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Transcript of Getting the Most Out of Your Content

Transcript of Getting the Most Out of Your Content written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: Producing content’s become a marketer’s primary job. But how do you maximize your reach? How do you make sure that there’s some ROI every time you hit publish? Well this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, I speak with Pamela Wilson, author of Master Content Strategy, and that’s what we’re going to talk about. How to make content drive the bottom line.

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This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth focused e-commerce brands drive more sales, with super targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, this is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Pamela Wilson. She’s the founder of Big Brand System, and the author of a book we’re going to talk about today, Master Content Strategy: How to maximize your reach, and boost your bottom line every time you hit publish. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Pamela, thanks for joining me.

Pamela Wilson: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. That is definitely the goal, right? To maximize your reach and get your ideas out into the world.

John Jantsch: All right, so let me start with a word that’s in the title. What is content strategy look like? I’m sure a lot of us marketers have been talking about you need a content strategy, but define that for somebody who maybe isn’t a marketer.

Pamela Wilson: You know, it might be easiest to say what it’s not. It is not throwing pasta at the wall to see what sticks. It is approaching your content with some kind of over-arching goal for the people you want to reach, and what you want it to accomplish for your business. The way I talk about it in the book is that the needs of your website change during the lifecycle of your website. So, what you need in the early days of your website is very different than what you need if your sight has been live for six, eight, 10 years.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and you know, I actually think that you can take it a step farther, and I mean, one of the strategies might be what can you actually get done? Or, how can you actually do things in a way that allows you to get more done, or to be more efficient in producing your content? Because I think for a lot of my listeners, and a lot of small business owners, this whole need to produce content has become the biggest task of all.

Pamela Wilson: Right. Yeah, and I recognize that, when I talk about the lifecycle in the book, I talk about how one of the big goals in the first year of your site is to just become a better content creator. Just to tain confidence. The way you do that is producing a lot of content. It’s like anything else in life, you get better at it, the more you practice. My recommendation for the first year is to write a new piece of content every single week as your minimum goal. Which sounds really overwhelming, but if you do it on kind of a schedule, and you get yourself into this routine where you’re producing and publishing content on the same day every week, it’s not that bad, and the more you do it, the better you get at it. Plus, as you know, the search engines love that you’re just putting out this nice, fresh content every single week. So, you’re giving your website a chance to get found.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and I think that ultimately you look up after a year, and you’ve built an asset. I think that that’s the part that is so hard when you don’t have a strategy, and you’re just throwing like you said … You use pasta at the wall. I mean, I think if you look at this as this is a long-term game … What will I have at the end of a year? You kind of map it out accordingly, I think you end up building something that’s going to serve you for a long time.

Pamela Wilson: You’ll have 50 pieces of content, plus a lot more confidence and skills that you can then build on. That’s what I talk about in the book, that once you have those basic skills in place, then going forward you can do slightly more sophisticated things with your content, because you have those skills to count on.

John Jantsch: One of the things, and you already alluded to this … I think a whole first section of the book, in fact, is called, “The Lifecycle Approach to Content Marketing,” so you want to unpack that?

Pamela Wilson: Yes. The Lifecycle Approach basically recognizes that your site needs different things at different points in its life. In the first year, what I recommend is what we just talked about which is try to publish a new piece of content every single week. This is going to build your skills, it’s going to build this content asset. As you said on your website, search engines will find you, I mean there are all these positive things that will come out from that really big push that you do in the first year. Then, in the second year, what I call your second through fifth year, this is your growth time. This is where you can kind of build on the skills that you’ve developed that first year. In some cases, if you have managed to publish every week in the first year, you might be able to dial it back to publishing every other week.

But, what I’m asking you to do in the book is to write deep dive content. Write content that goes into more depth, it’s longer, maybe it starts to incorporate things like multimedia, so maybe you start exploring video or audio, or you build some slide shares, and you weave them into the post or you incorporate images. It’s just asking you to take your content quality to a slightly higher level. If that means that you have to publish less often, that’s fine, during those growth years. Years two through five.

Then what happens, and this point was driven home for me when I took over managing the copy blogger blog back in 2015, what happens is, you get to this point, somewhere around year six. If you have kept this up consistently, where you need to start changing your strategy yet again, because you just have a ton of content, and some of the pieces of content that you’ve created over time you want to resurface those for people who never got a chance to see them.

You’re going to be going back and refreshing things, updating them, in some cases putting a new publishing date on them, and republishing them so people see them again, and you may go back for your most popular posts, and you may add again multimedia. Something that was maybe you did it in your first year, and it was very popular, lots of people are still hitting that piece of content, maybe you add a video to it. Maybe you interview a thought leader in your space, and you add that video to it. Or, you create a slide share. You just kind of polish it up, and give it a new life on your website.

John Jantsch: You mentioned video a couple times, and I do think that there is a need for short form, long form, video, images. How do you reconcile giving people advice on … I mean now, I not only have to produce all this content, I have to have it in all these different formats.

Pamela Wilson: Right. Exactly. And that’s where we come back to this concept of a lifecycle. I am not asking you to do all of this in year one. I just want you to develop skills so that you feel confident, and you can build on those skills very organically over time. Just like any new skill that you’re learning. You learn the basics, and then you start to learn the more complex skills as you go along.

The one thing that I tell people when they’re thinking about multi-media is do not try to master everything at once. Find something that builds on your existing skills. Maybe you feel very comfortable working with images. Maybe you just start by adding more images to your longer posts. You break them up with images that maybe every 400, 500 words you add an image, just to break up the page a little bit.

Or, maybe you are somebody, one of those rare unicorns, who feels incredibly comfortable in video. I’ve met a couple, but there aren’t that many of us. You just do a camera … You talking to the camera on video, where you just chat a little bit about the content of the article, or maybe it’s even a podcast episode. That’s the other thing I talk about is when you’re thinking about multi-media, it’s not so much that you’re always adding video, for example. It’s that you are taking the existing piece of content and changing it into something else.

For example, here we are, we’re recording a podcast. We could take this podcast and turn it into an ebook. It’s audio and it becomes something written. That’s the idea is to repurpose it, so that you turn it into something that has a slightly different format, and it’s going to appeal to a different audience that way.

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. 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.

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 Beyond black Friday.

Let’s talk about topics. You mentioned that you work with a lot of folks starting up an online business. Is there foundational content that you need to produce first, or could you keep talking about year two, and year three, but a lot of times, if I’m starting a business, what content is going to serve me now?

Pamela Wilson: Right. Well, typically people go into creating an online business and they’ve been asked questions about their area of expertise. They’re building a business around some kind of expertise that they have, or passion, or interest. They’ve heard questions. You and I have heard this lots of times. It’s a really solid piece of advice. Think about the questions that people typically ask you about your area of expertise, and start at just answering those. That can provide a really great guide for when you are just starting out.

