Marketing guru John Jantsch has built a small empire around his Duct Tape Marketing brand, which dispenses practical small business marketing ideas and tips.

His book Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide has been well-received by other gurus and real small business owners alike.

Jantsch spokes to IBTimes about some of his ideas and tips that have been particularly well-received by his readers and clients.

Getting Customer Referrals for Free

Customer acquisition is key to the survival of small businesses.

One free (or at least low cost) idea of getting new customers is through a network of service providers that meet the related needs of one's customers.

For example, a customer buying a house may need a real estate agent, a mortgage broker, an attorney, an appraiser, a home inspector, various insurance services and various title services.

A mortgage broker, then, can potentially form a referral network of reputable businesses providing these services and recommend his client to other network members.

In return, the other businesses in the network would refer him business.

(Note: Federal law prohibits residential real estate professionals from charging referral fees in many cases. Follow the law when making such referrals.)

Jantsch said this idea could prove highly effective, especially for the small business owner that creates and runs the network.

The Right Way to Advertise

Even though Jantsch advocates creative ways of getting new customers, he is still a big believer in advertising.

Advertising is still the only medium you can control, he said.

The problem, however, is that small businesses advertise the wrong message.

Typically, advertisements ask people to immediately become buyers (e.g. come to this 24-hour sale). However, what they should do instead is create awareness about [one's] content first, said Jantsch.

Stated another way, businesses should aim to gain a relationship rather than a sale right away.

For example, they can use the advertisement to invite people to attend a free webinar or read a series of blog entries.

Wait...What Content?

Sometimes, small businesses that come to marketing gurus like Jantsch for ideas simply want some short-term actions like SEO services or an online advertising campaign; they are not going to have things like free, helpful content that builds trust with potential customers.

That is why Jantsch emphasizes a comprehensive, systematic approach (which he details in his book Duct Tape Marketing).

Before doing anything, small businesses need to figure out their ideal target customer and how it can differentiate itself from competitors.

This step is so important that he recommends doing things like interviewing one's customers to find out why they frequent one's business.

It is only after this message is defined that one should surround it with various marketing techniques, he said.

Turning a Customer into a Gold Mine

Jantsch said the goal of one's marketing strategy is to get someone with the need for one's product to know, like, and trust you.

Then, one must convert the know, like and trust to try, buy, repeat, and refer.

To get customers to refer, a small business should have a strategy for the customer experience 45 days or even 90 days after the initial purchase. Most small businesses, however, make the mistake of stopping at the moment of sale.

Customer referral, of course, is a great source of free leads.

Unsurprisingly, studies show that referrals from friends, family and co-workers are a lot more trusted than advertisements and user reviews from strangers.

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