John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and bestselling author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine, The Referral Engine and SEO for Growth. He’s the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing System and Duct Tape Marketing Consulting Network that trains and licenses small business marketing consultants around the world.


In This Episode

As business and technology evolves, it’s more imperative than ever to look back at the basics to establish deep connections and build happy relationships with real people. John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing sits down with Modern Ontrapreneur to talk about how adding value to your customers’ lives is more important than the tools you use to run your business, how quality content dictates success, his pro bono work with small business, and more.

Topic Timeline:

1:16 No Regrets

Curiosity lead John to blogging and podcasting before they were the staple of the time.

3:34 Loving to Learn

Read, read, read and then read some more.

4:26 Helping Salt-of-the-Earth, Brick and Mortar Small Businesses

Breathing new life into struggling small businesses with marketing.

5:20 What Makes Customers Tick

It’s not about the platforms or tools; it’s about caring and adding value to your customers lives.

7:36 Live Events and High Quality Content

Hosting small, fifteen people in a room weekend seminars and creating quality content are what’s really working.

11:29 Pro Bono Work

Every entrepreneur hopes to get to the point where pro bono work becomes commonplace.

12:18 The Self Reliant Entrepreneur

Stop listening to so many other people and start listening to yourself.

If you’re not willing to dive in and learn what the new things are, eventually and maybe faster now than ever, you’re going to get swallowed up.

Show Transcript:

LR: Welcome to Modern Ontrapreneur. I’m Landon Ray. Today we have John Jantsch, who is a marketing consultant, speaker and best selling author of Duct Tape Marketing. Duck Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine, The Referral Engine and SEO for Growth. He’s the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing System and Duct Tape Marketing Consulting Network that trains and licenses small business marketing consultants around the world. Thank you so much for being here.

JJ: My pleasure.

LR: I’ve been a fan. I read your book. Well, you were in my office and you found a first edition on my shelf.

JJ: Yeah, and I signed it. You didn’t even ask me to.

LR: Yeah, that was nice of me to let you sign the … Thank you for being here.

JJ: You bet.

LR: This is great. You’ve had a ton of success. It’s been a long time now. How long has it been you’ve been working on this?

JJ: 29 years.

LR: 29 years?

JJ: 29 years since I started my marketing consulting practice.

LR: That’s unbelievable, so you were 12?

JJ: Well, and the reality is I couldn’t find a job, so I made myself unemployable.

LR: Same here. If you could go back 29 years and give that kid a piece of advice now, knowing what you know, what would it be?

JJ: I would say just do exactly what I did for 29 years.

LR: Yeah.

JJ: No, really, to tell you the truth, I’m so bad at that kind of hindsight, because I think if I have a talent, if you will, or a trait that has served me it’s curiosity and so there are a lot of things I did that made mistakes because I was really curious and went this direction, went that direction, but it also … it led me to blogging in 2003 and podcasting in 2005, which ultimately took off and have been the mainstays of my business. I don’t think that I would have gotten there had I not wanted to try out a lot of things. I will say that that’s something that now is a real challenge for folks because hey, if all you’re doing is trying out things, you can drive yourself crazy.

LR: Yeah, there’s so many things.

JJ: I think you have to have a point of view and my point of view was also, “Could this new thing be valuable for my customers? Could it allow me to serve them better?” and so that really acted as a great filter I think.

LR: How do you decide, given that there’s ten million and one things that you could be doing now, how do you decide when it’s time to make an investment in some new channel or new project to reach out to customers in a new way?

JJ: Early on I think I just worked more, like a lot of people. I worked a lot of hours so I experimented with everything. Today, where my business sits, we actually are … we try to take a pretty hard line on identifying what our priorities are for the next quarter at least and sticking to those. I guarantee you there’s never more than two or three and my job really then is to stay involved in the highest payoff work possible. That’s something that I help decide, but also that my staff really keeps me to task. I’m sure you have a little bit of that as well, because, like you, I like doing the stuff that our business does, but that doesn’t probably work to scale a business if I’m in there tweaking websites or doing SEO or metadata or something, but I enjoy doing that. It’s a real challenge, but it helps to really surround yourself with people who get that their job is to keep you out of that stuff sometimes.