For example on Big Brand System in the early days, I was talking a lot about design, and branding topics. My first 10 posts were called design 101. It was all questions that I had been asked by clients over the years, and all things that I sort of wish they knew, because it was this foundational knowledge. I always recommend that people go back to what is the foundational knowledge, what are the questions that you get from people who are really beginners with this topic that you want to talk about and that you want to build a site around.

John Jantsch: Yeah, it’s funny. I work with a lot of content producers, and a lot of times people will hire a marketing person say at a technical company and tell them, “Go produce content.” They’re like, “Well, I don’t know this stuff.” It’s amazing how much content is in the sent emails of the technicians, and the engineers, and sometimes that can be a great place to find content.

Pamela Wilson: Customer service. Right? You attack your customer service people and you find out what people are asking. Sometimes if the person writing is kind of a beginner, that actually puts them in a wonderful position to know what the very basic questions are.

John Jantsch: You have a chapter called, “The Four Day Content Creation System,” and that seemed like the closest thing to a magic bullet that everybody is looking for. Why don’t you describe the Four Day Content Creation System.

Pamela Wilson: You know, I came up with this, because when I made this recommendation for people to write a piece of content every week, it sounds so daunting. But this is a way to approach it that it breaks the process down over several days, and what I have found in all creative work that I … I’ve done creative work my entire career, right? So whether it’s design or writing. Any kind of creative work really benefits from being left alone to rest for a little while, and having you come back to it with what I call fresh eyes. You see it with fresh eyes. That’s what this system builds on. It’s this idea that you take a break from your piece of content, and then you come back to it.

Day one, what you’re trying to do is create some kind of a backbone for your piece of content. This could be written content, but it could also be a podcast. Day one what you want to focus on is writing your headline, and your subheads. Once you get your headline written, and this … It could change in your final piece, but you want to have a working headline that you’re pretty happy with, and your basic subheads that sort of lay out the premise of what you’re going to be talking about. It’s basically an outline straight from English class in middle school. But we’re not going to call it an outline, we’ll call it a backbone, because it sounds less daunting.

That’s day one. You do that, and then you walk away. Then on day two what you want to do is write your first draft. Start to finish, I always tell people write forward, don’t write backward. Don’t go back and try to edit, you have a whole day for that. But on day two, just get your first draft written. Once you’ve done that, you come back on day three, and you edit. You polish. You get it all ready to publish on the next day, and then on day four you’re publishing it, and you’re promoting it, and you’re really putting it out there, because it’s fresh new content. You want to get out there, and kind of advocate for it on the fourth day.

John Jantsch: I spent the first maybe 10 years or so of my blogging career writing every day.

Pamela Wilson: Oh wow. Yeah.

John Jantsch: I wrote a post every day, including Sundays. I didn’t have the luxury of doing that, but a lot of times, I wish I did, because another thing that your system does is it probably avoids silly mistakes.

Pamela Wilson: You know, the thing is the mistakes kind of … They jump out at you on the page. Right? You can see them, because you’ve given yourself a break, and you haven’t looked at it for maybe 24 hours, and then when you come back to it, it’s like, “Oh well, clearly this is a grammatical error, or clearly I have not supported my argument here, and I need to just add more information, this part isn’t clear.” I mean, things just really jump out when you give yourself a break.

John Jantsch: Back in 2005, ’06, ’07, ’08, I had the grammar police that would come on and make comments, back when we used to have commenting turned on, on all of our blogs.

Pamela Wilson: Right.

John Jantsch: I would hear from people very loudly. But I had fun with it, because I figured that was part of the format.

Pamela Wilson: Yeah. Absolutely. And that makes people feel useful. What can you do?

John Jantsch: One of the things that I like … I like when books do this, and you’ve done a good job with this. You have all of these checklists in the back of the book that kind of walk people through not only the stages, but then each fit promotions to your content strategy, the body of work approach to content creation. I love those. Pamela, where can people find out more about Big Brand Systems and about where they can find your book?

Pamela Wilson: The best place is go to They can find my website there. There’s all sorts of great stuff. I have a page where I’m … I’ll send you a link … Where I have lots of free stuff. I have it all gathered on one page. It’s

John Jantsch: We’ll have that in the show notes, too.

Pamela Wilson: Yes. Absolutely. They can find the book right on the website.

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

Pamela Wilson: That sounds great. Thanks John, it was good to chat with you.

Getting the Most Out of Your Content

Getting the Most Out of Your Content written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Pamela Wilson
Podcast Transcript

Pamela WilsonToday on the podcast, I chat with Pamela Wilson, founder of BIG Brand System. Through her company, Wilson teaches small business owners how to plan for and grow a business through its four distinct stages.

On today’s episode, we discuss her book, Master Content Strategy: How to Maximize Your Reach and Boost Your Bottom Line Every Time You Hit Publishand how any small business owner can leverage their strengths to create effective content that gets their business noticed—whether they’re just starting up or have been around for years.

As a keynote speaker, business coach, and leader of various workshops and courses, Wilson has helped companies across the country learn to effectively communicate with their customers.

She and BIG Brand System have been featured in Entrepreneur, The New York Times Small Business Blog, CNN Money, and Mashable.

Questions I ask Pamela Wilson:

  • What does content strategy look like?
  • Is there foundational content that you need to produce first?
  • What is the four day content creation system?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why the things that your website needs in its first year will be different from what it needs after it’s been around for five years.
  • How looking at what your customers are asking about can help direct your content strategy.
  • How you can build on content you’ve already created to get it seen by a wider audience.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Pamela Wilson:

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

Klaviyo logoThis 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

The Three Elements of an Effective Total Online Presence

The Three Elements of an Effective Total Online Presence written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch on Total Online Presence

Business owners today understand that being visible online is important. But what does having an online presence really mean? It’s a lot bigger than just having a website and a Facebook page. And when you look at the statistics on how consumers behave online, it’s easy to understand why. Did you know that:

  • 77 percent of searches on mobile devices are followed up by an action within an hour;
  • 87 percent of potential customers won’t consider a business with low reviews/ratings;
  • 7 out of 10 consumers are more likely to use a local business if it has information on social media sites; and
  • 82 percent of small business owners claim their main source of new business is still referrals?

All of these statistics demonstrate the importance of having a total online presence that is fully integrated. That means that the total online presence shouldn’t supplant everything else you’re already doing—it needs to support it.

In order to make the most of the way that consumers interact with brands online, there are three fundamental elements of strategy for your online presence: website, SEO, and content. These are bigger than just tactics, they’re strategic components; as such, they need to be blended together in an effective and efficient way.

Below, we’ll take a look at the three elements of your total online presence, and how to get them working in tandem to bring you the greatest results.

Creating an Effective Website

The way that both search engines and people search has changed how websites need to work today. Your homepage isn’t just a placeholder and index for all of your links. It’s now the start of a journey—it’s where you build the know, like, trust, and try elements of your relationship with customers.

The first thing your homepage must do is demonstrate how you solve the biggest problem your prospects are facing. No one comes to a website looking for a product or service; they come looking for a solution to their problem. If you can prove that you understand their issue, then you can begin to talk about how you solve it (with your products and services).

