Shelley Thomson’s career began working directly with patient’s experiences as a nuclear medicine technologist at Royal Melbourne Hospital, where she worked with patients daily.
In 2006, however, Shelley left her career in the medical industry and opened her own gourmet food business. Her goal was to create a store that treated customers like family.
However, tragedy struck and fire destroyed the shop and for years afterward, customers begged Shelley to reopen the store. It made Shelley realise that she had created a devoted fan-base who loved her business and so, instead of reviving the store, Shelley decided to help other companies improve customer service.
Shelley spent many years focusing on retail experience and customer experience before returning to her roots and combining her customer experience knowledge and expertise, and focusing back in on the health sector, by helping those organisations improve their customer experiences.
Like most business owners, Shelley has tried a variety of marketing strategies and tactics and today enjoys a blend of demonstrating her expertise through content to build trust, automation marketing, speaking gigs, workshops, and masterclasses to really drive her business. It results in clients seeking her out.
Writing a book to be part of her marketing has really transformed Shelley’s business and she shares her experiences in this episode.
As part of the service, I have had this episode transcribed. Transcribing, proofing, and editing a podcast episode is A LOT of work. That’s why I use a service called REV who provide professional freelance transcriptionists who are vetted for quality. While they offer a 99% accuracy guarantee, I do not proof-read their work extensively. Instead, I simply copy and paste below and, as such, please note that this is not be a verbatim transcript of the episode and I have trimmed things like the intro, close, and mid-show ad.
Shelley, how to you get to a point, or the realisation, that you have enough material or knowledge to write a book and that writing a book will help your business?
I didn’t have an epiphany, I’m not a natural writer or even someone who enjoys writing to be perfectly honest. At school I didn’t do creative writing, I didn’t do English literature. I’m a science person through and through. So the idea of writing a book to me was completely foreign. So the concept for writing my book came from three fundamental frustrations, really. The first one was the healthcare system, so the healthcare sector I work in, it’s completely broken. And for years I’ve been listening to my friends, colleagues, relatives, just complain about their poor health care experiences. And for me, the turning point, I suppose, around those complaints was when a friend of mine shared her experience when her son was admitted to the children’s hospital. And as a healthcare professional herself, she’s one of my former colleagues, she witnessed numerous incidents of substandard care.
And for her, that’s her son, but as a mother, she didn’t want to complain because she was worried it was going to compromise her son’s care and effective recovery. And she was telling me the story and I was just thinking, something incredibly wrong with our healthcare system when the people using it, don’t feel able to speak up if it isn’t working for them. And so I thought, well, I understand the healthcare system, I understand customer service and it’s not good enough as it is right now. So I felt compelled to do something about it and to help improve the experiences for patients and their families. And I just thought, well, how do you stop that improvement process? And I just thought, well, maybe writing a book was a good way to go. So I thought if I could contribute to somehow developing some of the solutions to the problems, that would be a good first step. So that was really my first frustration.
The second one was for me personally, that I had done a huge amount of reading and discovering evidence and spending time just getting myself quite knowledgeable about customer service. And I was really frustrated that I was finding all this evidence that improving service experiences led to improving business success. And that link is really tangible. And I was just a little bit frustrated that I was studying all of these and I discovered that direct link, but no one was taking any notice of it and I’m only a little voice, in a very big ocean. So I just thought, well, maybe I could do something if I wrote a book, I could actually amplify the message in some way. And really look, studies show there’s a lot of evidence, Forrester Research in 2016 published research that showed that companies investing in customer experience generate up to five times faster revenue growth compared to companies that don’t. So it’s really compelling evidence. So that got me pretty motivated when that study came out.
And my third big frustration is really more based around my consulting business, that I was having lots of coffee meetings with potential clients and during those meetings, they were asking me questions, I was asking them questions. And I ended up giving away a whole lot of valuable IP in the hope of gaining this person as a new client. So effectively, I was providing free consulting and I thought there has to be a smarter way than doing this. So I did some online research and I discovered that writing a book could actually help position me as a trusted authority in my field, and perhaps go some way to addressing that problem, that frustration that I was feeling. So instead of having coffee meetings, I could ask people to order my book first and that’s become my primary marketing piece now for my target audience.
