Not every entrepreneur is ready to write a book. And, often, it’s their business that isn’t ready. But if your business isn't ready to benefit from a book just yet, in this episode you'll learn the nonfiction book strategy secrets needed to fix it.
In this episode of The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, your host Scott MacMillan shares the three things that need to be in place if you hope to write a book that grows your business. And if you get these right, not only will your book be better, but so will your business.
Listen now to Episode 3 of Entrepreneur to Author.
Scott A. MacMillan: Episode Transcript
Scott A. MacMillan: You're listening to The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast, Episode 3.
Mike Manz: Welcome to The Entrepreneur to Author Podcast…the podcast that brings you practical strategies for building authority and growing your business. And now here's your host, Scott MacMillan.
Scott A. MacMillan: You've worked hard. You've watched your business grow. You're ready to take the next step. And you've done your homework. Writing your book seems like the perfect way to use your expertise and become an authority in your field. You're checking off the boxes. Yep. That's it. Authorship is next on your list. Now, the million-dollar question. Are you sure? You may think you're ready, but is your business? Again, are you? Are you ready to write a book? Spoiler alert. Authorship is not a silver bullet.
Scott A. MacMillan: I'm Scott MacMillan, and this is Entrepreneur to Author.
Scott A. MacMillan: Okay. If you've been following along since episode one, or if you've read Entrepreneur to Author, then you know, there's a lot to consider when leveraging your expertise through authorship. To be perfectly honest, one of the reasons I wrote Entrepreneur to Author is because I knew it would provide me with the bumps and bruises that go along with the journey.
Scott A. MacMillan: Look, like you, I'm not a professional writer. I spent years in corporate boardrooms and now as an entrepreneur myself. So in writing my book, I experienced the journey, not just as a publisher, but more importantly, as a business owner. That perspective was, and is, invaluable.
Scott A. MacMillan: Like you, I wanted to write a great book. But for us, as entrepreneurs, we need our books to be more than just a great read. We need them to grow our businesses. If your book is going to do that, then there are some prerequisites you have to be aware of.
Scott A. MacMillan: Here's the biggie. You need a sound business. A book can't work its magic if the underlying business itself isn't viable. Now, I think you knew that, but too often, entrepreneurs write a book as a band aid to fix a business that isn't working...one that doesn't offer a compelling, differentiated solution for a clearly defined customer need. Now, write this down: A book, regardless of how well it's written and presented, will not grow your business, if your business isn't viable to begin with. It won't give you product-market-fit. It just won't. I'm sorry, but that's the stark truth.
Scott A. MacMillan: Now here's good news. If you worry that this might be a problem for your business, it's very likely a fixable problem. So, before sitting down and plotting out a book to support your business, let's first consider your business strategy. If we can clarify it and make sure it is sound, then not only will you have a solid foundation for your book, but you'll have a solid foundation for everything else you do within your business too.
Scott A. MacMillan: There are three things I look for when working with someone to help them develop a book strategy that supports their business. First is a focused target customer. Second is a clear definition of a meaningful customer problem. And third is a unique, ownable, and structured solution to that problem. If those three things are in place, then we can be quite confident that there's a viable business in place for the book to connect with.
Scott A. MacMillan: So let's first talk about your customer.
Scott A. MacMillan: Who do you serve? What type of customer does your business uniquely optimize everything you do around. This is especially important for solopreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses. I think we've all heard the importance of niching down, but while it sounds good in theory, we often feel like we'll miss out on valuable business if we focus on a narrow niche. But realize, focus is your secret weapon for winning in a competitive market.
Scott A. MacMillan: Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter tells us that strategy is about making choices, trade-offs. It's about deliberately choosing to be different. Now I'll share a great example of this.
Scott A. MacMillan: Personal training. It's a competitive market, no doubt about it. And an obvious way to try to differentiate as a trainer is to simply be better than your competition. And if you're a trainer, you should absolutely do that. But there are two big problems with relying on that alone. One, it's a hard claim to prove unless you've actually worked with someone. And, to "best" is subjective, in that it depends on the metric. One of our authors at Grammar Factory is Nick Muxlow. Nick has the training chops for sure. He has a Bachelor of Applied Science and of Education. He's got 15 years of coaching experience and he gets results for his clients. But Nick doesn't compete in the generalized health and fitness space. He doesn't work with just anyone looking to trim 10 pounds for beach season. Nick chooses to work with runners. And not the weekend-jogger variety either.
