size of Kansas City. I like the fact that there’s never any traffic. I like the fact that … Probably a lot of cities are this way. In fact, I know they are. I like the fact that Kansas City … I live in the heart of the central city and it’s still very neighborhood-based. The neighborhoods have Christmas decoration contests and block parties and that kind of traditional stuff. I get hives if I go into a Walmart so I’m very much I like it when I go into my coffee shop and they know my name and I know their name. Again, I’m …
Phil Singleton: Well, come on give it up. Give us a couple of your favorite coffee shops.
John Jantsch: Well, sure, because of where I live they’re going to be in proximity. I’m a big fan of Kaldi’s, which actually is the closest thing there is to an independent chain of shops. They’ve probably got three or four. I like Crows Coffee. I’m a huge fan of McLain’s Bakery. I think I’ve turned you onto their cinnamon rolls.
There’s a lovely little independent craft beer store right across the street from me that the owner … This is a perfect example. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 30 years. I call him the Kid. He’s like 40 now and has kids of his own, that owns the Bier Station, which is this little craft beer place, used to be the kid behind the counter at SRO Video when I was renting movies when we still rented these videos from video stores.
Phil Singleton: Wow.
John Jantsch: He was the high school kid at the time that would give me good recommendations on movies. Now 20 years later he’s across the street owning the Beer Station.
Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.
John Jantsch: That’s sort of a classic Kansas City story.
Phil Singleton: Love it. Sports teams? I think I know what the answer is to this but tell me if you only had to pick one.
John Jantsch: I’m an easy one to answer that because I don’t have enough time for more than one sport. I’m a huge baseball fan. I have for lifelong been a Kansas City Royals fan. They came into existence when I was nine. I never really had time to become an As fan and be disillusioned when they left Kansas City. I’m a lifelong Royals fan.
Phil Singleton: If you had to pick three restaurants and you’ve got to have one because some of your friends eat meat, so give me one good place to eat for people that have … I guess for vegetarians or whatever else you like. I want to hear three restaurants.
John Jantsch: I’ll start with the vegan restaurant Café Gratitude, which is in the crossroads. I don’t care what you like or don’t like. It is the best food in Kansas City period.
Phil Singleton: Awesome.
John Jantsch: I’d put that one up there. There is a little French bistro in Crestwood neighborhood that is called Aixois.
Phil Singleton: Spell that for me, please.
John Jantsch: A-I-X-O-I-S. I think there’s a French region called Aixois and so it’s named after that. It’s not fancy fancy. It has pretty fancy food I suppose but it’s not a fancy French restaurant. It has an outside patio that my wife and I will go for happy hour and have pomme frites. It can be pretty casual too.
Then I’ll give you a pizza place. Waldo Pizza, which has been around for 30 years probably and was kind of one of the original hippie pizza places that has now expanded and has a huge place. They were one of the early on having craft beers before anybody was calling them craft beers. Back before anybody was eating gluten-free and vegan and all that kind of stuff Phil at Waldo Pizza had all of that stuff on the menu. Like I say, he was kind of the original hippie pizza joint.
Lead Generation for Professional Service Providers
Phil Singleton: Nice. All right. Had to do it. Next let’s get back to business here. I want to talk about … I like to get specific into some kind of a niche when we talk about this stuff. What do you think is working today in terms of lead generation for professional services firms? You’re kind of fitting into this niche because you kind of do that a little bit. Drill down into it. Let’s say a web designer or a CPA or any type of professional service and see if we can talk about some of the things that are working for these guys and drumming up new business.
John Jantsch: Sure. For professional services folks going out and speaking has always been big. PR has always been big, meaning if you can write a column for a local newspaper or magazine. Strategic partnerships have always been a great way for professional services. The thing about professional services is that the trust level typically has to be much higher. Them perceiving you as an expert and them knowing other people who think you’re an expert, them getting referred to you, those are always really important for professional services.
Now having said that that doesn’t mean that you have to sit around and wait for somebody to refer an accountant or refer a marketing consultant to you. People are actually out there looking today and they’re trying to solve problems so they’re turning to the web and searching by the millions.
