Email for 2021

May 11, 2021

As marketers, we are often drawn to whatever the hot new platform or channel is, and it’s fun to think about what strategy we might use for getting the most out of whatever new tool is on our radar screen.

Most marketers and business owners who do their own marketing will admit to a good dose of shiny object syndrome. We are drawn to what’s new and cool.

This is why I think email marketing often gets overlooked. It’s been around for a long time. There’s nothing incredibly sexy about it. But it works.

Email is very cost-effective and allows a brand to build on a relationship with known prospects. It’s particularly critical in B2B marketing, where the sales cycles are longer, and there’s usually no retail floor or experience. One of the reasons email marketing works as well as it does is that the average worker spends 2.5+ hours per workday checking email. Beyond that, 82% of us check our work email outside of work hours.

Email is one of the few pieces of the digital landscape that we still own and control beyond our website. When we market on social channels, we’re squatting on someone else’s ground.

Their rules and algorithms dictate what we can and can’t do, and those rules can change in an instant.

In contrast, when someone trusts you with their email address (which is the only way someone legally should get on your list), you can communicate consistently and directly. You know your message will get to their inbox and, if your content is compelling, you can be confident that they’ll read it.

By law, you have to make it easy for a recipient to unsubscribe to your emails, which means that anyone who is still on your list is there because they want to be. That makes it permission marketing (they’ve given you permission to market to them), which is a much warmer sales than most other channels.

Despite the potential of email marketing, most don’t take full advantage of the channel because they don’t invest the time, money, and energy to do it well. Email marketing has gotten so sophisticated, if you’re willing to take advantage of your options.

All too often, emails are hastily written and sent. There’s not an overarching strategy or a strategy for each individual email. We rush to execute without doing the proper planning.

One of the most important aspects of email marketing is testing. There are so many elements worthy of testing. You can and should test subject lines, what time of day is most effective, and various calls to action. How frequently you email your audience will also affect open and click-through rates.

But there is no uniform answer to that question. You have to test your audience to get that answer. Even the placement of your call-to-action button can influence the performance of your email.

One of the best aspects of email marketing is how measurable it is. You can track and count just about every aspect of your campaign. Four critical metrics that should be part of the evaluation of just about every email campaign are delivery rates, open rates, click rates, and conversions. Not every email will warrant vigorous measurement, but delivery and open rates are still worth tracking even at the awareness level.

For other emails, click-through and conversions won’t matter, but engagement and pass-along will. Every email will have a unique set of metrics because, ideally, your strategy will have a unique set of goals and calls to action.

Of course, measurement is often tied to where in the sales funnel the email falls. In next week’s column, we’ll explore how email can be used differently for each stage, from awareness to conversion.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Share of search

May 4, 2021

Digital marketers have long employed online search to predict how consumers will behave in the short term – will they take action in the next few minutes, hours, or days? Campaigns have most often been a short-term play and been all about the transaction at the moment or shortly after the search was conducted. No one thought about search from a longer-term brand perspective.

A recent study conducted by Les Binet, the head of effectiveness at agency Adam & Eve DDB, and the industry’s “godfathers of marketing effectiveness” looked at the importance of the “share of search” metric for the past six years.

Share of search is a way of measuring brand visibility within organic search results. It’s calculated as the portion of overall online interest in a particular keyword that you are capturing. If there are 100 searches every day for your product category, how many would your site receive? The higher the percentage, the higher your share of search.

You can quickly obtain your site’s monthly search referrals for specific keywords or phrases from your Google Analytics dashboard. To get the average overall searches for that same phrase or keyword through Google, use the Google Keyword Tool. Be sure to set the same criteria and restrictions in both tools (country/region, keyword vs. phrase, etc.).

To test his ideas around share of search, Binet explored three categories: an expensive considered purchase (automotive), a commodity (gas and electricity) and a lower-priced but very crowded brand segment (mobile phone handsets).

