When you’re an entrepreneur and you want to translate your work into a book, you have at least one major advantage over the average author: If you already know who your ideal clients are, you know who your ideal readers are.
Why is this a huge advantage? Because, if you pinpoint your specific audience, you will avoid THE biggest mistake that first-time authors make--they try to write to an audience of “everyone.” When you know the specific types of people you want to reach with your book, you can hone your content so that its purpose and messages are directly relevant to them.
Want to make sure your book is on-point and will be of greatest value to those ideal readers? Simple! Reach out and ask the ideal clients you’ve worked with in the past. They have first-hand knowledge of how your work helped them--and this can give you great insight into how your writing can help your future readers.
Think about it: If a service provider reached out to you—say, your web designer, your business coach, your accountant—and said, “Hey, you’re my ideal client, and I’m writing a book to reach an audience of people like you. I’d love to pick your brain and get some insight into how my book could best serve my audience.” Wouldn’t that be cool, to know that someone thinks of you as “ideal” and values your opinion so much that they want to use it as the basis for their book? I think that’s pretty rad.
So, here's an easy outreach process for getting insight from your ideal clients:
Step One: Create an outreach list.
Think back to the past and present clients who have some overlap with your intended readership, and with whom you feel fairly comfortable reaching out for this favor. Also, make sure their feedback will be relevant; if your business model and messaging have evolved dramatically over the course of your career, feedback from very early clients might be obsolete.
Step Two: Formulate the right questions.
Of course, depending on your specific book, it’s up to you to figure out what kinds of questions are pertinent. The questions should be open-ended but not overly broad. For instance, “What do you think about my work?” is too broad; a more productive question might be, “Please give an example of a particular challenge you were experiencing at the start of our work together, and how working with me helped resolve it.” When you’re brainstorming, you can make as long of a list as you’d like, but be sure to whittle it down to a manageable number. Most people lead busy lives, and if you ask for too much of their time, you decrease your chances of getting their response.
Step Three: Decide on a collection method that works for you.
Collecting responses can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. If you want to provide a forum for anonymous responses, you can use an online survey company like Survey Monkey, or create a Google form. But if you’re comfortable, you can just ask people directly. If you gather feedback over the phone, be sure to take notes. Book projects usually take years to complete, so it’ll be helpful to take legible notes that you can refer back to when the conversation itself is a distant memory.
Step Four: Reach out!
Whether you’re reaching out by email or phone, be sure to prepare an introduction—you’ll want to provide some context for all the questions. So, give a brief description of the book’s topic, explain what you’re hoping to get by asking these questions, and explain why you’re hoping to get feedback from them in particular.
Okay, you’ve gotten the feedback…now what?
Your next steps will likely reveal themselves based on the responses you’ve received. Take time to assess and figure out which comments are relevant and helpful to your current book endeavor. Some of it will reveal hidden gems that you were previously blind to in yourself. Some of the advice and feedback will likely be well-intentioned and heartfelt—but totally useless. Do not feel obligated to entertain any silliness or work out-of-left-field ideas into your book.
At the very least, you’ll likely be inspired as a result of this outreach effort. How could you not be, given that your ideal clients have just given you kudos and insights? And there’s nothing like a boost of inspiration to keep the momentum going.