The Business of Being in Business
I am both an author and a small business owner. I write to educate and I work with clients to coach them through building their business or writing their book. As I tell each and every client, writing a book is just like starting a new small business.
A business needs to be a solution to a problem for a group of people. These people are your clients and prospects. Your solution needs to be the best fit for their problem. The easiest way to think about this is not to start immediately saying, "I sell original jewelry. My clients are looking for unique designs that will make them stand out in a crowd." Or, "I offer interior design. My clients are looking for someone to help them with colors, furniture layout, pictures on the wall, and a way to make their room distinctive."
In the first case, my question would be, "What is it about your unique designs that are better than... the next person's?"
In the second case, my question would be, "What's special about your approach to interior design?"
And, in both cases, when they answer whatever they will answer, I will ask, "Why?"
It's the why question that gets them. Why would I choose you over someone else? Why is your solution to my problem the best one? And, since I already have a solution to that problem, why should I switch to yours?
Once upon a time when I was an employee, I worked at a company that sold software and trained folks how to use the software. I was their new marketing manager. That sounds impressive but in an office of three, where I was the only woman, it's a little less remarkable.
I wanted to do a good job. What employee doesn't? I wanted to help them get more clients. One of my first questions to them was, "Who are we competing with?" I wasn't as aware of the competition, being new on the job, so I expected them to have that answer at the tip of their tongue.
Both men smiled, very big, large smiles, looked at each other, then turned to me and said, "Nobody. No one does what we're doing."
Interesting, I thought. Because, in reality, they had a very big, very established, very popular competitor. A brand that was offering the same solution their software offered, and had been doing it for years.
"No," they shrugged. "They aren't a competitor. No one likes their software and it's so much more expensive than ours, everyone is asking us to help them with this new solution."
I blinked. I paused. I took a breath. "But," I said, "isn't everyone using the other software right now? If they want our software so badly, why aren't they banging down the doors?" I didn't dare add, "And why do you need me?" But I thought it.
The two men looked at each other and then turned back to me and said, "People just don't know we're here, yet. You need to make that happen."
What went left unsaid, but was very apparent to me was that while they were right - people were beginning to turn away from the other software - my new employers weren't ready to admit that not enough people were turning away. Their biggest competitor was this other software company - which owned, lock, stock, and barrel, almost the entire world. And, for them to put a dent in that powerful company's profits, was going to be a herculean task. Because - the devil you know is always better than the devil you don't.
The people we wanted to bring to our side were already using the other software. They were familiar with it. It was on their systems, across hundreds of desktops, and it worked. Maybe it wasn't cost effective for them. Maybe it wasn't better than our software. Maybe it gave them more problems than they could count. But, everyone was using it successfully and to change would be a major undertaking.
So, we we're really selling software. We were selling time. If we could show them the learning curve to use our software was short, and our software was far more cost effective, and easy to use, saving them time as well as money, we might get the sale.
I Could Write a Book About It
I could write a book about what happened next, in the job above. All about how my input was ignored. All about how the men thought a "pretty" face would sell their products better. All about how I was marginalized and sometimes even bullied.
But, writing a book is a big venture. Writing a book that will be a product for your business, representing you and your work, is not something to take lightly.
I don't operate in that realm any longer. So, my book about it wouldn't do me any good. My recent book, co-authored with my husband, Tom, The HOW TO WRITE A BOOK Book, suits my needs far better than a book about trying to get my male bosses to listen to my suggestions.
I know my audience. And I know who my audience isn't. And I know the answers to the questions I posted above. Let's discuss.
What problem am I solving?
- I make clients accountable for their writing.
- I nurture their story out - keeping it focused on their audience.
- I use my writing skills to edit and help them revise, where necessary.
- I provide training and advice on marketing their book.
- I provide book cover design and interior layout.
- I take the worry out of writing and publishing their book - so they can concentrate on the story.
My work as a book coach and developmental editor helps clients create a stellar product to use in a variety of ways, before and after it's published.
How am I better/different than anyone else?
- First, I give 110% to everyone. To do that, I only take two clients a year. When I say "personal" attention, I mean it. Personal, as in bringing my full attention to each meeting, and being available by email in-between meetings.
- Second, I continue to grow and learn, myself. I work to stay current on writing and publishing. I bring my knowledge of how to do it professionally, to each client so she doesn't have to go out on the net and try to figure out how her big idea will finally become a book, a published book, a representation of her and her business.
- Third, I have more than 20 years of experience in this business. That includes my time as a print-on-demand publisher. First hand experience is more valuable than experience gained taking a workshop.
And, perhaps, the most important skill I bring, that few other companies who do what I do can offer, is the training to treat your book as a business. To understand that you are creating more than a simple product to give away at conferences where you might speak. Learning how to treat their book writing as a new small business, puts my clients on firmer ground than others. They are taught and guided and nurtured to take the time to do the work that will make this venture, this book, this story, a success beyond the sales they hope to make.
A new small business requires planning. So does a book.
A new small business requires writing skill, to create a webpage, if not a full website. So does a book.
A new small business requires marketing (understanding your audience). So does a book.
A new small business requires networking to get noticed. So does a book.
A new small business requires attention to sales. So does a book.
A new small business requires focus. So does a book.
I could create a list that would take this blog post to the moon, but I'll stop here. If you get it, if you see how important it is to consider the writing of your book as starting a new small business, I am here to guide you on that journey. Yes, it will be a positive addition to the business you have. Or, it will be the start of a completely separate business, if you are not a small business owner already.
Don't scrimp on your future. Don't allow your story to just be told in 125 pages. Learn the power of "show, don't tell".
Be that person. The one who decides to transform her life this year, by writing her story in a book that will surely transform the lives of the other women who read it.