John Jantsch on Building a Property Management Referral Machine
Today, I’m talking with John Jantsch, the man that literally wrote the book on referral based marketing, in addition to several other books. He’s the founder of Duct Tape Marketing and has lived, breathed and sweated small business marketing for many, many years.
Long before digital marketing was trendy, long before social media was an obvious part of the conversation – John Jantsch was in the trenches helping small business owners figure out how to grow without losing their shirts.
It’s an honor to have him on the show today to talk about how to build a referral engine for your property management business.
In addition to what we covered in the interview, here are three things worth checking out:
- The Referral Engine 2 hr Seminar (John goes deep on referral systems)
- How to Create a Marketing Strategy That Is Perfect for Your Business (36 pg .pdf from Duct Tape Marketing)
- Rethinking Commitment (John’s 5 min Ted talk on entrepreneurial fulfillment)
- Background leading up to today
- How did you get started with Duct Tape Marketing?
- Realized through his own hustling that he tapped into frustrations of most small businesses and wanted to help
- Did you ever have an industry or vertical focus?
- Not a focus, but found early success with home and professional services as well as small accounting and law firms
- Referral Fundamentals
- Where do referrals fit into a marketing strategy?
- It all needs to be integrated
- The elements of a referral
- A way to add value to your relationship
- A way to develop social capital
- How have review sites impacted your approach to referrals?
- You can’t hide bad service anymore
- If you exceed expectations, people will find out
- How can somebody start building a deliberate system for generating referrals?
- Understand where it fits in the journey
- Where do referrals fit into a marketing strategy?
- Don’t wait until it’s too late
- Start the conversation early, finish once you get them results
- Create campaigns to periodically ask for referrals
- Build a champion community around your best referrers
- Make them feel special
- Look beyond your own customers through strategic partnerships
- What are the common obstacles that prevent owners from putting this in place?
- They don’t make it part of their culture
- Needs to be a KPI
- Need to build a better customer experiences as part of their marketing
- They don’t make it part of their culture
- How do you incentivize referrals?
- Don’t view referrals as a transaction
- It’s all about building a strategic network
- Stop keeping score
- If the referrals increase value to your customers, that’s reason enough
- Don’t view referrals as a transaction
- Commercial Break
- What makes a good conference?
- New ideas and motivated attendees
- What makes a good conference?
- Building a vendor network
- What led you down this route?
- Passionate about who he was service and wanted to scale
- Didn’t want traditional employees
- How do you protect your brand?
- Focuses on his goal of helping small business owners rather than exact process adherence
- Invests significantly in training and relationship building
- Twice a month training calls
- Quarterly in-person meetings
- What led you down this route?
- The value of writing
- When did you write your first book?
- 2006, after the business had been well-established
- Who should write a book?
- Every business can benefit from a book
- Revenue from book sales
- Establishes you as an expert
- Every business can benefit from a book
- When did you write your first book?
- Where can listeners go to learn more?
- Who do you learn from?
- What books have impacted you the most?
- Were you an internet skeptic or an early adopter?
- Is mission a necessity or a luxury?
- What’s the hardest no you’ve ever had to give in your career?
- Are entrepreneurs born or bred?
- ‘The Practice of Management’ by Peter Drucker
- ‘The Effect of Executive’ by Peter Drucker
- Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch
Where to learn more:
If folks want to learn more about what John is doing, they can catch him at the PM Grow Summit where John will be sharing how to build a great, a fantastic, an SEO efficient, a high converting website. It’s going to be a great talk and I’m going to be there in the front row and asking questions during the Q&A afterward.
If you can’t make it to San Diego, simply go to DuctTapeMarketing.com to get access to all of John’s latest advice.
Jordan Muela: Welcome closers. Today I am talking with John Jantsch, the man that literally wrote the book on referral based marketing. In addition to the multiple books that he has written, he is the founder of Duct Tape Marketing. He has lived, breathed and sweated small business marketing for many, many years. John how many years to be exact?
John Jantsch: You know what, coming up on … 2018 will be the start of my 30th year in business.
Jordan Muela: Wow. Man that’s cause for celebration. Long before digital marketing was trendy, long before social media was an obvious part of the conversation, John was in the trenches helping small business owners figure out how to grow without losing their shirts. It’s an honor to have John on the show today to talk about how to build a referral engine within your property management business. John, welcome to the show.
John Jantsch: Thanks. It’s funny you said long before it was trending, it was actually long before it was even … was even a thing.