So if I do choose to have a selected coffee meeting, I actually take a copy of the book for them. And I start the meeting by putting that down on the table. And then if they ask me questions now, where I would normally give away my free consulting, then, Oh, I’d say if you’re interested to learn more, that’s in my book. I talk about that in my book. And so it actually helps me to sort out who my ideal clients are, because if people go away and they read my book and come back to me, they’re my ideal clients. Because they get my purpose, but the ones that can’t be bothered to read it, they never call and in fact, they’re not my clients. So it’s actually been a really powerful tool for me and has solved, gone some way anyway, to solving some of my frustrations.
Very interesting. And a concept born out of frustration of having too many of those coffee meetings and maybe some tie kickers, or even just validating whether somebody is truly interested in changing what they’re doing and getting you to help them. And I think a lot of business owners like the idea of writing a book, it sounds pretty cool to be able to say, I wrote a book, I’m an author. But they’re either put off by the perceived effort, or they just don’t know where to start the process. How does it all work? Where do you actually start when you’ve made that decision, I’m going to write a book?
Good question. It wasn’t very clear to me and I actually needed a bit of guidance here, but I think what it comes down to is the book is actually like a marketing plan. You need to first just determine some really fundamental things, who is the book for? So what’s your audience, what’s the market or your ideal client? You really need to understand that just like you do when you’re doing your marketing for your business. What are the problems that these potential people face? Why do you write the book and who are you writing the book for? And who are you as a person to write the book? What sort of authority do you have to write it? So I think like all of your marketing, you would answer questions similar to that and I think that’s what you need to do if you have a concept or an idea of thinking about writing the book. And then perhaps a bit of competitive research as well, just to discover, well, are there other books in this space? Just as you would do, if you were positioning your business or yourself from a marketing perspective.
I mean, when I answered that question of why did I write the book? I wrote the book because I wanted to help change the mindset of the medical profession. I really wanted to help them realize that if they don’t change their thinking about how to grow their practices around improving patient experience, not only will their revenue be affected, but their reputation and their lifestyle as well. So I really got into the heads of my potential client or potential reader. And then from the point of view of thinking about, well, how do I even structure this book? How does that work? I decided that there were a whole lot of myths out there and assumptions that healthcare professionals make about patients. And so I wanted to dispel those myths or dismantle those myths really. So I decided that the structure of my book would be the top 10 myths, and there would be one chapter per myth, that I would dispel. And I had a framework for each chapter, that was quite similar, it followed a bit of a formula, a framework that I developed.
And I just made sure I was fairly consistent, about each chapter was structured around that specific topic. So if I got a bit waffly in something, I’d say, no, cut that off and then back I go. So I think the structure and the marketing approach are really important when you’re thinking about writing a book.
You structured the book around the top 10 myths in health care, and it outlines those and goes on to dispel them. For context how many words did that take to do that? And I’m also interested, how much does it cost to take it from the concept to the finished product? And not just in terms of money, but also the time and how long. How long did it take to fill out each chapter and each section of the book? And then what was it in total?
I don’t actually know how long my book is in terms of words. I know it’s 250 pages in length, but for me it was more about the quality of the content. I just, I didn’t want to waffle, I wanted to be to the point, I wanted to share some of the experiences, provide a bit of knowledge to people and bring it to life with some real life examples. That was probably the criteria for me related to the book. And I think, going back to that, why? It was really deciding how to approach writing the book, was about what was the purpose in writing it? So if you wanted your book to become a bestseller on the mainstream market, then perhaps the best way to approach the book is to partner with a publishing house. A fairly traditional sort of method, I think, to provide editing support and the distribution after the book is finished. But my understanding, because I didn’t choose that way, is that you pay some sort of ongoing percentage for that. I don’t really understand the structure of it because I didn’t go down that route.
