The Essence of Duct Tape Marketing

Duct Tape Marketing_ The World_s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide_ John Jantsch.jpg

Duct tape (the tape) is simple, effective, and affordable—it’s not always the prettiest solution, but it does always work. The central theme of Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide by John Jantsch is that effective small business marketing is a system—not an event—composed of simple, effective, and affordable techniques.

When you combine that with the cult-like
obsession many people have for all things duct tape
you also get a pretty good example of how something simple like the right name can do a great deal for a company, product, service, or book. I asked John to distill his marketing ideas to a top-ten list, and here is what he provided:

  1. Narrow the market focus. Create a picture of the ideal client: what they look like, how they think, what they value, and where you can find them. Start saying no to non-ideal clients.

  2. Differentiate. Strip everything you know about your product or service down to the simplest core idea. Make sure that the core idea allows you stand out.

  3. Think about strategy first. Take everything you’ve done in steps one and two and create a strategy to own a word or two in the mind of your ideal client and prospect.

  4. Create information that educates. You are in the information business, so think of your marketing materials, web sites, white papers, marketing kits as information products, not “sales” propoganda.

  5. Package the experience. Put visual elements around every aspect of the marketing strategy that you adopt. Use design to evoke the appropriate emotional response from your ideal prospect.

  6. Generate leads from many points. People learn in different ways. Your lead generation efforts must allow your prospects to experience your firm from many different angles and views.

  7. Nurture leads along the logical buying path. There’s a natural way for your prospects to come to the conclusion that you have what they need. Build the lead conversion system for before, during, and after the sale.

  8. Measure everything that matters. Certain things always matter. The secret sauce is in finding and measuring the intangibles – those things down on the shop floor that eventually add up to profit.

  9. Automate for leverage. Embrace the Internet or else. Create access, stimulate community, capture innovation, and build knowledge to automate the basic delivery elements of your information business.

  10. Commit. Resist the temptation of the marketing idea of the week. Create daily, weekly, monthly, and annual marketing calendars, make marketing your new habit, and find the money to stick with the plan.

By |2016-10-24T14:21:23+00:00April 18th, 2007|Categories: Marketing and Sales|24 Comments

About the Author:

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.


  1. Gal josefsberg April 18, 2007 at 9:31 am - Reply

    Number 10 “Commit” is one I find especially important for a start up. People who are just starting out have a tendency to jump from idea to idea. You have to give your plans a bit of time to work. If you have an idea for marketing your product, you need to include a realistic time horizon in your plan for implementing this idea. Good ideas can take time to provide results.

  2. kare Anderson April 18, 2007 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Great post – thanks John & Guy,
    The majority of times when I am asked to help a company team polish their message ( tell the detail others will love to re-tell) I find that they want it all.
    They do not have a main message to polish.
    Swimming upstream, we find that they have not agreed what differentiates them from the competition. How can they? They have not a chosen the niche market to serve nor the main benefit they offer to that market.
    This pithy Top Ten advice can help a team get on the same page and be more productive. Then they are less likely to get less distracted because they have agreed on the context in which they are working together. Thus when they want to do “first things first” – they are working off the same list.
    Howard Raiffa was an early mentor to me on this through his work on how we make decisions.

  3. Michael Tsung April 18, 2007 at 11:22 am - Reply

    I particularly like No. 1, “Narrow the market focus… Start saying no to non-ideal clients.” Back when I was in school, I had a regular gig playing disc jockey for this fun bunch of guys who threw massively successful house parties every month. The dance floor was a smallish living room that had been cleared of all furniture and it was always packed with people getting down and having a good time.
    Then a strange thing started happening; I started getting requests from my friends’ friends to DJ their weddings. At first, I felt a bit odd about it all. I’d ask, “You know I’ve only ever done house parties and I don’t really have any emcee experience, right?” to which they would invariably reply, “Yeah, that’s pretty much what we want – A big wild party that just happens to be our wedding. At the end of the night, we want people to be tired and happy. We want people to be hung-over the next morning.”
    Having done a number of my friends’ weddings, I’ve come to realize that there are two types of weddings: (1) the boring ones that have lots of slide shows and speeches, and (2) the ones that are just big fat parties. This is my ideal target market. Other than having to put on a suit, I do pretty much what I do at house parties – play music that will get people up, dancing, and having a great time. Saying no to non-ideal customers lets me do what I’m good at and tailor my services to the needs of those people who actually want what I provide rather than change my whole game plan to accommodate Aunt Mildred’s slide show about her 57 cats.

