Category Archives: Uncategorized

7 Steps to Tame the Marketing Chaos

7 Steps to Tame the Marketing Chaos written by Sara Nay read more at Duct Tape Marketing

How to Tame the Marketing Chaos…

What’s wrong with small business marketing today?

I’ve spent years in the business world, and these are some of the most common statements I hear from struggling business owners and entrepreneurs trying to build successful marketing and operations system for their business;

I’ve spent most of my marketing budget on a new website, and it looks great, but it’s not generating any leads.

I’m paying an SEO company thousands of dollars each month. And I have no idea what kind of results I’m getting.

I’m sending out direct mail, and I think some people are calling me from it, but I am not sure. 

I’ve started to invest in paid advertising, and people are going to my website, but no one is calling me.

Take the Free 5-Minute Business Assessment

Discover what’s holding you back

What do these examples have in common? First, they focus on single tactics and not the entire customer journey. Second, they are focused on one thing and not the entire system.

The opportunity in small business marketing today is to focus on your customers. And you focus on your customers in two main ways other than the product. First, see where your customers are trying to go and how you can better understand them. Second, you need to map out all of the systems that contribute to that journey. This will allow you to repeat the process that works and give every customer the same awesome experience every time. 

This post will cover;

This is a long blog post packed with tons of great information for your business. So feel free to bookmark and come back to it later, but whatever you do, make sure to take the time to digest all of this information. I promise it will help in the long run. 

everyone is not your customer - seth godin

“Everyone is not your customer.” – Seth Godin

Know Your Customers

Before we talk about the marketing hourglass, it is essential to take a step back and understand who your ideal clients are on a deep level. I am not just talking about demographic information either. You need to understand what motivates your target audience, their behaviors, and what solutions they are looking for? After all, how can you guide them if you don’t know what they’re looking for?

Obtaining that level of knowledge is really important before you start developing anything else from a marketing standpoint. First, you have to fully understand where your clients are trying to go to help them get there.

Once you understand who you are targeting, the second part of marketing is to understand your differentiators and how to communicate them to your ideal clients. Next, you need to answer the questions; How are you going to stand out? What’s your competitive differentiator? How are you going to build brand awareness?

After you have clearly defined those steps you can then dive into your marketing and operations systems.

The Marketing Hourglass

The Marketing Hourglass is a proven system that I have installed in thousands of businesses around the world. The marketing hourglass reverberates around a new kind of customer journey for your business.

the marketing hourglass steps are know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, refer

There are two different types of systems that you need to have in place in order to effectively move people through this journey. They are your marketing systems and your operations systems.

The top of the hourglass holds the first 4 phases – know, like, trust, and try – and they make up the ‘marketing system.’ This part is about getting in front of your target audience, and it flows until they are ready to become an actual client. 

The bottom of the hourglass holds the last 3 phases – buy, repeat, and refer –  also known as the ‘operations system.’ When someone becomes a client they’re in the buy phase, how can you absolutely blow them away and exceed their expectations so that they become repeat customers and refer you to everyone they know? That is your operations side. 

Every business needs both marketing systems and operations systems. You need marketing systems and sales systems in order to grow and generate demand. Then, once you create that demand, you have to be able to deliver the promised value to keep them coming back.  

The Marketing Systems: Know, Like, Trust, Try

They can also be thought of as the marketing and sales system. This system is defined by a clear path to help you convert your target audience based on the customer journey.  

Ask yourself, how can you get someone to know your business all the way to their ready-to-purchase moment? Some examples of this would be conducting a free webinar with a client consultation as the end goal or launching some paid ads in order to sell a product or service. 

First and foremost you need them to know about your business. You can do this in several ways. One recommendation would be to use the P.E.P system.

A lot of marketers put marketing media into 3 buckets; paid, earned, and owned. At Duct Tape  we took a new approach and relabeled those buckets Paid, Earned, and Person or P.E.P. 

Paid is stuff that you will always continue to pay towards. Examples are; advertising, direct mail, and sponsorships. 

Earned is the work you put in, it takes time and patience, but long term, it can pay off big. These are things like; search engine optimization (SEO), social media, and referrals.

