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.


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.


Nearly 70% of marketers expect to boost spend in 2021

February 4, 2021

There’s some good news and optimism from global marketing leaders looking for growth recovery in 2021. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed by the CMO Council say they will boost marketing spend in the coming year and most don’t expect to downsize or re-structure their organizations.

While many industry sectors have struggled in the past year, it appears most marketers have already done all the cutting, pruning and restructuring of budgets and teams in 2020, notes the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council.

The organization has 16,000 members in 10,000 companies across more than 110 countries worldwide. Members collectively control nearly $1 trillion of annual marketing spend. Key indicators of a positive outlook come from a year-end Getting It Done in 2021 audit of around 200 CMO Council members across all regions worldwide. Key findings reveal:

  • A surprising 65 percent will increase marketing spend in 2021; just 10 percent will reduce their budgets, while 24 percent expect no change
  • A large percentage of marketers (70 percent) report significant or growing investments in marketing technology to improve effectiveness
  • Most important areas of marketing automation and transformation will be sourcing and using customer data insights, executing campaigns more effectively, as well as improving operations and performance
  • Just a quarter of marketing leaders say they will downsize or re-structure their marketing organizations in 2021, in contrast to 64 percent who will not
  • Working more effectively with lines of business is the number one priority for marketing leaders, who are also keen to lower cost, increase efficiency and do a better job of both globalizing and localizing campaigns
  • Over half of marketers surveyed want to optimize their customer journey, and more than a  third want to boost acquisition and conversion rates through better data-driven interaction and digital innovation
  • Interestingly, across company sizes, regions and industries, priorities remained consistent: marketers are looking to increase spend and automate; likewise they are looking to save costs through efficiencies rather than through staff cuts

“The most relevant and compelling areas of conversation among our members right now are all about ROI, efficiency and revenue optimization,” notes Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council. “This means being more focused on digital marketing transformation, creating value from customer data, and upgrading customer engagement and experience.”

The online survey was fielded in December and early January and a summary report and infographics can be downloaded at https://cmocouncil.org/thought-leadership/reports/getting-it-done-in-2021.



Politics, Social Media and Your Business

January 26, 2021

The one thing we can all agree on is that things are contentious out there. Our current political climate is ugly.

Social media has changed politics in our country. But it’s not just the politicians who are taking to social channels to express their opinions. Many people ask me, “As a business owner or leader, should I be using social platforms to express my personal political beliefs?”

The truth is, there’s no single right answer to that question. If you own the company, it’s an easier call. You don’t risk alienating your boss or losing your job, and odds are your company’s values and political leanings are the same as your personal ones.

But what if you are a leader at a company that you don’t own or is publicly traded?

Given that we have finally wrapped up the 2020 election and inauguration, I thought this week’s column might be well spent examining the risks and rewards of sharing your firmly held political beliefs on your personal social accounts. Next week we’ll look at how organizations can use social media to express their social standing and the potential ramifications.

Let’s all agree that we have the right to express our political beliefs, which is one of the privileges of being an American. I’m not about to suggest you can or can’t do anything. But I think it would be ignorant of us not to acknowledge that our choices come with consequences. We’ve seen many examples of how a CEO’s personal beliefs, financial support or comments have affected their employer’s brand and caused boycotts, a spike in sales or, in some cases, the removal of the leader.

It’s an even riskier proposition if your personal beliefs are not aligned with your employer’s politics.

Because of the severity of the potential consequences, many business leaders choose to avoid religious and political discussions altogether on social. But if you want to get political on your personal social channels, there are some things to consider so that the interactions go well.

As an individual, odds are your social connections are a mix of family, personal friends and business colleagues. It’s highly unlikely that you all share the exact same belief set. So the first acknowledgment we need to make is that we should expect a wide range of reactions if we express our political opinion publicly.

You have to be ready to engage with people who think you’re wrong. Those conversations can get heated in a hurry, so you also have to devote time to police that aspect of the discussion.  Your civility will be remembered long after the conversation dies down.

Before you post, be clear about your objective. Are you trying to encourage dialogue? Hoping to change minds? Are you just declaring your own beliefs?

Stating your intentions upfront will help you manage the conversation so it doesn’t get out of hand. Citing credible sources and fact-checking before you post will undoubtedly protect your reputation, even when someone disagrees with you.

Interestingly, in our current climate, you may be judged harshly by your employees, customers or professional peers if you don’t take a stand on specific issues. If you’ve opted to stay silent, you may be asked to defend that choice.

Whichever choice you make, use your leadership skills to navigate the situation. Listen. Look for common ground. Be honest and candid about both your beliefs and intentions.