LR: You mentioned curiosity as a trait that’s worked for you. Do you have another unique skill set that you think has made a difference?

JJ: I really never … I went into this thing just loving to learn, and I suppose that that’s probably it. I read. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I probably read some part of several hundred books a year easily, and I think that that’s something that really helps keep that constant learning going. We’re … last decade, look at the change that’s gone on. In my presentation, I talk about the fact that when I started my business, there was no digital marketing. It didn’t even exist. And so, if you’re not willing to dive in and change with that and evolve and learn what the new things are going on, eventually and maybe faster now than ever, you’re going to get swallowed up.

LR: What is working for you now? You’ve still got a serious business that’s growing all over the world. What is driving business for you?

JJ: Well a big part of my focus, and it’s just because where I want to put my attention, is my goal always was to help small business owners. I love the salt of the earth, brick and mortar business owners that were getting the life sucked out of them, and I think that a lot of that’s because they couldn’t figure out this marketing idea, and so helping install a marketing system and seeing the results and the impact that that has, has really driven me for a lot of years and so now, in effect, I’m trying to replicate myself. I currently have about 125 independent marketing consultants around the world that are installing the Duct Tape Marketing System now in thousands of businesses. That was a path that I chose to go in an attempt to work with maybe ultimately over my career, millions of small business owners.

LR: Yeah, how exciting.

JJ: Yeah it has been.

LR: That’s amazing. What are you learning? You say you read 100 books or 200 books, or whatever, but in terms of what you’re actually wrestling with in your business, what is the cutting edge for you?

JJ: It’s really strange. I’m not sure this is going to be a very satisfactory answer. It’s not the A.I. and the stuff that people are talking about. I think there’s a real passion, and maybe it’s just my bias, but a real passion for people to go back to understand what really makes their customers tick. What, from a strategic level, is actually a way to serve them and to add value to their lives and to their business and I think that it’s more about developing a point of view, about caring than it is really about the platforms or the tools, and I think that if my real emphasis right now is to figure out how I can add value to my customers lives rather than how I can use some new tool to market to them?

LR: We’ve got several people in here that are … it seems like the gestalt of the moment almost. Of course, adding value is a foundational piece of any business, but it does feel like several of the last few people I’ve interviewed are talking about almost unwinding a little bit from the tools, from the technology, from the strategy of the moment and really getting back to that foundational piece.

JJ: I think there’s a balance. Obviously tools like Ontraport allow people to do some amazing things that are actually beneficial to the customers, that remove friction, that serve them in a way they want to be served, and so I think that what you have to do then is take the best of that and then be able to extract what are the ways now that we can use technology for good, but then also understand that fundamentally serving customers, adding value, making people’s lives better is what we do. And we can’t lose sight of that. I think there was a little pendulum swing to look all this technology will make it so we never have to talk to anyone.

LR: Talk to anybody, yes. Exactly.

JJ: I think we’ve swung back from some of that, and people are saying, “Okay this technology works for certain elements,” but at some point hugs will never go out of style.

LR: Yeah, hugs. What is it that you’re actually implementing that is the manifestation of that?

JJ: In my own personal work, we’re doing more live events and I don’t mean events like giant big events. We are doing more 15 people in a room for a weekend to figure out how they can solve each other’s problems in a meaningful way right then, not just here’s a couple of tips. We’re doing much more of that. From a content standpoint, one of the things that we’re trying to do is just get a lot deeper and deeper. There was a period there where it was content, more is better and what we’re really … I’m really actually encouraging our clients to … if all you can produce is one piece of content a month, produce one awesome piece of content a month instead of phoning it in and you really use that content now to build much deeper relationships, not just as an SEO tool, or not just as something to put on your website, but actually use it as an asset for building deeper relationships.

LR: Yeah. We have the same drive I think to connect with our customers another way. This is a live event we do. Ontrapalooza, but apart from that, we don’t have a lot of … well, we have a few other things but it’s software. It’s pixels and buttons and even most of our support now is on chat. People don’t pick up the phone anymore so we’ve made the bizarre investment of trying to take our content and put it into a magazine. Specifically with the idea that just bringing something back into the real world almost creates a relationship that we’re beginning to lose.

