Book Review: Duct Tape Marketing

Originally published in 2007, Duct Tape Marketing is one of the best-loved books for practical small-business marketing tips. This post is for you if you’ve already read it and want a refresher or if you’re considering reading it and want to know if it’s worth your time.

Before diving into the review, I’ll state up front that I listened to the book (my preferred method for consuming business books). John Jantsch narrated it – I think it’s always a bonus to hear a book read by the original author.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

There are affiliate links in this post. Beware. 😉

Overview of Duct Tape Marketing

When I said this was a practical book for small-business marketing, I meant it. The book is a down-to-earth guide for creating a marketing plan — starting with identifying your target audience, to creating your brand, to advertising, delivering a unique customer experience, and beyond.

The book is targeted more toward the brick-and-mortar businesses (or online businesses with a local focus), which doesn’t describe my business at all. I’m a web developer, so I skipped the chapter on building a website. I also skimmed the chapters on local advertising and getting a team involved with marketing (I’m a party of one). Even though parts of the book didn’t apply to me, there still were plenty of good takeaways (which I’ll cover shortly).

Before I get to that, let me get a couple of criticisms out of the way.

The bad parts

The book was originally published in 2007. It was updated in 2011. That’s better than nothing, but the book is ready for another round of updates on the technological front. While the majority of principles Jantsch covers are timeless, some of the tools and tactics he recommends are plain outdated.

My second criticism really only applies to those who listen to the book versus read it. Duct Tape Marketing includes dozens and dozens of resources, URLs, and tools. The end of each chapter also includes a list of action items to help the reader put into practice the core principles of the chapter. This is awesome, but very difficult to capture if you’re listening on the go and don’t happen to have pen/paper nearby.

I Googled around to see if there was an online companion for the audio book (which is quite common) and came up empty. I sent an email via the contact form on to see if there was something available that I was missing and this was the response I got:

Me: I purchased the audio version of Duct Tape Marketing at I’m enjoying listening to it, but it’s hard to keep track of the resources mentioned and chapter action steps when I’m listening on the go. I’m curious if there is an online companion to the book?

DTM: Thank you for reaching out. The three available versions of the book are audio, print and kindle, you can check them out here. It sounds like the kindle version is the best for what you are looking for as you can read it online.

I didn’t think that purchasing a 2nd copy of the book was a very good answer.

Anyhow, the key takeaway here is that if you ever create an audio book, go the extra mile and make an online version of resources and/or action-steps available. You could even do this with a regular e-book. It’s a huge value add.

Anyway, enough of the little I didn’t like and on to the takeaways…

Key Takeaways

Get Out of the Commodity Business

You think you’re a special snowflake. You believe you deliver better service over other, similar service providers. You think your prices are justifiable because you’re, well, better than the competition.

Jantsch says no. Unless you can communicate how your business is different from every other business that says the do the same thing as you, potential customers view you as just a commodity.

The problem with residing in the commodity business is that, if your prospects can’t find some specific way in which your firm is unique they will default to the only thing they can measure: price. – John Jantsch, Duck Tape Marketing

Jantsch makes a home run with that statement.

If you think you’re different from your competitors, it’s up to you to change how potential customers perceive you. How do you do this? Create a core message that allows you to quickly communicate the difference between you and your competitors. Get out of the commodity business.

The Right Marketing Materials for the Right Stage

Jantsch talks about a marketing funnel and ways that you move prospects through to eventually become customers and raving fans. He makes the point that it’s important to target/market to prospects at the right point with the right materials.

Consider this non-business example: You don’t ask somebody to marry you that you’ve just met.

Well, most people don’t at any rate. The normal stages are dating, getting to know each other, building trust, meeting friends and family, and maybe –eventually– asking that special someone to marry you. In other words, you start with little things and build up to the “big thing.”

In business terms, this means you don’t pitch your $10K mastermind cruise to a 1st-time visitor on your website. Instead, you give away valuable content and maybe start by getting that visitor’s email address in exchange for even more valuable content.

It’s a process and you need to have marketing materials for each stage.

This really hit home for me. I’ve got a lot of different materials floating around “out there,” but have not had a cohesive strategy for how (and to whom) I present them to.

I made up a little spreadsheet to help me organize the offerings I do have.

Creating a Referral Machine

The chapter on creating a referral machine was so good I listened to it twice. Jantsch encourages people to be bold in asking for referrals and intentional in the process. Some key takeaways for me included:

  • Develop relationships with strategic network referral partners (i.e. someone in a related, but distinctly different business such as an auto parts store referring customers to a particular mechanic – they can send each other business)
  • Creating landing pages specific to a referral source. For example, I’m an affiliate for WP Engine and they created a custom landing page for people I refer that has my name on it. That’s more powerful that just sending referrals to their home page. I need to think about how I can do this on my site.

Of course, in order for people to refer others to you, they need to know what kind of referrals you want. You have to make it easy for people to send you referrals.

What’s Next?

All in all, I enjoyed Duct Tape Marketing. It was thought provoking and got me to take some actions, which is always the goal when taking the time to read a business book.

Interested in discovering other great business books I’ve enjoyed? Check out my recommended reading list.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Duct Tape Marketing”

  1. Business book ghostwriter

    Enjoyed your review. You make a good point about practical value. It’s not just reading the book but it motivates you to act, a behavior change or even a new perspective.

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