The results were very telling. Here are some of the biggest takeaways:

  1. Share of search correlates with market share in all three categories.
  2. Share of search is a leading indicator/predictor of share of market – when share of search goes up, share of market tends to go up, and when share of search goes down, share of market falls.
  3. This long-term prediction can also act as an early warning system for brands in terms of their market share.
  4. Share of voice (advertising) has two effects on share of search: a significant short-term impact that produces a big burst but then fades rapidly, and a smaller, longer-term effect that lingers for a very long time.
  5. The long-term effects build on each other, sustaining and growing over time.
  6. Share of search could also be a new measure for brand strength or health of a brand by measuring the base level of share of search without advertising.
  7. While share of search provides essential quantitative data, brands should also use qualitative research and sentiment analysis to get a more robust picture.


One of the data points that is incredibly insightful is the correlation between shares of voice, search, and market. Binet reports that “eventually, you reach a point where a brand with 10% steady share of voice will have a roughly steady 10% share of search and a roughly steady 10% share of market.”

When a brand earns an “extra share of search,” which is defined as the brand registering a search share above its market share, it is most likely to enjoy growth.

How do we influence our share of search? Organic search performance is all based on relevance. The more relevant your content, the more you should see your share of search increase. The more narrowly you define your audience and the content that will resonate with them, the more likely you will achieve a higher share of search. When your audience is niched down, you reduce the number of competitors trying to rank for those specific key words or phrases.

For most marketers, one of their goals for 2021 is to improve their visibility and search metrics. Binet’s research demonstrates the value of pursuing that goal with a vengeance!


This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


What’s your strategy for a cookie-free web?

April 27, 2021

In my fourth and final column of the 2021 trends series, we’re going to examine life after the cookie. Third-party cookies are data registered in a user’s browsing history. Everything we do on the web leaves traces, especially information about our activity when visiting websites. For marketers, this data is of great value as it shows users’ habits on the web.

For years, digital marketing has been using this information to identify and create audience sets and target better campaigns, with the ability to follow these prospects wherever they may roam on the web.
Marketers have been using the third-party cookie to:

  • Customize experiences when the user visits a website.
  • Follow activity on a website to gauge interest in specific content.
  • Learn which pages on the website are getting the most traffic.
  • Collect information to build a re-marketing approach.
  • Create ads on the Google Display Network.

It’s because cookies are such a powerful tool and can accurately record and track a person’s movements, decisions and interests that every time we visit a website, we’re asked to accept the cookies.

In early January of 2020, Google announced that this data would no longer be available to companies. It is a phase-out process that will be completed in 2022. Google is phasing out the cross-website tracking on its Chrome browser. Firefox and Safari already have done so. This is a significant change that we all need to be ready to tackle.

Think context and content: Contextual advertising simply means that the ads on the page correspond with the content on that page. If you’re looking at a fishing blog, the ads will be for lures or guided fishing trips. This will be easier for you to do inside your own website than it will be for the advertisers and publishers to get their act together and coordinate topics.

But there are tools inside Google AdSense right now that will help you place an image, video and text ads on-page at participating sites based on contextual keywords.

People-based targeting: Cookies were all about targeting web users based on their behaviors. You have all the tools you need to do that on your own, but in a much more targeted and more effective way. This is about using customer relationship management technology to track and identify website visitors, email subscribers, and social media followers. You can even use cookies! The ban on cookies is really the ban on third-party cookies. But any code that gets generated and stored on your website visitor’s computer when they visit your site will still remain intact.

Get personal: Personalization has gotten much more manageable, thanks to CRM and other technologies. The tools are incredibly sophisticated.  Unfortunately, most companies don’t take advantage of a fraction of what their CRM can do. Most only use it to send newsletters and track potential leads.
When you create custom experiences and communications based on the customer’s unique journey, it can be very compelling, and no two people can have precisely the same communications flow with you.

Build your own data set: The most effective way to survive and thrive in a cookie-free world is to build your own data on prospects and customers.  The value of this is twofold.