The last category is Person and it means that an actual person has to do something. That is networking, speaking, and outbound outreach. 

For best results, your journey should focus on at least a couple of these mediums so you do not have all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak.

The Operations System: Buy, Repeat, Refer

Your marketing systems are how you generate demand which then leads into your operations systems. The operations half of the customer journey defines a clear path to deliver the value promised to your clients. Therefore, every marketing system should have an operations system to go with it.

Once someone purchases, how do you move them along as a customer and generate repeat revenue? And if you’re focusing on referrals, what does that process look like?

Onboarding a new client is an example of an operations system. The client went through your marketing system, they signed up, and now you need to onboard them. What are those steps?

Your operating systems do not necessarily relate to a sale, but they are processes that need to be documented in order to keep your business moving forward. 

Now that we have the basics covered let’s get into how to build a successful system

7 Steps to Build A Successful Business System

Map Your Core Marketing and Operations Systems

This first step is vital for many reasons. First, mapping out your systems allows you to be efficient and effective. It also allows you to consistently deliver the same level of experience to every single one of your new clients.

Step 1: 
Is to get started. Don’t let the unknown paralyze you. Identify your most important (or most profitable) product or service and start with that. You will not go wrong by focusing on the most profitable part of your business.
Step 2: 

You need to define the start and stop of your marketing system for that product or service. Ask yourself, “At what stage is the process beginning, and at what stage does it end?

Step 3:

Brainstorm tasks and activities between the start and the finish of each system.

Once you understand your system, you need to document the steps. Start by brainstorming all the steps that need to happen between the stop and the finish of each system. Note; It is important to identify which steps are the most critical to the process and be sure you nail those every time.

Someone attends a webinar, and then what happens? They get an email nurture campaign, and then what happens? You are mapping out the journey to land on your desired end result.

Step 4:

Make this process repeatable. The system needs to be identifiable and easy to follow. Write it out in plain English or better yet have a visible outline. Also, make sure everyone on your team has access to the steps and follows the process. Next, physically go through the plan you have mapped. This exercise will help you identify any holes or areas of opportunity. 

Get started mapping our your first system

Step 1

Identify your most profitable business system

Step 2

Define the start and stopping points in this system

Step 3

Brainstorm tasks and activities between the start and finish of the system

Step 4

Clearly label all stages and make the process easily repeatable

System Mapping Tool

We use a product called Whimsical. It’s a free tool to help you mind map and brainstorm in a clear and visual way. 

Below are a few tips for organizing your visual system map;

  • Use a terminus shaped symbol to define your start and endpoints
  • Use a rectangle to identify your tasks, activities, and processes 
  • Use a diamond shape to identify important decision points 
  • And use arrows to indicate the flow and direction of each event

Remember to start from the beginning and keep asking yourself, “What needs to happen next?”

Example Marketing System – made with Whimsical

The start of this marketing system is a webinar and this is made clear by the terminus shape. The arrows are pointing to the right so you can see which way the process flows and the next step. A rectangle indicates that the next step is a task where the client enters an email campaign. Then there is a pivotal call to action for a consultation booking.

Here you see a branch in the system. Do they book the consultation? If not, they are put into the down-sell campaign because we can see that they are not quite ready to get on the phone.   

However if they booked the consultation, they continue through the system to the next task or CTA. And so on and so forth until they are either onboarded as a new client or put into a future email automation bucket. 

This systems mapping process is the first step towards transitioning from tactic to strategy and from hacks to systems. It’s getting all of these pieces in place by answering the question and then what happens next?

Determine What You Can Automate

The next step is setting yourself up for success and avoiding burnout by asking yourself, “What can I automate in order to be more efficient?”

I recently went through this exercise with a client. She was spending hours making custom agreements for her clients. Mapping her systems allowed her to see this and we got her a proposal software. Now, she changes a few key terms and is done in seconds. She uses the time that used to be spent creating, editing, and sending the document to acquire clients. 

Now see what you can automate. If there is a task that ties you down, ask yourself, “How can I automate this?” Call reminders and email follow-ups are great examples of processes that you can easily automate.