Producing really high quality content that addresses the problems that you know they’re searching for and then using that interest to capture leads and to build rapport or build relationship with is absolutely a piece of the puzzle today.
Even if you’re turning around and advertising for it because those people are out there looking, you’re not advertising, “Hi, hire me because I’m really smart and I’m an expert.” You’re advertising content that addresses a problem that you know they are trying to solve. By virtue of you articulating and understanding the problem you’re going to get invited to now connect that problem to your service.
Advice for Would Be Entreprenuers
Phil Singleton: Awesome. Okay. Great. I appreciate that. The next question I wanted to ask you is what would you tell a would-be entrepreneur now that has a day job, still needs the pay check and the benefits, but they might want to be or have aspirations to be an independent marketing consultant or maybe they’re a web designer and it’s like, “I’m working for an agency right now but I really have dreams to do my own stuff. I do the work. I know I can deliver.”
More an SEO or marketing person, anybody that’s out there that’s attached to an agency and has a job but really is like, “Gosh, you know what? I want to do this for myself. I think I’ve got the ability. I’ve got a family, I’m starting a family. I need the pay check and I’m afraid to jump out.” How do you tell somebody at that point in their life when to start, how to do it? Any advice or insight there?
John Jantsch: Well, that’s always a tough one because there’s no question. You can’t have one foot … You can have one foot in both places but not for very long. You do have to decide this is something I want to do and you can then ease into it.
One of the things I tell people all the time, that web designer or that marketing consultant, create a website of your own. Start putting stuff up there, start writing. If nothing else, even if that sits up there for two years and you’re once a month adding something to it, you will have built an asset that you can turn on a little faster than starting from complete scratch. You may not have a product or a service to offer but by virtue of the fact that you have that out there you’ll start having conversations with people who may actually want to hire you.
I think that when you put that out there … This will be the spiritual section of the interview. When you put your intention out there you start having conversations. People start showing up needing what it is that you do. A lot of times that will ultimately give you the shove that you need. If you just constantly harbor this, “Well, some day I’m going to do that” it probably won’t happen. If you act as though you are moving forward, you start building the assets, that you know if it does happen you will want to have in place, it will turn the universe your way.
Phil Singleton: Yes. Love it. One of the things I think about too and for sure when you started but even when I started we didn’t have the gig economy type stuff. In 2005 when I did my first website I was struggling my way through Dreamweaver. I either didn’t know about it or maybe they weren’t even around yet where you have these gig places where you didn’t have to spend a whole lot of money but you could go find somebody to help and pay a little bit to try and get started or test out an idea or something or even maybe help you get a website started for …
Maybe it’s not the website that you need to actually totally break out and be the professional one that you’ll eventually need. We didn’t have that, did we? When you decided it was either like you had to jump out or you had to spend a lot more time and effort to try something and invest a lot more.
John Jantsch: Yeah. That’s another cool thing. There are these sites like CloudPeeps and Upwork where somebody who wants to grab five hours a week of some work can go and probably match up with somebody who needs that. That’s such an incredible way to get started. You could be full-time employed, you don’t have to advertise or promote yourself out there to the world, especially if you’re trying to keep it on the side and not necessarily have it be something that is a known thing that somebody could find publicly. You go and you put yourself into one of those workplace environment marketplaces and you could pick up a $50 gig if you wanted to.
Phil Singleton: And test it out or find somebody to do a lot of work for you for $50, right?
John Jantsch: No question about that. Yeah.
The $10,000 Question
Phil Singleton: Awesome. The last question is what I call the $10,000 question. I had Matt Watson on the show recently, which I know you did also. I’m going to put a Matt Watson qualifier in here at the end.
If you woke up tomorrow with all your knowledge but none of your business assets or connections what would you start working on today? You’ve got $10,000, a laptop with no information on it, just the stuff that you need, and an internet connection. No, Matt Watson, you can’t invest in Litecoin or Bitcoin. It has to be in your own business to start rebuilding your own empire. What would you start working on? What would it be? Would you start writing another book? Would you get to work on a website? Would you start speaking? How would you spend that money if you had to?