Jordan Muela: True. True. Yeah. You’ve been doing it for a while. Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you get started with Duct Tape Marketing.
John Jantsch: To tell you the truth, right out of college I went to work for an ad agency. I did that for about five years and just really knew I wanted to be able to do my own thing. With very little plan, other than the confidence that I could hustle work, I started a marketing consulting firm and did just that. I got projects. Whoever said they’d pay me, whatever kind of work that seemed like I could figure out how to do it, that’s what I would take.
After I started to build that business a little bit, I realized I loved working with small business owners. They were a little frustrating and challenging because they certainly never had the same budgets. But a lot of times it was just even the same mentality about investing in marketing or resources or attention spans. I decided at some juncture I needed to create a process where I could walk in and say here’s what I’m gonna do, here’s what you’re gonna do, here are the results we hope we can get and by the way, here’s what it costs. I was tired of sending out proposals and coming back and figuring out how to do work based on what the client thought they needed so I created a very systematic approach to marketing and turns out it was really easy to sell. A lot easier to sell than the kind of proposal method because it was take it or leave it, do you want it or not.
What was interesting was that here I was trying to solve my frustration, I realized that I’d tapped into a really pretty great frustration in most small businesses. It’s really hard to buy marketing services in a comprehensive way. Everybody’s selling a piece of the puzzle. I think business owners get very confused and boy that has accelerated over the last eight or ten years.
Jordan Muela: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John Jantsch: All the new channels and things that they now have to figure out how to buy. Somebody coming in with a very comprehensive strategy first approach, packaged as a system, turns out that was really very appealing. That was actually the genesis of the term Duct Tape Marketing. I wanted to give it more of a brand feel and product feel almost name. Really I built my practice to as full as I wanted to have it at that time. Started doing things online because that was heating up. It was obvious people were going to be able to sell classes and training and programs online. I started attracting independent marketing consultants around the world that wanted to kind of copy or at least license my approach. Now we are a marketing consulting firm who also then spreads a great deal of time training and licensing marketing consultants and we have about 150 of those folks around the world now. All installing the Duct Tape Marketing System.
Jordan Muela: All right. That’s a great overview. Things obviously mushroomed, that initial mustard seed has now yielded a much larger operation. But it all comes back to the small business. That is your forte. You are not John Jantsch, the Fortune Five or 500 guy. You’ve traditionally really glommed on to helping the small businesses in particular. Did you ever have, particularly early on, did you ever have industry or vertical focus or no?
John Jantsch: Not really. I did find that there were a couple industries that seemed very attracted that idea of a systematic approach. I know early on home service construction, remodelers, plumbers, HVAC folks and then professional services folks. I actually, my initial practice when I was essentially a solo consultant was kind of made up of home services and professional services. The other half was small accounting firms, small law firms.
Jordan Muela: Nice. I’m a big believer in the cross application of knowledge from other similar industries. To me when I say similar I mean other industries that have similar dynamics in terms of the type of sales, So similar transaction size. In our case with property management, it’s a less complex sale. There’s one primary stakeholder that you’re talking to. The deal is gonna have a much shorter sale cycle than selling IT to Fortune 500 companies. All the industries you mentioned in addition to real estate, mortgage, etc, all have similar dynamics so there’s a lot of lessons that can be cross applied from one to the other and I couldn’t think of anything more foundational in that regard than referral. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. If you’re selling to humans, referrals are going to be a big part of your business. Could you give me your feedback or your perspective on where referrals as a marketing strategy fit in as contrasted versus traditional offline like mailers, etc? What’s unique about referral marketing?
John Jantsch: I can’t go far without saying all of this stuff is integrated.
Jordan Muela: Of course.
John Jantsch: It’s all part of the journey. The really impactful thing about referrals is that they can move people along the journey very quickly. If somebody is not even aware of your business but a friend tells them about the great result that you got, well all of a sudden trust is in the mix now. They have a pretty thorough understanding of your study and so that buyer, potential buyer is probably moved pretty far along to at least, I mean you’ve still got to perform, but they’re at least maybe some of the skepticism is gone. They’re not so price sensitive that that’s the whole thing driving everything. It really fits in as a great kind of a lead generation awareness piece. But I think it is so potent because of the trust that’s sort of inherent in it.
