Episode 267

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It’s an age-old adage – books are a three-dimensional business card. In today’s vernacular (from the book Sell With Authority) a book is an excellent example of cornerstone content. Many agency owners I know are curious about how to become a successful author but have decided they’ll never have the time or space to actually write that book. Josh Steimle has helped many clients recognize that they actually can get that book written and it doesn’t have to take years or be a painful experience.

Josh is an agency owner and former guest (Episode #182). As his agency (MWI) matured and his partners were running the day-to-day operations, Josh decided to explain what it takes to become a book author to grow their businesses just like he had done for his agency.

During our conversation, Josh explains how agency owners can write a book that demonstrates their expertise and allows them to step into their authority position. He then breaks down the book writing process to make it faster, less cumbersome, and very doable for the busy agency owner who wants to learn how to become a successful author.

This is the episode for you if you’d like to add the title “author” to your list of accomplishments. Josh busts many myths and helps the listeners chart a course to getting that first draft done!

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

 How to Become a Successful Author | Build your agency’s authority position through authorship

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • If you decide to go with a different keyword, make sure to have the keyword listed in at least one bullet point in bold.
  • How to write a book and use it as cornerstone content
  • Why a book is a strong way to tie your thought leadership and content creation efforts together
  • How to become a successful author so you can build your agency’s position of authority.
  • How Josh helps business owners navigate the book writing process
  • Why being an author and having a book escalates your agency’s growth and creates new opportunities
  • How being an author can actually shorten your sales cycle
  • Different ways you can use storytelling techniques to write a business book
  • How to organize the content/expertise you already have into an outline for your book
“Thought leadership has a lot of potential, and there are so many different places to publish and promote our content. A book is the glue that binds all of our content creation efforts together.” @joshsteimle Click To Tweet “There are three hard parts to writing a book: getting started, finishing it, and everything in between.” @joshsteimle Click To Tweet “If you have tossed around the idea of how to become a successful author, it is easier than you think. A book helps agency leaders propel their businesses in directions they don’t normally get to go.” @joshsteimle Click To Tweet “We’ve had potential clients call us and say, ‘we read your book, we want to work with you, send us a contract.'” @joshsteimle Click To Tweet “Even if it’s a bad book, it takes so much work for agency leaders to get a book done. That is why you need a process for how to become a successful author.” @joshsteimle Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Josh Steimle:

Additional Resources:

 

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Agency Management Institute community. Where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money, and keep more of what you make. The Build A Better Agency presented by White Label IQ is packed with insights on how small to midsize agencies survive and thrive in today’s market. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build A Better Agency. Thank you for coming back and continuing to listen. This is actually, this episode is sort of a part two of us agency owners story. So before I tell you a little bit about him and the part one of the part two, let me remind you a couple of quick things. Number one, we have some killer workshops happening in December and January. The Money Matters Workshop is December 3rd and 4th. It is in Orlando on Disney property, actually at the Grand Floridian. And I am excited to be back live doing some events. These are going to be very carefully orchestrated events. They are setting up the seating in a way that everybody is social distanced and it’s all managed really well. They have not had one case of COVID come out of Disney since they reopened in July, so they are doing a great job.

Drew McLellan:

But more important than that, not only will we keep you safe. But you talk about great timing. We are going to teach you a lot of things about how to run your agency better, how to make more money and keep more of the money you make. And that is a great way to tee up 2021. So we’re going to talk about agency math. We’re going to talk about metrics that in about five minutes, you can know whether or not your agency is healthy. We’re going to talk about pricing and proposal strategies that help you maximize the dollars you get paid for the work you do. We’re going to talk about protecting yourself from some of the financial crises that agencies have found themselves in. We’re going to talk about tax strategies. We’re going to talk about a bonus structure that gets your employees to actually behave like owners. We’ve got a lot. It is a packed two days of content. And I would love to have you join us.

Drew McLellan:

In January, we’ve got a workshop that is back by popular demand. It’s called Build & Nurture Your Agency’s Sales Funnel. And you will leave that workshop. That workshop is January 21st and 22nd, also on Disney property at Disney’s beach and yacht hotel. And you will leave that workshop with an actual sales plan, marketing and sales plan for your agency. So we’re not only going to teach you how to do it. We’re going to help you do it. So you are going to leave the, literally that workshop, I think it’s a Thursday, Friday. You will get back into the office on Monday, and you will be ready to go. That’s how complete it’s going to be.