But the alternative, I think for business people that have a genuine message and would like to use the book more, I suppose, for marketing and positioning of you and your business, then I think there’s a few different approaches and outcomes. And there are a number of companies in Australia and internationally that provide a framework and support for business people to write, edit and self-publish their books. And you usually pay up front for that or you pay in stages as the development of the book takes place. I chose the second route to do, and I found what I thought was a good fit for me and I self published my book. So I think it’s up to you, different paths will suit different needs and outcomes. In terms of the time it took me to write the book, nearly 12 months. I do know people that have written a whole book in six weeks and I know some people would have taken six years.
So it’s an evolution I think, and it’s different journey for every single person, but I finalized the framework first of the chapters because that really, that structure really helped me. And then I just, I wrote the initial three chapters, that took nearly eight months for me. I really struggled to start with, because as I said, I’m not a natural writer. But then I just knuckled down and I got to the end of a very busy working year and I had that time off between Christmas, New Year and then in early January. So I wrote the remaining seven chapters in six weeks, in that period of time. And then now I didn’t like, because there’d been some time between the two, I didn’t like the first three chapters, so I went back and rewrote them over three more weeks. So the whole thing for me in the end came together quite quickly, but I needed a fair bit of mental time, I think to get my head around the process and the project to get myself into the groove.
You mentioned that there are other businesses out there that have genuine messaging that they need to get out to the market and it will actually help the businesses marketing. How does writing a book change, for want of a better word, the level of your business in terms of how people perceive you as an expert?
It completely changed my business, is the short answer. I was pursuing random styles, potential clients, coffee meetings, doing lots of networking, networking events prior to writing the book. So if you like, I was in a chasing mode trying to chase potential clients and chase potential business. And it was really exhausting and unfulfilling to be perfectly honest. Now, since I’ve written the book, and I have a really structured sales approach that is really around building trust. It’s not salesy and it opens up a two way dialogue. And what it allows me to do is create a human connection that draws out my ideal client, because I don’t want to waste people’s time and I’m sure they don’t want to waste mine. If we’re not a natural fit for each other that’s okay, that’s fine. But I don’t want to keep trying to engage them and forcing them into something that they’re really not interested in. So I’ve managed to move away from that free consulting to now being positioned as a trusted authority.
And so the book for me was really designed to build trust with potential clients, to give them time to think, wow, this person knows what they’re talking about and to really understand what my motivation is. And really my system now does that in three ways, it reduces resistance, people, if they genuinely want to keep listening to my messaging and my information and it’s of interest to them, they’ll keep going. And the second thing it means that I don’t have to chase people anymore. I love that. And the third thing, I just don’t do any free consulting anymore. So it’s really made a massive impact on my business.
You mentioned that you have a sales process for your business and the advantages of that, but you give your book away for free, it doesn’t cost people anything. Talk us through the thinking behind giving it away for free and also, once somebody requests the book and it’s sent out to them, is there any automation or some sort of process that happens where you’re positioning yourself to them?
That really comes back to the why, why did I write the book? And for me, I give the book away for free because I want people to be able to access it. If my messages resonate with them, I don’t want cost to be a barrier. Genuinely, if people are on this journey and they really want to have a more patient centered practice, I genuinely want them to have access to the information. So my purpose was to get the book in front of as many influential healthcare leaders as possible, and to start the conversation about improving healthcare experiences and achieving better outcomes for patients and their families. That’s my motivation for what I do. So when someone orders a book, there is an automation system that happens, and that’s in place not only to provide them with a little bit more information, but to support them, to learn more about what the book can do for them. And I think that works pretty well because people are anticipating the arrival of the book once they’ve ordered it for free online.