Jordan Muela: Yeah. Absolutely. You talk in the book about how people want to give referrals and receive referrals in the sense that when we think about purchasing in any given category, we don’t actually want to evaluate the thousand possible vendors. Maybe at most we’d like to have three to five to have some semblance of an even handed fair analysis. Really we want the process to be as simplified as possible. A referral makes that as easy as possible. When you refer to someone else, it feels good right? You’re about to as an extension of the positive connotations that you have with that business, it’s something you’re about to project about yourself to be able to pass on that sage advice.
John Jantsch: I think there’s two elements in play. I think there are a lot of people and this is why I say people are wired to refer. I think there’re a lot of people that see that as a way to add value to their relationships. In other words, if I have a whole group of clients out here that I work with, and I can build a team of people that I know and trust that are best of class that anytime my client says hey do you know anybody that does X, I’m actually able to confidently tell them somebody that I think can help them some. I think there are a lot of people that realize that makes them more valuable to that client.
I think there’s also a lot of people that find a great deal of pleasure in the social proof that comes from, or the social capital that comes giving referrals. There’re a lot of people that like to be seen as if you need an answer of if you need to find a referral then you go to this person. They can tell you who you ought to be talking to in that town or in that industry. I think a lot of that drives a lot of referrals and probably the third piece is this idea of reciprocity. I think there’s a lot of people that believe that by making referrals, and sometimes in very tangible ways, they will receive those same in kind.
Jordan Muela: So we can’t go very far in this conversation without talking about reputation. What’s your quick take from when you started til now, how the rise of sites like Yelp, Google Reviews, etc., behaviorally how do you think it has approached how people give and receive referrals?
John Jantsch: I think the thing that those kind of sites, and you can throw everything in there because anybody can publish a review about your site. You may have a whole channel on YouTube dedicated to your business particularly if you are not taking care of people. I think that the good news is there’s really no where to hide. If you are not keeping your promises, if you are doing things that are not in the best interest of your customers, people are going to find out. The flip side of that is of course, if you are exceeding people’s expectations, if you are doing something so remarkable that they can’t help not talk about it, you’re going to benefit from that dramatically. Whether it’s just word of mouth, inside of a Facebook group or a Google Review or a Yelp Review, I think that has to be seen as a form of content that you intentionally stimulate and create.
Jordan Muela: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Without trying to manipulate things of course. When people think about referrals, I feel like one of the simplified approach or the simplified mindset, is that referrals just come from having good service, right? That’s all it is, you just be a good service provider. What would you say to somebody that is kind of thinking that way.
John Jantsch: I think that’s the barrier to entry I suppose. You certainly have to be referable. What I find is that even the firms that are doing a tremendous job, unless they do something to go beyond the accidental referral, they won’t be taking advantage of this powerful referrability that they’ve built. You have to have … everybody’s busy today. Not everybody knows you want a referral today. I think you have to be doing some things on a very intentional basis to stay top of mind, to remind people about referrals, to help people understand the value that they’re receiving so that they can feel really good about passing that value on to others.
Jordan Muela: All right. That’s a great segue into talking about the concept of the referral engine. Walk me through a basic game plan for intentionally and effectively generating referrals in your business.
John Jantsch: The first is to understand kind of where it fits in the journey. I think a lot of people go, they get a client, they do good work, that client maybe starts talking about what a great job they’ve done and kind of then the light bulb goes on, oh I should maybe ask for a referral here. That’s pretty late in …
Jordan Muela: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John Jantsch: Obviously that is a place where you want to be getting referrals. I like to try to get people to move it way up in the journey. What I mean by that is that everybody that you’re working with, maybe even that you’re talking with, and maybe you’ve agreed on something, maybe you’re getting close to agreeing on them becoming a customer. I like to move the message of referrals into that spot. What I mean by that is it might typically go something like this. Hey Jordan, we know that you’re going to be so thrilled by what we agreed on today that we’re actually going to come back in 90 days, first off we’re going to make sure you’re thrilled and at that point we’re going to ask if you might introduce us to three other people that you know need this same result.
In the sales process, starting that conversation, there’s so many positives to that. I mean if you think about it, you’re essentially as a marketing messenger, you’re essentially guaranteeing that they’re going to be thrilled. You’re guaranteeing you’re gonna come back and make sure they’re thrilled and then you’re going to give them the opportunity to make a referral. Everybody that I’ve ever worked with over the years that gets their people thinking that way, you get almost 100% agreement in the very beginning.
Jordan Muela: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John Jantsch: So much easier after you’ve done your job to then come back and say, remember when we had that talk about referrals? They’ve agreed to that.