Drew McLellan:

In fact, what happened last year when we were teaching it is people were texting and emailing their team, giving them assignments during the workshop so that they literally on Monday, were ready to hit the ground running.

Drew McLellan:

So a great workshop, a hands-on workshop. Both of these workshops I think because of the pandemic are going to be smaller than normal in terms of attendance. So you’re going to get a lot of one-on-one attention, and coaching, and help at the workshops.

Drew McLellan:

To sweeten the deal because I am hoping to get a reasonable number of folks in both workshops to quite candidly, to fulfill my room block requirements, we are going to put everyone’s name who signs up for either the December or January workshop. Those names will go into a hat. And one of the registrants will win a year of coaching with me. So that’s 12 coaching sessions directly, just you and me for an hour a month. Or however you want to use it. But you have 12 hours of my time, which is about a $9,000 value that we are going to be giving away. So hopefully that entices you to join us. Hopefully, the content entices you to join us.

Drew McLellan:

I’m excited. These are both workshops that we routinely get rave reviews on, and that I’m super proud to teach. So I would love to have you there. It’s a great way for you to shake off 2020 and to take 2021 by storm. So hopefully you can join us.

Drew McLellan:

All right. Let me tell you a little bit about our guests. So Josh Steimle was my guest on the podcast. It was episode 182. And that was part one of his story. So Josh is an agency owner, and he started his agency in 1999. And really just was a small shop for many, many years until he began to develop the idea that he could build his agency through thought leadership. And if any of you have read the book that Stephen Woessner and I wrote Selling With Authority, or you’ve heard me talk about it, you know that I am all about this strategy.

Drew McLellan:

So this thought leadership really catapulted Josh’s agency prior to him taking this thought leadership position and really becoming a published author, both in terms of articles and books and things like that. They were under a million bucks in AGI. And after that, they were in the multiple millions because they really leveraged that thought leadership to grow their business. Well now, what Josh has done is Josh has pivoted part of his business to help other entrepreneurs and other agency owners really define how they can write a book. He believes that a book is the centerpiece for your thought leadership. How you can painlessly and more easily get a book written that sort of kick starts your thought leadership. So he’s actually created a course that helps people write their book.

Drew McLellan:

So today, what I want to talk to him about is the part two of his story, which is now that he has begun to help other entrepreneurs write their books, what can we learn from him if you have a book in your head or your heart that you want to write? Which I know many agency owners do.

Drew McLellan:

As you know, I believe that a book is a fine way to create cornerstone content. I think a podcast, I think research, I think there are a lot of big meaty ways to create this idea of a cornerstone piece of content that you can kind of slice and dice throughout the year to create content for all your social channels and all of that without having to reinvent the wheel. And a book is a great one. So I wanted to get Josh on the show to sort of talk through if you have a book that you’ve been itching to write, how can you do it in a way that makes it easier for you and maybe faster for you to get it done so you can put that book to work growing your agents? So let’s jump into the conversation. And my job is to pick all of the best tips and secrets out of Josh’s brain. Josh, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for coming back.

Josh Steimle:

Thanks for having me on Drew again.

Drew McLellan:

So last time we talked, we talked about sort of your agency life and your agency adventures. And now, you’ve shifted gears a little bit. So give the reader, the readers, give the … I’ve got book on my brain. Give the listeners sort of an understanding of how you have evolved since you were last with us. And where you’re at in terms of agency ownership and why this new focus on book authors.

Josh Steimle:

Sure. So in 1999, I started my agency, which is called MWI. And it’s a full-service digital marketing agency. Nothing too fancy there. And in 2013, I hit a major inflection point when I got the opportunity to write for Forbes Magazine and that built up a lot of thought leadership content and attention for the agency. And we kind of exploded as a result of that jumping from basically being a tiny agency doing a couple of hundred grand a year to doing multiple millions a year. And we expanded to Hong Kong and Europe with offices, and it was just this wild ride.