No one right answer. No simple choices. No choice without consequence.
It’s a little like politics, isn’t it?


2021 Planning Deconstructed

September 23, 2020

Big, small, for-profit, or not for profit – every organization needs a marketing plan, and that marketing plan requires a refresh every year. Now is the time to get your ducks in a row for 2021. The channels, audience expectations, and possibilities are changing faster than we can keep pace. A three-year-old marketing plan is absolutely obsolete.

Many businesses don’t even venture down the marketing plan route because they assume it has to be complicated and complex. The truth is, for most companies, even if they had such a plan, they wouldn’t execute against it because it had too many bells and whistles. I’d much rather see you oversimplify your plan and actually use it.

I want to look at the big picture vision of your marketing plan. If I asked you how confident you were that you could hop in your car and get to the destination, what’s the first thing you would say? It depends on the destination! If it’s Minneapolis, no problem. If it is Hong Kong, we have an issue. In that context, it seems absurd that I would ask you to get to an undisclosed destination, and yet that’s how many businesses run.

Without a doubt, the most crucial element of your 2021 marketing plan is the defined destinations. I use the plural because every plan should have more than one. Ask yourself these questions to define where you’re headed.

What metric will best define success when it comes to new customers for my business? Don’t assume it’s about more. It might be about bigger. Or a different composition. Or a whole new segment.

What metric will best define success when it comes to current customers of my business? Is it that they stay longer (retention)? It could also be that you have a bigger share of their wallet/spend. It might not have anything to do with sales. It could be that they become a more vocal, insistent referral source or an active source of five-star reviews and ratings.

What metric will define success when you look at your department or company’s workforce? It could be tied to improvements and enhancements in their skills or knowledge. For many businesses, the retention of key employees might be vital to a healthy 2021.

Finally, you need to define success in terms of your actual products and services. You might be planning on launching something new in 2021. Or you may want to have more of your customers using a specific service or bundle of products. Success may be tied to how many products or services your average customer buys.

Once you have defined success in these four core areas, you can begin to identify the potential barriers to achieving those goals. Is it a lack of awareness? Price issues? A competitive advantage that you don’t currently have?

If you can’t identify the potential barriers, you have some work to do before you can decide which marketing tactics will help you. It makes no sense to execute marketing if you don’t understand both where you are trying to go and what’s in the way of you getting there.

The more specific your answers, the better. Don’t just say the marketplace is crowded. List the key competitors and their position or influence on the market. Don’t just say your customers are hard to reach. Define what is in between you and that decision-maker.

If you put in the time and effort in these four core areas, I promise that you will have a great start on a marketing plan that you can dive right into executing.

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


Are you selling from a position of confidence?

August 23, 2020

Given everything we’re all carrying on our shoulders right now, how in the world do we muster up the confidence to sell?

Marketing and sales are all about confidence. When you believe in what you’re selling, know it is the right answer for the prospect, and can see the benefits the prospect could enjoy – it’s much easier to approach a new opportunity and offer your assistance.

That’s where I think we can regain our confidence. By recognizing that we have something valuable to offer and by seeing it as us offering assistance. Your marketing should be helpful and useful, which builds trust. Once the trust is seeded, sales is about continuing the trust-building while offering tailored solutions that are going to exceed expectations.

Barbara Corcoran, from ABC’s Shark Tank, recently shared a letter that she wrote to the show’s producer Mark Burnett. It’s clear from the letter than she had received a “thanks, but no thanks” response to her audition and I’m sure Mark expected her just to exit gracefully.

Instead, she sent him this letter, outlining very respectfully why this was not the right decision.

Check out her letter below.  Are you approaching your marketing and sales with that same level of intensity and passion?  Do you present yourself with confidence?


We have more control than we think

April 29, 2020

Let’s be honest — as business leaders, we like control. We get to call a lot of the shots. And much of our success is a result of our efforts.

This is why this worldwide pandemic has knocked us so far off our game.  It feels like we’ve been stripped of all control. I’m talking to business owners every day. Some have lost a significant portion of their business. Others are busier than ever and hiring. And yet — they’re all panicked at precisely the same level. Everyone is feeling like they’re on a fault line, just waiting for the earthquake. They don’t know when or if it will come or how powerful it will be.  And so, they assume the worst and get paralyzed.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. You’re actually in total control. You may not control all of the variables, but what you do control is the final result. You possess everything you need to guide your organization to the other side.

You need five mini-plans of action. But before we get into the mini-plans, let’s agree on some truths.

Truth #1: Here’s the most important truth that I think you need to internalize and whisper to yourself when you feel the fear creeping in. You’re going to be fine. You’ll be able to keep feeding your family. You’re not going to lose your house. You may have to completely reinvent how you go to market or who you serve — but you’re good at this.

