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The Single Most Potent Marketing Tactic of All

marketing tactic

I get asked a simple, pointed question just about everywhere I go. What’s the number one thing I can do to grow my business right now.

Yep, everyone wants one tactic they can employ to massively grow their business.

I do have an answer, of course, but it may not be what you’re expecting.

No the number one tactic for growing a business is more of a process than some way to get more Facebook engagement or some other new, trendy growth hack.

The most potent thing any marketer can do is to create and operate a growth system.

See, no two businesses are ever alike so no prescriptive set of tactics or one size fits all approach will work for everyone.

But that’s the beauty of a system. If constructed correctly it consistently produces the tactics made for the unique fingerprint that is your business.

The system I’ve been evangelizing for some time now consists of four major components. Once in place you only operate and update.

The four system components are as follows:

  • Map your marketing foundation
  • Explore potential marketing channels
  • Create a project catalog
  • Execute focused project bets

If you put in the work to build and operate your growth system, you’ll be on your way to consistent, predictable and potentially scalable bliss.

Map your marketing foundation

In my world, a marketing foundation consists of three key elements: Strategy, Journey, and Content.

The strategy element is where you map out the personas of your ideal clients and construct the messaging and positioning for your products and services that will match what these ideal clients care about. You can read more about our approach to strategy here

The journey element consists of understanding how someone is going to move through every aspect of your business. It’s not necessarily about how you want them to move as much as how you guide them based on what they want.

This takes a deep understanding of what they are looking for well before they are looking for you and what they expect in terms of the experience with a company like yours. I’ve used a framework I call The Marketing Hourglass for about a decade to describe how to think about moving your prospects and customers logically through the stages I call know, like, trust, try, but, repeat and refer. You can read more on the Marketing Hourglass here.

Finally, you need to understand how to use content as the voice of your marketing strategy. For many businesses content in the form of blog posts, educational webinars and how to eBooks is the primary way that prospects and customers move through a business on the way to becoming raving fans.

Understanding the forms of content you need for awareness, trust, education, engagement, conversion and even referrals is crucial to success. You can read more about something I call the Total Content System and our approach to editorial content planning here.

Explore potential marketing channels

Once you’ve firmly mapped out and committed to your marketing foundation you can start to explore the various tactics for generating leads and growth.

I believe that there are 16 marketing channels available to us today. (About ½ of which are additions from the last decade or so.)

Now you could argue that there are more or less, or that something should be combined or expanded or that something like SEO isn’t a channel per se at all, but I can make a case for the rational of each on this list and besides that you’ve got to start somewhere.

The real job for any business, depending upon where they are in terms of their growth goals, is to get very, very good at getting clients in just a few of these channels. Trying to master them all is the fastest way to get stuck in the idea of the week rut.

A business just getting going may need to root around in marketing channel test mode to figure out which channels can produce sustainable growth while a more entrenched business may be better served finding ways to cut back and optimize the channels that are already working.

Here are your channels to choose from.

  1. Referral Marketing – This includes intentional word of mouth activities, viral tactics as well as intentional referral generation
  2. Public Relations – This includes activities aimed at receiving coverage in traditional media outlets
  3. Online Advertising – This includes the use of pay-per-click platforms, social networks, display ads and retargeting
  4. Offline Advertising – This includes advertising in offline print and broadcast outlets such as magazine, TV and radio
  5. Content Marketing – This includes publishing, optimizing and sharing educational content that draws search traffic, links and subscribers
  6. Sales Playbooks – This includes the creation of specific actions aimed at mining, generating, nurturing and converting leads
  7. Email Marketing – This includes the use of targeted and automated email campaigns based on conversion actions
  8. Utility Marketing – This includes the creation of useful tools that stimulate traffic, sharing and brand awareness
  9. Influencer Marketing – This includes the practice of building relationships with individuals and outlets that can influence pre-established communities
  10. Search Engine Optimization – This includes on page and off page optimization activities aimed at generating organic search engine traffic
  11. Partner Marketing – This includes co-marketing activities run in collaboration with strategic marketing partners
  12. Social Media Marketing – This includes the act of building engagement on established platforms and networks such Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as well as targeted industry platforms
  13. Online Events – This includes events such as webinars, demonstrations and workshops conducted using online tools
  14. Offline Events – This includes events such as workshops, demonstrations, seminars, trade shows, showcases and customer appreciation events
  15. Speaking Engagements – This includes the appearance of company representatives in sponsored speaking engagements at events such as industry conferences
  16. Community Building – This includes the intentional act of building and facilitating a community around a shared interest or topic related to the organization’s industry

Create a project catalog

Once you analyze your current business channels and start the process of considering new ways to grow, you can begin to create a list of potential projects you plan to test in your channels of choice.

