Transcript of How to Build a Brand that Drives Growth

Transcript of How to Build a Brand that Drives Growth written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Back to Podcast


Klaviyo logo

John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.

John Jantsch: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Lindsay Pedersen. She is a brand strategist and leadership coach, and also the author of a book we’re going to talk about today, Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide. Welcome; thanks for joining me.

Lindsay Pedersen: Thanks for having me, John; it’s good to be here with you today.

John Jantsch: As I know you know, a lot of people think brand, especially consumer goods people, which you have a background in, think brand and they think logo, colors, packaging. But I really think so much about the way people buy has changed today that I think you could make a case for saying, “A brand is everything including a whole lot of stuff that’s out of our control.” So how do we deal with that?

Lindsay Pedersen: Oh my gosh, it’s so true. The word “brand” takes people to such different places. Any conversation about brand requires a definition of terms. What I mean when I say “brand” is what is the meaning you stand for in the mind of your audience? What is the thing that you represent to your target customer?

You used the word “everything.” It is the sum total of everything that your company does. From the overt things that you do, to the implicit things that you do, from the big things to the small things, from messaging to product to pricing.

It’s all of the things that you mean; that the sum total of those things reinforces in your customer’s head what you mean, what you stand for. It’s true; there are a lot of people who would define brand as a logo or the look and feel and zeitgeist of a business. Or, sometimes even the name of the company, is the brand. And sometimes brand is advertising, like Mad Men.

All of those things are manifestations of brand, or at least they ought to be. But they can’t be equated with brand, either.

John Jantsch: Well, that’s interesting, because I’ve been saying this for 20 years to small business owners who really don’t think about brand, or at least don’t think about brand in this sense. And yet, every business has a brand. I think the only question is, whether or not you’re controlling it or trying to guide it.

Lindsay Pedersen: Exactly. It’s funny because the reason that brand matters is that it gives the leader clarity. It gives the leader a North Star against which to make decisions for growing the business.

When I think of companies that most gain from that, that’s the companies, the leaders of companies that are small businesses, that most need focus. Because their resources are so constrained.

It’s a funny thing, and it’s one of the reasons I wrote the book that I did. I wanted to demystify it because the people who are most likely to misunderstand brand as a small thing are the same people who stand to benefit the most from it.

John Jantsch: I want to bring us back to a point, though, because for a lot of people, when they have this big brand discussion, they say, “It’s not about the logo, it’s not about the packaging, it’s not about the colors.” Design is still super important, I think, for a brand.

In fact, I know a lot of companies that invest in great design. It allows them to communicate what their brand stands for in such a potent way.

Lindsay Pedersen: A hundred percent. The name of your business, the logo and the iconography and font and colors and shapes and imagery and photography that you use … it’s like a superhighway to the limbic system of the brain of your audience. It’s wildly important.

What makes it powerful is when the development, the design and the creative decisions that you make to convey whether it’s the name or the logo or the font that you choose, or the tone of your voice; what’s really powerful is when they’re congruent with the meaning that you want to stand for. They’re not random; they are a deep and direct reflection of that promise that you want your business to bring to your customer.

John Jantsch: Yeah. The accounting firm that has a really fun website, is suggesting “We’re a little bit more fun that the other people.” I think that’s such a great way to actually get not only your differentiation, but maybe your promise across.

Lindsay Pedersen: Absolutely. You also brought up this idea of intention and control. Maybe even in this media environment that we all live in today, where there’s so much information, and our attention is so scarce. How much control do we really have of our brand?

The way that I want to splice that question to first, you do have agency in declaring what you want your brand to be. It’s position or be positioned, right, as the old adage goes. If you want to have the positioning that’s going to create the most value for your business, then you’re deliberate about defining what you want that thing to be.

That’s the first thing. And that’s frankly what most people get wrong, is that they just don’t get deliberate and intentional about identifying their brand to begin with. That is leaving a lot of power on the table. It’s leaving a lot to chance, that your customer is going to perceive you the way that you want your customer to perceive you.

I kind of flip it to before you talk about the ways you can communicate and express your brand; which you’re right, there’s only so much control, quote-unquote control that you have about the way that it’s going to be perceived in the marketplace.

But you sure have a better chance of succeeding if you’ve done the work and the soul searching to define what you want that thing to be, so that it can be your business’s North Star.

John Jantsch: A lot of people kind of whine about that. “Oh, people are out there saying stuff.” I think that’s a great opportunity, because it used to be you could break your promises and if you had a slick ad, it didn’t matter maybe.

But now, if you break your promises, somebody will create a YouTube channel talking about it. So I think the companies that stay true to their brand, that keep their promises, I think they actually have an advantage today.

Lindsay Pedersen: Yes. It’s true. There was a short period in human history … the second half of the 20th century, essentially … when the company that had the largest budget, had the loudest megaphone, and could spend the most to get word out, usually via TV media, and there wasn’t a lot that the customer could do. It wasn’t a two-way conversation.

That is no longer the case. Because the megaphone is democratized. Now we all can talk about it. The funny thing is, though, John, that I think about with this, is in some ways it’s new. That we have a two-way megaphone. But in some ways, what was a blip is the way that it was when TV advertising was having its heyday.

Because most of human history, we can tell our friends if we don’t like the butcher down the street or the baker where we got stale bread. We do have voices. It’s just that now, we can talk to more people with less time and money than it might have taken before.

John Jantsch: When I hear you talk about brand, all I hear is strategy. I think that that’s a part a lot of people miss, is that this really has to be done at the strategic level for an organization, doesn’t it?

Lindsay Pedersen: It does. In fact, in some ways, the way that I think about brand … and this is true for a lot of the people that I interviewed for my book, as well.

In some ways, when you define your brand strategy, it’s just a consumer-facing way of defining your business strategy. It’s a more closer-to-the-ground way of defining how your business is going to succeed.

A lot of times business strategy gets a little esoteric or a little bit devoid of empathy. Brand strategy can take whatever that business strategy idea is, and make it more meaningful to the people who are creating those bonds with the target audience; either person to person or with the products and messaging that they’re developing.

Yes, brand strategy. Just like with any strategy, it’s about taking a step back, looking at what you have, what your strengths are, what the competitive strengths and white space might look like, and learning about what your target customer wants and needs that others can’t provide.

That’s the essence of business, that’s the essence of commerce. If you’re making a trade, why should they come to you rather than to somebody else? Or rather than not buying anything at all?

So when you define that, you are defining your business strategy. But you’re also defining your brand strategy in a way that can be easier and more potent for bringing to life with your customer.

John Jantsch: I like the way you really positioned this, because I think a lot of people think of brand and they think, “How do we want to be perceived?” I think you come at it more from a “What problem are we solving, who can we bring the most value to,” and obviously, “Who could be a valuable customer to us as well?”

But I think starting with that customer point of view about the brand, it’s almost like, “How do we want to be experienced by them?” as opposed to, “What are we trying to make them think?” Does that make sense? [crosstalk 00:11:34]-

Lindsay Pedersen: Yes!

John Jantsch: … because I see that throughout your book.

Lindsay Pedersen: Yes, I love the way that you articulated that. A hundred percent. It comes back to, why are we in business? Why are we doing what we’re doing? It’s to serve a certain person who has a certain problem.

We have a way of solving that problem that others don’t have. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have differentiation; therefore, we wouldn’t have strong enough margins to stay in business.

When you get very precise and intentional about what those elements are; who is your customer, what is the problem that they’re trying to solve, how do you uniquely solve that problem. You can make decisions across your business and across the customer journey that reinforce that thing.

At its basis, and the reason that I think this is so powerful for leaders in particular, is it’s a focusing mechanism. You can make decisions with your brand as a filter. You don’t have to litigate; every little and big decision you make, can be so much easier if you’re putting it through the filter of, “Does doing X, Y, or Z bring me closer to delivering this unique promise to this target customer?”

If “no,” don’t proceed. If “yes,” then proceed.

John Jantsch: We’ve joked for years. Do you remember the bracelets? I think they’ve been used for a lot of things. But What Would Jesus Do? Do you remember [crosstalk 00:13:13]?

Lindsay Pedersen: Oh, sure. Yeah.