They’re waiting for it to arrive in the mail and the emails set up an expectation about what is in each chapter of the book. So each email in the automation series tackles, I suppose the key points within each chapter. So it gives him a little taster or teaser of what’s coming. And some people, I think we recognize that some people read a book from front to back. Some people go into the back and start at the back first, some like to skim, read the whole thing and just sort of, Oh, that’s interesting and stop at a certain page and read a bit. And some like to read just a specific section or a chapter that’s of interest to them. I don’t really care whether they read the whole book or not, if something resonates with them, that’s the most important thing for me. Because we’re starting to have a connection and we’re starting to build trust because we think the same way. And so the emails that I’ve developed for my automation sequence try to respond to those different needs and the different ways in which people want to consume information and content.
Irrespective of how somebody would read a physical book in those examples that you gave, they’ve got it in their hand, your brand is in front of them. Share a story of a time when that whole process of getting your book in somebody’s hands, who’s in your target audience, has really paid off for your business.
I have so many interesting and varied stories. I’ve sent a copy of my book to the editor of a key industry publication, just hoping, really hoping that I could get a response. And it led to writing a feature article in their journal, which really positions me as an authority across a complete health care sector, which I was really excited about. I’ve connected to a CEO on LinkedIn that I actually really wanted to know. I just really admired them and so I sent out a note and I thought, wow, they responded and connected to me. And I thought, I’m just going to send them a handwritten, thank you note and I’ll put a copy of my book in with that. Well, that led to me getting a spontaneous, thank you, email from them when the book arrived. And that has led to us having meetings together and collaborating on master classes and workshops, and even doing a webinar recently, since the current environment has changed.
People have found my book online and signed up for a copy and then spontaneously contacted me when some of the content has resonated with them, when they’ve been reading it. And that’s led to some amazing conversations we’ve had together, consulting work and collaborations on things that I really didn’t think were possible. But I think the most profound response that I had, was from the chair of a healthcare organization who read about my book when it was featured in an airline magazine, I had a book review done in one of the monthly magazines and he read that on a plane. And when he got off, he requested the copy of the book from my website and he hadn’t yet received the book in the mail when the email sequence started. And the second email in the sequence really resonated with him and he replied, he said, he replied to that email and sent it to me and asked permission to order a copy of my book for each member of his executive team, which of course, I responded and said, yes, I was thrilled, I was really excited, I’d never received an email like that.
So as a result, I was invited to meet that executive team. I presented at their national conference and it ultimately led to 12 months of consulting work with them. So for me that’s the power of the book.
Very powerful. You gave some examples there of other pieces of content, like some articles and some webinars and things like that. The book is full of great content and great content marketers will look for ways to repurpose and recut existing content that they already have in the bank. Have you done that much with the content from the book?
The book is the most incredible source of content I’ve ever had, and it can be repurposed in so many ways. I have developed blogs, social media posts, video content, white papers, trade articles, I’ve published association journal articles. I’ve developed masterclasses on the back of it and workshops. I’ve done radio interviews of specific sections of the book and develop lots of webinars. So it’s a never ending source of content. And I have to say, I re look at it, I skim read my own book every now and again, and I like, wow, that’s actually quite interesting. So it’s a continuous source of inspiration for me to be able to think about something and perhaps update it now with some new, more relevant information or some new research that’s come out. So I think once you develop a book, it’s a never ending source of inspiration and content that is only limited by your own imagination, about how you can use it. And I think in addition to that too, the book has opened up doors that have really contributed to some things that I never expected.
Collaborative partnerships, introductions to other purpose driven individuals who are really like-minded to me and we’ve ended up doing consulting work together. People, I wouldn’t have known ever in my life if I’d just gone to networking meetings. I’ve ended up on faculty of some pretty serious national healthcare organizations and on boards as well. So I think the book for me has been an incredible positioning tool and is really my number one marketing go to tool.
Some absolutely amazing stories and real positives from writing a book for your business, Shelley Thompson director at Experience 360. Thank you so much for coming on the Marketing Builder podcast and sharing your expertise around writing a book and using it to market your business.