Document Critical Stages and Processes

Next, take a look at the most important processes in your systems. The areas where things fall apart if they’re not handled correctly. 

Create these stages so that someone else could conduct a consultation call just by accessing your documents and jumping into a checklist. These steps should be very detailed, so that if you are not there someone else will know exactly what to do and how to do it, from start to finish.

Identify Key Metrics 

Identify the specific areas in your business where you want to track metrics. A good rule of thumb is to track metrics for all of the critical steps in your system. 

Using the example above, you would want to know how many people got on a consultation call or how many new clients were onboarded. This would help you to see the performance of each stage. By tracking key metrics, you can see if there are gaps and where you need to focus to improve your system moving forward.

Team Member Accountability

If you have a team, you need to assign key stages and metrics to them depending on their role. This way they have more accountability and you can see the results they are driving. 

If you have a marketing team, you might assign digital ads performance tracking and reporting to them. And if you have a sales team you would assign a different stage to them. Then you would look at all of your systems, and you and your team would divide and conquer. 

This is also an important stage for solopreneurs. For example, we started Duct Tape Marketing with just two team members. So we would say, “Okay, this stage I’m in the marketing role, this stage I’m in the sales role, this stage I’m in the customer service role.”

You need accountability and metrics for each of these stages, and you need a person behind those metrics. Completing this step will also make it easier when you do decide to expand or hire because you will have clearly identified roles and responsibilities.

Schedule Weekly Review Meetings

From there, schedule weekly review meetings with your teams based on your systems. In these meetings, you should go over their systems, metrics, and accountability chart. 

These meetings also allow you to lead, congratulate your team on their successes, and see where you need to step in. 

Hold Quarterly Strategic Planning Sessions

Next, you need to start holding quarterly, strategic planning sessions for your business. If you are not sure where to start, know that your systems should direct these meetings.

Once you install this process, you will be able to quickly identify what your growth opportunities are for both halves of the hourglass. For example, you could see what steps are holding you back from converting more clients in your marketing system. And on the operation side, you can start to understand why clients aren’t becoming repeat clients. 

When you build these systems, you are taking out the guesswork and creating essential strategies that can scale—resulting in a business that scales. 

Why go through all of this process mapping?

Predictable lead generation and growth are two main benefits that come from documenting new systems. In addition, you can make quicker and better business decisions based on metrics and evidence. 

Following a system allows you to develop processes to help you avoid errors and  significantly reduce the number of mistakes. In addition, you will build an accountability culture for yourself and your team. I know from experience that employees work better with a clear direction and a culture they support.

The clarity in these systems allows you to have hyper-focus and to get the most out of weekly meetings. Resulting in strategic planning that is not crowded with excess and focused on your most important goals.

Predictable lead generation and growth are two main benefits that come from documenting new systems. In addition, you can make quicker and better business decisions based on metrics and evidence.    Following a system allows you to develop processes that help you avoid errors or significantly reduce the number of mistakes. In addition, you will build an accountability culture for yourself and your team. I know from experience that employees work better with a clear direction and a culture they support.   The clarity in these systems allows you to have hyperfocus and to get the most out of weekly meetings. Resulting in strategic planning that is not crowded with excess and trimmed down to zero in on your most important goals.

The Value in Systems – Spark Lab Consulting

The goal of identifying and mapping your marketing and operations system is to increase demand for your business.

And along the way, it also helps you have more clarity and control in what you’re doing. This clarity and control will allow you to grow and scale in a smart and sustainable way. Not only leading to more profit but more peace of mind. 

This post was written in partnership with Spark Lab Consulting – a new initiative from the founders and team that brought you Duct Tape Marketing – designed to help you operationalize your marketing AND fulfillment systems. 

4 Steps To Create A Perfect Marketing Strategy

4 Steps To Create A Perfect Marketing Strategy written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The 4-step marketing strategy – How to stand out from your competition in the minds of your ideal customer  

With the current obsession around marketing tactics, it has become increasingly harder to figure out the best marketing strategy for your business.

From hacks and quick fixes to the next big idea and new trending platforms. It is harder than ever to decide the right direction for your marketing. 