John Jantsch: For years, we have had, “What Would Duct Tape Do?” That was sort of our idea about our filter.

Lindsay Pedersen: Awesome! John, that is so great; I love that.

John Jantsch: I want to remind you that this episode is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo helps you build meaningful customer relationships by listening and understanding cues from your customers. This allows you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages. There’s powerful segmentation, email auto responders that are ready to go, great reporting.

We’re going to learn a little bit about the secret to building customer relationships. They’ve got a really fun series called Klaviyo’s Beyond Black Friday. It’s docuseries, a lot of fun, quick lessons. Just head on over to Beyond Black Friday.

John Jantsch: As I hear you talk about this, there are big companies that have departments and divisions, and they sell different products and they have different markets. In a lot of ways, it’s hard for them to keep all the moving parts in place. But I think for a small business, would you go as far as saying that brand could be their culture?

Lindsay Pedersen: Yes. Yes. In fact, it’s funny; when I was doing this research to write my book, and I interviewed about 50 leaders across big companies, small companies, lots of different industries, the thing that most surprised me when I was interviewing these leaders about the value of brand, was how much they expressed it as a tool for culture building, for galvanizing employees around a purpose or an idea.

It’s the internal beacon that I did know that that was valuable, but I was surprised at how often this came up. That brand is a way to make something really intangible, like culture, have a single point. To have a definition of what it is.

When employees feel purpose, and brand is one way of coalescing with a purpose, they give more to their business. They’re set up to be happier and they’re set up to create more meaning in their own lives, and to create more value for your business.

It’s all this happy virtuous cycle of employees have purpose, they know how to succeed in their job, they feel great about it. And it ties them to the target customer, the person that they’re serving, which makes for a more vibrant work environment.

I totally agree with that, and it’s something that I didn’t know, or I didn’t appreciate deeply when I first set out to write this book.

John Jantsch: Well, one of the good news/bad news things about that is you can’t really fake that. That’s a really positive thing for somebody that really does have purpose.

But how about these organizations that … a lot of them start that way. It’s like, “Here’s what we believe, here’s how people need to be served.” Then all of a sudden they’ve got a hundred employees, and it’s like, “How do we keep them?”

Lindsay Pedersen: Yes. Yes. I think one of the things that I have noticed … and the reason that I wrote this book for leaders as opposed to marketing people is that when brand/culture is delegated; brand can be delegated to marketing, and culture can be delegated to HR. When that happens, it loses its whole power.

Or it becomes something; it might be a neat marketing campaign if marketing is driving it. It might be a neat team-building idea, if HR is driving it. But the leader needs to be modeling it and feeling it and breathing it. If that’s not happening, they’re not giving air cover to the rest of the organization to make trade offs according to this brand or according to this culture.

As a company grows, it’s particularly useful and particularly incumbent upon the leader to keep reinforcing why we’re here and why we do this. What is it that makes us different from other companies who are either in the space or who are serving the same target audience. What makes us different?

It’s like Stephen Covey talks about things that are important, but not urgent. Both culture and brand, I believe, fall into that quadrant. It’s like taking care of your health by eating well and by exercising and taking good care of your relationships. That’s important but not urgent.

But if you don’t do those things, then you wind up in urgent situations. You wind up at the emergency room. It’s the same thing with leading a company.

By embracing the thing that’s important but not urgent, so that the tenets of the brand, the elements of the culture, you prevent getting into an emergency with customer relationships or with employees fleeing the organization as soon as the economy goes in their favor.

It really does take this leadership believing it, and having conviction in it, and energy for it, that will take them from startup phase to medium-size company phase. It’s really hard to do even with a brand. But it’s really hard to do if you haven’t sat down and distilled what it is that we want to mean? What is it that’s going to make us different in the long run?

John Jantsch: We’ve been having such a lovely time chatting that I haven’t asked you the money question. What is an ironclad brand, then?

Lindsay Pedersen: Yes. Yes, what I contend is that all of the brand positioning territories that you could claim as yours, there are some that are more attractive than others.

There are nine qualities, nine criteria for an ironclad brand that I define in this book. When you have those nine qualities, you’re setting yourself up to create the most value for your business.

Would you like me to go through what the criteria are real quick?

John Jantsch: You bet.

Lindsay Pedersen: Okay.

John Jantsch: Although we do want people to buy the book, so.

Lindsay Pedersen.: I appreciate that. Well, I’ll be really quick so that people might still want to buy the book.

The criteria are that your brand is big. The number one criteria is that your brand promise is big enough to matter to your customer. That it’s a big space in the customer’s head.

The second is that it’s narrow. Although it’s big enough to matter, it’s also narrow enough that you can own it. That you can dominate it.

The third is that it’s asymmetrical. It uses your company’s lopsided advantage, your unfair advantage as a company.

Number four is that it’s empathetic. It addresses a deeply relevant, meaningful need for your customer; that it has your customer’s interests at heart.

Number five is that it’s optimally distinct. It strikes a balance between familiar and novel. It’s not so familiar that it’s boring; but it’s not so novel that it’s unrecognizable, and hard for somebody to learn and remember.

Number six is that it’s both functional and emotional. It serves the customer at this critical intersection of the customer’s heart and mind. It’s not just emotional, but it’s also not just functional; it’s both.

Number seven is that it’s sharp edged. It entails a single specific simple promise. It’s ridiculously clear to customers what you do and do not promise as a business.

Number eight is that your brand promise has teeth. It’s demonstrably true. It’s not just true, but it’s clear that it’s true, because you provide concrete proof.

Lastly, number nine, is that your brand promise delivers. You deliver on it every time consistently with the big things to the small things, from the new customers to the loyal customers. You’re nailing not just the letter of the promise, but also the spirit of the promise.

An ironclad brand encompasses all of those qualities, and therefore creates the most value for the business.

John Jantsch: Let’s wrap up on the thing that people tend to gravitate towards quite often. If you pull this off, and you create an ironclad brand, what’s the ROI? What’s the benefit? Because in some cases, you’re going to have to invest. You’re going to have to evolve. You’re going to have to train. What’s the payoff?

Lindsay Pedersen: Let me separate strategy from tactics. Developing the statement of what you stand for as a business, it only takes the time and money that it took you to either read my book or sit at a whiteboard and figure this out.

You can hire a brand strategist to help you with that, or you can do it yourself. That’s the strategy. You haven’t put meaningful money, working media dollars against that yet. That’s the North Star.

There isn’t an ROI on your brand just like … It’s the whole business strategy. One way of thinking about the ROI for the brand strategy is that everything that you do internally, you save a lot of time and energy because you’re not chasing small ideas; you’re only worrying about ideas that are big ideas.

But I think what you’re asking more, John, is now that you have this idea that you want to reinforce inside the head of your customers, when you spend money against it, how do you know that you’re going to recoup your investment eventually? That is more a function of what your business goals are.

Because a lot of the businesses that most benefit from a North Star, from the focus of a brand strategy, are not going to spend any money on marketing. They’re the mom-and-pop coffee shop down the street, or the retailer that has three locations in your city. To them, marketing is a website and a logo and maybe some flyers and maybe some free samples, if it’s a coffee shop.

That’s a small marketing budget. Your brand is the thing that you want to reinforce, not just with your marketing activities, but with everything that the customer experiences.

It might help you decide where to have office space. It might help you decide how to price. It might help you decide who to partner with. And yes, it’ll also help you decide how to promote and message and advertise what you have to offer.

But a lot of those things are free. Or they’re not free, they’re things that you’re already doing. You’re already deciding where to have office space. You’re already developing a product.

This is about harnessing the power of focus so that all of those things by defining the one thing, all of those levers can work together to reinforce that.

John Jantsch: Yeah, I guess in some ways what I was getting at is, I think when people get this right … I’ll use your coffee shop example. I drive by three or maybe four coffee shops to go to the coffee shop that I like. I’m willing to do that because I like the experience. I like what they stand for. I think that that’s the point, I guess, I was really making.

I’ll give you another example. I was a professional speaker long before my first book came out. My first book came out and sold pretty well. All of a sudden, people were willing to pay me four, five times what I was charging, just because my brand meant something to them.