The content on your homepage needs to back up your claims. Video is becoming an increasingly important element in building trust. A video featuring your team talking about your deep understanding of the problems your prospects face builds trust. Not only do they feel like you really know what you’re talking about, but the simple act of seeing your face and hearing your voice builds a personal connection that makes the trust grow even faster.

You also want to provide an evaluation or checklist in order to give prospects a way to try your approach. When they can see the way you work to solve their problem, they gain confidence in your ability to get the job done.

Beyond those basic content elements, your website also needs to address two major technical hurdles in order to be competitive today. First, it must work on a mobile device. In 2018, Google announced that they’d be using mobile websites, rather than desktop websites, as their main basis for indexing and ranking. This means that if you don’t have a mobile site (or you have one that isn’t optimized for mobile), you’re lagging behind your competitors and falling in Google search rankings. Second, security and privacy are becoming bigger and bigger concerns for consumers. After years of watching some of the giants like Facebook and Target stumble with online security, consumers are looking for small businesses who work hard to guard their personal information. This means ensuring that you have an HTTPS site and that you are encrypting any data you collect from visitors.

Search Engine Optimization

It’s Google’s world, we’re just living in it. Whether you like it or not, Google is the biggest player in the online game, and so a small business owner’s chief concern needs to be optimizing for Google. But at the same time, you can’t lose sight of your customers and optimizing for their human needs.

The first thing that any small business owner should do to ensure they’re ranking well with Google is take a deeper look at Google My Business. I’ve talked before on the podcast about the importance of this tool, but Google continues to build out this platform and further integrate it with other tools. In fact, I suspect that in 2019 it may become Google’s very own social platform, allowing small business owners to interact with their customers. But for now, at the very least, it’s the number one way in which small businesses are being found by people looking for local solutions.

This means you should be taking your Google My Business presence seriously. If you haven’t done so already, claim your business and make sure there are no duplicate entries. Ensure the category of your business is specific, and that the name, address, and phone number all sync up with what you have on your website. Add photos and videos, posts, and descriptions to your profile. You can even use Google My Business to connect directly with customers and prospects through text messaging.

You also want to be sure that your website is giving you the best shot at ranking locally. Fill your pages with local data, content, and resources. And beyond what is actually on your website for prospects and customers to find, you need to be paying attention to the metadata behind the scenes. Make sure your titles and descriptions are helping you rank for those search terms that matter most to your prospects.

Reviews are the final piece of the SEO puzzle. They have become a significant factor in how you rank. Businesses with few reviews or poor reviews will fall behind those with lots of good reviews. And as with all of the other elements of SEO, while reviews matter for rankings, they also matter for the people reading them. Having reviews—and good ones at that—will make prospects far more likely to give your business a try.

Content Beyond Blogging

Today, it’s pretty common for “content” to be used interchangeably with “blog posts.” But in reality, content is much bigger than that. Content drives every channel. Whether it’s advertising, email marketing, social media, community events, videos, referral offers, or text messaging, these are all forms of content (or at the very least channels where content is needed).

When you’re developing content, you need to be catering to every stage of the customer journey. A great way to do this is through the creation of hub pages. These pages allow you to structure your content around specific topics. When you centralize all of your knowledge on a given topic within a hub page, that allows the content to be shared more easily and to draw attention in ranking.

Beyond just creating a centralized page for relevant content, you want to be sure you’re marrying content upgrades to those hub pages. If you have a page that ranks, attach a free checklist or eBook so that you can begin using all of that content to capture leads.

I’ve Got My Strategic Elements—Now What?

As you can see, these three main elements of your total online presence all go hand in hand. This means that you also need to get your website, SEO strategy, and content working together to generate and capture leads, so that you can begin the process of nurturing them and converting them to customers.

Building an effective strategy is about addressing the needs of your prospects and customers all along their journey. Whether they’re in the earliest stages of the marketing hourglass, and are just coming to know and like your business, or they’re a repeat customer about to make a referral to a friend.

Every element of your strategy needs to be focused towards moving people along the hourglass, and this goes beyond just website, SEO, and content. Things like advertising, outreach, pay per click, and reviews all must work together to accomplish this task.

Fortunately, if you’re using these three major strategic elements as your guide, you’re able to structure the other tactics around those larger forces to create a marketing system that best serves the needs of your business and your customers.

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

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How to Create Effective Follow Up Campaigns

How to Create Effective Follow Up Campaigns written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Follow up campaigns can be a tricky thing for small business owners to manage. Not only do they take time and energy to create, but there’s always that nagging question: What is the line between being persistent and being annoying?

While it might seem like you’re crossing that line, the reality is that most people don’t take you up on an offer the first time you make it. So if you’re not organizing a follow up campaign, you’re losing out on converting prospects that would have become customers if they had heard from you one or two more times. Or you’re leaving behind the chance to drive customers up the product ladder.

Today we’ll take a look at the elements that go into creating an effective follow up campaign and which tools can help you get it done.

Define Your Goals

The first step to just about any marketing strategy is establishing the why behind it. The same is true for your follow up campaigns. Begin by asking yourself what you want your prospects or clients to do as a result of receiving the campaign.

Maybe it’s getting a prospect to hop on a demo call with someone from your sales team. Maybe it’s getting an existing customer to join your referral program. Whatever the aim is, it’s helpful to get specific about the action you want the person to take so that you can tailor your whole campaign towards driving that action.

Keep Your Messaging Fresh

Anyone who has an email address knows that there’s a lot of mail coming your way every day. If you continue to make the same ask in the same way, over and over again, that’s a surefire way to get your email filtered out or deleted.

Even though you have a goal in mind, your follow up should not just be the same content copied, pasted, and re-sent. Let’s say you own a landscaping business and you reach out to former customers towards the end of winter, encouraging them to sign up for recurring lawn care appointments in the spring and summer.

You set your goal to be having clients sign up for a full package of 10 sessions, but each email should take a different approach. The first one might be a video, showing families spending more time together at the beach because someone else is taking care of their landscaping. The next one might be a set of testimonials from customers who signed up for the lawn care package last year and loved it. The third might be an offer to package your lawn care services with managing spring plantings, and the fourth might be a request to set up a call to discuss the services.

Be Strategic About Your Timing

There is a bit of a science to timing out when to schedule your follow ups. Send the communications too close together, and it starts to feel spammy. Leave huge gaps between communications and your run the risk of missing out on the opportunity to close a sale.

A good rule of thumb is giving at least two days between emails. For the most part, if someone is going to respond to your email, they’re going to do so within 24 hours of receiving it. That means you don’t want to send an email each and every day, but you also don’t want weeks worth of lag time.

The ideal timing will look different for every business. Part of getting the timing right is understanding your sales cycle and your customers. If you’re a B2B, you have a longer sales cycle, and a company’s decision to purchase your product or service likely has to go through an internal approval process. That means that you’ll want to allow more time between emails, so that your contact has adequate time to run your proposal by the decision makers at their company and come back to you—either with a decision or a request for more information.