Jordan Muela: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John Jantsch: It’s expectation. That’s a place that … that’s probably the first start is kind of change your mindset to thinking about those in the very beginning. After that, obviously every industry is different but you want to think about a couple ways you can low pressure, low threshold, be dripping out. It might be once a quarter sending out gift certificate that says hey give this to a friend and they get $100 off. For every one of these that come back, maybe you get something or earn something. It’s just kinda having some of those kind of campaigns always out there. Then the last piece, well there’s really two pieces I guess, a lot of people just … I mean maybe they’re thanking their referral sources but what we find is that if you actually take those folks that are predetermined to … maybe they’ve already referred you … they just seem to be people that like to do that and build kind of a champion community around them. Do something to really make them feel special, to make them feel more engaged, to add more value to the relationship.
Even if you’re bringing your customers together, those ones that referral champions, bringing them together a couple times a year, there’s a pretty good chance that they’re gonna find value in meeting those folks that are also your customers. Doing things, three or four things, there isn’t any one thing, but three or four things that really kind of embed referrals into your entire marketing strategy.
The last piece, and really we could do a whole show just on this. Most people focus solely on customers and of course that makes total sense because they’ve experienced how great you are. There’s a really good chance that if you built a strategic partner network of kind of like minded, best of class non-competing businesses and find ways to actually not only refer those folks but do content with those folks, do workshops with those folks. Really build this kind of formal network. There’s a really good opportunity there to get to the point where your primarily source of lead generation is coming from this strategic partner network.
Jordan Muela: Wow, a lot of good nuggets in there. I’ll say that none of that is rocket science. This is not crazy, digital, tech that you need a programmer to implement. A lot of this is common sense, and it’s basic blocking and tackling. But John, here’s the example that comes to mind. You know how when you go into Subway, or you go into McDonald’s, if it’s a well run business, they’re going to ask you if you want a soft drink, right?
John Jantsch: Mm-hmm (affirmative), sure.
Jordan Muela: They’re going to ask you for that high margin upsell. The person that’s going to do that, is as far from corporate as that they can get. But corporate made an intentional decision that organizationally, a big piece of their infrastructure is to train their people to repetitively go through these consumer facing options, that have a high correlation with overall profitability, referrals are a part of that. At the end of the day, somebody hearing this podcast right now, they’re going to say, “Yes John, obviously we should be asking for referrals.” But given that you have worked with businesses that have tried to put this in place, what are the primary bottlenecks and hangups, and things that go wrong from a business owner having a light bulb, to actually putting this into place six months after they’ve read your book.
John Jantsch: I find that a lot of business owners get this, but then they kind of just pass it on as an initiative, and just hope all the sales people or business development people just do it. By gosh, they ought to be doing it, right? I think it’s one of those things that, it has to become really part of the culture. It’s not a kind of one and done thing, it has to be something that’s talked about, that is measured. That’s probably the biggest component, is that make it one of your key performance indicators. How many referrals are we getting, how many reviews are we getting, how many compliments are we getting, how many unsolicited emails of thanks are we receiving?
If you start measuring those, and making targets that are just kind of the simple little parts of the whole, you’ll find that it really helps people focus on referral generation. And really, from a marketing standpoint, and we really try to go into an organization and say, “Let’s embed this as a key component.” We will actually look at their entire … And I think this is where people drop the ball, is a lot of times when they think of marketing, they think of getting their click, getting the appointment, getting the sale, and it kind of ends there. A lot of times what we will do is we’ll kind of work backwards. We’ll say, “What if we want everyone … 100% of our customers referring us. What is that going to have to look like? What do we want that customer feeling, thinking, doing, 90 days after the transaction, maybe 45 days after, at the time of transaction?”
And really start building a better customer experience as part of our overall marketing. I will tell you that the best source of lead generation is a whole bunch of happy customers. If we focused more time on that customer experience component and kind of worked backwards to how do we make the phone ring, it really can change kind of how everybody views what marketing is.
Jordan Muela: Absolutely. If every customer referred at least one other customer, you’ve crossed the metric viral coefficient, and your business is effectively going to have unlimited growth. We know that we can’t all necessarily achieve that, but we could probably make a much bigger impact than we are right now. I love that you suggested measuring it. Can you give any insight on how you would think about framing that issue in terms of metrics, KPI’s, and kind of expectations if you ran a property management business?