A project is any tactic you want to employ to see if it show potential for profitable growth.

So, for example, in the public relations category you might decide to target small niche publications with stories in an effort to get some press that might lead to coverage in bigger publication or social sites. Or you might consider a publicity stunt or two that could trigger some viral coverage.

Here’s the trick when brainstorming potential channel tactics to try on. First map out the 3-4 biggest objectives for the quarter ahead. Then tie some trackable goals to each objective. From here you should be able to get some focus on tactics that might actually help you achieve some of your stated goals.

So let’s say one of your objectives is to build an online community and one of your goals for doing this is to grow your current subscriber list. Armed with these two ideas you should be able to create a list of potential tactics you might want to bet on to achieve this goal.

Brainstorm an entire catalog of ideas and you may produce a few months worth of hunches focused on your objectives.

From this brainstorming you can probably identify some candidates that would make likely projects to test.

There are many variables that go into determining what projects to test. Look around and see what’s working for others, ask your entire team to weigh in, network your ideas with strategic partners, and even look to competitors for ideas.

If you can tie a new channel to something that’s already working in another channel, you’ll increase the likelihood of success. For example, if sales – even cold calling – is an effective channel right now, imagine how much more effective it might be if you armed the sales team with content marketing, social selling or referral tactics.

Execute focused project bets

Once you identify your high priority project bets it’s time to start testing.

Like all things these days you want to test and fail fast so you can move on and succeed even faster. Don’t wait until you have every Facebook ad variation designed and every call to action match to a targeting goal. If you’ve never run any Facebook ads, just get in there and run one based on what you are trying to do. You’ll know very quickly whether or not it shows any promise and then you can more into full execution.

Here’s the key – and it’s always been the key to successful marketing – spend time before you test to design the project so that you know what you are trying to do and how you are going to measure its success.

So often marketers get a good idea and they run off and try it without any way to know if it worked or not. Like a science project you’ve go to be precise is what you think will happen, how it will happen and how you know if it happened.

You’ve also got to test variables – things like headlines, images, messaging, should all be part of the equation. Running A/B tests of this nature are a snap these days thanks to so many great online tools.

The entire point of the exercise is to identify a couple bets that pay off big so you can double and triple down of those and shelve the others.

When you do this repeatedly you start to find the most potent channels for profit and you can start to play in those few channels like a champ. Ultimately your goal is to simply create and refine projects optimized for your best channels.

The last component of the system is to take the winners and find the best way to document and delegate. If you can operationalize your winning bets you can free up more time to strategize on ways to make new, informed bets.

Keeping a running log of all of your tests, bets, successes and failures is not only a great way to stay focused on what works, it’s a great way to learn how to get better at creating new bets. Sometimes you learn as much from what didn’t work as what did work.

Once you get the system down you simply continue to operate and evolve. I suggest you set aside a day once a quarter to reshape goals and objectives and brainstorm a new list of projects to constantly stay on the move and many, many steps ahead of your competitors.

So you see the single most potent marketing tactic isn’t really a single tactic after all.

10 Steps to Building a Repeatable Marketing System

marketing system

Marketing is a system, plain and simple. Now, some people take that to mean that you simply create a one size fits all, turn-key set of tactics and call it a day.

The truth, however, lies not in the repeatable tactics, but in the repeatable process based on the right strategy.

There is, in my view, a very systematic way to come up with a predictable path for growing any business, but every business is different – so, their system is unique, while the process for getting there does not need to be.

So you see, you don’t need a marketing plan so much as you need a marketing process.

Below are the ten steps I’ve used over and over again to help grow every business I’ve worked with over the last two decades.

Strategy for where you are going

The fist step is to determine where you want to go. I know everyone says this, but few do it. Or, if they do, it’s based on some over the top world domination dream that nobody can buy in to.

In my experience, three years out is a long view for most and merely a target to get a sense of the vision for growth. You can surround this vision with things like revenue and hiring projections, but the main thing it to create something that can guide your decisions today based on even a murky map of the future.

Now, what’s this year need to look like to propel you towards the three-year picture?

Strategy for where you are

I like to work in 90-day chunks because few people can focus much beyond that and most of the time things are so fluid you need to remain nimble enough to change course throughout the year.