Lindsay Pedersen: Yes. Yes, and I think when we go back to the definition of what is brand, it’s the thing that you stand for in the mind of your audience.

Whether the audience is people who hire you to do speaking engagements, or people who sell you coffee, or you’re buying coffee from; those by distilling it to one thing, you’re more likely to be reinforcing a single idea.

When you reinforce a single idea, you’re making them do less work to understand who you are. And when they do less work to understand who you are, they’re more likely to like you and to remember you.

It’s like, don’t do any expensive product development or promotion or media when you haven’t done this, because it’s going to be such a poor ROI if you’re throwing a lot of things against the wall.

John Jantsch: Well, and I spend a lot of time reading Google reviews of our customers and prospects, all types of businesses. I can tell you, 90% of them don’t even mention … sometimes you can’t even tell what the business does. But what they talk about is the great experience, the great people, how easy it was, that kind of stuff.

Lindsay Pedersen: Yes.

John Jantsch: I think that’s what people need to realize is the brand today, isn’t it?

Lindsay Pedersen: It is. It’s the way that people feel having interacted with you. They might remember something functional, or they might just remember the result of how they felt because you were able to solve a problem they otherwise weren’t able to solve. That’s exactly right. This is all about connecting human to human with your audience.

John Jantsch: I am speaking with Lindsay Pedersen, and we’re talking about her book, Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide. Lindsay, where can people find out more about you and your work and your book?

Lindsay P.: Thank you so much, John. Yes, my book is Forging an Ironclad Brand. It’s available on Amazon and all that. If listeners are interested, I have a free giveaway on my business’s website, which is

The giveaway is a workbook that I adapted from the book, Forging an Ironclad Brand. It serves as a supplement to the book. It’s this step-by-step workbook guide of the Ironclad method to building a brand strategy. You can find that at

And I’d love to be connected with your listeners; if anybody wants to link up with me on LinkedIn or Twitter, I would very much enjoy that.

John Jantsch: Awesome. We’ll have all those links in the Show Notes, as always. Lindsay, thanks for dropping by, and hopefully we’ll run in to you soon out there on the road.

Lindsay Pedersen: It was my pleasure, John. Thanks so much.

How to Build a Brand that Drives Growth

How to Build a Brand that Drives Growth written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Lindsay Pedersen
Podcast Transcript

Lindsay Pedersen headshotOn today’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, my guest is Lindsay Pedersen. She is a brand strategist and owner of Ironclad Brand Strategy.

She has advised numerous companies, from startups to corporations such as Starbucks, T-Mobile, and IMDb.

Prior to starting Ironclad, she served as a P&L owner at Clorox, where she led businesses like Clorox Bleach, Armor All, and Brita. She was responsible for increasing those business’s value, and it’s this perspective that she brings to teaching other businesses how to create a strong brand that grows ROI.

Today, we talk about her book, Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide, and she shares the nine points that define a successful brand—the kind that empowers your team and drives your growth.

Questions I ask Lindsay Pedersen:

  • What is an ironclad brand?
  • What’s the link between brand and strategy?
  • Would you go as far as to say that, for a small business, brand can be their culture?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why you need to be deliberate about defining your brand from the very beginning.
  • How brand can affect both your external audience and your colleagues.
  • How businesses can hold onto their brand as they expand.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Lindsay Pedersen:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Klaviyo logo

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. If you’re looking to grow your business there is only one way: by building real, quality customer relationships. That’s where Klaviyo comes in.

Klaviyo helps you build meaningful relationships by listening and understanding cues from your customers, allowing you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages.

What’s their secret? Tune into Klaviyo’s Beyond Black Friday docu-series to find out and unlock marketing strategies you can use to keep momentum going year-round. Just head on over to

5 Great Ways to Add Video to Your Website Experience

5 Great Ways to Add Video to Your Website Experience written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Video has become a major marketing channel. More and more people are saying that it’s the way they want to consume content. Why scroll through a long blog post or text-heavy web page when you can instead watch a quick, visually-engaging video and get all the information you need?

As consumers’ attitudes towards video shifts, it’s up to you to meet that demand and give the people what they want! There are tons of great opportunities to incorporate video all throughout your marketing efforts, from social media to your website.

Here, let me walk you through five of the most effective ways to add video to your website experience.

1. Share Your Mission

You started your business because you’re passionate about what you do. But sometimes that passion appears diluted when you try to write about it. If you’d like to share your mission and value proposition with your audience, why not do it with a video?

You can include this front-and-center on your home page. A mission video is a great way to grab attention and immediately begin to build trust. When visitors to your site can see you speaking with conviction and commitment about the work that you do to help your customers solve their problems, they feel an emotional connection to you and what you’re saying.

2. Explain Your Benefits

No matter what it is that you’re selling, a video can help you clarify the benefits of your products or services. Plus, while everyone else is relying on words (and perhaps still images) to showcase their offerings, you’ll stand out from the crowd with a video.

Video is certainly beneficial if your business does something that’s complicated or technical. Say, for example, you’re a B2B software company who provides data analytics for retailers. A video can help you quickly and easily share what your product does, why data analytics matter, and what data can do to help your prospects solve their business problems.

Even if your product is more straightforward, video can give you an edge of the competition. Take, for example, Anthropologie’s line of wedding wear, sold under their BHLDN label. They include videos in many of the product descriptions for their wedding dresses. The 10-second clips show the models moving around in the dresses, and give brides-to-be a sense of how the fabric looks and moves on an actual person. Anthropologie clearly understands that choosing a wedding dress is a costly and emotional endeavor. The video makes it a little easier for prospective shoppers to picture what the dress would look like on the big day.

3. Spread Industry Knowledge

You know that content creation is a key component of establishing your presence as a thought leader and expert in your industry. If you’ve owned your business for a while, you’re hopefully in the habit of creating regular blog posts (and maybe you’ve even taken things a step further and designed some hub pages to share all your incredible content).

But even if your blog posts are filled with nuggets of wisdom and incredible advice, sometimes your audience wants to consume information another way. Video can help break up the monotony of your blog by injecting some bold visuals into your posts.

Plus, with video, you can get a lot of content bang for your buck. Filming a three minute video on a topic you know well takes hardly any time at all. If you have your phone on-hand and a basic mic hooked up, you can create a pretty professional-looking clip in minutes. Get that video transcribed, and you can turn that content into another blog post, or break it up and share quotes from the video on your social media—there are so many other uses for the content! With video, you can get multiple forms of content in a fraction of the time that it would take to write even one traditional blog post.

4. Highlight Your Team or Customers

I’ve already touched on a few other ways that video can help to build trust with your audience. Creating videos featuring your team or customers is another important way to inspire faith and confidence in your brand.

Videos that introduce your team make your customers feel more at ease. They can see a bit of each employee’s personality and charm, and grow to feel like this employee is someone who is personally invested in creating great customer experiences. It’s a trust-building element for any company, but it’s an especially great tool if you run a service business where technicians are dispatched to clients’ houses. Creating a video with each technician, where they introduce themselves and share something about why they do what they do, makes people feel a bit more at ease about welcoming them into their home. Your technician becomes a familiar face, rather than a total stranger in a uniform.

Video testimonials build trust from another angle. When potential customers watch a video about how you solved an issue for your existing customer, there’s an instant flash of recognition. That prospect sees themselves in your customer! The person in the video has had the same problem and found great success by entrusting your company to solve it for them. Video allows you to build an emotional connection between prospect and happy customer in a way that a written testimonial couldn’t.

5. Tackle Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve all scrolled through FAQ pages, scanning for the information we really want and then glazing over by the time we finally find it, bored to death by a solid wall of text.

Video can turn your FAQ page from informational slog into something far more fun and engaging. FAQ videos are an opportunity for you and your team to show a bit of brand personality. Ask a handful of employees to get involved with answering questions, so that there’s variety on the page. And try to unite the videos thematically in a way that ties in with what your business does.

If you’re looking to keep prospects and customers engaged on your website, video is a great way to do it. There are a number of ways to incorporate video into your messaging and marketing, and doing so can help you build trust with viewers and stand out from the crowd.

Weekend Favs August 17

Weekend Favs August 17 written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one that I took out there on the road.