John Jantsch: Well I think the first would just start with goals. I mean, what can you measure? I mean, sometimes attributing a sale to one [chactic 00:04:11], or one channel, can be very difficult. But if there was a way to break down how many introductions you were getting, I mean what’s kind of a … What are the small things that you can impact? Then get your people focusing on those. It might be how many introductions have you gotten, how many meetings where you could get somebody to join you at that meeting, how many actual referrals you might be getting, and create those as … So often, particularly when we’re talking about sales people, all they’re measured by is that sale, you know? Could you … Would there be activities that they could do, that would, you know ultimately are positive that will lead to that sale component, and start breaking those down and measuring them.
Those might be lunches, those might be coffee meetings, those might be referrals, those might be networking events that all are going to be very small, measurable, identifiable activities that you know are going to lead to the whole of more referrals and more sales.
Jordan Muela: Love it, so it’s the expanding part of your funnel. We’ve all seen the funnel graphic, right? At the top it’s wide, it gets narrower and narrower. But, if you’re doing what John’s talking about, after that sale, hopefully your funnel actually starts to get wider again as the referrals happen. You mentioned earlier putting incentives out there. I was talking with a client the other day, they were talking about the challenges that they are experiencing, trying to get other realtors to refer them in business. In theory, there’s a lot of synergy here, right? The property manager manages the home for as long as it’s a rental, but when it’s ready for sale, then it can get passed back to the realtor. So in theory, there’s no conflict of interest here.
This gentleman was kind of articulating how he was really struggling getting over the incentive, and the conversation was all about the money, and the realtor wanted more money than he was willing to pay. My kind of response to that was, “If you’re having a conversation and a dialogue, and you’re getting hung up on money. You’ve at least got somebody that is on some level interested, or else they wouldn’t be talking to you at all. You’ve got to focus on the other soft and salary sorts of things.”
When we talk about the non monetary incentives, particularly with the vendor network concept, how do you approach incentivizing other businesses to send you business?
John Jantsch: Well, you know I think it has to … The problems a lot of people have, is that they want to look at it as a transaction, “You send me this, I’ll give you that.” It’s so limited in a lot of ways, in its value. But if you start thinking about this kind of network approach, it starts having value beyond just the transaction. When we work with folks and help them build strategic partner networks, what we’ll do is first off, we’ll identify the best of class, and we’ll kind of introduce this idea of a strategic network. But that idea can’t stop just at, “You send me leads, I’ll send you leads.” Because today, we need podcast interviews, we need content on our website, we need webinars, we need guests for those webinars.
If you start thinking about all these ways that you can actually … You can get somebody a link, you can get somebody exposure, you can get them more traffic to your website. All of a sudden you start kind of piling on all these benefits of working together, and the referral actually becomes almost a side benefit of all of that work together.
Jordan Muela: Hmm, I mean it sounds great, so again, followup question. What typically goes wrong? I think everybody would love to do that, but where does that typically break down when somebody tries to put that into practice?
John Jantsch: Well where I see it break down is a couple of places. Too much score keeping, you know? “I sent you four leads, you only sent me two,” is a potential place. I think what you have to do is again, you have to think, “What’s the whole benefit of this? I’m building my expertise, I’m building my reputation as being a part of this, or as being maybe the person that facilitates this,” and the universe will kind of keep score of that. I think that’s probably the number one issue that people run into.
The thing that causes a lot of that sometimes, or those issues sometimes, is that we also pick the wrong people to be a part of that. By wrong, I don’t mean that they are inherently wrong, they just maybe don’t have the same mindset. The point of you is not, “Let’s build this thing so we can all get referrals.” The point of you starts with, “Let’s build this thing so that we can be so ultimately valuable to our clients.” In fact, I would tell people that there is a reason enough to build this strategic network if you never got referrals. By that I mean, if you’re actually able to increase the value, your value to your customers, it’s probably reason enough to do it.
Jordan Muela: Well so, this is all about playing the long game, right?
John Jantsch: Oh exactly, yeah.
Jordan Muela: You gotta have big a big picture perspective, and that’s what makes it viable or not viable. Back to the short game, I’m curious, what do you think about BNI or traditional networking groups?
John Jantsch: I think networking groups can be great. I mean, they can also be a dramatic drain of time and worth too, I mean that’s the challenge.
Jordan Muela: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John Jantsch: If you’re going to take something like BNI that people are familiar with, and that probably has today, four or 5,000 chapters. Like everything, you’re going to find some BNI chapters that people will tell you it is the number one source of business for them. And you’re going to find some BNI chapters that people are going to tell you they were in it for a few months, and it was a total waste of time. They are very, like this strategic partner network that I talked about. They are very much like that.