JJ: I think companies like yours are doing a really good job though, even with part of that going to chat is you have to scale. It’s really hard to scale. Let’s get 10 people in a room every week, right? You have to scale that, but I think what you guys are doing a great job in is you’re not just using that connection to write FAQs. I mean you’re actually bringing it back to the engineering team who is then maybe doing a better job of making a better product because of the feedback that you’re getting and I think that’s another way to have that human connection. It may travel through video chat or Twitter or whatnot, but I think that in the end is your customers seeing that they’re being heard.

LR: They know it yeah.

JJ: Yeah, and I think that that’s a manifestation of it that a company at scale can do.

LR: Yeah. You’ve been at this a while, you see an end game for yourself in the Duct Tape System?

JJ: I have set it up actually to … we were very systems driven. We are very process and methodology driven. The network itself I think, one of the things that it was very dependent on me early on. People joined because they wanted to be part of Duct Tape Marketing and as it’s evolved, it’s actually taken on a bit more of a life of its own. It’s certainly tied to the Duck Tape brand, but the members of the network themselves are really adding a tremendous amount of value now.

LR: Yeah.

JJ: I think that that could actually end up on its own. I don’t really have a great here’s who’s going to take over my consulting practice because we’ve really used that to do a lot with … a number of revenue streams. I do think that the value of the brand, just the traffic and we were talking a little bit, pre interview about just the domain authority of Duct Tape Marketing. Those are all assets that at some point maybe Ontraport should buy.

LR: Yeah, I was thinking. I was thinking the opposite, but okay. What would you like your legacy to be? You’ve been at this a long time. A lot of people know who John Jantsch is. What would you like to be remembered for?

JJ: Well, one of the things I’m really enjoying doing, and this sounds really goofy, but when you’re building your business you know it’s a lot of go, go, go. I’m doing a … I never worked in Kansas City, or at least when I started my practice, I did. It was all local. When the internet came along and we blew up and did all the different things, I no longer did any work in Kansas City and so I’m starting to do a fair amount of pro bono work for some organizations in Kansas City, trying to help entrepreneurs that maybe have a little bit of a disadvantage getting something going and could use … I wouldn’t call it a full on mentorship, but some advice on how to get some things going.

LR: Yeah, awesome.

JJ: That’s hopefully where we all get to a place where you can do some of that.

LR: Do some of that. Yeah. We’ve called this thing Modern Ontrapreneur and the point of that is to point at the fact that we’re in this unique moment in history where things have changed. They’re changing so quickly. The opportunities that are available to entrepreneurs are all new. What do you feel like it means to be a Modern Ontrapreneur? What are those opportunities? What are the responsibilities even of being an entrepreneur today?

JJ: Well there’s a body of literature that I’m really fond of and it was written mostly in the 1820’s to the 1850’s. It was called transcendentalists. Emerson is in there. Thoreau is in there and really a big theme of that work was self reliance, which was Emerson’s probably his big-

LR:His book.

JJ: It was actually an essay and a lecture, but it’s the one he’s probably the most known for and I think that we’re in a period of the self reliant entrepreneur right now that it’s not just about chasing some idea of creating the next YouTube type of thing or the next Uber or whatever it is, that there’s a … not only is there an ability to get freedom and to get security, I think there’s almost a responsibility to yourself as an entrepreneur now to trust what it is your doing and to stop listening both to the stuff in your head and the doubts from other people that sometimes … I coach a lot of folks that are starting their business now, or at least I advise them and one of the things that they’re always struggling with is they’re listening to too many other people and not listening to themselves. I think that that’s where we are. I tell everybody that listens to go back and read Self Reliance.

LR: Read Self Reliance. Awesome. John it’s such a pleasure to have you. Thank you so much for doing this. Would you sign our wall?

JJ: I certainly will.

LR: All right. It’s behind you.

Want more Modern Ontrapreneur Podcast?

Check out the previous episode featuring Luisa Zhou of Zhou Ventures INC.


About Ben Cogburn
As Ontraport’s Traffic Manager, Ben Cogburn spends most of his time in our parking lot. Just kidding, he’s our resident digital advertising guru. As a geology enthusiast, Ben graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in Environmental Studies. So to say that he likes rocks is an understatement. You can find Ben hanging out with his rock collection, playing video games or hunting down new figurines to add to the impressive display he has on his desk.