Over the years I’ve recommended Duct Tape Marketing more than once. I read it when I was getting my business started and found it very helpful. Any book that sticks with you for years is worth reading a second time. This is the real test of a book’s sticking power — if it holds your attention over time in spite of a flood of information you’ll take in between readings.

Some books, on a second read, turn out to not be as good as remembered. They may not be terrible, but they’re no longer as revolutionary as you once thought. Some turn out to be just as deep as you remembered, and in fact open your eyes to new horizons you didn’t even know existed with the first read.

To jump to the ‘punchline,’ Duct Tap Marketing felt more like the former than the latter on my second read. Yes there is some great advice in it, but it felt mostly like a rehashing of stuff I already knew. If you’re just starting to dig into marketing, this is still a great book, but if it’s going to be your fifth read in the marketing space, you’ve probably heard most of what author Jon Jantsch has to say. Expect to pick up some useful tips, but don’t expect them to be revolutionary.

The one big problem with the book becomes it’s strength

Before I state my big problem, I should note that I have the first edition of the book. I do not have the ‘revised and updated’ edition published in 2011. The copyright date on mine is 2006 which makes my big problem one that’s probably going to seem obvious to anyone.

In the first edition, the author did a poor job of anticipating where the internet would be 10 years later. Much of the advice I found in the section about online marketing was simply out of date and barely useful. If you have a more recent copy, I’d love to know if this has been updated.

That’s the only real flaw I found in the book though, and in fact it’s also it’s strength. Because it was the edition from 10 years ago it focused much more on face-to-face marketing techniques and paper-based methods than any other marketing book I’ve read in the last five years. This focus should serve as a great reminder to every single one of us not to put all our eggs in online marketing baskets. We need to get out and meet people and market to them.

If your business is stalled and all you’ve done is market online by sharing things on Twitter, it’s time to actually start real marketing and get out there to meet people who could use your services.

Some takeaways

Putting aside this obvious flaw in an older marketing book, there are still a number of great takeaways from Duct Tape Marketing.

We are all marketing

You simply can’t afford to be “no good” at marketing if you plan to stick around and grow your business.

How many creatives say they are terrible at marketing? I don’t think you’re actually terrible — it’s more likely that you feel a bit sleazy when you market. You get some picture of a dude in a cheap suit and slicked back hair and gold rings trying to sell you a beat-up car for the price of a new one.

I’d feel ridiculous in that getup as well but I’m in the business of marketing and so are you.1

If you get nothing else from this book, get this: You are in the marketing business!

You can’t afford to have marketing make you feel sleazy. You need to dive in and figure out marketing that works for you and the clients you want to serve. Take the time to build a good plan now and it’s going to pay off for decades to come.

A niche is going to get you profitable faster

By focusing on a very specific market niche you are free to develop products and services tailored to its specific needs. Your language and processes then can send a very clear signal that you do indeed understand those unique needs.

Almost every marketing book — and I’m sure every post I write about marketing — uses the word niche at some point. You’re probably tired of hearing it. I’m certainly tired of writing it, but the sad fact is that I talk to creatives every day who haven’t found a niche and admit that they’re not even trying.

They’re not trying because they just can’t say no to the pennies they’re earning now in favour of larger work in that niche once they have a good marketing plan in place.

As Jantsch says:

That’s one of the problems that small business owners suffer from. Many only need ten or twenty really good clients, but they focus attention on millions of people instead of using a laser-focused, education-based marketing program delivered to just enough ideal prospects to get the job done effectively, automatically and easily.

By focusing on ‘everyone’ that might maybe need some work from you some day you can’t target your marketing. You deliver bland ads that blanket a whole group of unrelated people and by sheer numbers you bring in some clients who want to pay you the pennies.

In all of your ads, you must decide the one thing you want your readers to know or do the most and then focus every word in your ad in directing them to that and only that.

Instead, as Jantsch says, by finding that niche and making your offerings fit that niche you can make each marketing message move your prospect along a journey from your base offerings to your high priced offerings. If you don’t niche your offerings though, it’s never going to happen.

You don’t sell what you think you sell

Here’s the funny thing about business. You don’t sell what it is you claim to offer. You sell what the eventual buyers think they are going to get from your product.

I don’t sell web development. I also don’t sell coaching services. What I sell is a web presence that makes more sales for a client. They’re purchasing more sales.

What I sell with coaching is a more profitable business so you don’t have to work all the time.

While clients may think they’re purchasing my time (which is great), what they’re really purchasing is the results listed above. If I can’t help my clients achieve those results then I’m wasting their money.

[Tweet “Focus on the outcome your client wants and you can offer them a brighter future.”]

That mindset change in how you think about your business will transform not only your marketing, but your proposals and how you talk to clients as you get ready for their projects. You’ll start to focus on the outcomes they want, and when you can show them a brighter future that has those outcomes in it, you’re going to be able to charge more.

Jantsch wraps up

To finish off the book Jantsch gives us a high-level overview of the steps that will lead us to a good point with our marketing. These steps are:

  1. State your primary marketing goals for the year.
  2. Describe your ideal client.
  3. Write your core message points.
  4. Develop educational marketing materials.
  5. Outline your lead generation strategy.
  6. Describe your sales/education process.

Here I think he has an error, namely with the order of the first two items. I think you need to define your ideal client as the first step in a marketing plan. With that profile in hand you’re informed as you set your goals. Without it, you’re stabbing in the dark about your goals for the year, or making overly broad goals since you haven’t defined the ideal client that your goals should be targeted at.

Outside of that order issue, I think Jantsch has all the steps listed nicely at the end of the book as a good refresher for his reader.


Despite my 2006 edition being outdated, I still find it a useful book in many ways because of its lack of focus on online marketing. I still recommend this as a good starter book for your marketing education. If you’re further down the path with a few marketing books under your belt, then it won’t be revolutionary, but you’ll still pick up many practical tips on how to streamline your marketing.

Get Duct Tape Marketing on Amazon

  1. My friend Brian wrote a great post about how we’re all in sales. You should read it to understand more how we’re all in sales/marketing all the time. ↩︎

photo credit: clement127 cc

2 responses to “Marketing the Duct Tape Way”

  1. John Locke Avatar

    Hi Curtis:

    I love the fact that you stress we’re all in marketing. For most businesses, lack of revenue is directly tied to an inefficient marketing strategy. In a web development especially, there is a pervasive belief that doing the work, or having a perfect Github streak is enough to justify people hiring us. That is incorrect.

    I like the idea of mixing face-to-face with online marketing efforts. And people trust people when they’ve met them face-to-face. There’s something about proximity that develops trust. But having the online material to be discovered in the first place is vital is well.

    Ultimately, brand strength is directly tied to the effort we put into our marketing. Thanks for continuing to preach this message.

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Thanks for the comment. I wish I could give it a thousand thumbs up because we’re in a virtuous cycle of agreeing with each other. Keep being awesome.