The timing will be different for an e-commerce business who’s dealing with an individual consumer. Let’s say you’re a clothing retailer who establishes a follow up campaign that’s triggered when someone abandons a cart on your website. Those emails should be grouped more closely together, since it usually doesn’t take someone weeks to make a decision about a new pair of shoes or t-shirt.

Think Beyond Email

Email is a hugely beneficial part of any marketing campaign, and it’s certainly a useful tool for follow up campaigns. However, there are other channels out there. Sometimes in our tech-saturated world we forget about the tried-and-true communication methods like phone calls or snail mail.

With so much mail hitting a person’s inbox each day, sometimes it’s taking a less conventional, more old-school approach to reaching out that can get you noticed. A great follow up campaign will include timed emails, but should also integrate other means of communication. Plus, technology allows you to better utilize old-school approaches. Some of the examples we covered here of tech-enhanced direct mailers include sending highly customized mail to prospects, which include offers specific to that individual or even unique landing pages based on their interests.

Let’s say you run a law firm. You have someone who visited your website and filled out your form, requesting more information about one of your estate planning services. While this can and should trigger an email follow up campaign, you should also aim for a phone follow up. If you’ve sent a couple emails with no response, give your contact a call, mentioning that you’re following up on the emails and are happy to answer any questions or provide additional information. You can also incorporate mailers into your campaign. A few weeks after they’ve filled out the form, send them a pamphlet on estate planning, with a personalized letter attached, offering to speak one-on-one, if they’re interested.

Find the Right Tools to Get the Job Done

Using a marketing automation and CRM tool to track your interactions with prospects or customers and ensure that you’re actually following through on your follow up is a critical piece of the puzzle.

There are a number of tools out there that combine CRM and marketing automation capabilities. Consider a platform like ActiveCampaign or OntraPort to help you manage both the tracking and execution of your campaigns.

A joint CRM and marketing automation tool allows you to keep tabs on all points of contact you have with a person—whether that’s an analog form of communication like a postcard, or a digital one like an email. And the marketing automation component allows you to schedule out email follow ups, SMS campaigns, or other tactics, which can all be triggered by the client or prospect taking a certain action.

So much of making the sale or moving a customer further up the product ladder is about persistence. It’s sometimes difficult for one person to manage it all, but with the help of a marketing automation tool, you can easily set yourself up for success by establishing a campaign that, once you’ve created it, essentially runs itself.

The Worst SEO Mistake You Can Make: Ignoring Content Distribution

Content marketing has proven itself time and time again, but merely producing content doesn’t guarantee business or even marketing success. There’s already too much content being produced. So what’s the solution to making content marketing work for you? The answer is content distribution, and here’s what you can do about … Read the full article at MarketingProfs

Weekend Favs January 12

Weekend Favs January 12 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.

  • Cleanmock – Create clean, beautiful mockups for your mobile and website designs.
  • TruePush – Incorporate push notifications into your marketing efforts.
  • Panols – Create panoramic photos on Instagram.

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

Transcript of Growing Your Business While Growing as an Entrepreneur

Transcript of Growing Your Business While Growing as an Entrepreneur written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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

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Hello and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Jill Nelson. She is the founder and CEO of Ruby Receptionists, a company she started back in 2003 and has seen double digit growth every year since it’s inception. Jill, thanks for joining me.

Jill Nelson: John, thank you so much for having me on your show. I’m a big fan.

John Jantsch:  Well, I love speaking with entrepreneurs and I really love speaking with entrepreneurs that have just blown up. Tell me how Ruby got started.

Jill Nelson: Yeah. Well, you know, like many of the listeners out there I just had this idea that I was just determined to get out there but the original idea was something different than what Ruby is today. I wanted to do what I guess we would now call a coworking space, like the We Works of the world, but it was more old-fashioned and it was executive suites with small private offices but shared receptionists, shared secretarial, if you will, shared copier services.

Yeah. It was in a part of Portland that was up and coming and I always loved serving small businesses. It was just a thing I grew up with. I didn’t have any money and I didn’t have any business experience so I couldn’t find a landlord willing to build out class A office space on my behalf.

Just took that and noodled on, “Well, if I can’t do that what can I do with the small resources that I have?” Just really got fascinated with that important phone piece and started thinking about how I could still deliver receptionist service to small businesses even if they weren’t sitting right next to us.

Went searching for an off-the-shelf software solution and hodge-podged a phone system together that worked with it and in 2003 launched. Along the way lots and lots of lessons learned and here we are today as Ruby with really a platform that at its core is the same as it was day one, help small businesses grow through creating a great first impression for their callers but leveraging the on-demand economy and the technology tools that we have today to be even more valuable.

John Jantsch: Fast forward to today, I mean, 500 employees, thousands and thousands of customers, all kinds of accolades but it’s interesting because when you started this even in 2003 … I’ve been in business longer than that. Answering services have been around effectively forever but they were always pretty cruddy. What do you think you did that changed the game?

Jill Nelson: Yeah. Well, first, I actually never even thought about Ruby as an answering service from day one. From day one, I was really thinking about how to solve a problem for small business. In my mind back then I presumed, “Of course everybody would answer the phone. That’s table steaks for winning new customers and great customer service but it must be really challenging when you’re wearing many hats as a small business owner.”

I really from day one was thinking about how could I really be of service to small businesses throughout the day? Ruby was never intended to be a backup service. It was never intended to be a catchall messaging thing. It was to be a part of that small businesses’ team and so understanding what small businesses needed in order to win business in the day just … It was there from day one.

The software was different. I had been a receptionist. I knew how calls went. From day one, we intended to sound just like we were in our small businesses’ office. In fact, there’s stories of our customers’ customers bringing cookies for the receptionist because we were so integrated into their day and sounded just like we were right there that they literally thought Ruby was a real person that they felt propelled to bake cookies for.

John Jantsch: I’d say the really key ingredient there was the whole different point of view. You weren’t just offering some service to fill a gap. Your whole point of view was, “We wanted to be a part of that business.” I think that that … I mean, I’m sure that that led to who you hired and how you trained and [crosstalk]

Jill Nelson: Absolutely.

John Jantsch: That’s a different game really.

Jill Nelson: It really is. Again, the original premise was we were going to solve a problem for small businesses, which is like how to just free up their day, but it was actually very early on that they told us that the value proposition … That was a secondary thing but it was really we were winning business for them. We were literally hearing customers say … Their callers would say, “Well, I’m giving you my business because you answered the phone and you were nice to me.”

Sometimes that’s really all it takes because your competitors aren’t doing that. Also, we heard, “Gosh, I really care about my customers. I can trust you to give them that special care and I have peace of mind to relax and go about my day.”

We know small business owners, just like I am still today, many small business owners start their business because they have a craft that they’re passionate about and they feel really compelled to serve their customers in a better way than perhaps they did when they worked for another company.