The question then comes down to, “Whose in that network?” The challenge sometimes with an organization where you just go and you join, is that you don’t really have relationships with the people there. You don’t, maybe even by reputation, know who they are. If you get in a group that is not the same mindset about the long term game as you are, then it might not be that fulfilling.
Jordan Muela: Hmm, before we go on, I want to mention our shows sponsor, the PM Grow Summit. Which, is happening at the end of January in 2018. If you consider yourself a growth minded property management entrepreneur, this is the place to be. Best in class entrepreneurs, networking, and speakers, you want to be at the PM Grow Summit. One of those speakers is John Jantsch. Now, if you’re thinking about going, you can go to PMGrowSummit.com and you can enter the coupon code, “Jordan,” J-O-R-D-A-N, to get $100 off your first ticket.
John, you travel a lot. You’ve been to many, many conferences by now. If we just cut through all the BS, give me the 80/20 on when a good conference is well executed. In your mind, what does an attendee walk away with?
John Jantsch: Well certainly, and I think this is what attracts people. Certainly knowledge, new ideas. I mean you guys spend a lot of time and money attracting speakers that are hopefully going to share some amazing useful information. But what ends up happening is, in the end, when people go away from these things and think they are just some of the best time they’ve spent, it’s really kind of what goes on at the breaks, and at the masterminding tables, and the ways that they can just really get down, and talk to people about challenges they’re having, talk to others about successes they’re having. I think it’s a combination of those.
To me, really well run conferences offer kind of both of those things. They offer really great insight from people that are maybe doing, or have done what you want to do. But they also offer plenty of opportunities for you to kind of get your own very specific challenges and opportunities addressed.
Jordan Muela: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I mean the network is a big deal. That’s why the folks that come to the PM Grow Summit are property management entrepreneurs, and really the E should be first, right? That’s the primary orientation of a successful business owner. They’re an entrepreneur first, and they happen to be in real estate, insurance, whatever the vertical may be. It’s not that it doesn’t matter, it’s just that if you’re really focused on serious success, that, that E has to take premise, at least that’s my take on it.
Back to the vendor network that we were discussing a second ago, I want to talk about how you have internalized your own advice. What I find is, these little nuances in the model, or the approach can have such a profound impact, particularly when there is a passionate perspective behind it. In your case, you mentioned early on that you have kind of an army of consultants, and implementers that are an extension of your brand, and of your life’s work, that are your first line of defense, and your boots on the ground. Talk to me about what led you go to that route, and some of the other paths you did or could have taken prior to launching that strategy.
John Jantsch: Well I think the main thing came down to, I was very passionate about who I’m serving. I really love working with small business owners. There was a real desire to expand that. To scale what I was able to do. Frankly, there are kind of two pretty obvious paths. You either do maybe something like what I’ve done, or you hire employees. I think the world that we’re living in today allows us to not have to have the office, and the employees. While I do have a staff for kind of our headquarters kind of needs, I really didn’t want to add consultants as employees to do that.
I decided to kind of take the sort of very nimble approach of really training other folks, and licensing this to other folks with the idea that I could have as much or more impact, quite frankly, because those folks are now out there saving small businesses, as I like to talk about it, by the thousands now. So I was able to really scale the impact that I could have, and I guess you could say certainly, with a lot less risk than maybe adding the infrastructure that would take to support an internal employee network.
Jordan Muela: Well let’s talk about the risk. How do you protect your brand, how do you protect the dilution of what is effectively your life’s work, your reputation, when you’re dealing with these people that are not direct reports?
John Jantsch: Yeah, I guess I question a lot and there certainly are people that are just adamant about that. Again, my real purpose was, and I know this can sound a little philanthropic, but my real purpose in life is to serve the small business owners. Not necessarily to grow my brand to this big thing that was about me. That probably gives me a little less stress about somebody that maybe is veered off of my brand or my exact approach. The need for what we do in working with small business owners particularly as all these digital stuff came on, is so immense that even if somebody is not, again, I wouldn’t tolerate somebody who is dishonest or misrepresenting what they could do.
If somebody is a little off of what my brand is or my approach is, but they’re still helping small business owners, I think that’s a big delivery on what our brand is all about. Now, having said that, you do have to I think invest more in training and relationship building. I mean we don’t just sell a certification course and say, “Good luck.” I mean we meet four times a year in person. We have twice a month training calls. I mean we do a ridiculous amount of training and on boarding and mentoring in the first six months when somebody joins, so we’ve invested a tremendous amount in really doing all we can to kind of make sure that people are delivering on what Duct Tape Marketing stands for. I’m not a dictator by any means as far as how people get results.
