Many times when I write about something, I’m really clarifying my thoughts and giving advice to myself. The process of physically writing something out helps me to organize the information, sort through what is pertinent and what is not, and (hopefully) create a logical progression that leads to clear direction.
This happens when you teach a subject, too. In the process of breaking the subject down into steps that a newbie can successfully follow, you often gain insight into either why you do something a certain way or you suddenly stumble upon a new perspective or a new way to apply that knowledge.
Which is great and wonderful and fun.. But do you communicate that process or insight clearly? Can a reader follow your directions?
Do As I Write…
When you have written the first draft of your book, or have spelled out the steps of a process in a chapter, test what you have written. Follow the steps and make sure you get the results that you promise. Spend a month doing exactly what you tell people to do in your book and see if it does indeed save you time, bring you more clients, lower your stress, take 20 pounds off your belly.
If it doesn’t, find out what tweaks you can make to the process that will bring success.
Too many “gurus” count on the fact that people won’t follow their advice to any large extent. And they’re right—probably 80% of the people who buy your book either won’t finish reading it or won’t implement the majority of the advice you give. So if what you advise doesn’t work for them, it’s not your fault. At least that’s the thinking.
But if someone DOES follow your advice and doesn’t get the results you touted, you’re now a fraud. (“Results not typical” only covers so much of your butt.) And while all strategies and techniques don’t work in all fields, your advice should give people the steps they need to get where they want to go.
If you look at the back of a nonfiction book or the sales page for a course, there are often bullet points telling people about the results they will have when they do the work. Yes, there is always marketing spin. But the foundational promises must be met, even if all the bells and whistles squeak a little. (And those will need tweaking, too.)
Build Human Fallibility Into Your Equation
Face it: Most of us don’t follow directions well. Or we become excited by a concept and jump into doing before we have completed the understanding. Or we don’t follow through.
If you can, build a “life gets in the way” factor into your teaching. If you are showing people how to gain five new clients a month and you know that they will need to talk to 25 people to do so, tell them to talk to 40 or 50. If someone needs to write 2,000 words a day to finish their novel in a month, have them write 2,500 or even 3,000 to mitigate the loss of those days when they don’t make their writing quota or write at all. If you feel like this is dishonest, then let them choose between several tracks: If you want this result, then take this track. If you don’t think you can do all of that, you can do this but your results will be lower.
And life does get in the way. That’s a given. Allow some leeway.
Be Your Own Lab Rat
This is tricky because you are coming into this experiment with greater knowledge than your potential readers. You have background information, you have context.
You have to follow your own processes LITERALLY. Step by step. You need to measure your “ingredients” carefully, not throw in an extra pinch of seasoning here and there. If you tell your reader to send out 500 direct mail pieces a month to get 5 or 10 responses, then send out 500 direct mail pieces for several months and count the responses you get.
If you say “reach out to 25 people a day on LinkedIn to grow your list to 500 connections in three months,” then reach out to 25 people a day for three months and track your results.
The best authors, coaches, consultants have already done this before writing their books. The book is the RESULT of years of trial and error, finding best practices.
But somewhere between the doing and the writing, steps are missed or an important component is left out. That’s what you’re looking for when you go back through your processes and advice. It’s a type of “process proof reading”—taking the extra step to ensure your readers receive the value you want to communicate.
If Your Advice Isn’t Working, Find Out Why
We all like the idea of set it and forget it. “I wrote the book, it’s done.” “My course is up on the learning platform, the sales page and funnel are working, I don’t want to mess with it anymore.” I get it. Truly. But if something needs fixing, you need to get on it. There’s a reason why there are second and third (and on) editions of books. There’s a reason why course builders go back through and upgrade their course. (There’s also a reason why course builders mark their courses down or offer them for free…)
You need outside eyes to test your writing clarity. The temptation is to give your book or course to friends for free, or even offer a free trial to strangers. The problem with “free” is that there is no perceived value, no expectations, and more often than not, the information goes unread. If people pay for the information, they are much more likely to follow through.
But you can take steps to uncover any flaws in your book or course. You can hold a seminar (live or virtual), based on the information in your book, walking people through the processes. Take note of their questions, where your directions aren’t clear, where you find objection to the practicality of what you propose. Follow up with your seminar attendees as part of an accountability component, track their successes, look for patterns in any failures.
You can use your book as a guide to coach paying clients one-on-one through the processes. Allow them to implement the steps in the book on their own and keep yourself readily available to answer any questions or help them overcome any obstacles they encounter.
With a book that you sell online, you would like to have people contact you directly with any negative feedback rather than post it in an Amazon review. There’s nothing so frustrating as having a customer complain loudly on social media instead of contacting you directly for what would be an easy and equitable solution. In fact, complaining customers handled well can become clients and evangelists. So invite people to contact you with questions and comments. That feedback can be a goldmine of information—things that need clarification, contingencies you hadn’t thought of, perspectives that spark ideas for improvements or even a new book.
It’s About Your Brand
The idea that there are always new people coming down the pipeline is true. As PT Barnum said (or at least gets credit for), “There’s a sucker born every minute.” It doesn’t mean taking advantage of the fresh crop is right. And it also doesn’t mean it won’t catch up with you. It might take a while, but the internet never forgets.
Creating a quality book or course with advice that is tested and proven is part of building your brand. It’s a matter of integrity. Your followers and clients are more than willing to encounter a few stumbles along the way IF you are transparently seeking to improve your offerings.
And It’s About Clarity
Again, if you have been in business for a while, you know that what you advise your clients to do works. This testing is to ensure that you have clearly communicated that advice so people can follow it. You are testing your communication of the advice more than the advice itself. It’s that extra step of caring about the results your clients get. So, for the sake of your readers, test your processes.