I think pride of customer service is pretty prevalent among small business owners. We really understood very early on from what they told us that that’s what we were helping them with, not just a catchall like you would think of us as a backup overnight answering service.

John Jantsch: How did you get clients in the early days? What did your marketing look like?

Jill Nelson: Well, again, this is some time ago. I was a very inexperienced business owner. This was the first business, the one and only business I’ve started, and I had been a salesperson early in my first job out of college and I hated it.

My idea was, “I hate selling so I really need to find customers and make them so happy with us that they never leave us and they tell other people about us.” That was the whole idea.

Then finding them really was a wonderful time in the course of the internet history. Google AdWords had just launched. I had stumbled across it late night doing research on how to market to customers, experimented with some 10 cent clicks, and had some people from the East Coast calling us before we even launched our business.

Actually because of that we launched as a national service day one. The original idea because I was thinking of it as this executive suites thing was going to be local. And so Google pay-per-click got us launched and I remember talking to the first customer ever who I believe is still with us today. I need to double-check our records but last I heard they were. It’s a little software company in New York City. I remember them asking how many customers we had. I didn’t want to be dishonest but I said something like, “Well, we’re working towards 20.” Something like that.

John Jantsch: [inaudible] as soon as you sign up we’ll have one, right?

Jill Nelson: Yeah. Exactly.

John Jantsch: All right.

Jill Nelson: Later on we let him know. We let him know he was literally our first.

John Jantsch: What does your marketing look like now? I see full page ads and things like that. You have a full-blown marketing agency inside your organization.

Jill Nelson: That’s right. That’s right. But still always learning. There are some things that don’t change and today just like day one, still our largest source of new customers is from word of mouth referrals and still we’re really about keeping the customers that we have happy and …

One thing I will say we have learned there, it’s not just about being responsive and making them happy and being nice to them. It’s really about insuring we’re driving real business value. If we say we’re going to help your business grow let’s make sure that the service is doing everything we can to help your business grow. That’s been an interesting shift.

Learning to engage with our customers and marketing has shifted probably like many of your listeners that we are actively engaging with them and really trying to just share some of our own expertise certainly around being a receptionist and giving a great phone experience as much as possible and just engaging with our customers even before they’re ready, helping them when we can and when they’re ready hopefully they’ll think of Ruby when they are ready to have an outsourced platform to handle their company and receptionist service.

John Jantsch: Wouldn’t it be great if in your business all you had to do was the stuff you love, the reason you started the business, and not all that administrative stuff like payroll and benefits? That stuff is hard. Especially when you’re a small business.

Now I’ve been delegating my payroll for years to one of those big corporate companies. I always felt like a little tiny fish but now there is a much better way. I’ve switched over to Gusto and it is making payroll and benefits and HR easy for the modern small business.

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. If you sign up today you’ll get three months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to

In the time you’ve been in business, certainly the time I’ve been in business, the phone itself has changed. Not just the technology but really how it’s used in business. Obviously it used to be you had a whole bunch of phones plugged into a whole bunch of walls and people sitting at desks and now people are all over the world working for businesses.

In a lot of ways I’m sure that that’s driven some of what you’re doing but how have you managed or how do you foresee managing changing ways that people want to connect with companies and different technologies that are out there? I have 30 year olds and they rarely want to talk on the phone even it seems like.

Jill Nelson: Yeah. Yeah.

John Jantsch: What do you do to stay abreast?

Jill Nelson: Yeah. A couple of things on that. The world is changing. You know, way back then I always was like, “I don’t know. Will the phone call be around in 15 years time?” I’m actually more surprised than I am not that here we are sitting talking on if the phone call is actually more relevant than ever, the internet and the mobile devices, click-to-call, are actually driving more phone calls and where we used to use phone calls for everything they now are really your best source, I guess your best channel, of new customer acquisition. Something like that 40% of inbound calls to businesses are customers ready to buy.

Then you talk about the on demand economy. The people want what they want and they want it now. That click-to-call and making sure that you’re there to catch that business at that moment of opportunity is really important and then you talked about the mobile … Everyone is going mobile.

Our mobile app that works with our service that is integrated with our customers calendars and contacts so we know who they know and we know whether or not to put calls through and our phone number travels with them and they can make calls from their mobile phone and have it go out their business caller ID and they can send and receive text messages on their business number that we provide.

We’re really helping our customers be more mobile that way but we’re also very excited to announce … I think this will be the first place I am publicly announcing that we have acquired a very aligned customer-service centric human connection-based chat company because we know that while phone calls are still the most important touchpoint to drive new customers you want to be there for your customers, ready to communicate with them when they would like to communicate in the channel of their choice.

It’s phone call, yes, but it’s increasingly also texting and messaging and right there in your Google search results there’s all kinds of options to engage with your customers and we just want to be there for our small businesses to be able to represent them in a really human way that wins them business.

It’s a huge transition in our history. 15 years of receptionists and [inaudible] and service and now we’re branching out. We’re still at the core we create beautiful, meaningful human connections that win small businesses new customers and loyal fans but on a multitude of platforms.

John Jantsch: I want to remind you that this episode is brought to you by Klayvio. Klayvio 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.

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I mean, that’s such a natural evolution frankly because that behavior has just become a part of how people conduct business. I think a lot of times if somebody is going to buy a service for the first time or engage a company they want to have that phone conversation or face to face meeting. In a lot of ways I think this will be a great way for you to add additional customer service channels for your customers.

Jill Nelson: Absolutely. Exactly. That’s exactly what we’re doing and we’re very excited about it. This particular company there’s a number of chat services out there. When we surveyed our customers we know they’re leery of bots and then they’re leery of … You know, just in the same way they want to trust who is handling their phones. They want to trust whomever is representing their business.

This particular company all of their employees are here right here in the US just like all of our employees and they really, really dedicate many training hours and just keeping their employees happy. Just super aligned with Ruby. Getting to see firsthand what they do for their customers is pretty exciting. Something like 40% of their chats turn into leads.

John Jantsch: I think it’s a brilliant evolution and I think will just serve your growth quite well. Let me turn to you personally. You at the beginning of this talked about the humble beginnings and you had never really started a business and you even by your own admission kind of stumbled into where you ended up. However, you are now the CEO of what people would call, what I would call, a significant business.

Jill Nelson: Oh, thank you.

John Jantsch: How did you grow personally? Because not everybody is capable of doing that. What you did in 2003 is significantly different from what you do in 2018 I suspect. How did you grow personally into that role?

Jill Nelson: Well, I’m still growing and I’m figuring out along the way and I think one of the things that has allowed me to stay in this seat is that I’m probably at my happiest when I don’t know what I’m doing or when I’m figuring something out, I’m figuring out a puzzle, I might have a theory and I want to put it to the test. That curiosity and thirst for learning and always changing it actually has kept it exciting and so the job feels as new today as it did 15 years ago.

The biggest challenge is certainly in the leadership of people. That is an inspiring and humbling and probably my biggest challenge because I care so much about them and I want people here to feel like they’re doing something meaningful, that the time spent here is time that will help them achieve their professional and even personal goals.