The data will be more accurate, and you have to get to know your prospects and customers better to make it happen. As you get to know them better, your marketing gets better too.

The good news is that this change is going to affect everyone. The challenging news is that you want to have some well-thought-out solutions before your competitors get the jump on you. Now is the time to figure out how you’re going to leverage data in this new, cookieless world.


This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

2021 Trends: Engaging customers who aren’t leaving their homes

April 20, 2021

In this third column of the 2021 trends series, I want to look at a trend that I think will be short-lived but important. While we wait for the vaccine to become widely administered here in the U.S., many people will choose to stick close to home.

Most of us are champing at the bit to get back “to normal,” which will include travel, dining out, going back to church, gathering with large groups of friends at sporting events and live performances, and big family events like weddings and funerals. Research shows that most professionals who are still working from home are eager to get back into a work environment.

But for some, this homebody stance is ideal, and they don’t want it to go away. Some will seek jobs that allow them to continue to work from home, and the curbside pickups and home deliveries of the past year will no doubt be available long after the pandemic is over.

What will this mean for us?

If you’re a local business, this is good news. Yes, e-commerce is surging and will be about 32% higher than in 2019. But that’s still only 14.5% of all U.S. retail spending.

This means there’s still plenty of money to be earned by brick-and-mortar businesses.

If you’re a local retail business, this is a massive opportunity for you. Consumer sympathies toward the struggles local businesses have endured in 2020 are at an all-time high. People want to buy local.
To take full advantage of this unique moment in time, you should consider:

Increasing your visibility. There are consumers out there who want to give their money to locally owned businesses. But they can’t give it to you if they don’t know you’re there. Better signage, investing in advertising, partnering with other companies to spotlight a shopping district or region, and finding ways to earn the media’s attention will all help make sure you get your fair share of the local spend.

Develop multiple delivery models. Some of your customers want to get out of the house and visit your establishment. Others will fully expect you to bring your offerings to them as you have for the past 10 months. Expecting everyone to come to you is probably a thing of the past. Businesses have demonstrated that they are willing to have multiple conduits for their customers. Even long after the pandemic is over, some of your customers are simply going to prefer the convenience of some level of delivery.

You can’t over-communicate. This has been a recurring theme of the pandemic, but it is still pure gold. There are no excuses anymore. Your social media activity and your ongoing communications with customers have to level up. Not only do you need to stay top of mind, but you need to make them feel informed, safe and excited about your products and services.

Garner the support of your suppliers. Now would be an excellent time to partner with suppliers to put together creative offers, unique products, special financing or enticing pricing to encourage your potential customers and regulars to come back in or to place an order. Work together to share the expense of these offers and reap the benefits of the added exposure and sales volume.

This is your opportunity to make up some of the revenue you lost in the second quarter of 2020. There’s a lot of pent-up demand and cash and a desire to support locally owned businesses. To take advantage of this trend, you need to be on your consumers’ radar screen with an offer enticing enough for them to leave their house or, at the very least, invite you to leave it on their doorstep!

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


2021 trends: Staying relevant in the age of e-commerce

April 13, 2021

In this second column of the 2021 trends series, I want to talk about the acceleration of e-commerce adoption. The pandemic forced many consumers to change their purchasing habits, and e-commerce was the lucky recipient. Techcrunch predicted e-commerce would be up more than 20%, and in the third quarter of 2020 e-commerce increased by over 30% over the second quarter.

There’s no doubt that the forced isolation, stay-at-home orders, and working from home have all accelerated e-commerce growth globally, and most marketers predict this shift is permanent.

On the flip side, we are all urging each other to buy local and support the businesses around us. The question is really: How do we take the best from each buying experience and weave it throughout the other?

As consumers, we all love the 24/7 convenience of online shopping. It’s hard not to delight in being able to do your holiday shopping in your jammies while enjoying a roaring fire at 10 p.m.
But that delight often turns to frustration when you can’t reach anyone to resolve a problem or ask a question.

