Turning Marketing Strategy Into Action

Today I’m speaking with a group of small business owner that want to know about how to develop a marketing strategy that truly allows them to differentiate what they do from others.

Cubmundo via Flickr

I wrote recently about how to find your point of differentiation by seeking clarity and you may find that post a perfect compliment to what I am going to share today.

To me getting clear about strategy is the most important challenge business owners face and I’m going to challenge them first to look inward. I’m going to ask them to choose a marketing strategy that is infused with who they, why they do what they do and how to use that story to attract opportunities and clients.

But then I’m going to give them a very specific set of tactics to put their strategy into action and on display.

Every industry group feels that their business, their needs, their way of marketing is unique – that they are the only ones that must rely on word of mouth or referrals. While every industry has a unique set of clients, a unique language, maybe even an unusual distribution model, the way that customers come to know, like and trust them is fundamentally the same.

Today, specifically, I am going to introduce this group to a core set of practices that every business can use to communicate their simple, clear, marketing strategy.

Build and tell stories – You must develop a set of core stories that you use in your business building. The stories that help people understand how your business is different, not because of what it does so much, but because of what it cares about or doesn’t do.

These stories must radiate from you, your staff, and your community and will ultimately make up the foundation of your brand promise.

Sell by teaching – You must commit to using education as your primary means of influence. This is one of the most powerful ways to differentiate your business in the eyes of those that come to work for you as well as those that comes to experience your unique point of view through exposure to your teaching.

When you embrace teaching in everything you do, your staff begins to understand that the company is their first customer.

Become a platform – It’s no longer enough to think in terms of building a product or service. In fact, it’s no longer enough to simply build a community of prospects, users and buyers.

In order to truly differentiate you must begin to think of your business as a platform for others to get what they need. You must expand your thinking from business to marketplace.

Can you create opportunity for strategic partners? Can you teach others how to launch businesses from your business? Can you mentor employees and become a hub for their personal growth?

These are questions that will take you far beyond the typical business building mindset, but the answers may become the higher purpose for your business.

Reverse the experience – Finally, I’m going to suggest that the greatest way to deliver a remarkable marketing strategy is to deliver a remarkable marketing experience before, during and after a customer is a customer.

I’ve shared my concept of the Marketing Hourglass now with tens of thousands of small business owners, but only recently have I determined that the best way to construct any product or service experience with this tool is to do it in reverse.

To borrow from a well-worn bit of wisdom, if you want to deliver an exceptional experience you must start with the end in mind. You must begin the entire process by considering what you will do 90 or 180 days after you make a sale and then work backwards to the point where you first meet.

To some these ideas may feel foreign and not at all like a substantial way of doing business, but to others they will ring true and real and perhaps for the first time they will be able to differentiate their business with perfect clarity.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • John,

    These types of posts are why I’ve been a subscriber of your blog for years now.

    I can’t tell you how much telling stories has changed the way people view my business (insurance).  I have made it a goal of my life to change the perception that insurance is a commodity and I do this through honest conversation both online and in person and telling stories.  Some fun stories some terrible stories but stories of what insurance really means in people’s lives. 

    Insurance could the most influential decision we make that we completely take for granted…

    Thanks for all the wonderful advice!

    Ryan H.

    • Someone asked me the other day how to help someone capture their core message and I told them that it started with helping them first be really honest about who they are – you have to tell stories to do that.

  • Interesting post. I’m not a businessman in any way, nor will I ever be, but I found this insightful and intriguing. You’d possibly be quite interested in Nando Parrodo who’s a successful businessman from Uruguay, and also one of the survivors of the Andes Plane Crash. You should read up about him, he has some remarkable things to say and relates it well to the pressure of business.

  • Parrado, not Porrodo. Apologies for the mistake.

  • Hi John:

    Excellent advice. I guess the bigger issue that many owners never take time for is to sit down and think so they can do some planning. So many business owners are steeped in their crises and to do lists that they aren’t thinking about how to deliver value to their customers. They worry about not having them and of course we all know where that leads. 

    I completely agree with you that educating is the first step to keeping people loyal. For instance, one of our clients has a building product. Traditional marketing says promote all the great features and benefits. We said, show people how to create a great atmosphere or design statement with the product. Let it be the showcase of your home. They hired some designers to create a showcase and filmed it like a reality show with the before and after effect. Now they have new and more energized distributors and have risen back up to the leader of the pack.

    So why was becoming the product leader so important? Pricing power. Every extra dollar they could command to the top line revenue went straight to gross margin. It didn’t get consumed in cost of goods sold. This can add many more points to the profit margin. 

    So when an owner balks at the work or doing something that no else in their space is doing (risky, they think) I always ask “What do you want your bottom line to look like at the end of this year”.

  • I totally agree with your thoughts on story telling and educating the consumer… a lot of companies seem to think they need a black and white strategy whereas the most successful strategies will come out of conversations with the consumer..these conversations will then last past the sale and build a strong relationship and reputation for your brand..your company and brand is so much more than just telling people about your product, but how they understand the stories will help them relate to your company on a personal level.

  • Aj

    Great info as always John!
    Much like goal setting, you start with end in mind and work backwards. These little insights and thought starters help you look at the same challenge, but from a new angle.
    This is often when the “A-ha’s” come into your life.
    Thanks for sharing,

  • Trip

    John, many good ideas. I’m curious. You mention the need to “turn inward,” but then (unless I missed something) suggest a list of action items. Their results will depend on how well we clarify our Why before deciding our What and How. But for over a century we’ve been told our value is based solely on what we do and how well we can do it. The internal discovery process has become a lost art, and begins with unlearning much of what we’ve been taught about business success. Do you give your clients a step-by-step way to uncover and tap into their inner “gold?”     

    • Yes, it’s hard to have everything in a blog post in complete context but about 40,000 words or would really need to come before this post to paint the full picture of looking inward – that’s the topic of a book I’m just finishing in fact!

    • Trip, the big problem I see is too many people confuse activity with productivity. If we are doing something, then we are successful even if that action is totally useless. I read John’s post as you have to know your “why” and your strategy before using your tactics. Our society is so focused on action that we forget to plan and give our actions every chance to succeed.

  • John,

    In my corporate days when managing project I often used to plan from ‘right to left’ i.e. from the end in mind.

    That way you could decide when certain decisions and information was needed.

    Never thought of doing that with a customer…until I read your book, The Referral Engine. I got it for Christmas. Could not put it down and learned so much. Now some action on my behalf!


  • Great article!

    Most small business owner fail to understand the importance of a well defined marketing plan or at the very least a set of ideas about your target market, what differentiate you from your competitor and how to get that message to the market.  “If you build it they will come”, nothing could be further from the truth.

    Duct Tape Marketing is a great resource.

    I always say, “If you’re not planning for success your are planning for failure.” 

    Jennifer/Crigital Media, Inc.