Scott A. MacMillan: Through The Ultra Journey and The Kona Journey, he works with performance-minded clients to improve their results in triathlons and ultra marathons. Now what's an ultra marathon, you ask? It's a race longer than the traditional 42-kilometer (or 26-mile) marathon. Nick has intentionally chosen to niche down heavily. And as a result, clients find him and they join his Ultra Club and Kona Club to improve their performance in endurance races. What's more, it focuses on what services he needs to offer to meet his client's needs. It allows him to tailor everything to the unique needs of his target market.
Scott A. MacMillan: Now, you're probably asking, "How far down should I niche?" And my strong suggestion on that is to continue narrowing until you truly feel confident that you could be both the best and the undisputed number one choice for customers in that market.
Scott A. MacMillan: So how narrowly have you niched in your business?
Scott A. MacMillan: Next with a clear and focused customer in mind, we need to be equally clear about the problem your business solves for them. What big problem do you solve for your customers? Your customers are driven by their needs, not by what you do. If your inbox is anything like mine, it's littered with messages from salespeople telling you all about their services: tax accounting, app development, Instagram marketing.
Scott A. MacMillan: Now don't mistake what I'm saying here. What you do is important. After all, it's how you get results for your clients. But you must be clear about your customer's goal. Their underlying need. Being clear not only results in better and easier sales conversations. But just as importantly, it helps guide business decisions: product development, process design, capital investments, hiring. Take the time to clarify the problem you solve for your customers.
Scott A. MacMillan: And one last important note on this. Please, don't try to reverse engineer it. Make sure it's a real problem that your customers know that they have. If you start with what you do and then try to make up a customer need that it solves, the only person you're gonna be fooling is yourself.
Scott A. MacMillan: Finally, we need to know that your business has a unique, ownable, and structured solution to your customer's problem. This is where I most often see a gap. Truthfully, most entrepreneurs do have a pretty good sense of who their ideal customer is and the problem they help solve, even if they haven't formally articulated it. But I want you to take it a step further, and this may require some work, if you've never thought about your business in this way.
Scott A. MacMillan: What is your unique solution to your customer's problem? Have you productized it? Have you given it a name? Have you unpacked your methodology into its component parts and structured it in a way that's easy to communicate.
Scott A. MacMillan: Now, I think an example may be helpful to land this concept. In Entrepreneur to Author, I share the example of Susie White. Susie's business, Eat Drink Innovate, helps food and beverage businesses, which is her niche, increase the market success of new products. That's her customers' need. It would be very easy for Susie to simply offer consulting services and charge by the hour, for example. But, especially for service-based businesses, that approach can feel very amorphous and intangible to prospective clients.
Scott A. MacMillan: So instead Susie has productized and structured her solution. She's branded it as the Five Stage FEAST Framework, where FEAST stands for...
- F: Focus. Getting clear on product innovation goals.
- E: Explore. Identifying new product growth opportunities.
- A: Accelerate. Creating a pipeline of compelling product ideas.
- S: Sense Check. Developing winning product ideas with consumers.
- T: Transform. Building an innovation pipeline and driving accountability.
Scott A. MacMillan: Now to be certain, Susie's operations are much more involved than what's described there. But can you see, for her ideal customer, how this clear and structured framework gives confidence that Susie knows her stuff? And how it gives enough detail that they can get a feel for what to expect when working with her? It also acts as a unifying structure for her business as a whole, and not surprisingly, for her 2018 book Innovation Feast: Create New Product Ideas to Feed Your Hungry Business.
Scott A. MacMillan: So there we are. These are the three things I want to see you have in place in your business before you sit down to write your book.
Scott A. MacMillan: If you're interested in going deeper on all of this, I'd invite you to visit entrepreneurtoauthor.com/strategy-workshop/. There, you can learn more about the Entrepreneur to Author Strategy Workshop that guides you through assessing and fixing any gaps in these three areas. Again, that's entrepreneurtoauthor.com/strategyworkshop/. And I'll be sure to include a link in the show notes to that as well.
Scott A. MacMillan: But for now...
Scott A. MacMillan: Three things you need to have in place in your business, before sitting down to write your book.
Scott A. MacMillan: First, you need to define your target customer narrowly enough that you can truly become number one in your niche.
Scott A. MacMillan: Second, you must have a clear definition of the meaningful problem you solve for your customer.
Scott A. MacMillan: And third, you need a unique, ownable, and structured solution to your customer's problem.
Scott A. MacMillan: If those three things are in place, then it's time to get started on that book.
Scott A. MacMillan: It's time to write. Publish. And grow. Your audience awaits.
Scott A. MacMillan: I'm Scott MacMillan, until next time.