On the flip side, we love being welcomed into a store or business and enjoy the personal service. But it’s frustrating when we made an effort to get there and what we want is out of stock, or they can’t help us.
On the local front, many businesses have had to reinvent how they deliver their products and services in 2020. Innovations around deliveries, curbside pickups, ramped-up websites with more functionality, and even Zoom delivery of services that had traditionally always been face-to-face. But finding ways to integrate the warmth of the in-person experience with a robust website and active social media channels will be critical for survival in 2021. “We don’t have time or the money” just won’t cut it anymore. Having a digital presence is mission-critical.

It’s time to go beyond the convenience factor for businesses that are already crushing it on the e-commerce side. Creating brand loyalty and a community of happy customers will allow you to develop a connection with your customer base that will encourage repeat purchases and word-of-mouth buzz.
The other area that needs plenty of improvement is the gap between the organization’s brand and the online experience. Convenience loses its allure when you can’t get hold of someone to answer a question or deal with an issue.

Every business needs to be paying close attention to how and where their brand shows up online. Findability goes beyond simple SEO. Getting on referral sites, digital shopping lists, and ramping up your efforts to get reviews are all going to be critical.

But it’s not all about the online aspect of the relationship. Building your brand promise and ensuring it’s delivered at every touchpoint is even more critical when you have never met your customer in person. Your brand has to be much bigger than the channel. Your brand needs to be channel-agnostic.

Another aspect of e-commerce that needs some attention is the whole concept of packaging and presentation. There’s a lot to think about in this arena. We immediately go to protecting the contents from breaking. Given the power of social media, live streaming, and influencers, the unpacking process itself should not be ignored. How do you make the opening of your package an experience unto itself?
How do you bring your brand to life if you don’t get to interact with your consumer in person? How does your brand translate to Zoom, an e-commerce site or an email interaction?

That’s the most important question we need to answer as we acknowledge that the digital revolution is here to stay. It’s filled with opportunities if we’re smart enough to seize them!


This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


2021 trends: Responding to the recession

April 6, 2021

This year, the trends are far less about new channels and much more about the world around us. For the next several weeks, we’re going to examine some of the most influential trends that will shape how we approach marketing in the coming year. There certainly can be no more crucial economic trend than the recession itself.

We’ve seen marketing and media budgets slashed and longer-term strategies like brand building pushed aside so companies could move as much of their marketing spend to performance channels as possible. It’s a little like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When your company is in panic mode, you focus on short-term survival, and everything else can wait for another day. But how long can we wait?

The uncertainty with which we entered 2021 is already taking its toll on some segments and media channels. But, of course, the pain will not be felt equally. Some markets and categories have sailed through the last year and are posting big gains. Other categories are starving for sales and have suffered incredible losses. How and where we will spend our marketing dollars is equally uneven. Many advertisers have already increased their spending on Facebook and Google. Amazon and TikTok are also winning share of budgets, as marketers prioritize audiences closer to the point of transaction.

Another big winner due to the pandemic and recession combination is online video. With the promise of 5G, consumption will continue to increase. What’s interesting about the video trends is that they are tightly tied to influencer marketing. Not only will brands be creating their own video content, but they will also be spending more money with influencers who have a strong video following.

There are some upsides as we slowly come out of the recession. Media costs have been lowered in most markets, so advertising dollars will stretch a little further. This price reduction coincides with a significant increase in media consumption. You will pay less for even more eyeballs.

We’ve known all along that the brands who remained visible, marketing to both their current customers and potential customers during the crisis, would fare better than those who went dark. This will continue through 2021. Now is not the time for your brand to be timid, especially if your competitors are dialing it back. There is market share to be captured if you’re willing to go after it.

We most likely will not experience a full economic recovery until after the mass distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Experts suggest an April – early June timeline before everyone in the US who wants a vaccine can obtain one. The uncertainty will dissipate reasonably quickly after that, which means you have a few months left to make the most of the paralysis that some businesses are exhibiting.

