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Simple and affordable marketing for small businesses.

Published 15 June, 2022
Tasbih Amin
Written by Tasbih Amin

There’s a common misconception that marketing is too expensive and complicated for small and emerging businesses to actually turn a profit. Our latest guest on “In Systems We Trust” begs to differ. 


Sara Nay is the COO at Duct Tape Marketing, Founder of Spark Lab Consulting, Scalable Business Advisor, and host of the Agency Spark Podcast. With 11+ years working in the small business space, it is her passion to install marketing and operating systems for business owners so they can get more clarity and freedom in their lives.



Duct Tape Marketing: simple, effective and affordable.

The core value that Duct Tape Marketing was founded on was a simple belief that marketing should be easy and accessible to all small businesses. This belief is, in fact, reflected in the name of the foundation, Duct Tape, which like a tape is simple, effective, and affordable. Sara explains that the mission of Duct Tape Marketing is to give small business owners the freedom to run their businesses effectively by taking away the stress of managing the marketing side of the business. 


“Business owners are very passionate about what they're doing, and they absolutely love it. But they become very quickly overwhelmed because they don't know enough about finances, marketing and other different components of their business.”


That’s when Duct Tape Marketing swoops in and installs marketing systems to help support these businesses. Sara likes to think of these engagements as partnerships, where small firms entrust her company to take over the marketing side of their operations to help them grow.


“This gives them freedom back in their life, because they're able to have more time to spend with their family, and also have more time focusing on their highest payoff activities as the business owners.”


In recent years, Sara stumbled upon another problem her clients have been struggling with: operations. Not only that, but she had also found herself in similar struggles when she was appointed lead consultant on all projects and was overwhelmed with the number of tasks and responsibilities in her day-to-day. She knew things had to change for her to thrive in her new role. 


“I started working on what tools can we put in place? What can we automate? What team members do we need to bring on? What do we need to track from a metric standpoint? I worked on the business a lot, and I was in a much better place.”


This inspired Duct Tape to kick-start an essential new service to establish systems and processes in place for their clients to effectively organize and run their operations. This service ties in perfectly with Duct Tape’s marketing strategy, starting with marketing activities to generate predictable leads, and then working on operations to convert these leads. 



Creating a marketing strategy.

When it comes to approach, Sara elaborates on the phases they implement at Duct Tape to assess their clients standing and plan their marketing strategy.


“So it always starts with a baseline of [the clients’] total online presence,” Sara says. The goal is to figure out the client’s current standing online, and the best place to start is the client’s website. After all, the website is the hub of all marketing activities and the customer's first resource when looking up a brand or a company. After that comes the evaluation of the company’s social profiles, directory listings, SEO and Google Business profile if the client is local. All this information helps establish targets and metrics to track the effectiveness of future marketing activities. 


The next step is to work on the ideal client (target persona) and the company’s core message. 


“The idea is that you have to know who you are targeting, and what message resonates with them specifically before you can think about anything else from a marketing perspective.” This stage requires plenty of data, typically through client interviews, online reviews, and competitive research. This data helps create a clearer vision of the target persona’s needs, pain points, behaviour and expectations. All this then becomes the basis when crafting the company’s core message, or how it wants to position itself and its services to distinguish itself from the competition. 


After establishing baselines, core message and personas, the final and most important stage of the strategy is the customer journey or what Sara and everyone at Duct Tape Marketing call the marketing hourglass. 


“Once you understand who you're targeting with what message, the next step is where are you trying to guide these clients, or where are they already trying to go ultimately.”


The marketing hourglass.

The marketing hourglass


The marketing hourglass, commonly known as Hourglass Marketing Funnel, illustrates the progression of customers in their buying journey, from initial contact to their retention. The concept appears closely similar to the AIDA model of marketing, but it puts special emphasis on customer loyalty. 


There are seven phases to the marketing hourglass: know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer. Understanding these phases allows you to build your content strategy for a better chance of converting your audience into paying customers.




The first phase is to create awareness, which means getting in front of your audience to grab their attention. This is your chance to introduce your brand, service or product and make an impactful first impression.


“It can be a range of things like organic [social posts], it can be speaking at an event, it can be paid [media] or it can be direct mail. Getting in front of people is the first step.”


Like and trust.

Once awareness is established, the next step a potential customer would take, if they are interested enough, is to visit your company’s website. As Sara had mentioned, the company website is the hub for all marketing content and activity. It’s the centre point where you not only educate and delight your audience but also convert them into qualified leads. 


“Some examples might be on people's websites like reviews and video and educational content, free ebooks. This helps build a relationship and establish you as an authority. But it's also educating your prospects in the sales funnel as well. Let's say someone signs up for our ebook and then they start getting emails and then later, they hear about our strategy first package, and they see the price point, then they schedule a consultation. That lead is a lot more qualified at this point than someone that hasn't gone through that whole process.”


The main goal of the “like and trust” phases is to help your audience with their research and move them along the sales funnel.



The “try” phase of the marketing hourglass gives your audience a chance to experience your service or product without making a monetary commitment. We see this a lot with software companies offering 30-day free trials to give potential customers a feel for their product. Many agencies opt to offer free consultations to illustrate what they do and how they can serve their customers. Some offer free videos or giveaways to ease their potential customers down the sales funnel. There’s a range of activities you can perform to hook your audience and help them make a decision to take you up on your offer. 



If you succeed in delighting and encouraging your qualified leads with your content and free services, chances are they’re moved to make a purchase. 


While this phase seems to be fairly straightforward, it should not be a stage for complacency. Sara explains it in simple terms, “What a lot of people forget about in the ‘buy’ phase is that it’s your opportunity to blow your clients away once they buy.” This can be achieved by establishing a smooth onboarding process and a clear line of communication to ensure customer satisfaction. 



“Repeat is how can you get repeat revenue from a client. For us, we go from strategy to retainer. But what can we put into place to make sure that our clients stay happy so they continue to stay with us over the years? The whole customer journey goes from marketing to sales to service. And so now we're in the service side of things, which is big on “repeat” and just staying in communication with your clients.”


At the repeat stage, you’re given the opportunity to cross-sell or upsell your current customers with premium services to provide them more value. This can only happen if you have already established trust with your clients through satisfying services and stellar communication that they are willing to invest more with you for an extended period of time.



Finally, you reach the “refer” stage of the marketing hourglass, which doesn’t come easy. Many companies assume that they can stop putting in any effort once a sale is made. This results in a lack of customer retention and an unimpressive reputation. The past six phases of the funnel build your service up as exceptional, one that your clients are not only sticking around for but are also recommending to other customers.  


“The really great thing about referrals is when someone comes to you as a referral, they're going to move through a lot quicker than if they're just a cold lead that has never heard from you because they're coming from someone that they ultimately trust. And so referrals are some of the best leads you can get.”

We really enjoyed picking Sara Nay’s brain on everything marketing, and we hope you found our conversation insightful and informative. Don’t miss listening to the full interview, now available on all podcast platforms.


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Topics: Podcast