Man, I do not always do it perfectly and whether it’s hiring right or getting people in the right seats and being clear about what it is you’re asking for. It’s just a constant learning experience and it’s one that I laugh about because when I wrote the business plan for Ruby I actually didn’t even consider management. I just had it in my mind like you just hire these people and you say, “Hey, I’m going to pay you this amount of money and please come at this time and do this thing” and didn’t think about training or any of that and just thought it would all magically happen exactly as I had written in the plan.

That’s been the biggest learning along the way is just working with all of the amazing array of personalities and different types of people who communicate differently and add different strengths to the mix.

John Jantsch: You know, I’ve spoken with thousands of entrepreneurs over the years and I don’t think I’ve ever heard one say, “I was such a good manager I decided to start a business.”

Jill Nelson: Yeah.

John Jantsch: It just doesn’t happen. It’s the challenge … I think it’s the biggest challenge for most entrepreneurs quite frankly.

Jill Nelson: Yeah. That doesn’t surprise me.

John Jantsch: Good segue here. How does Ruby consistently show up on the best places to work list?

Jill Nelson: Ah, thank you. Well, we could rattle off … In fact, today being just a day in which we’re all dressing up for some theme of the moment and there’s always fun to be had but that’s not really what I would point to as why we make those lists.

It really comes back to our core mission, which is we are here to keep alive those meaningful personal connections that are increasingly lost in today’s technological and virtual space, that human kindness between robots or that we’re all going a million miles an hour. It just is really special and we actually are biologically conditioned to need that.

We do feel like we’re doing meaningful work and we hire people who are like, “Yes, a day spent trying to make somebody else’s day is a day well-spent.” Then we have a set of core values that we subscribe to that help us deliver on the mission and we work really, really hard to use our mission and our values as our guiding post and deliver on those not just to our customers but our employees as well. That’s the guiding principle.

Then the fundamental system that makes it work is what we call a people-powered culture. Everybody owns culture and they are welcome to bring their passions … We have Rubies that teach fitness classes or have running clubs or knitting clubs. We have beautiful spaces but we also allow our employees to access them 24/7 so that they feel welcome to use them for whatever their extracurricular activities are and really just empower everyone across the organization to bring their own passions and things that they have to share with the community to Ruby and say yes essentially.

John Jantsch: This is probably unfair because it would have been better if I had given you some time to think about this but I’m guessing maybe you have a phone call or two or a story or two about some kind of crazy call or crazy over the top win you got for a customer or something. Any of those rattle around that you want to share?

Jill Nelson: Yeah. Well, just last week I got a LinkedIn message from a customer who said we literally saved his marriage and in two weeks of service have brought in $75,000 of new business and something else around improving his profit margins some crazy amount. He was pretty happy with us. That was really great to hear.

Yeah. Those stories come in pretty much every day. The ones that we probably take personally as wins is when somebody calls and is really frustrated. Maybe not even very happy with our customer and it’s a personal challenge to win that caller over to make them feel heard and when they call back and say, “You know what? I was having such a tough day and the receptionist was so kind. They really turned it around for me.”

We’ve even had stories where we’ve literally saved people’s lives. It’s not just helping small businesses win new business. It’s hopefully making a difference, a small difference, in the world too.

John Jantsch: You know, I bet the hardest job at your organization?

Jill Nelson:  The receptionist?

John Jantsch: The receptionist. Yeah.

Jill Nelson: That’s right. That’s right.

John Jantsch: You probably have such a high bar, right?

Jill Nelson: It’s a really, really … It’s not easy. You bring compassionate and kindness and exceptional listening skills and problem solving skills and a desire to truly help every one of our customers and their callers. Yeah, when you love doing it then it’s really rewarding.

John Jantsch: Tell people how they can find out more about the various services and see if it makes sense for their business.

Jill Nelson: Yeah. Thanks so much for asking. You are always welcome to visit Of course, it wouldn’t be a receptionist company if I didn’t invite you to call us at 866-611-RUBY. That obviously is also on our website. If you visit our blog you can get all kinds of tips on how to deliver exceptional customer experience yourself too.

John Jantsch: I’ve been doing this show for years and I think that might be the first guest that gave their phone number on this show.

Jill Nelson: Yay. Phone calls win business. It’s true.

John Jantsch: Absolutely. Well, Jill, it was an absolute pleasure. Ruby is an awesome company.

Jill Nelson: Thank you, John. [crosstalk]

John Jantsch: Hopefully next time I’m in Portland I will stop by.

Jill Nelson: Please do. Thank you so much for having me on your podcast.

Growing Your Business While Growing as an Entrepreneur

Growing Your Business While Growing as an Entrepreneur written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Jill Nelson
Podcast Transcript

Jill NelsonMy guest on today’s podcast is Jill Nelson, founder and CEO of Ruby Receptionists. Started in 2009, the company provides virtual receptionist services across the U.S., and consistently helps those clients win over new business and create exceptional customer experiences.

Ruby Receptionists also frequently appears on “best of” lists, having landed on Fortune‘s list of Top 5 Best Small Businesses to Work For in the U.S. from 2012-2015, Oregon Business Magazine‘s 100 Best Companies in Oregon from 2010-2017, and the Portland Business Journal‘s Most Admired Companies.

Today, Nelson and I talk about what goes into starting a business, how to manage your changing role as your business continues to grow, and what makes Ruby Receptionists such a successful brand.

Questions I ask Jill Nelson:

  • Call services have been around for a while. How did you find a way to make Ruby Receptionists stand out from the competition?
  • What did your early marketing efforts look like? How did they change over time?
  • How have you grown personally as your business has gone from startup to a significant company?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How to stay relevant as your chosen industry changes.
  • Why allowing your workers to bring their full selves to the office is critical to creating a great company culture.
  • How to continue evolving in your leadership role as your business grows and changes.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Jill Nelson:

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

Klaviyo logoThis 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

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This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Gusto. Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you’re a small business. 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 How to Reliably Generate Big Ideas for Your Business

Transcript of How to Reliably Generate Big Ideas for Your Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Back to Podcast


This transcript is sponsored by our transcript partner – Rev – Get $10 off your first order

John Jantsch: Everybody wants that next big idea for your business, but sitting down and thinking up big ideas is kind of a really great way to freeze your brain up. In this week’s episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I speak with Mike Brown. He is the author of Idea Magnets, and presents, really, a great framework for asking questions that lead to those big ideas, check it out.

Asana logoThis episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Asana, a work management software tool that we use to run pretty much everything in our business. All of our meetings, all of our product launches, all of our tasks. I’m going to show you how you can try it for free a little later.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Mike Brown founder of The Brainzooming Group and author of a book we’re going to talk about today called Idea Magnets. So welcome, Mike.

Mike Brown: Thank you, John, I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you and your listeners.

John Jantsch: I interview people all over the world, but today I’m interviewing somebody across town.

Mike Brown: Yeah, we’re close, not too far away.