Jordan Muela: Yeah, that makes sense, the sum is bigger than its parts. I want to follow up with a question about content marketing. You’ve written several books. When you think about the benefit that came from that, how far into your career were you before you wrote the first book?
John Jantsch: Well, I’d had my own business for quite a while, but Duct Tape Marketing kind of that version, which was a pretty big pivot in say 2002 or so, because I had been doing kind of more traditional local marketing. 2002 was when I really went online and created the name Duct Tape Marketing. The book ‘Duct Tape Marketing’ actually came out in 2006.
Jordan Muela: I know a lot of operators that have been in the business like you said at that point for 10, 20 years and the idea of writing a book still sounds profoundly difficult and intimidating. Having written multiple books now, do you have any thoughts or perspective on who writing a book or what kind of a business writing a book is or is not for?
John Jantsch: Well, so this is a really big philosophical question, because you’ll ask a lot of authors, and they’ll say, “You shouldn’t write a book unless you have something to say, and it’s a big idea.”
Jordan Muela: Sure.
John Jantsch: I tend to believe that every business can benefit from a book. Now, there are different ways to benefit from a book. Fortunately my books have sold very well, they were traditionally published books. I have made a lot of revenue from my books. That they’ve further paid off, because I was starting to speak and all of a sudden you get a bestselling book and now you’re speaking fee is four times what it was.
They’ve paid off in many, many ways for me, but I have some single lawyers. I mean single meaning solo lawyers that I’ve helped create content and had them write a book. That book all of a sudden made them the expert in their little corner of the world for their type of practice. There can be tremendous credibility and kind of tangible expertise that can come out of a book and of course it’s become very easy to publish one these days.
Jordan Muela: Right, so there’s a book and then there’s a book, right, you can do traditional publishing or you can do any book and along that nexus there’s varying level of appropriateness and are alive for business owners. I think that’s probably the right answer that makes sense. I want to transition now to the rapid fire section of the interview. I want to go through some questions and just get some guttural answers from you. The first question is this, John, who do you learn from?
John Jantsch: Well, I read about 100 books a year.
Jordan Muela: Still, still this John, book, we’ve got to just pause on that. I’m always profoundly blown away by the fact that the folks that are the furthest ahead are like on absolute level. The folks that you feel like are so far ahead of where you’re at, are still maniacally focused on getting further ahead as if their life depended upon it. That blows my mind. You still read 100 books a year, wow.
John Jantsch: Yeah, I think it’s partly occupational hazard. I mean I do interviews like you. I interview a lot of authors, so I actually read their books if I’m going to interview them. I also, I’m also just insatiably curious. I love to read books. I mean I’m reading a book about the culture of wolves right now, that I find just absolutely fascinating. I get so many ideas out of those odd books that seemingly have nothing to do with business or marketing, but ultimately have so much to do with life and that’s, in the end that’s where we all are, is living life.
I just, I’ve just, I’ve done it. I loved it when I … My favorite classes in college were literature classes, so I mean I’ve done it my whole life and I continue to do it, because I enjoy it I suppose.
Jordan Muela: Well as a bibliophile, let me ask you my next rapid fire question, which is, what books have impacted you the most?
John Jantsch: Well, probably the one, there’s probably others that have impacted me in other ways, but the book that really helped me shape what Duct Tape Marketing was going to look like, was a book by Peter Drucker called ‘The Practice of Management’. Not a marketing book per se, but really the first book I read that made, kind of made me understand this idea of systems and process and how important they are in everyday business.
Jordan Muela: Mark it down, I haven’t read it. I’ve read ‘The Effect of Executive’ by Peter Drucker and found it to be profoundly insightful. He’s kind of hailed as like the management theorist of the century, right?
John Jantsch: I think so, yeah.
Jordan Muela: All right, so John next question, being honest, were you an internet skeptic or an early adopter?
John Jantsch: I was very much an early adopter, and it wasn’t because I was like, “This is where we’re headed.” I just liked it. I thought it was cool, and so I really kind of dug in. Even blogging, I started blogging in 2003, I suspect there were about 10 marketing bloggers at the time. It wasn’t, because I just said, “This is the wave of the future.” I was already publishing content. In fact, I was, before we had the internet, I was writing articles for newspapers and for magazines.