These are my weekend favs, I would love to hear about some of yours – Tweet me @ducttape

Transcript of How to Discover and Embrace Your Creative Side

Transcript of How to Discover and Embrace Your Creative Side written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Back to Podcast


Gusto Logo

John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Gusto, modern, easy payroll benefits for small businesses across the country. And because you’re a listener, you get three months free when you run your first payroll. Find out at

John Jantsch: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Tania Katan. She is an award-winning author, public speaker, playwright, and creativity expert. She’s also written a book that we’re going to talk about today called Creative Trespassing: How to Spark… Wait. How to Put Spark and Joy Back in your Life. Tania, thanks for joining us.

Tania Katan: A pleasure, John, and thanks for making a mistaker right off the bat. I’m being totally sincere. I think that that’s part of the nature of creative trespassing, which is making beautiful mistakes and realizing that’s where we learn how to be creative souls in the world. Thank you.

John Jantsch: You’re welcome. As my listeners will know, I do not edit those out either.

Tania Katan: That’s great.

John Jantsch: We’re going to talk about creative trespassing. I guest there is such a beast as a creative trespasser. What does that person look like?

Tania Katan: I don’t know if beast is the right adjective, but I appreciate it. A creative trespasser in my esteem is someone who is willing to take risks, to make mistakes, and to embrace all of their flaws and scars and awkwardness knowing that those are the places where our real superpowers lie. As somebody who has worked an entire life personally and professionally embracing my flaws, scars and awkwardness, I figured that it was important to create a map for other human beings because we are all flawed and imperfect and delightful and fantastic and that that’s actually… Those are the places where real innovations and art and solutions lie. I wanted to write a map and show people that, hey, there are fellow creative trespassers out there. Perhaps we didn’t have a name. Now we do and now we are a force to be reckoned with.

John Jantsch: I’ve realized, of course in hindsight, that I’ve spent most of my life trying to fit in. When do we stop doing that?

Tania Katan: Gosh, I hope the moment that we realize that we’re trying to fit into systems or work cultures or cultures that aren’t valuing all of our weirdness, that those are the times to stop fitting in and embrace our outsiderness. Yeah, I mean, honestly, I come from a long line of outsiders too and that’s my DNA. I thought my birthright was the worst birthright ever, which was to not fit in. That’s all I wanted to do as a kid. Then in the professional realm, I was hired in the marketing department and I just wanted to market, but I had these crazy ideas that led to campaigns that were unconventional and actually worked for the company. The way I’ve learned to embrace my outsiderness and find the value in it is when I’ve proven that it is more valuable to see things objectively as an outsider.

Tania Katan: That there are many people who feel actually stuck in their day to day jobs because they haven’t quite yet figured out how to see what they’re doing, how to see the mundane or their everyday rituals and tasks as something new and exciting. That’s part of why I decided to write Creative Trespassing, to offer exercises and ways for finding and refreshing or reinvigorating these things that we’ve come to think of as boring or we’re just stuck or blame other people for our situation, in fact, our rife with opportunities to be creative.

John Jantsch: I’m sure you get this, and so I’m just going to toss this up here for you to like kick it right out of the park, but you know, you work in an art gallery. You work in marketing. You’re a designer. Those are creative people, but what if I’m an insurance actuary? How am I going to be a creative trespasser? I mean, we don’t do that here.

Tania Katan: Yeah. First of all, I have to say, there are plenty of people who work in “creative jobs” or in “creative industries: who do not feel or in the day to day are doing anything that is wildly creative. I know that we can be uniquely creative whether or not we’re in a creative field. One thing I go to all the time and when I work with clients, I give them the power of the what if question. You probably know this and practice this, John, but you know, as a trained playwright and somebody who comes from theater, our job is to ask what if questions. You know, what if. Basically in doing that, what we’re asking is what is possible or probable or crazy outlandish or unbelievable that doesn’t exist in this moment.

Tania Katan: What’s a solution we haven’t tried and isn’t true? To really brainstorm, well, what if instead of having a marketing campaign on the internet, we had it on the moon? What if we actually got an astronaut to help us launch the campaign? In in asking all of these outlandish questions, we’ll actually land on a solution and ideas that are new and will actually solve the problem. I think the people who are stuck, whether or not you’re an accountant, hey, if you’re an accountant and you can’t figure out your budget, you can’t reconcile your budget, you got to be creative.

Tania Katan: You have to ask, what if I lost my receipt on the way to lunch yesterday, instead of looking at the numbers and trying to solve a math problem, try to think of the whole context and ask what if questions.

John Jantsch: Oh, that’s just crazy talk. All right. You already mentioned that you have spent some time in the theater. I’ve seen you perform. You could do stand up for a living. I mean, what if it’s just not my DNA? I’m giving you like really, you know, silly objections here, but I’m just hearing people go, “That’s easy for you.”

Tania Katan: Yeah, so a couple of things. One, every time I speak, and that’s what I do for a living predominantly is public speaking, there’s at least one person who raises their hand and says, “I’m not creative,” you know? Really the basic definition of creativity is using your imagination to solve a problem or come up with something new. Right? I kick it back to you, John, and say, “Hey, Mr. Devil’s Advocate who’s not creative. Do you ever imagine or use your imagination to come up with something new, whether that’s to add an item to your shopping list or come up with Q4 goals? Do you ever use your imagination to come up with something new or solve a problem?” It’s a rhetorical question. The answer is yes.

Tania Katan: A lot of the exercises in Creative Trespassing aren’t just like weird dictums to be a wild creative. They’re are actually ways to increase your creative confidence. For example, if you feel uncomfortable practicing using your imagination, there’s an exercise that I call the I Rock Files, which you remember the Rockford Files? You’re old enough, John.

John Jantsch: Do I sound that old?

Tania Katan: I don’t know. I don’t know.

John Jantsch: I am old enough. I am old enough. Yes, you’re right.

Tania Katan:  Okay. Okay. The I Rock Files are basically something that I came up with because there were so many high level super smart people that I was coaching who didn’t believe they were smart or creative or wildly innovative. I said, “Well, why don’t you get outside of yourself and find and gather evidence that proves that you are and start a file that says I Rock File. It can be a physical file. It can be an online folder, but evidence that you’ve gathered that points to the fact that you are awesome, that you are creative. When people, like customers, send you a note that says, “Oh my gosh. I never thought to solve a problem like that. I appreciate you taking the time to do that,” or your boss saying, “You exceeded your Q4 goals. Good job,” and go to that. Because a lot of the times that we’re feeling like we can’t do something, we’re the first barrier to entry. We’re the ones who stop ourselves from doing it.”

Tania Katan: This is actually called limiting beliefs. These beliefs that we hold that we can’t do something or we aren’t something. I’m not creative. I don’t deserve a raise. I’m not good enough to x, Y, and Z. Those are just constructed thoughts that we’ve come up with so that we don’t actually have to fulfill our dreams, desires, or goals in life.

John Jantsch: I actually had some teachers that reinforce those thoughts.

Tania Katan: I had those teachers too. Mister… No. Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately, our society is sort of banking on us not fulfilling our dreams, goals and desires and us staying in our own way. But you know that anybody who’s ever done something major in the world, and by major I sometimes mean just getting up and feeling good about who you are and how you are in the world, everything from that to starting a creative revolution, they’ve all started with approaching a limit with an option. Like I’m going to tunnel under it. I’m going to jump over it. I’m going to dissolve it or hug it and embrace it and make it go away so that I can do something new in the world.

John Jantsch: You have written about, and I’ve seen you speak about, your battle with cancer. What do you think in hindsight that’s done for you?

Tania Katan: That’s done for me?

John Jantsch: That challenge. You know, surely, I’m just guessing. I don’t have any experience. I’m just guessing that that made you mentally tougher and all the things that we think it might’ve done.

Tania Katan: Well, you know what, John? One thing that you saw that your listeners didn’t see when I gave the talk at the World Domination Summit was yes, I was diagnosed with breast cancer twice and each time I had a mastectomy, which left me with two scars. I went through chemotherapy and all of this kind of stuff. In order to ensure that diagnosis and statistically speaking, many of your listeners have either endured cancer personally or have gone through it with a family or a friend or whatever, a colleague. It’s not that it made me tough. It made me question my mortality, and then it made me embrace my body that was filled with scars. Again, I had two mastectomy scars. I did not get reconstructive surgery. I started questioning like, what does it mean to be a healthy body in a different form, right?