Truth #2: You can’t control how long this crisis will last, how your clients will react, who will be ready to buy, or how your team will respond. But we can manage our way around them. You’ve been doing it for years.

Truth #3: This crisis is going to shine a blinding light on all the places within your business that have flaws and cracks. You can wallow in the brokenness, or you can be grateful for the insight and fix what needs to be fixed.

Truth #4: You can shed the malaise and get to work today. Or next month. The only difference will be how many competitors got out ahead of you. Don’t give away your advantage by staying stuck for too long.

Here are the mini-plans I suggest you have in place within the next few weeks:

Operational/financial plan: How will you get the work done on time and on budget? Then, determine the minimum acceptable profit margin for your business and manage your way to never dipping below it.

Team plan: How will you keep them motivated, efficient, profitable, and striving to serve each other and your clients?

Client plan: You need to proactively guide each client into a position of readiness so that when they can step back in — they’re ready and more prepared than their competitors.

Prospect plan: What can you talk about that will be valuable, based on what your prospects are ready to hear at any given moment in time.

Vision of the future plan: What parts of normal are worth rushing back to, and what could/should be different? How do you get even better?

With every one of these plans — you get to set the course. I’m not saying any of this is going to be easy or without sacrifice. But what I am saying, as loudly and clearly as I can, is that you can do this. You don’t need one thing more than what you have right now.

And how we show up right now as leaders both internally and externally is the most critical marketing we can do right now.

Originally published in The Des Moines Business Record as part of Drew’s weekly column series.



The DNA of a marketing pro

February 12, 2020

I may be biased, but I think it takes a unique kind of person to excel in marketing. There’s a specific blend of skills and personality traits that equip someone to do the job well. Unfortunately, that particular combination may be difficult for others in the organization to tolerate, especially if they are risk-averse or not as open to change. No great surprise, most marketing pros typically clash with the CFO and CIO roles.

If you find yourself in the market for an agency or an internal CMO type of team member, you’re going to want to interview for these specific traits to make sure they can get the job done. But you may also have to steel yourself to deal with them on a daily basis if you tend to be more methodical and measured in your day-to-day activities and decision-making.

A study by Russell Reynolds Associates looked at over 5,000 data points, comparing CMOs with other C-suite roles and identified these trends and commonalities among those who shared the role. They found that CMOs have an extreme leadership and behavioral profile that included these attributes:

Growth minded: Marketing people love metrics, goals and chasing after a defined target. The drive to cross the finish line is admirable but may need to be tempered if it clouds bigger picture judgment.

Bold/risk taker: This trait is essential, but it can cause a lot of anxiety in the C-suite. It’s always been a vital aspect of most marketing professionals, but in today’s environment, it’s essential.

Rule-bender: CMOs are not particularly beholden to rules and guidelines. They’re used to being in undefined territory and having to figure it out as they go along. They’re far less about convention than many others in their organization. Limits and boundaries are more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule.

Tenacious: Stubborn, persistent, unrelenting. While not entirely flattering, these are words that are often used as descriptors for those who choose marketing as a vocation. To be successful, they have to be willing to stick with a new idea or unconventional tactic to give it time to work.

People people: People tend to like CMOs and other marketing types. They’re outgoing and inclusive. They want everyone to come along for the journey, and they can usually persuade their peers to do just that.

Imaginative: This trait probably doesn’t come as a surprise. But actually, this skill isn’t so much about the marketing itself but instead about the organization’s overall business position, and the creative problem solving that is needed today.

Curious/abstract thinker: Marketers ask a lot of questions, and some of them feel a little random or unrelated. Don’t shut those down. Seeing how seemingly disparate elements influence one another or connect is one of their unique gifts. It helps you identify opportunities that others will miss.

If you’re a marketing professional, I’m guessing that you recognize yourself in at least some of these skills and traits. You probably also recognize that there are aspects of how you show up at work that may cause your peers to struggle with your methodologies. One of the ways we can get to the goal line quicker is to find ways to bring the rest of the team with us as we move closer.

If you plan to hire someone to handle your marketing (either as an employee or as a business partner) or you just want to get better at marketing yourself – these traits are the common denominators that will get your company the exposure and growth you want. But you have to decide if your organization is ready for the disruption that comes as part of the package.

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


Where will you be a year from now?

January 8, 2020

I know you’re barely getting used to writing 2020, but I want to get you to think about 2021 for a few minutes because before we know it, it will be here. Will your organization be in the same spot a year from now?