Josh Steimle:

And then I ended up bringing on two partners who I was able to pass the business off to gradually. So starting around 2017, I began to take a back seat with the agency and hand off more and more of the day-to-day duties to my partners. Which left me with a vacuum. And as we know, nature abhors a vacuum. It’s got to be filled with something.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right. Especially for an entrepreneur.

Josh Steimle:

Yeah. And I’m that typical shiny object entrepreneur. I have 100 ideas. Most of them are bad, but I want to chase all of them. So I had to do something. And what I got interested in was this idea of thought leadership because of the experience I’d had with my own business writing for Forbes, which then led to two dozen business publications, and hundreds of articles, and speaking engagements, and a book deal. And I thought this is really interesting. And people were asking me questions about it. So I thought maybe I’ll dive into this and do some coaching and consulting along the lines of helping people build up their personal brand and engage in thought leadership.

Josh Steimle:

So I started doing that. And then the next thing I knew, I kind of had a second business doing that. And that went through some iterations where one day we were focusing on helping executives and entrepreneurs with their LinkedIn. And the next day, we were helping them with writing content for these large publications.

Josh Steimle:

And eventually, what I came to realize was that with all the thought leadership that somebody can do and all the different places that you can create content, what really seemed to tie it all together and bring the most authority to people was if they had a book. If they didn’t have a book, they could do all these other things and it would work. But if they had a book, it really tied everything together. And it was kind of that central hub that they could build courses on. They could build a speaking career on. They could build their business around. So that became my focus was helping entrepreneurs to write a book and then build all these other thought leadership buckets or pieces around it.

Drew McLellan:

So obviously I want to ask you a bunch about that. But remind me when we’re done recording. So everybody who’s listening, you’re now hearing me put together a to do. There’s a great study that just came out on the ROI of thought leadership. And I need to give you a link to that because I think you’re going to find that fascinating. So I actually had an agency that did that study and the researcher that did that study on the podcast a couple of weeks ago. So I’ll hook you up with that.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So I agree. And I think most entrepreneurs long to be a book author. They long to have a book. There’s something about that that feels like it really legitimizes who you are and that you have something unique to say. So I can totally see the appeal of that. But as you and I both know, the wanting to write a book, and writing a book, and actually getting a book done have a chasm in between them.

Drew McLellan:

So as I understand it, part of what you do is that you actually help the entrepreneur think about the topic for the book and then actually get through the actual writing of the book. So talk to us a little bit about how you come alongside your clients and help them actually get from wishing they could do it to doing it.

Josh Steimle:

Right. We help them to cross that chasm, because it is a ton of work. And I learned this when I wrote my first book. I thought my first book was going to be easy because I didn’t even write it. It was a book full of interviews. I went out and I thought well, if I’m going to grow my agency, and who is my agency targeting? Well, the decision maker is often the chief marketing officer, the CMO at a company. So I thought well, I’m going to write a book that targets these CMOs. And I’ll just go out and interview a bunch of CMOs, put it together in a book. And then it’ll be kind of a fly on the wall picture of what it’s like to be a CMO. And then CMOs will trust me because I’m the guy who wrote the book, interviewing all these top CMOs.

Josh Steimle:

So I went out and I did a bunch of these interviews, did about 30 interviews. Slapped them together, put them in this book. And that makes it sound easy, but it wasn’t that easy to slap together all those interviews, or to get the interviews, or to get them transcribed, or to edit them and get it the way that my publisher wanted it. And by the time I was done with that book, I thought, “Man, I thought this was going to be easy. I’m just interviewing these people and slapping these interviews together.” And it took about eight or nine months. It was a ton of work. I had to go through so many edits. And it was so much work getting these interviews done. When I got to the end of it, it was kind of like the first time I ran a marathon. It was like well that was great, but I’m never doing that again. I had so much respect for every author out there because I realized it takes so much work to get a book done. And even if it’s a bad book, it’s still a lot of work to get that book out there.

Josh Steimle:

So that’s when I started doing the thought leadership consulting and we decided we’re going to pivot into this area of helping people with books. I knew that that was something that people needed because I had been through that myself and I had seen how hard it was, and how hard it was to just push through to the finish.