The key thing here is to identify the 2-3 highest priority initiatives and focus all of your efforts on meeting the goals you set for each.

So, for example if the highest priorities for the quarter are to grow a new revenue stream and to increase client retention then all of your efforts need to be focused on those priorities, even if some pet projects need to be put on hold.

Build community first

The secret to sustained growth lies in creating a loyal community, monetizing this community and leveraging this community for additional growth.

Many businesses focus only on trying to find people to sell to. Today’s most wildly successful companies build a following and then figure out what they want to buy. It’s a model that few get, but it is the most profitable way to grow a business.

Now, if you’re starting a business or in a business that you want to grow, you may have to make community building a priority while you do the things that generate cash flow for today.

You can, however, make the community building frame of mind, something that you use to evolve your content marketing efforts, customer service, and even product development.

Put a free version of your product out, create premium content and invite community members rather than subscribers, surprise the heck out of every customer by doing something they never imagined you would do.

Set your near-term goals

Set measurable goals for every aspect of your short-term priorities and use the scorecard for those objectives as a way to hold everyone accountable for the tasks and projects associated with the goals.

The discussions you have around why goals are met or not is how you course correct and keep everyone focused on the priorities you’ve already established rather than things that don’t matter beyond the day to day grind.

Decide on some bets

Here’s the fun part in my mind. It’s hard to know what will work and won’t work for sure when it comes to marketing, that’s the reality. The best marketers make informed bets, but they test and measure everything.

Now, what these bets or optimizations are for your business will vary largely depending where you are. If you’re in startup mode, you can try big things. If you’re locked down and just trying to acquire more market share you test little things.

These bets or tests should be based on your near term goals and some amount of educated brainstorming, but as a team you must commit to what they are going to be and see it through.

A bet might be a total repositioning of your value proposition. It might just be using a video on the homepage or trying lookalike audiences on Facebook.

Again, the key is that the bets are based on your priorities and will be fully developed rather than seen as the idea of the week.

Implement with tests

Once you have decided on your bets, you must figure out the proper plan to execute and perhaps more importantly test, retest and measure every element as though the life of the business depended upon it.

This is the difference between building a marketing system and simply throwing stuff at the wall.

This is how you prune that bets that fail and go all in on the bets that work.

Experiment and analyze

Now that you are starting to measure results you can begin to test a winning email subject line against another, a winning landing page against one with some element changed or even one sales page against another.

Once you have some things working, you always try to better through experimentation.

Document and delegate

Now, here’s the part that even successful marketers tend to gloss over.

Once your bets start to pay off and are headed towards long-term implementation, document the process or system or campaign in a way that allows you to delegate it to a marketing assistant type or even a VA so you can move on and make some more bets.

This is how marketing gain momentum and this is the essence of an effective marketing system.

Review and plan

Every 90 days review your priorities, your scorecard, and every bet you’ve made.

The goal of this review is to create a new set of priorities for the upcoming quarter and to start to learn what’s been working and what hasn’t been. This is how you start to develop patterns that make you better at making hunches for future bets


You probably knew this was going to end this way, but marketing isn’t ever done – the process never really ends – what you optimize will certainly evolve but working the system is your real job.

7 Solving the Most Frustrating Part of Marketing

I’ve spent the better part of the last 10 years telling any small business owner that would listen that marketing isn’t really that complicated.

What’s complicated and frustrating about marketing perhaps is how small business owners and those that work in the field of marketing think about it.

The Marketing HourglassMarketing is just a system and, operated as such; it isn’t any different from many of the other systems needed to run a business. A system creates control, a system guides priorities, a system creates process, a system generates accountability, and a way to measure and win the game.

I developed my view of “marketing as a system” after discovering that working with small business owners in the way I wanted wasn’t possible unless I was willing to change my view of marketing.

What I quickly discovered was it’s a two-way street. Marketing consultants are often frustrated because they have no system or methodology they can apply over and over again and small business owners are frustrated because there’s no logical way to buy marketing services from people pitching the idea of the week.

I had a large ad agency professional approach me recently and tell me about trying to help several of his family members find some marketing help for their startup. Because he had spent most of his life in six and seven-digit budget land, he was appalled at how hard it was to find help that made sense for this startup.

And that’s precisely the work I’ve been engaged in for over a decade – putting an end to marketing frustration – both on the part of marketing consultants and coaches and on the part of the tens of thousands of small business owners that have adopted some version of this systems approach to marketing.