As the slow start of January wanes and everyone is gearing up for a busy Q1, my fear is that you’re going to get so caught up in the day to day grind and before you know it’s going to be December and you’re going to wonder where the year has gone.

I’m a firm believer in you achieve what you measure, so let’s talk about creating a simple dashboard that will help you ensure that you are where you want to be in 2021.

You may have an elaborate business plan but in many cases, once it’s done and approved – it sits in a filing cabinet or a folder on your laptop and never sees the light of day again.

But this simple dashboard can literally be posted in your company’s break room or a single sheet document that gets updated and shared monthly. It becomes a working tool rather than a plan that you dust off every so often.

First, you need to decide what matters most. Take some time and answer these questions.

  1. If you can only accomplish one thing this year – what would matter most to your business?
  2. What system or process improvement (or addition) would impact your business the most?
  3. What is the most single most important financial metric you should monitor to gauge the health of your organization?
  4. When you think about your workforce, what one metric (retention, employee satisfaction, etc.) could you measure to track the stability of your team?
  5. How will you track/monitor how you’re doing in terms of customer delight? (Don’t shoot for satisfaction – that’s like working hard for a C.)
  6. Last but definitely not least – what is the one thing you, as the leader, could change, learn, or add to your skillset that would really be a game-changer for your organization?

Once you’ve answered these questions, identify a monthly metric that you could easily use to measure your progress on achieving each of those mini-goals. You may have to implement some measurement mechanism, like a monthly employee satisfaction survey but if you can’t measure it – it doesn’t count.

Once you’ve decided what you need to measure and how you’re going to get those monthly metrics, you need to decide when you’re going to review/discuss the monthly results. Odds are you hold some sort of leadership or management level meeting on a weekly or monthly basis. You need to build this dashboard into that meeting’s agenda.

But don’t stop there. Share these six metrics with your entire team. Yes, even the leadership goal you’ve set for yourself. Let them know that these are the barometers you’re going to be using to track how the company is doing throughout the year. I think you’ll be surprised at how interested they are in helping you hit these metrics.

If your organization doesn’t have a good meeting process that allows you to focus on making progress on key goals, rather than just a status report, I highly recommend the book Traction by Gino Wickman.

The book has a brilliant framework for taking on large, internal projects that normally get lost in the shuffle or drag on forever – and actually getting them done quickly and well.

Here’s the amazing thing – if you actively watch and work on moving the needle in the six items on this list, your organization will be healthier, stronger and more profitable a year from now.

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


Your inner circle

December 4, 2019

A business is influenced by so many people that as business leaders, we need to choose those influences carefully and cautiously. That’s even truer when it comes to our inner circle.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn is probably most famous for his statement that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. And yet very few of us actually decide who those people are. A big part of my annual reflection/planning time is to carefully choose who I want those five people to be and to schedule the time with them for the entire year so I make sure we get enough time together.

But before I can schedule the time, I need to decide on exactly who I want those five people to be. Here are some of the criteria I consider and by the way, these are not just people who influence my business life. They influence my whole life and make me a better business owner, marketing guy, coach, client advocate, boss, friend, dad, etc. I want to surround myself with people who will make me a better me, not just a better business me.

Who inspires me to a level of excellence that forces me to really stretch myself? They say that if you want to get better at a game, you should play with people who can beat you every time. I need to hang out with people who are further along, more adept and more successful than I am if I want to keep getting better.

Who is willing to teach me? Just because someone has something to teach me does not mean they are open to being the teacher. I need to seek out those who have much to share and are willing to be patient with me while I learn.

Who can I teach? I believe we learn the most when we’re helping someone else learn. Who is willing to let me learn alongside them?

Who will challenge me and call me out when I need it? Let’s face it; it’s easy to surround yourself with cheerleaders. But we also need those who will hold us capable and accountable and let us know when we’ve dropped the ball or missed the mark.

Who sees me more clearly than I see myself? It’s impossible to accurately describe the outside of a bottle when we’re inside the bottle. We need objectivity and someone who sees us as we truly are.

Who thinks very differently than I do and will push me to consider new possibilities? My way is never the only way and often not the right way. I want to be with people who approach challenges and opportunities from a different place.

Who fills me with joy? If I am going to spend a lot of time with these people, I want them to do more than make me better. I want them to love me. I want them to make me laugh. I want to look forward to our time together and I want to add value to their life too.

It may seem calculated or silly to be this intentional about the people you spend the most time with. But I can tell you that I’ve been doing this annual exercise for years and I can point to specific changes in my business and personal life that I can directly attribute to my inner circle. There’s no doubt that I’m better because of them.

So, for me, this is a business must. Give it a try and let me know in 365 days how it played out for you.

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

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