  4. Remi Adams April 18, 2007 at 11:25 am - Reply

    I think that John has offered some really valuable and practical advice for small business owners. I believe that small businesses oftentimes fall into three marketing camps:
    1. Those who do nothing. They are often paralyzed by fear due to their lack of marketing experience; or feel that they can do nothing, because they have few financial resources.
    2. Those who remain passive. They have the belief that “if you build it, they will come,” and are literally *waiting* for their businesses to take off.
    3. Those who engage in marketing activities with a questionable or unknown ROI. They dabble in a variety of unmeasured marketing activities, and rarely, if ever, analyze their success or cost effectiveness. See CEO, Justin Kitch’s blog on web marketing 101 (April 3, 2007)(
    Hopefully, small businesses will be inspired by the message that they can successfully market their own businesses. There is so much information, and inexpensive business management and marketing solutions available right now, that small businesses are arguably, in the best position than they’ve ever been in history.
    Good luck to all of the maverick entrepreneurs!

  5. Steven Kempton April 18, 2007 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    Great list guys. But as a small business, if marketing was all you had to do you’d probably be able to get three of these things done. How about a top 10 list of things you MUST do to start your business and get it running, but with the idea that in the future it’ll be a real system? What is the task mix of sales, marketing, strategy, operations, and what amongst those things are most important. What must you do in your first year? What can wait till you second or third? Or is it a matter of getting enough cash and people to do it all at once? Sorry for asking for more after getting so much, but thanks again for the list.

  6. Gubatron April 18, 2007 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    The Essence of Duct Tape Marketing

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  7. Mike Johnston April 19, 2007 at 4:33 am - Reply

    There is absolutely no substitute for “focus”. You should do a single post on focus alone. All to often I have consulted with companies who insist they have focus. They don’t.
    “Our target audience is anyone with a need” is NOT focus.

  8. Piedmont April 19, 2007 at 5:10 am - Reply

    I’m not yet where you are Guy. When I’m at the point of having to choose between clients, maybe then I can turn away a less that ideal, but eager and paying customer. Until then, I think I’m going to take all the work I can get.

  9. Bill Olen April 19, 2007 at 7:19 am - Reply

    What a great list, thanks much!

  10. Jerry Grasso April 19, 2007 at 8:53 am - Reply

    So if Duct Tape is the correct visual for marketing….does that make WD-40 the appropriate one for anyone in SMB operations?
    #1 really hits home for me when I was in biz for myself. If you can’t visualize and execute on the essence of what you are, most likely you will fail. It is amazing how many SMBs lose sight of who they are and who they are selling to. If you can retain that 1:1, you can survive year one. Just one man’s opinion.

  11. Eric April 19, 2007 at 11:47 am - Reply

    Good content a lot of us know, but often do not find time to do. #4 and #8 hit me.
    I totally agree with number 4 and trumpet that idea again: educate your clients, bosses, constituents, and any markets you’re trying to reach.
    Number 8 struck me because I do it very little. While I focus on self promotion, I give very little attention to, “how it’s working for me” and measuring results regularly.
    When you contract, it’s hard to “beat the street and work in your seat!”
    Best, -Eric (the WeirdGuy)

  12. Wilder April 19, 2007 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    The folks at Intuit are big fans of Duct Tape Marketing. He has helped lots of our customers. He knows his stuff!

  13. Roark Pollock April 20, 2007 at 7:27 am - Reply

    It seems that rule number 1 is the item most want to of us want to discuss. Perhaps it is because we have all been part of organizations that refused to focus and instead chose to chase all revenue regardless of the fit.
    The art of management is in deciding what the organization will NOT do. All organizations are resource constrained and must therefore make explicit decisions on what will be done and what will NOT be done.
    Compromising these decisions may help in the short term, but will definitely not stengthen the organization in the long term. If you find that you are compromising your perceived focus, then perhaps you are either failing to reach your targeted market or you have chosen a target market that does not demand your products and services to the extent that you projected.