To me it just saw, I just immediately saw as a great way to distribute the content that I was already kind of fully producing, so it just made sense to me.
Jordan Muela: Next question John, do you view mission as a necessity or a luxury? Meaning, when people talk about purpose, why et cetera, it’s usually successful people that are talking about that, so there can be some suspicion of is this selection bias, the people that laughed or passionate about it? For the person that is just struggling to put food on the table, how would you tell them to think about mission and purpose as it relates to business?
John Jantsch: Well, I think I’d add one other thing to that too. A lot of times when you achieve a level of success, it’s because you got good at something and then you got good at making money at that something and viola, it became your purpose. I think that sometimes, I don’t think that, I think the challenge is as you’re getting started, it’s very difficult to sit down and say, “Here is my mission. Here is my purpose. I’ve got it all figured out. Now I just have to connect the dots.”
I do think that in my business, purpose has, this purpose of serving small business owners, I love working with small business owners, has driven and does today drive a lot of my decisions. It drives a lot of what I think about writing. It drives a lot of what I think about producing as products. It drives a lot of what I won’t do. I think that having that as a filter, whether you call it mission or core beliefs or again, there are lots of terms for that, I do think that it helps to have those types of things as a filter, because it’s really easy to chase after the next new thing. To get overwhelmed with whatever it is, email or all the things that we have to do in a day.
I think if you have this filter of purpose or mission, where you’re able to kind of say, “All right, if I have to make a decision about these two things, does this one serve my purpose or better or that one?” I think it’s a great tool for something like that.
Jordan Muela: It’s clarifying, absolutely, couldn’t agree more. Next question, John, what’s the hardest no you’ve ever had to give in your career?
John Jantsch: I’m not very good at no, that’s the problem. The hardest no.
Jordan Muela: Well, maybe the inverse of that was, what was the worst yes you ever gave?
John Jantsch: Well, I tell sometimes a story by a client of mine that went to jail. I wasn’t, I didn’t particularly like the guy, I knew he was probably doing some things that were not all above board. What I would guess I would say is that, learning that and being involved in that experience was the thing that taught me that I needed to pick my clients. Then I had to get very, very clear on who I would work with and who made an ideal client.
I don’t know if that’s, I’m not sure I’m answering your question, but that to me was sort of the big no. That was the case where I should’ve said no and so the big learning I suppose in that was, how to actually start analyzing who I work with from that day forward.
Jordan Muela: Yeah, that’s another one of those truisms that you kind of have to have the scars before you’re really ready to fully own it. Last question of the interview is this, John, in your opinion are entrepreneurs born or bred?
John Jantsch: That’s a great question. I’m going to waffle for a while. I know you want just a yes or no, but in my experience, there is something that is unique about entrepreneurs. Now I think that can be born, but I think, I do think it can be learned. To me, when people ask me kind of what I think the core skill of an entrepreneur is, I think one of them is curiosity. Entrepreneurs are really driven by the fact that they get to learn something new every day, that they get to work with different people, that they get to be thrown into situations they’ve never been in before.
I think most entrepreneurs will tell you that’s some of the most exciting work that they get to do. I think lacking those qualities and not being willing to embrace those qualities probably is going to make your entrepreneurial journey pretty tough.
Jordan Muela: All right, well, of the folks that I’ve asked that question to, I’d say about a quarter are like right off the bat. Their heart yes, no.
John Jantsch: Yeah.
Jordan Muela: Maybe another 25 are mostly one side of the other, but they account for the other, but about half are pretty much where you’re at, pretty much accounting for both. I don’t know that there is any right or wrong answer, but in the business that we’re in, that’s certainly is something worth thinking about. John, I appreciate you coming on the show today.
If folks want to learn more about what you’re doing, the first thing I suggest that they do is go to PM Grow Summit.com and buy your ticket. John is going to be there in person, find them at the bar after his talk, ask him questions about your specific problems. John specifically is going to be talking about building a great, a fantastic, a SEO efficient, a high converting website. It’s going to be a great talk and I’m going to be there in the front row and asking questions during the Q&A afterwards.
I know that not everybody listening to this can be there in San Diego in January. If folks want to find you online now or before then, where’s the best place for them to go?
John Jantsch: Well, the easiest place is to simply go to Duct Tape Marketing.com and that’s D-U-C-T, T-A-P-E Marketing.com.
Jordan Muela: Great name, great guy, John, thanks again for coming on. Look for too seeing you in San Diego.
John Jantsch: Yeah, that’s going to be great Jordan.