John Jantsch: Well, I wouldn’t spend a dime.
Phil Singleton: Interesting.
John Jantsch: If somebody is in that environment go get a client. I’d start going … You said I got to have my knowledge, right? I know marketing. I know how to spot if somebody has a need. I would go out and I would start getting a couple clients. I wouldn’t necessarily …
Phil Singleton: What would you do? Would you do it on the cheap? Would you do it for free? Nobody knows who you are, nobody knows your brand. You’re going out completely cold but you have all your knowledge. You would go …
John Jantsch: Yeah. I think if you’re getting started sometimes you have to make somebody an offer that is going to take away all of the barrier to the fact that they don’t know you. It might be on the cheap or it might actually be … I love to do a deal … I’m so confident in what I can produce that I would do a deal with somebody to say, “Look, I’m not going to charge you anything for the first month and if I get you X amount of leads then you’re going to hire me to do all of your marketing.”
Phil Singleton: Interesting. Very interesting. That’s similar to … I’ve asked a couple entrepreneurs this one. A lot of them they kind of say something similar where they’d be, “I’d go out and hustle a gig directly and either do it on a …”
John Jantsch: I was going to say you qualified it as … Now had you said, in six months you need to be up making six figures I might take a different approach. If all I have to do is go out and start building a business at some pace [crosstalk 00:18:19]
Phil Singleton: You’re waking up tomorrow with all the same … You’re empty. You’ve got maybe the same liabilities and you’ve got to start producing like ASAP. What do you do? To me, you’ve got to get out, you’ve got to start a website, and that kind of stuff. I’m not asking the question … This question is going to get better and better and more refined I think because people keep coming up with stuff out of the woodwork. I’m trying to pin them into a corner.
I think I’m still getting a lot of great insight out of this because most people are basically saying entrepreneurs are successful, entrepreneurs are saying something similar, which is, “Hey, man. I’m going to bootstrap it up and essentially go hustle up some business directly because I know I can do it and then use that to snowball it rebuild what I had before.”
John Jantsch: Yeah. I think about times in my career. Fortunately, knock on wood, things are fairly steady and I have revenues coming from a number of places. I feel pretty good about that. There were certainly times in my career where I’d look up and go, “I’m not sure the next three months look good enough” and I’ve always had that mentality of, “I can go and hustle some work.”
I think a lot of entrepreneurs feel that way. I think in some ways that’s why they don’t … A lot of people think of starting a business as being so risky. I think a lot of entrepreneurs would tell you the other way around. Working for somebody else is the ultimate risk because that person can walk in tomorrow and say, “You’re fired. You get nothing.” Most entrepreneurs feel like if they’re down and out they can go hustle some stuff and keep it going based on their own wits.
Phil Singleton: Awesome. That wraps up today’s show. John, where can we find you? What do you got going on? Where do you want to direct people in terms of any offers or things that you’re trying to promote today?
John Jantsch: Yeah, nothing really to promote today. I just always tell people to check out Duct Tape Marketing. It’s just D-U-C-T T-A-P-E Marketing dot com. Phil is also a member of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network. I’m sure you’ve heard him talk about that before. Anybody who is out there who is either a marketing consultant or an SEO person or a web designer I think you’ll find that being a part of something like the Duct Tape Marketing Network will allow you to get bigger gigs, higher retention, charge more money. All of the things that come from having some tools that we’ve built and the brand behind you.
Phil Singleton: As I tell people all the time, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made other than the decision to actually go into business for myself and do what I’m doing. I don’t think anything has helped me out as much as Duct Tape has.
John Jantsch: And to ask your wife to marry her.
Phil Singleton: Right!
John Jantsch: I want to throw that one in there.
Phil Singleton: On Google she’s position zero, right?
John Jantsch: There you go.
Phil Singleton: Awesome, man. All right. We’ll catch up with you again. Thanks for spending so much time with us.
John Jantsch: My pleasure, Phil.