But 2021 may provide some brands in a position of strength with an unprecedented opportunity for share of market growth. Many companies are going to be solely focused on retaining their existing customers. But, when people experience a significant life event, their ingrained habits are broken, and they have to establish new habits. With some smart marketing, you could be one of those new habits!

There’s no doubt that a global event like the pandemic and the sweeping recession that came along with it is going to be one of the biggest trends of 2021 and as you’ll see in the subsequent columns, the other trends, in some ways, are the ripple effect of this megatrend.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Are you a need?

March 30, 2021

We often spend time thinking about how our potential customers view our products or services, but we often focus on the offering instead of the audience considering that offer.

How would your customers classify what it is you do? Are you a luxury? A nice to have, or are you actually a necessity?

As consumers, we all got very clear about what we needed versus what we wanted in 2020. If something you offer was still in high demand this past year, you know your customers consider it an essential purchase. You should be going to market with a very different strategy for products and services that are must-haves, as opposed to being more of a “nice to have” offering.

Granted, there were some needs that were pandemic-specific. Masks, toilet paper and hand sanitizer aren’t always going to be on the top of everyone’s shopping list. But if your organization sold a lot of a specific product or service that wasn’t triggered by the most basic needs of security, safety and health, then you’ve got something that people will continue to categorize as a must-have.

The significant advantage you get when your product or service is considered essential is that you can cut to the chase. You don’t have to convince your prospects that they should buy what you’re offering. They’ve already decided that they need it. Your marketing needs to answer three critical questions that the buyer has on their mind:

  1. How is yours better than your competitors’?
  2. What are the mechanics of buying it? (Do I have to order it direct? Does it require a purchase order? How is it packaged and priced? And so on.)
  3. Is this a one-time purchase? If not, what’s the timing of recurring purchases?

The first question is all about features. In classic marketing, we often talk about not focusing on the features but instead narrowing in on the benefits. But your consumer doesn’t need to be convinced that they need what you sell; they already understand the benefits.

So you need to ignore conventional marketing wisdom and dig into the features. What does it do that the others do not? Help me understand why choosing one of your competitors’ products would be a disappointment or a riskier choice.

The second question is all about the how. In 2020 we all learned how vital it was to be very specific and directive to assist our potential customers in making the actual purchase. Even with a must-have, buyers want to understand their options and look for the most convenient purchase path. COVID-19 forced many businesses to find contactless or friction-free ways to buy. I don’t think consumers will let go of those options once we’re free from the pandemic.

The third question has a lot of elements wrapped up in it. But they are all about the investment required. In some cases it’s about the money, and in the case of services, it’s often about the consumer’s time commitment. It’s also about the quality and durability of what you sell if it’s a product. If you sell something that people will need to keep purchasing, convenience will also be a factor.

Understanding the lens through which your customers and prospects see what you sell can help you hone in on your messaging that will be most helpful to them and shorten the sales cycle. Recognizing that your audience has already decided they need this particular product or service will allow you to cut to the chase and just show them why your particular offering is the right choice for them.


This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Gaps & holes in marketing teams impact business performance

March 28, 2021

86 Percent of Chief Marketers Report Missed Revenue and Customer Acquisition 

Goals Due to Unfilled Functional Leadership Positions and Lack of Expertise

Over half of marketing leaders surveyed worldwide concede they are struggling to effectively execute multi-channel campaigns on both a global and local level, reveals the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. 

The new CMO Council study, entitled Scaling the Value of the CMO, uncovers gaps, holes and deficiencies across key functional areas in the office of the CMO. As a result, an overwhelming 86 percent of senior marketers believe lack of leadership depth and capabilities has resulted in missed revenue, growth and customer acquisition opportunities.  

Underscoring the problem, a surprising one third of senior marketers surveyed by the CMO Council in early 2021 admit lack of resources, capabilities and effective leadership in key functional areas “consistently” impair performance of their team; over half concede this is an “intermittent” problem.