John Jantsch: Which is always fun. So, let’s start…you know, brainzooming is not an everyday name, in fact you’ve trademarked it. So what does brainzooming actually mean and do?

Mike Brown: Well, brainzooming, the name is probably about 10 years old. Came out of some work I was doing in the corporate world of trying to help people who weren’t strategists be better strategists. And not marketers be better marketers. We’d surround them with exercises and tools, and we were actually doing a session for a class at Baker University, which is in the area. And the teacher wanted four or five exercises within the course of 50 minutes. I was sitting at my desk, and I didn’t really have a name for what we were doing. I was thinking about trying to get all that done, and I just thought, you know, at that point it’s not even brainstorming, it’s brainzooming.

I looked up and said, “Thank you, God. That may be a name.” And googled it, and it was available, I had the URL that night. Basically, it’s really from that start was how you provide structure for people so that when they look at strategic planning, or they look at trying to innovate, that can be a pretty daunting task, but when you give them structure, and frameworks, all of a sudden they can apply what they know about their product, or what they know about their customers, or their markets in a really productive way versus handing somebody a template or a form to fill out and they go, “I don’t know what to put in here.” Started it on the corporate side, and have just started to do it across industries and into nonprofits and educational organizations, community, cities as well.

John Jantsch: Do you sometimes find that it’s kind of hard to explain to people what it is you’re selling unless they’ve really experienced the problem?

Mike Brown: Every time, John. Every time. Particularly if they’re coming to us for strategic planning, so rarely have people ever experienced that where they felt good about it, it’s tough for them to wrap their head around, it could be fun and it could be engaging, and people beyond the senior management team could participate. So we do a lot of things whether that’s workshops or I’m out speaking, or we’ll do community events where people can experience it, and then they go, “Oh, I get it now.” It’s tough to describe for sure.

John Jantsch: Yeah, you’re in one of those categories of business where you’re solving a problem sometimes people don’t know they have.

Mike Brown: Yeah. It’s funny. A couple years ago, I was looking at traffic on our website, and we were getting a ton of hits for a post on fun strategic planning, and nobody is really out talking about fun strategic planning. I’ve discovered over time, if people are out looking for that, and one of our biggest clients, they did a google search for fun strategic planning, and found us. If somebody is looking for that, they’ve already made it way past, “I hate doing strategic planning. I want to get people in.” They know they want something different but typically can’t find anybody who can bring that to life for them. So it’s not only difficult to describe at times, there’s no common category of, “Oh, it’s this demography, and this size company.” It’s a lot more about the leader and their philosophy and what they’re looking to accomplish in the organization.

John Jantsch: So when the book title first came across my desk, Idea Magnet, I’m a marketer I’m thinking, “Oh, this is a way to attract more clients somehow.” Then the subtitle, of course, 7 Strategies for Cultivating and Attracting Creative Business Leaders, made me kind of pause and say, “Okay, so who is this book for then?”

Mike Brown: Yeah, good question. It’s really across almost any business leader, or any leader of an organization where the genesis of it came from, I had a long corporate career, so I was 18, 19 years on the corporate side. I tended to pair up with, particularly for a long stretch, a guy who was just a wildly creative person. He would come up with ideas that you’re just like, “I don’t know how you ever thought of that.” Then I was the person that said, “Okay, let me operationalize that. I’ll figure out how much we can deliver, how we’re going to do it, and carry some of that enthusiasm out to the team.” But I sort of took this role as I’m more the implementer of the big idea.

When I jumped out and started brainzooming eight, nine years ago, I realized I don’t have that person paired up to me anymore, and I had clients looking at me going, “Okay, we want the big ideas from you.” It was … what I did at that time, and I’ve described Idea Magnets almost as a presentation and then a book from the road, I went back and said, “These big creative leaders I’ve worked with over time, what did they do? How did they motivate themselves? How did they energize a team? How did they move this through to implementation?” And really just try to reverse engineer it and say, “That’s not exactly me, but I need to step into that role. What are frameworks? What are tools? What are exercises that can make that happen?” even if that’s not my natural bent.

So that’s where people who are wildly creative, it may not be the first pick for them in a book, because that just comes from them naturally, but I think maybe we all hit those creative dry spots, that could help them. But for somebody who feels like, “Wow, there’s a lot of pressure in business, and we’ve got to grow, we’ve got to do different things.” Ideally, it’s going to be targeted at them where it will be a resource to help them step up into that role and be more successful with it on a more predictable basis.

John Jantsch: Yeah, there’s certainly a lot of people out there, leaders of organizations or departments that probably suffer from that, “I’m just not very creative.” I think part of what you’re saying is that you just don’t have a creative process.

Mike Brown: Exactly. Often when somebody says they’re not creative, they’re thinking about, “I don’t draw, I don’t write, or I don’t make music.” But you say, “Well, what’s your favorite thing to do?”, it’s, “I love to fish.” “Tell me how you fish?” Then they have all kinds of ideas, and hacks, and ways that they’ve discovered. I always say, “There’s your creativity. Apply those same lessons to other things and all of a sudden you’re creative.” So getting to that inspiration in the tools, the process, the structure, it just lights people up that, “Well, I can do this, I can do this predictably.”

John Jantsch: Hey, as I said in the intro, this is brought to you by Asana. It’s a work management software tool that we’ve been using for a long time, our entire team, it just allows us to be so much more productive, to unify our communication, to keep track of tasks, to assign and delegate pretty much everything from meetings all the way up through our client work. You can get it and try it free for 30 days, because you are a listener. So get started at That’s Asana, A-S-A-N-A, .com/ducttape.

So, and you don’t have to go through these one by one, but anytime somebody comes up with, “Seven strategies for something,” you know, it begs to say, “Okay, explain a few.” So I’ve got them listed out here, but maybe pick your favorite couple that could give people a flavor of what they might find.

Mike Brown: I think number three is attracting opposites is one of my favorites. The heart of that is really that easy to put ourselves into a box and say, “Well, I’m an implementer.” Or, “I come up with ideas. But then I hand them off to somebody else.” The thing that I saw in the Idea Magnets I work with, and continue to meet is they’re both of those things. They come up with ideas, but they know how to implement them. They can generate a bunch of ideas but they can also make really good decisions and prioritize. There was a, since we’re both from Kansas City, there was a billboard a couple years ago in the Waldo area, and it was all these pairings of contrary perspectives, and it was a company saying, “We want all those people.”

I think that’s what Idea Magnets embody is they’re not just one, they’re really good end thinkers and end people in how they approach business. I think another one I really like, again, maybe based on my background is number six, which is implementing for impact. That it isn’t just fine to come up with 20 ideas, or 100 ideas, or 1000 ideas, you’ve got to weed through them and be able to bring them to fruition. Whether that’s a business objective, or a personal objective, or an organization you’re involved with. Ideally, you’re also pulling on number five, which is encouraging other people and their ideas as well.