Josh Steimle:

There are three hard parts to writing a book. Getting started, finishing it, and then everything in between. I mean, it’s just a slog of the whole way through and you get stuck on all these different parts.

Drew McLellan:

And it gets less sexy the longer you’re doing it. In the beginning, you’re super excited about it. And you’re like, “This is going to be great. And you have this great idea,” and the prose starts to flow. And then after a while, it’s like oh my God. The folder that holds the book that we put out last January is called the freaking book. That’s what it is on my computer. Because by then, I was so over it that I just wanted it to be done. So you’re right. There’s nothing easy or fast about it.

Josh Steimle:

No. I mean going back to that marathon analogy, when you start running, it feels great. You’re with all these people. Everybody’s excited. “Yeah. I’m doing a marathon.” And then you get to mile 17 or 18 out of the 26 miles. And you’re like, “Oh, please just shoot me. Just kill me. I kind of wish I would faint so I’d have a good excuse to drop out.” And that’s how it is with a book too. I mean, it is hard to get it done. And we’re trying to make that easier. We’re trying to take people and say, “Where do you get stuck? How can we help you through this? Here’s a workbook. Here are all the steps. Just follow these steps. It’ll make it easy. We’re going to hold you accountable. We’re going to push you when you need to be pushed. We’re going to pull you when you need to be pulled. We’re going to drag you when you need to be dragged.” And we take them through that whole process.

Josh Steimle:

Because a lot of what happens where people get stuck is that they just don’t know what to do. They don’t know what the next step is. Or they know what the next step is, but they don’t know the right way to take it on. What’s the right way for me to create my outline? Well, there are all these different options. So then you just end up with paralysis because you’re saying, “Gee, I don’t know which one’s the right one. I’ll just put this off until I can figure that out.” And then you get busy with other stuff and you never figure it out, and your book never gets finished.

Drew McLellan:

And I think that’s part of the challenge too, right? These are not people who have retired so they can write a book. These are not people who are taking a sabbatical to write a book. These are busy entrepreneurs. In my world, busy agency owners who are scrambling to run their business, to deal with their employees, to have some family time. And then they have to figure out how to carve out time on top of all of that to write the book. So if it gets hard, it’s the easy thing to say, “You know what? That one has to be on the back burner.”

Josh Steimle:

Yep. And it’s easy to justify that because you’ve got your agency, you’ve got your paycheck on the line. You’ve got so many other priorities pushing, and this book is kind of an extra nice to have type of thing. Even if you know it’s kind of the future of your business and this is what you’re going to build your business around, still it’s a nice to have because tomorrow payroll’s due.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right. But you and I both know from personal experience and there’s lots of data that being an author and having a book does propel your business in directions that you don’t get to go if you don’t have the book. So I know that there are examples and case studies of the power and the value of being an author. So I’m assuming that’s part of what you help your clients recognize is yes, it’s a lot of hard work. But here’s what’s on the other side of the finish line.

Josh Steimle:

Exactly. So because of my book, Chief Marketing Officers at Work through a series of random events, I got a phone call one day from somebody and they invited me to hang out with Richard Branson for a week. And I thought it was a scam. But I went on this trip, but the story is not about the trip. I just happened to be on this trip. And I was on a boat and I was chatting with the people around me.

Josh Steimle:

And I turned to this woman next to me. And I said, “So who are you? Where are you from?” And she said, “I co-founded an agency in New York.” And I said, “I run an agency too.” You know? And I said, “So how big is your agency? What do you do?” She said, “We’ve got about 600 people.” And I said, “Oh wow, okay. You’re on a whole different level than I am. I’ve got like 20 people. You’ve got 600. Jeez.” And I asked her, “Well, how did you grow your agency that big? I mean, that’s a huge, huge agency.” And she said, “Well, my co-founder, he writes a lot of books and they’ve been pretty popular. And that’s how we grew the agency.” And I thought wait a second, New York, 600 people, co-founder writes a lot of books. I asked her, “Wait, who’s your co-founder.” She said Gary Vaynerchuk. And I said okay. Got it. Because Gary has got like 10 best-selling books.