A large number of CMOs (43 percent) admit that it is “very difficult, time consuming and always challenging” to find experienced, proficient and knowledgeable functional leaders and direct reports; a further 40 percent acknowledge that it is “moderately difficult.”

“Most senior marketers say they are challenged by the time it takes to properly recruit and onboard senior functional leaders on their team,” notes Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, which is based in Silicon Valley. 

According to Neale-May, more than half of survey respondents say the process takes three to six months and another 15 percent indicate this can take more than six months. “There’s no doubt the office of the CMO could be quickly and effectively fortified with fractional or interim marketing leaders hired on-demand,” he adds.

To this end, the CMO Council is partnering with Chief Outsiders to offer its members on-demand outsourcing of senior marketing talent on a contract or interim basis. The CMO Council has 16,000 members in 10,000 companies across more than 110 countries worldwide. Members collectively control nearly $1 trillion of annual marketing spend. Chief Outsiders manages a large, fractional resource group of CMOs with expertise across industries, functional areas and geographies. (  

Findings from the latest CMO Council survey, reveal an overwhelming 93 percent of chief marketers say they have had a “very positive, quite good or favorable” experience using interim marketing leaders. Not one reported a “poor” relationship and only five percent stated it was inconsistent. 

While respondents say sourcing permanent employee talent is complex and time-consuming, only about a third of chief marketers have retained experienced contractors or part time staff at the director and above level. Despite leadership gaps and holes, a surprising 41 percent of chief marketers report they have not used contractors, while 25 percent say they are assessing this option or plan to do so in 2021.

Scaling the Value of the CMO research highlighted the five main benefits of using fractional or interim marketing leaders. This included:

  • Fast ramp up and time-to-performance
  • Proven performers and doers
  • Range of competencies and capabilities
  • Domain expertise or knowledge
  • Added value thinking and leadership depth

“Clearly, CMOs are challenged to fill critical leadership roles, particularly when it comes to using digital marketing technology and actionable data to improve go-to-market strategy, customer targeting, conversion, and ongoing engagement,” notes Art Saxby, CEO, co-founder and principal of Chief Outsiders. “It is gratifying to see that over 90 percent of those surveyed said they had realized a very positive or favorable experience using interim marketing leaders in their enterprise.”

Top five areas where chief marketing officers see gaps, holes and deficiencies in their marketing leadership structures:

  • Customer journey, acquisition and conversion
  • Segmentation and personalized messaging at scale
  • Actioning on customer data insight
  • Demand generation and pipeline
  • Campaign execution and measurement

The report is based off of a survey conducted in Q1 2021 of 150 senior marketing executives. A complimentary report is available for download at:


Get Write On It

March 25, 2021

In last week’s column, I walked you through some preparatory activities you should consider if you want to write a book to use as a three-dimensional business card, business growth enhancer and credibility tool.

This week I want to give you some hacks for actually writing the book. If you didn’t work through the prep work from last week’s column, I strongly suggest you do not embark on these suggestions until you have laid the proper groundwork.

But assuming you have, let’s talk about the work of actually getting the book written.

Decide on your format: In the nonfiction category, there are many options. Your book might be based on your personal journey in your profession or some lessons you learned along the way. You might interview people who have something in common to draw out some takeaways from their stories. You might write a business fable or a how-to book. Understanding the format you’d like your book to follow will make the creation process much more manageable.

You don’t have to write a word: Many authors are better talkers than writers. You could talk your way through each chapter and have your recordings transcribed. Many authors are very comfortable editing their work, and for some reason, that is a much more successful strategy than starting with a blank page. With today’s technology, you could record your thoughts on your phone, upload the audio file to one of the many transcription services, and have a transcription back within a day.

Don’t start from scratch: I’m guessing you already have a fair amount of your book written, even if you don’t realize it. Look through your past presentation decks, keynote speeches, articles, blog posts and even proposals to prospects and clients. It may not be in the format you want, but you may have more of the core elements created than you think.