For some, the concept of a system for marketing seems so still and uncreative, but for me, a system is how you Save YourSelf Time Energy and Money – corny, I know, but something we all need a little more of!

I’ve built a marketing system that gives relief to frustrated marketing consultants by way of the Duct Tape Marketing Network and provides real results for small business owners through the Duct Tape Marketing System.

Below is a very brief description of the elements of a marketing system

1) Strategy before tactics – create a narrowly defined strategy first

This is, without a doubt, the most crucial step. Strategy must come before any tactics. Until you can narrowly define your ideal client and uncover or create some way your business is both unique and remarkable, you’ll compete on price and struggle to build any sense of momentum. More on this . . .

2) Build your Marketing Hourglass – A marketing-focused business model

The next step involves what I call The Marketing Hourglass. This simple process asks you to view your business and discover how you will move your ideal prospects down the path of know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer. The beauty of this thinking is that it puts the focus on the end – a happy customer, willing to buy more and tell others. Get that part right, and you’ll never need to worry about lead generation in the same way again. More on this . . .

3) Become a publishing engine – Your content becomes the voice of strategy

Almost every element of the Marketing Hourglass relies on some form of intentional content to operate properly. In this step, business owners create their content plan with some very specific objectives in mind. More content is not the answer. The right content, delivered to the right person at the right time, is the answer. More on this . . .

4) Build a total online and offline presence – Integration is the key to success

Integration is what makes social media work. It’s what makes email marketing work, and it’s what drives effective advertising. Until you view your online and offline presence as one integrated whole, you’ll continue to fall prey to the idea of the week. Any decision on what to do on Facebook comes with content, SEO, email, and advertising implications as well. View it that way, and you’ll never wonder about ROI again. More on this . . .

5) Build a lead generation machine – Lead momentum comes from multiple streams of lead generation

Lead generation is a game of trust, context, and repetition. Advertising, public relations, and referral generation built around an effective marketing strategy is the secret to creating the right awareness with the right prospects. More on this . . .

6) Lead conversion is a system – Lead conversion as a repeatable sales process and customer experience

An effective marketing system, such as the one described above, is that it eliminates the need to sell – at least in the traditional sense of the word. When you educate, build trust, and create engagement, all that’s left to do is show prospects how they can get the result you’ve shown them. More on this . . .

7) Live by the calendar – You’re never done, simply operate the system over and over again

Once you build the various elements of your marketing system, you must map it out on a calendar, test, analyze, tweak and improve it continuously. For some, simply carving out the time to create new processes and putting in the effort to develop new marketing behaviors must become a habit before any progress can be made. It’s a long-term game, and you’re never done; just deal with it every day. More on this . . .

I’ve taken every element of this system and turned it into an online course that any business can apply to build a marketing system. Each element is presented in step-by-step lessons that include videos, workbooks, worksheets, examples, and resources. We continue to work on it and improve it and add to it as new tools and tactics arise.

Once you gain access to the Duct Tape Marketing System, you’ll be able to visit each lesson over and over again as you perfect your system and even use our materials to train and guide your marketing staff.

You can find complete details here.

3 Marketing Is The Ongoing Operation of a System

So often marketers get stuck in the reaction of the week kind of marketing and wonder why it always feels like such a bumpy road.

Marketing should feel graceful, thoughtful, even joyful, but that takes planning, process and patience – mostly though that takes systems thinking.

I’ve spent the better part of the last ten years singing the “marketing is a system” tune and today I’m pleased to introduce my most ambitious compilation of all that I know about how to build a marketing system today.

Introducing the Ultimate Marketing System from Duct Tape Marketing – a complete online guided training tool designed to help you build your marketing action plan and install your marketing system.

The tool takes your down a logical path through 13 step by step lessons that contain video tutorials, audio lesson, downloadable workbooks, examples, forms and loads of related resources.

Marketing system modules

How the modules in the system are organized - click to enlarge

I’ve also seen a lot of people with good intentions buy a lot of books and courses and fail to move forward because they lacked any support or accountability.

So, everyone that enrolls in the Ultimate Marketing System program also gets 30 days of email support, monthly live Q and A calls, a 30 minute consulting session, and a plan review. We won’t rest until you get this thing built!

And as with everything I’ve ever produced, you have a full no questions asked money back guarantee if you decide it’s not for you.

Go check it out today and get to work building your marketing system before the sun goes down on another day.

Get More Details and Enroll here