Josh Steimle:

Well, what she had told me right there was she gave full credit for VaynerMedia, Gary Vaynerchuk’s agency to his books. Now he does a lot of speaking, he does a lot of social media. He does a lot of other things to get content out there. But when she was asked what led to the success of Gary Vaynerchuk and his media empire, her answer was the books. It was all about the books. That was the core that made everything else possible.

Josh Steimle:

Now that might seem like a crazy case study, right? Because how many of us can start an agency like Gary Vaynerchuk’s? But my own story was I started writing for Forbes and these publications. I got this book deal. My thought leadership, I went from running a tiny agency that seriously, at the time I started writing for Forbes in 2013, we were at a down point. We were doing about 200 grand a year. I mean, it didn’t even cover my salary after all the expenses and everything. And a couple years later, we’re doing 3 million. And now we can track over $10 million revenue back to the thought leadership content that I produced, a large chunk of which was the book that I wrote that allowed us to get deals.

Josh Steimle:

A practical example of how that worked was we were in China opening an office over there. And I had a partner who wanted to bring me into a deal. He ran a marketing agency too, but he didn’t do what we did. So we were partnering up to get this deal. And we walked into the largest university in China, Peking University. It’s kind of like the Harvard of China. And we were meeting with the dean of the business school who was interested in doing some PR work. And he wanted to get his school into Forbes and other U.S.-based publications. And we walked in and my partner said, “Look, the way this is going to work is we’re going to meet with this guy seven or eight times, separate times. And we’re going to get him to like us in event. And eventually he’ll trust us. And eventually he’ll give us his business. But this is the way things are done in China. It takes a lot of time. You have to build up that relationship. So don’t expect that we’re just going to go in and close a deal or something.” I said, “Sure, sure. Yeah.” I’d been in China for a little while. I knew how it worked.

Josh Steimle:

But we walked in, and the first one thing I did was I handed him a copy of my book. And I said, “Hey, this is a book I just wrote. I interviewed these CMOs from companies like PayPal, and Spotify, and Target. And I just wanted to give you a copy as a gift.” And he said, “Oh, thank you so much.” And then we talked a little bit and we told him what we do, and how we worked, and how it all worked. And he said, “Well, this sounds great. Let’s do it. Give me a contract tomorrow.” And that was it. We walked out. And my friend turned to me said, “How did you do that?” And I said, “What?” And he’s like, “Nobody signs deals that fast. That’s not how it works over here.” And I said, “It’s the book.” I had the book. I mean, I handed him the book. I had interviewed all these famous CMOs and I’d written for these publications. So he trusted me. We didn’t have to go through seven or eight meetings for him to build up that trust because the book was the trust factor, the authority factor that made that deal work. And we weren’t a huge agency at that time. But the book made all the difference.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think the power of taking an authority position, and this is something I’ve been preaching to agencies for a long time. I believe this is the way agencies will sell in the future is that rather than us going out and finding clients or rather than us just being find-able by our area of specialty, when we are a subject matter expert or an authority, we’re not out looking for clients. We’re not just find-able, but we’re sought after. And I think when someone is seeking you out because you have expertise, then all of a sudden the sales cycle gets really truncated. Because they’ve already given you the credibility that a pitch or ongoing conversations normally are required to do to get you there.

Josh Steimle:

Exactly. And it’s one thing to be able to walk into a new client and slap that book down and say, “Hey, I wrote this book.” Or, “Our founder wrote this book,” or, “Somebody in our company wrote this book.” The better way is when they read the book and then they come to you and they call you up and say, “I read your book. We’re ready to hire you.” Which is something we’ve seen happen that we’ve had potential clients call us up and just say, “I read your book. We want to work with you, send us a contract.” And we just cut out three months of sales cycle right there, because it was already done for us by the book.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So let’s say the listeners are like, “Okay, I’m ready. I want to write a book.” Do they just sit down and start writing? What is your recommended process? It seems to me that this is one of those measure twice cut once sort of processes. And I’ve written I don’t know, five or six books now. So I’ve honed my own process. But I know that you teach a process that’s really about building the right foundation so that once you actually start writing, it’s sort of an accelerated process.

Josh Steimle:

Right. And what I found is that there is no one right process for everybody when it comes to writing a book. I have my process that I think is a good process. I think it’