Tania Katan: Here I am a woman in our society and my breasts are gone and what does that mean. In questioning all of those things, what I ended up doing was running a topless 10K for breast awareness. I didn’t do it to cause a spectacle or anything like that, but I did it because I realized that there is a disconnect in who we are and what we do in the world. There’s a disconnect. As I go into two different companies across the globe and consult and give them creative strategies for moving forward, there’s often a disconnect between the mission or the vision of the company and then the on the ground realities. In having breast cancer, I realized, well, I’m actually healthy now. I don’t have cancer anymore.

Tania Katan: I’ve gone through chemotherapy. I have this body. It’s scarred. It’s weird. It’s little, and it’s mine. I would go to all these races for breast cancer, and I didn’t see anybody else with scars exposed. I thought that’s weird. We’re all here for the same reason. We’re all here to celebrate the life of somebody who has endured or lost their life as a result of breast cancer or cancer. How do I show that you can be a healthy body in a different form? Anyway, I started running these topless races and to mixed reviews. They were very scary for me to take off my shirt and run topless in a sea of thousands of runners, but what they did was they allowed me to feel more comfortable and confident in my weird and new body and also to show a connection between why we were there and who we are.

Tania Katan: That was really important for me. That’s what having breast cancer kind of helped me to realize is that we are connected to everything we do and every place we occupied, whether we show that or not. That’s actually helped me in my professional life and my vocation with again, working with companies and people who think that they’re connected to the mission of their company and then find themselves not. I’ve worked in museums where we’ve sold art and yet we did not work in a very artful way to sell it. Yeah. I think that was the big lesson there.

John Jantsch: Everyone loves payday, but loving a payroll provider? That’s a little weird. Still, small businesses across the country love running payroll with Gusto. Gusto automatically files and pays your taxes. It’s super easy to use, and you can add benefits and management tools to help take care of your team and keep your business safe. It’s loyal. It’s modern. You might fall in love yourself. Hey, and as a listener, you get three months free when you run your first payroll. Try a demo and test it out at That’s

John Jantsch: One of the things that, it seems to me, is that in order to really to ask a question like what if we did this on the moon, requires a level of vulnerability that very few people can walk around with. I think that that’s… In a lot of ways, I don’t know you that well, but in seeing you speak and reading your work, I feel like you’ve embraced a level of vulnerability that now turns around and comes out as strength and power.

Tania Katan: Well, thank you. To that point, it’s funny to ask the what if. Yes, we need vulnerability. A good way to find that is to convene a diverse group of human beings to solve problems. This is something I actually learned from my time working for a software company, which is something called agile methodology. Anyway, long story short, within an agile way of making software, you have to invite people from diverse departments in to help you solve the problem. When you do that, everybody’s vulnerable because nobody feels like they’re an expert, which is fantastic. They might be an expert in their own area, but then they’re trying to find ways to connect with their peers, find common ground.

Tania Katan: I would say that that kind of vulnerability comes when people feel like they’re less of an expert among other experts in their specific field. We bust open those silos and invite diverse people and thinking in to address and solve problems. Yeah, I think vulnerability comes in. This is what I do in my personal and professional life. I put myself constantly in situations where I feel uncomfortable, where I feel like I don’t belong, where I feel like I might be an expert in creativity, but all of these people are experts in marketing. What the hell am I doing here? Then find ways to connect. To me, that’s what it means to be alive is to disrupt…

Tania Katan: It’s to disrupt situations that feel comfortable and challenge myself to find ways to connect across divides.

John Jantsch: Does every business need a you? It’s like, “let’s bring in the freak and have that person participate,” or is it really more about we need a culture that just embraces diversity of thought?

Tania Katan: Both. I think that… Some companies definitely need a shot in the arm and it’s sometimes easiest to hear those things from an outsider, from a consultant, or a coach even if you’ve been saying it to your colleague this whole time like, “You know what? You guys, we say that we champion innovation, but we have not done any sort of innovative exercises or lunch and learns in 10 years.” Sometimes it’s easier, a lot of companies will bring me or people like me in during lunch and learns or they’ll have speaking series and things like this or as a consultant. However, there are plenty of mes that exist underneath the company’s noses. It is about creating and nurturing a culture of creativity, which doesn’t mean that people need to identify as an artist or a writer or a musician.

Tania Katan: It does mean that those people who are in positions of power need to create situations where people can express themselves, have brainstorming breaks, have an engage in play or in rituals that aren’t typical so that we get unstuck from the patterns and habits that are keeping us stuck. Yeah, I think it’s championing and also engaging people in play and creative exercises and doing that with regularity. I mean, you know, this is… Again, I get brought in a lot of times as a consultant because everybody says, “We champion creativity and innovation,” and the first thing to go when they don’t have time, when they feel like it’s the last thing on the to do list is the most important part of the business, which especially if you’re a tech company is innovation.

Tania Katan: You can’t have innovation without having creativity or play. You just can’t.

John Jantsch: Creative Trespassing is filled with exercises that you use, I’m assuming, in your work. Do you want to share maybe one of your favorite ones as an example of what somebody might do or experience if they were trying to break out a little?

Tania Katan: Yeah. Well, two things come to mind. That’s how I roll. I’m just going to shout up with two of them. One is a super, super simple exercise. It literally is to look around and see what problems your company is not looking to solve, and then gather a group of diverse human beings, diverse in background, in mindsets, in departments, in title and brainstorm all the ways in which you can solve that problem that no one is looking to solve. If you’re feeling really gutsy, raise your hand at the all hands meeting and share your ideas for solving this problem. That exercise developed after I was working at a tech company and a boss of mine said, “Hey. We want to kind of solve the problem of women in technology or the lack thereof.”

Tania Katan: They were a tech company selling project management software. Like we didn’t need to solve the problem of women in the tech com… I mean tech sector. That wasn’t important. That didn’t affect our ROI, and yet we set out to solve that problem. We didn’t solve it, but we came up with a marketing campaign that went around the world. The point is is that in looking to solve something that nobody else was looking to solve, we came up with an awesome idea that resonated around the globe. That was a really cool thing. Then the second-

John Jantsch: Can I interrupt you before the second one only because I want you to finish that thought. It Was Never A Dress is probably a story that you get a little tired of telling, maybe not, as you’ve told it so many times, but we’ll have it in the show notes. I don’t know if you want to just give us two seconds on what… Because you alluded to the campaign and I know-

Tania Katan: Yeah, totally. No, no, I never get a… No, it’s really… The beautiful thing actually about writing my book was that I got to write about the process behind coming up with the idea because people see It Was Never A Dress which is if you… In your mind’s eye, listeners, please see the women’s bathroom symbol. See her little round head and triangle dress. Okay. You know her, right? You’ve seen her. Maybe some listeners have seen her several times today because you know, they had to pee pee. But anyway, we kind of a re-imagined the symbol. Let’s say you were looking at her in the front and she’s wearing a dress, but what if we turned her around and she was wearing a cape? We were looking at her the wrong way this whole time. We were looking at her back and in front she’s wearing a cape.

Tania Katan: This shift in consciousness and this visual that we’d seen that became mundane, that we hadn’t thought of now becomes this radical and exciting symbol for seeing women as more than just wearing a dress. That there were visual options for women being in the world, in the workforce. It went viral as the kids say. We put out this image and it went around. For marketing people who are listening, we received 20 million organic impressions within the first 24 hours of putting that out there. This was in 2015. The exciting part, John, the part that actually never gets dull to talk about is the fact that because it was embraced by so many people so quickly that the people made it their own. It wasn’t important. Only now I get to write about it and share stories about it, like sort of behind the scenes how it came to be.

Tania Katan: But the beauty of it is is that it became everyone’s. It didn’t become ours, this like little software company who came up with this weird idea. The young woman at TSA who when she saw my sticker said, “Oh my gosh. I love it. I gave this to my cousin and we told them we’re superheroes and we feel so empowered.” It’s my friend’s aunt in the Midwest who never gives a shit about anything online and saw the symbol and said, “Oh my gosh. Now when I go to work, I feel like I belong there.” That’s the coolest part about the It Was Never A Dress campaign is that it became bigger than our idea. It became and belongs to everyone.