  14. Chris April 20, 2007 at 8:31 am - Reply

    John Podcasts exclusively on Podango:

  15. Singapore Entrepreneurs ~ Venture Capital Funding in Singapore April 20, 2007 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    Entrepreneur Reads for the Day: 21 April 2007

    Reviews from John Nesheim describing the difference between business development and marketing and also the 10 principles behind the essence of duct tape marketing by Guy Kawasaki.

  16. Ari April 21, 2007 at 11:07 pm - Reply

    When I think of duct tape, I think of MacGyver.
    Seriously, I just came across your blog through your 100th posting on April 11, 2006. I suggest you create a belated 200th posting with similar observations, material gleaned, etc. Maybe an update to the 2006 post? Just an idea.

  17. John Jantsch April 22, 2007 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    As always, lots of great, thoughtful commenting here at Guy’s blog.
    I want to add a little more on #1 too. I’m passionate about it on two fronts.
    1) It’s just a good marketing strategy – get known for serving the narrowest possible market – be the “go to” person for it and you will never have to worry about competing on price again. In fact, people will expect to pay a premium for your unique experience.
    2) Clients that don’t value what you do, don’t appreciate the fact that both parties have a roles in the partnership, don’t refer, and don’t pay their bills (unlike ideal clients!) will suck the life out of your business faster than any other business dynamic – leaving little light or air for you find out how fun this business thing really is.
    The problem so many small businesses face is they never take enough time and energy to define what an ideal client looks like and then the phone rings, and they say they want to actually pay you for your services and red flag after red flag goes ignored.
    And now for some quantum physics (Guy’s readers can handle it.)
    When you get really clear about what makes an ideal client you will automatically attract them.
    Who else wants to go to one of Michael’s party weddings?

  18. Wayne Buckhanan April 22, 2007 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    Your top ten list has solid action items. Then your comment has a gratuitous quantum physics reference. It gave me cause to pause.
    Kudos to you for collecting these solid principles into a concise form.
    Doom on you for implying that thoughts generate results without action.
    You may have thought that I (or more likely your ideal client since you don’t know me) would buy your book, but you didn’t stop there. You also wrote the book, have good enough chops to get Guy’s attention, put together your top ten, and got them posted on a prominent blog with an audience that is similar enough to your ideal to elicit the response you want.
    Was this all coincidence? No. Especially not in the sense of “an event that might have been arranged although it was really accidental.” There was nothing accidental about the sequence of events. Fortuitous maybe but certainly with intent.
    Was this “attracting” by “get[ting] really clear about what makes an ideal client?” Absolutely not. This was a case of doing all the small (and large) things it takes to arrange your marketing so that you will be exposed to those people you want as clients. Being clear who you want as a client was the first of many steps that you followed through on and executed well or else I would never have been exposed to your top ten list.
    I apologize for the rant. I (obviously) get fired up when fed lines about “attracting” success, especially when it is blatant that you have thought *and* acted to reach your goals.

  19. Legal Marketing Blog April 23, 2007 at 6:12 am - Reply

    Does Your Practice Need Duct Tape?

    John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing blog fame has a new book out entitled Duct Tape Marketing:The Worlds Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide. John was kind enough to send me a copy so I could review it and possibly…

  20. Make It Great! with Phil Gerbyshak April 24, 2007 at 8:06 am - Reply

    3 Favorite Books: A challenge from John Jantsch

    John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing, recently issued an excellent challenge for all of us who LOVE books:I want to issue to you dear blog reader and anyone else you want to tell. Name your 3 favorite books (business or not) and post the titles …

  21. james haft April 29, 2007 at 9:36 am - Reply

    Great post! Thank you!

  22. Pete Ellison May 6, 2007 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    What a great list. Very helpful. Thanks John for sharing!

  23. Ed Grimes May 7, 2007 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    I like the commit part. I find I have to set deadlines and plan my marketing otherwise it easily gets lost in the wash.

  24. NHG Consulting May 11, 2007 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Saying No to Non-Ideal Clients

    The hows and whys of just saying no to non-ideal clients.

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