Bigger isn’t always better: Many business books are shorter than fiction offerings. You’re not trying to create “War and Peace.” Given that you’re writing for a business audience, remember their attention span. Don’t feel like you have to pad the book to get to a certain number of pages. Many popular and successful business books are under 150 pages.

Don’t write it at all: Many classic business books were written by a ghostwriter. It’s not cheating to have someone else capture your thoughts and get them down on paper. Ghostwriters are brilliant interviewers. They can help you build your outline, decide on your book’s structure, and then, typically through a series of conversations, extract the book from your stories, experiences, and teachings. Many authors will have a ghostwriter create the first draft, and then the author edits that draft to make sure it sounds just like them. Skilled ghostwriters can not only capture the information you want to convey in your book, but they can mimic your style and tone perfectly.

Know why you’re making the effort: Most of us are not going to make a living by being an author. Our books are a means to an end. Being very clear about how you’re going to leverage your book once it’s complete will help make many decisions as you write and edit your masterpiece.

Being an author doesn’t have to just be a dream. No matter how busy you are or how insecure you feel about your writing ability, if you want to write a book and can already envision the incredible value it can provide your business, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Hopefully, some of these author hacks will serve you well as you sit down to capture the book that only you can create.

I look forward to reading it!


This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.


Don’t start on that book quite yet!

March 16, 2021

Being the author of a business book that ties to your company’s core offerings or philosophies has been a very effective business growth strategy for many business leaders and owners. Beyond that, being a published author is an aspiration shared by many business luminaries.

Maybe even you?

If you’ve always wanted to write a book but have dismissed it because it felt so daunting, I’d like to offer up some strategies that will allow anyone to write a book worthy of being on someone’s nightstand or bookshelf. Let’s start with some essential steps that will set you up for success, long before you type your very first word.

Know your reader: To write a compelling book, you need to understand who you’re talking to with every word. Imagine you are having dinner with three other people, telling them stories that are the key pillars to your book. These three people are entirely engrossed in the conversation because it is so spot-on relevant to them. Who are they? Why is your book’s message so important to them?

If you can, create personas or find stock photos that represent these people. When I wrote “Sell With Authority”, I had three specific clients in mind, and I wrote the book just for them.

Don’t overcomplicate it: Once you know your readers, what is the key takeaway you want to leave with them after they finish your book? Not takeaways – one takeaway.

Most enduring business books have a single core message. Not 12 messages, not a million different points of view. Once you know your core takeaway, the rest of the book is just proof points, examples, or how-to tips that all support that core message.

Draw the blueprint: When someone wants to build a house, they don’t just start digging or nailing boards together. They create a blueprint, so they understand what they’re trying to accomplish. For your book, that blueprint is an outline. The mental exercise of creating the outline allows you to be mindful of the book’s flow.

It’s much easier to have a map before you start the journey of writing the book. It will help you identify gaps that you hadn’t thought about, keep you from taking too many detours once you start writing, and hold that single message top of mind.

Set your writing schedule in stone: Even people who love to write find writing a book a bit intimidating. You’ll find a million distractions to keep you from your keyboard if you don’t protect your writing time. The age-old advice is to write for at least 15 minutes every day. That may work for you. Or your preference may be more like mine: four-hour blocks, twice a week. Some people love to get up at the crack of dawn to write. Others are more inspired late at night.

You also need to understand what kind of environment you need. Can you write at the office during the workday? Do you need absolute isolation and silence? Can you throw in some earbuds and work in a bustling coffee shop?

No matter what time or location suits you best, you need to block the time off on your calendar, reserve the space if needed, and make those calendar entries unmovable.

Get an accountability buddy: Find someone who will hold you to honoring that writing schedule and ask for updates on your progress. A good accountability buddy will ask for proof (“Send me the pages you wrote today or an updated draft”) to keep you on task.


This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.