John Jantsch: I’m sure there are a few bathroom symbols around the world that have been vandalized as well.

Tania Katan: Yes. I take no responsibility for that.

John Jantsch: Oh, well, you put out the taggers guide to.

Tania Katan: No.

John Jantsch: All right, so I cut you off.

Tania Katan: That’s fine.

John Jantsch:  You were going to give me the second exercise.

Tania Katan: Oh, the second exercise that comes to mind because of your Devil’s advocating earlier, when you were like, “Well, what if I don’t fancy myself creative, can I still be a creative trespasser?” This exercise allows everyone to be creative trespasser, which is called the official unofficial award. You know how many times, especially in work culture, it’s like you have to earn employee of the month or you have to wait around for some other like an annual review to get a raise? Like we’re only awarded one time a year, maybe, if we’re lucky. Some people never get awarded and yet they’re doing so many cool things behind the scenes. Get your colleague, your friend, your family member, an official unofficial award.

Tania Katan: You know what I’m saying? You can write it down on a piece of paper. You can change their screensaver when they’re not looking. Somebody could be like the inclusionary visionary award because you bring people to meetings that are unexpected and amazing, or the you make meetings fun award, or whatever. In fact, I’m going to launch an official unofficial creative trespasser award. This is going to happen. I’m going to do it on social media because it’s so easy to see and celebrate those around us who don’t often get seen or celebrated for the amazing things they’re doing every single day to make us feel more alive, more engaged, and just more human. So there.

John Jantsch: I’m speaking with Tania Katan, the author of Creative Trespassing. I think we’re doing a little creative trespassing today, I hope, for listeners. Tania, where can people find out more about you, your work, and your book?

Tania Katan: Sure. They can go to and that’s Tania,, and then you can follow me on Instagram where I’m TheUnrealTaniaKatan. That’s right, TheUnrealTaniaKatan. Because when I went to sign up for Instagram, there was a Tania Katan already and she was a mom of two. I didn’t want to say I’m the real Tania Katan and make her children go to therapy at an early age. I decided to give her that moniker and I became TheUnrealTaniaKatan.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Tania, it was so great visiting with you and hopefully we’ll run into you again out there on the road.

Tania Katan: John, it was a pleasure. Thank you for having me. Take care.

How to Discover and Embrace Your Creative Side

How to Discover and Embrace Your Creative Side written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Tania Katan
Podcast Transcript

Tania Katan headshotToday on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I visit with Tania Katan. She is a speaker, bestselling author, and CEO of Creative Trespassing. She’s dedicated her life to embracing creativity and teaching others to do the same.

Her speaking, training, and workshops are designed to help and inspire those who may not think of themselves as creative to overcome their limiting beliefs and tap into their creative impulses. She’s keynoted at many major conferences including CiscoLive!, Expedia, Uber, S.H.E. Summit, Amazon, Etsy, Talks at Google, Humana, and TEDx.

Her work has been featured in The New York TimesUSA TodayHuffPostTIME, BuzzFeed, Money Magazine, Forbes, NPR, and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, among others. She’s also the author of the book Creative Trespassing: How to Put the Spark and Joy Back Into Your Work and Life.

On this episode, Katan shares how creativity can transform your organization and how to cultivate a culture that celebrates and champions creativity.

Questions I ask Tania Katan:

  • What does a creative trespasser look like?
  • How can you be a creative trespasser in an industry that isn’t considered creative?
  • Does every business need a creative consultant or coach, or is it more about creating a culture that embraces a diversity of thought?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How to overcome your limiting beliefs.
  • Why vulnerability is an important part in the creative process, and how to make space for vulnerability in your organization.
  • What exercises you can do to help tap into your creativity.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Tania Katan:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Gusto Logo_full berry_small

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Gusto. Everyone loves payday, but loving a payroll provider? That’s a little weird. Still, small businesses across the country love running payroll with Gusto.

Gusto is making payroll, benefits, and HR easy for modern small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team.

To help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive, limited-time deal. Sign up today, and you’ll get 3 months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to

Transcript of Why You Need a Virtual Assistant (And How to Find One)

Transcript of Why You Need a Virtual Assistant (And How to Find One) written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Back to Podcast


Klaviyo logo

John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.

John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. And my guest today is Melissa Smith. She’s the founder and CEO of the Association of Virtual Assistants. She’s also the author of a book called Hire the Right Virtual Assistant: How the Right VA Will Make Your Life Easier, Create Time, and Make You More Money. So, Melissa, thanks for joining me.

Melissa Smith: My pleasure, John.

John Jantsch: So I’ve been talking about virtual assistants actually for years. And in fact, certainly while it was kind of a novel idea a decade ago, I mean, now we have entire virtually-staffed companies. So in your work with this idea or this concept of a virtual assistant, how have you seen that evolve over, let’s just say, the last dozen years?

Melissa Smith: It’s evolved quite a bit. I think that it’s really just changed the name. We might’ve called it telecommuting before. And now that term is on its way out. It’s almost fully gone. We know we’ve talked about freelancers, remote working. Skype really started to change things. Really in the future with VR, that’s a whole other realm to get into.

Melissa Smith: But it’s really changed how a lot of executives and high-level people were doing work, right? Their time is so important. You have tens of thousands of people that report to you, basically, your company around the world. There’s time zones. There was a lot of travel, and so it really changed where we could be, how fast we could get there, the information that we could share, how personal it was.

Melissa Smith: It’s really changed a lot. But I don’t think what people really saw coming way back when was that it was also going to change the way many workers can get work done and report into work and start their own businesses.

Melissa Smith: When I talk about remote working, it’s nothing new. It seems different because now I’m outside the office and someone’s in their office. But the times where someone that I worked with was always in the office with me, I just can’t even remember those times. We were communicating by email, by text, by video chat. They were never in the office. So essentially we were remote working. I just happen to be remote working from inside the office and now I no longer have to do that.

John Jantsch: Well, and really the technology that’s kind of changed and caught up … I mean, really, as I referenced, I mean, you have entire organizations that have 100 employees and none of them report to an office anymore. And so that’s obviously … Even that behavior kind of has changed how people think about getting work done.

John Jantsch: So would you say … Let’s start with the definition. Is there a definition today of what a virtual assistant is and what it’s not?

Melissa Smith: Yes. So a virtual assistant is someone who is an independent contractor, a business owner. They are not an employee. So you can have an assistant that is an employee, but their title is not likely to be a virtual assistant. It is likely to be some type of other title, remote worker-

John Jantsch: Executive assistant, even. Something like that.

Melissa Smith: Possibly. I mean, there’s definitely executive virtual assistant, but typically, like I’m doing a search right now for a chief of staff, but that’s an employee position. You could have a chief-of-staff virtual assistant as well. But usually once you put that virtual assistant title on there, that’s what makes it into a different realm.

John Jantsch: But I guess that’s … I mean, you’re really hitting on the idea that you may be started out with what was … Defined how people viewed a virtual assistant. And now it’s almost every role, it can be virtual. And so I’m assuming that even in the Association of Virtual Assistants, you have people that are doing work, like virtual content people and virtual web assistants and virtual marketing assistants, not just maybe what people thought of as sort of admin work.

Melissa Smith: Oh, absolutely. It is a very, very wide range, from working with speakers [inaudible] solo entrepreneurs to working with those who are still very much in a C-suite and those who have brick-and-mortar companies, and their needs are just ranging, working with nonprofits, whether you need someone who can be an assistant or someone who can do some content, someone who can update your profile, some to reach out to those who want you to come out and speak at their event, or you’re reaching out to speak at more events.

Melissa Smith: I always tell people, if you have a need, there’s a virtual assistant out there. And for those who think they’re in these fields that think, “Oh, you know that would never become in my field. My field is highly regulated. It’s very secure, it’s very demanding.” From legal offices to financial offices, virtual assistants is everywhere.