In order to help alleviate some of the marketing confusion, I’ve created a definitive outline for you in this post, 4 concrete steps to the perfect marketing strategy. You can use this article to help you create a clear marketing message, direction, and plan.

The 4 steps needed to create a perfect marketing strategy in 2022;

Want to get all the worksheets you need to complete your perfect strategy?

Customer Focus

First, you need to narrow your focus to somewhere around the top 20% of your clients. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you chuck the other 80%, but experience tells me that if you are working with customers and clients today, some percentage of them are not profitable for your business. 

The majority of your customers are actually detractors from your business because they didn’t have the right problem or they didn’t have the right business situation for your product to solve. 

Think about your client base today and rank them into groups by profitability with your most profitable customers at the top. You want to think in terms of profitability because profitability is linked to an ideal client fit.


Typically a client is a profitable client because they received value, they had a great experience, their problem was solved, and they referred your product to others. If you understand who your profitable clients are you can start to do two things;

First, you can generate more business from that top 20% of customers because that top 20% want to do more business with you. It is far easier and less costly to continue to do business with people who already trust you vs trying to gain a new person’s trust. If you focus your efforts on creating an amazing experience for those clients who already trust, get value, and are referring you to others. You could actually build our business around serving and attracting them and no one else. 

Second, if you know who they are and what brought them to you, you can begin to build the ideal customer persona for your business based on historical data and profitability. Then you can design your marketing around that customer persona and attract more of the ideal customer, more of the top 20%.

When building your customer persona you want to organize your customer base into three customer groups; must-have, nice-to-have, and ideal.

For example, a remodeling contractor must-have customers who own a home that they want to remodel. Imagine that same remodeling contractor works with his wife who is an interior designer. Now customers who are looking to remodel and redesign their home go in their nice-to-have bucket. Next, that husband and wife decide they want to focus the business on high-quality materials and modern home design. Now their ideal customer owns a home they want to remodel and redesign with a modern theme and is in the top 10% income bracket.

Ask yourself, what are those ideal customers for you? Who are your must-haves, nice-to-have, and ideal customers? My ideal customer workbook contains the same tools and worksheets Duct Tape Marketing uses to create our ideal customers. 


Ideal Customer Behavior worksheet from “How To Create The Ultimate Marketing Strategy” workbook

Solve the problem

Now that you know who your ideal customer is, the next step in creating the perfect marketing strategy is to figure out what problem you are actually solving for your customers. 

The truth is, nobody wants what you sell. They just want their problem solved. So instead of just selling a product, communicate to them that you understand and that you get their problem. Help them see that your product or service is the solution to their problem. That is when they will start to listen to you and begin to trust you. 

So how do you do this?  

– You create a core message that promises to solve that problem. 

For example, public universities have a problem. In many cases, their funding is dictated by their graduation rates. How many students graduate is directly correlated to the funding that universities receive and therefore what they must charge for tuition. They are constantly looking for ways to curb tuition rates. So we have a client that provides scheduling software for universities. We went and talked to the universities that used this company’s software. They confirmed that the software worked well, but what they really loved was the great data and analytics the software provided. It allowed for more efficient scheduling and ultimately made tuition more affordable. We discovered that this software company makes great software, but they also make tuition more affordable. Tuition cost was the differentiator, the problem that they were solving.

Now, you are probably asking yourself, how do I do this for my company? How do I know the problem I am solving? What you need to do is get on the phone or in-person and talk to your ideal clients and ask them; how did you find us in the first place, what made you hire us, why did you stick with us? 

Those are some questions you can start with, but be sure to go deeper in your line of questioning. Have your customers go into detail with their answers. Don’t just ask, “Were you happy with my service?” Instead ask, “Can you tell me a specific time when we provided good service and what we did to make it such a positive experience?”

After enough of these informational interviews, you are going to start hearing themes that are addressing the real problems that you solve. 

Another great resource is Google reviews. But instead of just paying attention to five-star reviews, read the actual reviews line by line. When people voluntarily turn to a third party like Google and leave a glowing review it is an indicator that they have been thoroughly impressed. You have exceeded their expectations. You have solved their problem. 

