Be Clear on Reader Results

I met a new contact on Linkedin who is an international business coach. Her main offer is helping service-based businesses to “reposition to higher-value services”—basically charge more. Under-valuing time and expertise is a not infrequent challenge in service-based businesses.

One of her exercises asks you to list 25 results that clients get from working with you. Service businesses often think in terms of offerings—here are my services, here’s what I have for you. Her 25-Results exercise shines a light on a classic marketing mistake—talking about service offerings rather than the resulting benefits. It’s a simple assignment but it helps us remember that it’s not about what we have to offer it’s about what your customer (or reader) needs to succeed.

Nonfiction book marketing—particularly for how-to and self-help titles—needs to target an Ideal Reader (IR) and the problem or pain point that IR seeks to solve. You need to be direct, clear, and succinct in identifying the pain—and the solution(s). Many other books are competing for your reader’s attention.

But it’s not just your marketing. Everything—from the book title, to the organization of chapters, and the writing throughout—needs to focus on your IR’s results. This sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how, when the writing starts, an author’s purpose, their reason for writing, can get mired in extraneous anecdotes or buried under unnecessary details.

Your reader shouldn’t have to dig for the gold, nor unravel clues, nor discern hints. Writing a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline can help ensure there are not too many twists and turns or too few landmarks for your reader to follow the journey. And, you’ll have fewer substantive edits to make in your first draft.

Just this week, I watched a video about interviewing for a job with Google (research for a blog). The presenter suggested interviewees use a framework developed by Dr Graham, a licenced psychologist, podcaster, and author of a book on career change called Switchers. This framework can be a dynamic way to describe project achievements: Situation, Obstacles, Action, Results, Takeaways = SOARTS. It struck me that SOARTS is similar to how many solid how-to books are written—as a framework for each chapter and the whole book arc.

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