John Jantsch: So, in terms of of hiring then you make a good point, because I could see a lot of people thinking, “It’s time for me to get a virtual assistant. I need somebody about 20 hours a week.” But then they want them to do eight different sort of specialized tasks. When it comes to that type of approach. I mean, is there a right approach? I mean, do you hire somebody and hopefully, like a lot of employees, a lot of employees get hired, fill up the day and they’re asked to do things that there aren’t really in their skillset, but they’re there. So they’re asked to do that. So would you say that the better technique is to maybe hire four different virtual assistants for different specialized needs?

Melissa Smith: Absolutely. I would highly recommend that, one, you’re going to get better work. You’re also going to get more informed work. So the benefit of hiring someone that is an expert in a field is that they have to also keep up on the trends. So this is a really hot topic right now. Do you specialize or you generalize? And the workforce is actually going towards more specialization, although people are talking about generalization. And the reason why is because things change so fast. If I’m a generalist, can I do the work? Yes. Am I as likely to be in the know of what changes are coming and get to those changes before they happen if I’m not a specialist? Not likely.

Melissa Smith: And then the other thing you said is 20 hours a week. Most people only hire a VA five to 10 hours a week. The work that can be done virtually is very specialized. So again, you’re not looking at a lot of time. Do people hire VAs for more than that? Yes. But if you’re hiring a VA for 20 hours a week, chances are you’re doing a lot of business, a lot of business, it’s just not as common. And then the other side of it is if you have a lot of things that you need to do and you’re thinking, “Wow, I just don’t know one person that can do all these things.” Maybe you need bookkeeping, you need some social media and you need someone who can also be an executive assistant for you.

Melissa Smith:There are teams out there where you can just hire [inaudible] report to have a one person report to you but then have multiple people doing the work. And it doesn’t cost that much more than having a regular, like one virtual assistant working for you.

John Jantsch: So how do you recommend people go about finding [inaudible] fit? Because I’ve worked with probably two dozen virtual assistants over the years and, you know, some were a better fit than others. Some I did a better job of finding than others. I mean, what’s the best process? Because I do think I have at least experienced, there were definitely people that I felt like I got a lot more work out of. I felt a lot more comfortable with their work because I think they were a good fit. So, how does somebody go about, especially in the virtual world it’s … you’re sometimes doing these over email, how do you find a good fit?

Melissa Smith: So, the first thing you do is start with your communication strategy. It’s in your style, your medium, your manner, your tone. It has to be super easy for you. I’ve seen far too many people say, “Oh I have to communicate with my VA this way.” And that is the tail wagging the dog, if you’re spending the money, it has to be for you. So my example is if you’re walking through the grocery store and you’re like, “Oh, I totally forgot to tell my VA this,” how would you message that person? Would you call? Would you text? Would you Slack? You know, what are those things? And that should be the way that you get to do that.

Melissa Smith: The second part of it is that you should be your VA’s ideal client. They should have started their business to work with someone just like you. Because if not, a lot of VA’s can work and do their work for anybody, but they won’t want to. So when they get a full book of business, they’re going to drop you. So you want to make sure that you’re their ideal.

John Jantsch: Go back to that point again because I mean, how would I determine that? Like how would I find that person that I’m their ideal client?

Melissa Smith: Sure. You would go to their website, their LinkedIn profile, their social media handles. What are they saying? Who are they for? What does their message look like. If you don’t find yourself in that, if you’re not finding yourself sharing the same articles, reading the same books on the same platforms, using the same terms, that person did not create their business for you. You should definitely see yourself in there.

Melissa Smith: So if I work with podcasters, it should say virtual assistant podcaster. Now, I know that’s pretty vague. They’ll going to say more than that, but I don’t work with podcasters, so you won’t see that in my profile. I love podcasts. I’m a huge fan. They’re the way of the future in terms of SEO more than ever. But that’s not my specialty. So if I’m an executive coach and they come to my site and they want to see who I worked with and who I work with, they’re going to see their name on there. They’re going to think, “Wow, Melissa works with people just like me.”

John Jantsch: So in terms of productivity, I know a lot of times I’ve talked to people over the years that have hired a virtual, excuse me, assistant and just felt like it was more work getting them up to speed and I didn’t know what to tell them. I mean, is there a process, a timeline, a way that you should think about orienting and training to get a person to be more productive? I mean, a lot like you would an employee I suppose.

Melissa Smith: Yes, there should definitely be an onboarding process. Now, again, we go back to working with experts. I’m not onboarding them on how to use a certain software, how to use a certain system, that should not be part of the onboarding process. The onboarding process is, “This is how I like to do things. These are my preferences. We’re going to get our working rhythm down. We’re going to start to really dive on this level of communication.” But it should not be, “I can’t log in. I don’t know how to find this.” Those aren’t the kind of conversations you want to have.

Melissa Smith: But if you don’t have an onboarding plan for your VA, and this is something I share in my book and there’s a complete strategy for it, you want to know what good looks like so that you can convey what good looks like to your VA.

Melissa Smith: And the great part about it is you’re going to do like that one week or two. Here’s that point. We’re going to share information. You’re going to say, “Okay, here’s the logins,” share them through a secure site. You know, that sort of thing. Here’s what we should be up to speed. We should have our meetings down. And then through the next couple weeks you should be working on what it is that you want this person to be impactful for. If you just have this list of, “Gosh, I have like eight things they could work on,” you’re not going to be really satisfied with that. Really pick where you want to be at the end of 12 weeks and work backwards.

Melissa Smith: And then the benefit to this is you’re also going to say, “Okay, these are the things that I think might derail me. This is what good looks like. This is my rich goal and this is what I would consider a failure, if we didn’t hit this, if we didn’t get this done by the end of 12 weeks, I would not be happy with that.” And once you know that, it’s much easier not only to manage the process, but it’s also manage the VA. So if you don’t hit those timelines, then you know exactly where to manage. Like why did this not happen? How did this fall through? And at the same time, if you’re ahead of schedule, it gives you something to be really excited about.

John Jantsch: Want to remind you that this episode is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo helps you build meaningful customer relationships by listening and understanding cues from your customers. And this allows you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages. There’s powerful segmentation, email autoresponders that are ready to go. Great reporting. You want to learn a little bit about the secret to building customer relationships? They’ve got a really fun series called Klaviyo’s Beyond Black Friday. It’s a docu series, a lot of fun, quick lessons. Just head on over to BF, Beyond Black Friday.

John Jantsch: This kind of fits into that same vein. How much expectations should there be that this person’s going to just wait for me to tell them what to do versus they’re going to come back and say, “Hey, here’s a better way to do it.”

Melissa Smith: This is a hot topic. And the difference between a real assistant, any type of assistant, whether it’s AI or human, is the ability to anticipate your needs. If they can’t anticipate your needs, then it’s not a real assistant. That is a task-taker. That’s someone that you’re going to be delegating to. I’m not a fan of delegation. Delegation is work. Some people are really good at it. So if you’re good with delegating and just giving people tasks, then by all means, that’s a different kind of person.

Melissa Smith: But if you’re looking for a true virtual assistant, that person is going to be able to anticipate your needs. And they will start picking up the clues. They’ll start looking at your calendar. They’ll start seeing patterns the same way that AI will, right? And that’s how we do things.

Melissa Smith: My clients, even though I matched them with virtual assistants and I train other virtual assistants, I anticipate what they need before they need it and even hiring. Because I know I can see down the road because I’ve done this before. And the more clients I work with, the more clients I can see. And then I start to anticipate new things and I start to see new trends and I start to anticipate those and I ask the right questions and see if it’s applicable to them. But the idea that you’re going to be just waiting on someone, or someone’s going to be waiting on you to give them work, that’s just more work.

John Jantsch: So I heard you mention 12 weeks. Is that a realistic goal to think somebody’s, and maybe you just used that as an example, but is that a realistic goal to think yeah, we should be on track to get up to sort of full speed by then?

Melissa Smith: Absolutely. In many cases it can be done before that. I use 12 weeks because it’s really easy to break down. And it accounts for holidays. It accounts for vacations. It accounts for illness. But if none of those things are happening, you can easily get something done and get your VA onboarded before that time and reach your goal.

John Jantsch: So I’ll ask this in two separate questions. I was just going to ask a two-part question, but I’ll ask in separate questions. When am I ready to hire? How does somebody know that they need to get somebody?