What is the real problem that you are solving? That is what you need to uncover. And once you know it needs to be what you lead with for all of your messaging, it is your core message.

strategy forms

Create an end-to-end customer journey

A lot of people talk about the customer journey like it’s a funnel. As if we create demand through this funnel. We shove them through this funnel process, they pop them out the other side, and voila that’s the end of the journey. Well, that is not at all true, at least not anymore.

In just the last five years, marketing has undergone many changes. The thing that has changed the most about marketing is how people choose to become customers. That marketing funnel and that linear path no longer exist. The customer journey today is holistic and nonlinear. You no longer see an advertisement for a product, visit the store, and purchase that product. The steps between awareness and purchase are diverse and varied and oftentimes intertwined. People make decisions about the products and the services that they buy out of our direct control. Marketing today is less about demand and more about organizing behavior. 

This obsession with funnels and funnel hacking and tactics is really driving a lot of challenges for small businesses. First and foremost, we have to understand how to guide people on the journey that they want to go on. 

I know it is hard to keep up when it seems like there’s some new thing that we have to do as marketers every single week. There is so much we have to do across so many platforms just to stay relevant, look at the data.

61% of mobile searchers are more likely to contact the local business if they have a mobile-friendly website. So we’ve gotta really look at our websites and all these different devices.

87% of potential customers won’t consider a business with low ratings. Now there are all these sites where people are able to go and leave reviews about our brand. And we have no control over that narrative.  

64% of consumers say watching a video on Facebook has influenced a purchase decision. So not only do we have to be on all of these channels. Now we have to mold all of our content to the exact same way or to the specifications and algorithms of the platform of the month.

92% of consumers will visit a brand’s website for the first time, for reasons other than making a purchase. Our website is not there to just take orders. It provides a service as well.

So I get the obsession with tactics and channels, but with this constantly changing landscape how can you possibly stay up to date? The answer lies in rethinking the customer journey. 

86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience and 83% of business owners claim their main source of new business is referrals. These stats prove that the customer journey does not end at the point of sale. There is profitability in focusing on what happens after somebody becomes a customer.

This leads me to the third and linchpin element of the perfect marketing strategy; the marketing hourglass. 

If you think about the hourglass shape the top of the hourglass borrows from the traditional sales funnel idea. After all, you have to get some percentage of the market out there to know about you and an even smaller percentage to realize that they are an ideal client for your business.

For so many businesses, that’s where it stops right at the throat of the hourglass. But with the marketing hourglass, the excitement really needs to happen again, after the sale. 

The marketing hourglass consists of seven stages or behaviors. The seven stages are; know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer.  


The Marketing Hourglass – Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, Refer

The first three stages are where you create the relationship. By guiding people through these stages, showing up, educating them, and building trust. That’s how you attract your ideal customer and show people why they should pay a premium to do business with you.


If we have a problem we want to know who’s out there. What are the answers? What are the solutions? 

We run advertising and we show up. When somebody goes out and searches we have our content out there. We are participating in social media and building communities.

And then once we land on somebody, what do we do? We immediately go to their website and investigate. We assess if the site looks out of date or tacky. It might load really slowly or the forms might not work. All of those small moments contribute to our larger assessment of whether we like the company or not.  And we ask ourselves, is this a company that can solve my problem? Do I think they have the answer? All of these are things we take into account when moving people past that first impression threshold. 


Next comes trust. We start looking for visual cues. We start asking ourselves, who else trusts them? Who else have they delivered results to? We start to look for familiar logos and referrals from companies we know. Do I see people who are really smart and reputable? Do I see the company being featured in publications? Is there social proof? Are there reviews? Are they working with people that I know? And most importantly, are they working with people like me, people that have the same problem as me? 

The next two stages, try and buy, build the bridge for long-term success. Scaling and growing a business with your ideal customers does not happen after you get the customer, it happens at these two stages. 


The try stage does not just include a 30-day free trial offer. It is much bigger than that. Every time a potential customer picks up the phone and calls your business they are given a trial run of what it might be like to work with you. So what does this stage look like for your business? What is your inbound caller process and what trials do you offer? Do you offer a free quote, free evaluation, or introduction call? Do you provide forms or worksheets for them to try? What are you giving them that allows them to try before they buy? If you can offer value in your free or low-cost options people will be more likely to invest their money in you because they have seen what you can deliver already. 