I’ve always loved that idea of a diverse team, I think you get better thinking and I think you get better implementation. You’re just more successful whether it’s a formal team in an organization, or even if you’re a solopreneur, who are those other business people that you’re surrounding yourself with who can give you a different kind of perspective than you have. That’s two or three that are personal favorites of mine.

John Jantsch: I mean, in some ways, as I hear you describe those, it’s almost like you’re saying these are attributes that you need to develop or these are talents that you need to find in other people. I mean, it’s almost like there’s nobody that’s going to be all seven of these things, I don’t think, but they can work on some of [inaudible].

Mike Brown: Exactly. You’re right at the heart of that, John, that nobody is equally good at all those things, and in some of them you’ll excel at, some of them you’ll rely on more directly or more frequently, but you’re working to develop the others. As you said, you’re surrounding yourself with people, whether it’s organizationally, or more informally, that you know you’ve got gaps, but other people can step in and help fill in those gaps and help create success for you, but importantly create success back for them, growth opportunities for them as well.

John Jantsch: So, one that you didn’t touch on, so I’m going to bring up one more. Because I’d love to hear how…your take on how this actually works in a creative leadership role, that’s embodying servant leadership. I’d love to hear how, I think I know what the opposite of that does, but I’d love to hear maybe how you apply that.

Mike Brown: Yeah, I think for a lot of people, I think of sort of the classic command and control leader of somebody’s articulating the direction and the vision, and then everybody follows. I guess I grew up under leaders who were much more open to the idea of we need to collaboratively come up with this vision. You know what? Somebody who’s on the team, even though they may be the most junior person, can help shape that or have an insight that can change that in a material way. You’ve got to be open to that. I think about it as servant leadership and the idea that an idea magnet isn’t in it just for themselves. Yeah, they have personal aspirations, they want to grow, they want to make money, but they realize they’ve got to work with other people and other people are going to help the team, or help the organization be more successful.

We had a video that we were doing just as an example that sort of came to mind. We were doing a video at our corporation, it was the leadership as young kids. None of us who were in senior roles wanted anything to do with it. It was like this could be bad. There was a guy on my staff, he stepped up, he helped write the script. He helped in the casting, and really shaped it like three levels through the organization because he was the person that was inspired by the creative vision. So leaders can use chain of command, but I think they can be so much more effective if they reach beyond organizational ties to the people who really light up with ideas and bring them in no matter where they fit in an organization.

John Jantsch: So a lot of my listeners are solopreneurs, very small businesses. I think when you start talking about things like chain of command and strategic planning, you know, they’re like, “Oh, you’re not talking to me.” How does the idea of an idea magnet apply to that very small solo business.

Mike Brown: Yeah. I think in a couple of ways one is, as I said in Brainzooming, is small business. I have people that I reach out to that are very close, but through social media, or through net working, or just personal connections. Try and surround myself with people who have very different perspectives than I do. So, again, it may not be formal, but it may just be informal of if you’re an entrepreneur, you know it too, it’s tough to just go that road by yourself. You need to be around other people. So I think that’s a way to start to apply that idea of I’m reaching out to other people who can help me along this path. It doesn’t have to be somebody who write me a paycheck too, or giving money for it. It may just be informally as well.

The idea of strategic planning is funny too. Because I actually went through that last week. I had one of my collaborators was putting me through strategic planning because I’ve said, “I can’t plan for myself. I need somebody else’s outside perspective.” It doesn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t be 75, 80 pages of a document, because who’s going to use that? I think it’s in our world using questions and structure. So you’ve thought about your objectives, you’ve thought about your direction and in the world of what we do have had conversations about it, so it becomes sort of almost an oral tradition for the organization. Yeah, strategic planning shouldn’t be scary, it should just be basically saying we’re trying to look ahead, focus on what matters with some insights and some innovation to how we’re doing it.

John Jantsch:  I always tell people for me the best part of strategic planning is deciding what not to do. I think that’s the other aspect…it’s really easy to come up with 19 priorities for this quarter.

Mike Brown: Exactly, [crosstalk] right now.

John Jantsch: But whittling it down to three, now that’s a harder job isn’t it?

Mike Brown: Absolutely. Absolutely. We see that when we work with bigger organizations or even just smaller organizations. They’ll come up with the ideas, then they’ll put 90% of them into the next six months, and I always say, “You’re not going to do that. It’s fine to load them up, but be prepared to have those spread out, because we just can’t tackle all that stuff at once.”

John Jantsch: So, I’m going to do to you what…When I go out to speak so often I’ll talk for an hour, and give lots and lots of ideas and inevitably somebody comes up at the end and says, “Okay, that was all really good. But what’s the one thing that if I did that everything would change?” So what’s the one thing in Idea Magnets that you want small business owners to take away?

Mike Brown: There’s questions throughout that book, John, that if you’re trying to come up with bigger ideas, there’s questions that you can use. If there’s ways that you’re trying to think about your business in unexpected ways, maybe a fresh perspective, there’s questions. I think that to me is [inaudible] take away that I’ve learned over the course of a career that really started as a researcher is the power of very targeted questions. I think as an entrepreneur, as a small business person, put together that list of five, six, seven questions that tie to what’s going to be important for you in the year ahead, or the years ahead.

You can keep coming back to those questions in new situations and come up with new ideas, new perspectives. All of us, if we know what the different ways we want to look at our business are and have a set of questions like that, can be tremendously effective.

John Jantsch: Speaking of questions, you’ve got an ebook for our listeners, why don’t you tell us about that?

Mike Brown: Yeah. We’ve got special one, it’s called 49 Idea Magnet Questions for attracting big ideas. I always tell people the worst question you can ask is, or the worst thing you can demand is, “Hey, let’s come up with big ideas.” Because typically people shut down. What we try and do is say instead of big ideas, use big questions that stretch your thinking, stretch your perspective, and the ideas will come and a lot of those will be big. We’ve got this ebook, it’s free, and we’ve got an excerpt of Idea Magnets in that, and specifically for your listeners can get it at, for Duct Tape Marketing, it’s out there, and it’s free. It’s a great start of questions that they can use in the year ahead to improve how they address opportunities, tackle challenges, and maybe stretch themselves and their organizations in new directions.

John Jantsch: Of course, we’ll have as always a link to that in the show notes at Duct Tape Marketing. Tell people where they can find the book, Idea Magnets, and anything about Brainzooming.

Mike Brown:, it’s out on Amazon. You may have to search a little bit, you may get some kitchen magnets, but Idea Magnets is out there, you can also get it at The Brainzooming side of things, which is [inaudible] strategic planning, innovation is at We’ve got, I don’t think I have as much writing as you, John, but about 2500 blog posts out there, not about how we do stuff, but tools, frameworks, the types of things that show up in Idea Magnets. Where you can focus in and use those to improve your business prospects.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Mike, thanks for joining us, and a lot of times I end this show by saying I hope to run into you out there on the road, but I guess I’ll say, I hope to run into you out there at the grocery store, or the pub, or something.

Mike Brown: Absolutely, John. Thank you so much for the opportunity, I really appreciate it.