Melissa Smith: The best time to hire a VA is before you need one. And this is the perfect time to get all those little details about how working with you is going to go, what value you want your clients to receive, how you like to communicate. It’s a really good time to get that rhythm down while it’s not an emergency situation, while you’re not already working against a deadline.

Melissa Smith: And then now, this person can come up and you can really just start using them maybe five hours a month, 10 hours a month. And then when you start getting more up to speed and you’re really starting to ramp up your business, now you have someone who can already be with you and already know everything so that you can take part of opportunities.

Melissa Smith: Part of the biggest thing that I see when people don’t hire a VA before they need one is opportunity lost. They’re just not at a place to get up that landing page, to get out an e-book, to say, “Oh yes, I can go speak at that event because someone is taking care of this thing over here for me.” Or just even feel like they’re looking professional enough to have those things in place.

John Jantsch: So the second part of this then is, is there an exercise you run people through to help them understand, “Okay, how do I know I’m going to get the value based on the cost?”

Melissa Smith: So you start with your budget, right? Working with the VA is an investment, it can’t be an emotional decision. So you start with your budget and you say, let’s just talk about a really low budget. We’ll have a $200 budget for the month. What do I need that I could have a virtual assistant do for me for $200? How could this change? And maybe that is getting some things that are evergreen in place, like that FAQ that your clients are always asking you for and you’re sending out the same email over and over again, or that video editing where you could now create seven clips from and have social media content for three months. Something that was really going to save you time and you know exactly how you’re going to use it, where it’s going. It really is a budget of not only your money but also your time and how it’s going to be used in the future.

Melissa Smith: So if I think about a vacation and I think about how I’m going to use that money, how much money I’m going to save to go on vacation and how it’s going to be spent and what I’m going to get out of it. A VA is the same thing. I got to know, is this an ongoing thing? Is it just going to be like a monthly thing that I can do? How can I get the most out of it? What is it going to be tangible for me? And once you know that, it creates a whole world of opportunities for you. And now you know, “Okay, now I’m going to get this client, this client will pay for three months of this kind of work and now I can hire a VA for the next three months for sure.” And then it just starts to snowball from there.

John Jantsch: Yeah. I think there’s a key component of that is know what your time’s worth.

Melissa Smith: Absolutely.

John Jantsch: Because one of the justifications is it could just allow you to do more high pay off work. And so, that could certainly turn around and pay for itself so that you get out of doing the work that that VA could do for you. So, in terms of finding, there are lots of marketplaces now, I would suggest that to some degree the Association VAs is a bit of a market place. Upwork is a market place. There are companies, staffing companies, now that are placing people in virtual roles. And then obviously there’s that independent person that you might find on LinkedIn or Facebook or something. What’s the best process that you have found for starting the search?

Melissa Smith: The best process is to make sure it’s a transparent process. It’s part of the reason why I created the Association of VAs because I just didn’t find that there was enough transparency. And the biggest question clients have when they work with me is, “Where do I find the right VA?” Yet, ironically, virtual assistants have the same question, “Where do I find the right clients?” And I thought why aren’t these two people meeting? They’re looking in search of each other. But they just were not meeting up. And you just have to go where that other person is. Right.

Melissa Smith: If I want to have a cup of coffee, I’m going to go to Starbucks. It’s just that simple. And so if I’m thinking, “I’m on LinkedIn, I like to work on LinkedIn, my clients are on LinkedIn. I would expect a VA that I hire to also be on LinkedIn and I would search for them there.”

Melissa Smith: If I want to create more of a presence on Instagram, I’m like, “Gosh, I’m not really comfortable on Instagram, but it’s definitely a popular platform. I’m missing out by not being there.” I’m going to go get on Instagram and I’m going to find a VA on Instagram and I’m going to look through all their stuff and I’m going to look through all their past videos and their photos and I’m going to find someone that says, “This person is consistent. This person knows what they’re talking about when they speak and they write. That’s something I would say, I think they’re professional. I think they could represent me well.”.

Melissa Smith: But knowing that and then really writing out a job description that makes people want to work with you and then sharing it with your colleagues and your friends and showing them what good looks like for you.

Melissa Smith: Because simply saying, “I need a VA,” and sharing it with your colleagues and your friends. There’s no shortage of people that are working with the VA [inaudible 00:21:32], “Oh I know somebody,” but someone else’s VA may not be the right one for you. This happens all the time. They’re like, “Gosh, this person worked with them and maybe I’m just not right for a VA because I didn’t get the same results as they did,” but they might be using their VA for something completely different than you need.

Melissa Smith: So really saying, “This is what good looks like. This is what I would really want in my VA. If anyone knows anyone send them my way.” And that’s a great way to do it as well. But looking on the platforms where you want to be, where you expect that person to be, and then checking up on their profiles and making sure that they’re responsive. If I reach out to a VA on LinkedIn and she doesn’t get back to me for two weeks, clearly this is not a good fit.

John Jantsch: Well, I tell you, over the years, I’ve learned this the hard way. In some cases that, when working with anybody virtually the more information I can give them, be the designer or a writer or, that if I take the extra 10 minutes to really thoroughly explain what I want, I always get it. And if I don’t do that and I try to just kind of rush through something, then it’s hit or miss, and I think that that take that extra 10 minutes and you’re going to get 100% better results.

Melissa Smith: Absolutely. And then there are some steps that you can’t skip after you think you found the right person. And that is getting those references, checking references and doing a background check. Don’t ever go with your gut. I mean, I would love to say that it’s 100% right all the time, but I’ve been doing this for awhile and I always do the reference checks. I always do the background checks. And it is just another layer of peace of mind. And you would be surprised what people will share with you both good and bad about this person you’re about to hire. It might give you that extra nudge.

Melissa Smith: It’s like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited now I can really get started with them because they had such stellar references.” Or they might just say a little something and you know, just say, “You know what, you really have to give her permission to give feedback to you.” That’s also a really good piece of advice so you know that going in.

John Jantsch: I just think everybody, I just like everybody and trust everybody. So that advice is something I need to hear too. So Melissa, where can people find out more about the Association of VAs as well as your work?

Melissa Smith: Sure. You can go to, of course we’re on LinkedIn and Facebook and Instagram. You can also reach out to me at Melissa@associationofvas, I’m on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter. However easy it is for you to communicate. Feel free to do that, and I promise to get back to you.

John Jantsch: Well, thanks for joining us, Melissa, and hopefully we’ll run into you someday out there on the road.

Melissa Smith: Thank you for the opportunity.

Why You Need a Virtual Assistant (And How to Find One)

Why You Need a Virtual Assistant (And How to Find One) written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Melissa Smith
Podcast Transcript

Melissa Smith HeadshotOn today’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I visit with Melissa Smith. She is the founder and CEO of the Association of Virtual Assistants, an organization dedicated to setting industry standards and providing training, support, and resources for VAs.

Additionally, Smith is a VA matchmaker, helping harried business owners find the support they need with the perfect VA. Plus she’s a VA trainer, sharing tools and advice with VAs to help them grow their businesses and strengthen their skillsets.

Smith has also written two books on the world of virtual assistants, including Hire the Right Virtual Assistant: How the Right VA Will Make Your Life Easier, Create Time, and Make You More Money. Today, she and I chat about all things virtual assistant, from how the broader industry has changed to how to find the VA that’s the right fit for you and your business.

Questions I ask Melissa Smith:

  • How have you seen virtual work evolve over the past decade?
  • Is there a definition today of what a virtual assistant is (and is not)?
  • How do you find the right virtual assistant?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why it’s beneficial to hire a virtual assistant who is a specialist.
  • How to communicate with your virtual assistant in a way that establishes a good working relationship.
  • How to strike the right balance between cost and benefits when it comes to hiring a virtual assistant.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Melissa Smith:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Klaviyo logo

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. If you’re looking to grow your business there is only one way: by building real, quality customer relationships. That’s where Klaviyo comes in.

Klaviyo helps you build meaningful relationships by listening and understanding cues from your customers, allowing you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages.

What’s their secret? Tune into Klaviyo’s Beyond Black Friday docu-series to find out and unlock marketing strategies you can use to keep momentum going year-round. Just head on over to