Next is buy or how the transaction happens. Most of us have been let down at some point when we’ve bought. Buyer’s remorse is a real thing. We want the buying experience to be just as great as all the other experiences leading up to it. 

So you have to think about how you deliver your product? Do you have onboarding? Do you have an orientation? Can you communicate how you’re going to communicate? What is the actual content?

Content is not just created to get an order or customer. In fact, one of the best uses of content is after the sale to teach people what they purchased, show them how to get more value, show them what else you sell. 

The final two stages of the marketing hourglass lead to scalability. Learn to scale with your clients, as opposed to constantly relying on going out and getting more clients. 


What does your retention process look like? Are you continuing to educate? Do you have special offers for existing clients? Are you cross-promoting? If you focus on discovering what else they need and consistently delivering value even after the sale those customers will stick with you.


Texas Tech just surveyed 2,000 consumers and 86% of them said they had a business they loved so much that they would happily refer. But only 29% said that they actually made that referral. So maybe there’s some money in closing that over 50% gap of those customers of ours that love us, but never tell anybody about us.  

What are you doing to stay top of mind with your clients? What are you doing to nurture those champion clients? There is a huge amount of business in co-marketing and developing strategic partners outside of your client base. 

These all have to be intentional processes that you build into your overall marketing plan. Marketing doesn’t stop after running a couple of Facebook ads and delivering some free content. It is the entire process. It is the entire end-to-end customer journey. If you really want to build momentum, if you really wanna scale your business, then marketing doesn’t end until someone else is telling other people about your business.  

marketing strategy


The last stage in creating the perfect marketing strategy for your business is content. Are you tired of constantly creating and delivering new content? What if I told you that you did not have to.  

So many people, like myself, stood up on stages 10 years ago and said, content is king and everybody believed it. The content was like air, you needed it to survive. You could not play in the marketing game without a fair amount of content or a real focus on content. 

People started to try to create so much content, so quickly that there was just a content dump without any real strategic goals. Content is not a tactic. It is the voice of strategy. 

Content is not just blog posts. Your emails, videos, case studies, referral events, what you do and say when networking; it is all content. And content needs to be focused on guiding people through each of the stages of your marketing hourglass. Content is a tremendous lever to help you guide people through the stages. 

Landing pages, blog posts, core web pages, free tools. These are the types of content that people are going to consume when they’re doing initial research and getting to know your business.  


Next, when they go to your website what happens? Are there tip sheets or how-to videos? With this type of content, they will decide if they like you and if you know what you are talking about. 

Then in the trust category, the content is a little more segmented. Your customer is starting to ask themselves if you understand what their needs are? The content strategy here is case studies, webinars, comparison guides, and engagement. 

 The next question they will ask is, is there something I can try? Do you offer communities to join, free assessments, or samples as part of your content strategy?

 At the buying stage do you have content created for demos, audits, FAQs? 

 When it comes to producing content for the repeat stage, how do you go about it? What do your social media content, cross-promotion, and user roadmaps look like?

Last but not least, your referral content includes reviews, referral training, strategic partnerships, and co-marketing among others. Ask yourselves where are you leading your customers after they purchase? 

Each one of these stages has a need for a specific type of content. As a marketer, you need to consider every piece of your content that you’re thinking about producing and make sure it focuses on a stage of your end-to-end customer journey. Your content will become the voice of your strategy. Your content will be useful instead of just another tactic. 

Duct Tape Marketing is a big part of my firm’s success! First it was the books, then an assessment and then a long-term coaching relationship. I would not be where I am today without their insights and focused counsel. Most importantly they are just a pleasure to work with and I wouldn’t hesitate engaging them. 

Jack McGuinness

Relationship Imapct

“Working with Sara and the Duct Tape Marketing team has been beyond what I could have hoped for! As a doctor who is very busy dealing with patients and trying to run a business, I can’t say how much I appreciate how organized, efficient, and goal-specific they are. I truly had NO idea what went into building a brand, a website, and marketing a business.

Dr. Elizabeth Turner

Fox Point Dental