News flash: coaches must be marketers. If you’re going to be a coach who has paying clients, you must engage in some degree of marketing, otherwise, you’ll be a talented coach with nobody to coach.
Even though marketing is essential to coaching, I’ve found that many (if not most) coaches do a poor job of marketing. Here are six marketing mistakes that contribute to coaches that have way more coaching ability than coaching clients. See how many of these apply to you.
- Treating marketing like a dirty word.
Mention “marketing” to the average Christian coach, and you’re likely to get a chilled reaction. For a lot of us, marketing is something we’d rather avoid because we equate it with selling ourselves, coercion, being fake, being slick, being a jerk, and/or treating others as a means to a financial end.
The truth is that the best marketing is not about closing the deal or slick schemes that get people to do something they really don’t want to do. Instead, the best marketing involves building relationships that allow other people to get to know, like, and trust you. After all, people only do business with those they know, like and trust (remember those three words!). Dirty marketing might be about coercion or manipulation, but clean marketing is about getting to know people and letting them get to know, like and trust you. By the way, it helps if you’re likable and trustable.
- Being too pushy.
I’ve come across a few Christian coaches who are too pushy, too aggressive, and too salesman-like. I suppose those tactics work for some coaches with some potential clients, but my experience is that pushy people typically fail to see how overly pushy they are and how annoying they are to everyone else. Pushy people are often super excited about whatever they want to talk about and don’t make room for others to think, contribute, or own the process.
If you tend to be too pushy, you might want to take it down a notch and remember that everything is really about the other person, not you. Look for signals that the other person has something to say and don’t be afraid of hearing concerns and objections – just be ready to explore those instead of trying to deflect or deflate them.
- Being too passive.
Okay, this one is way more common among coaches than is being too pushy, and it’s just as big of a mistake. When we are too passive, we hold back and practically hide from those we are called to serve. If you’re too passive, your potential clients never get to know, like or trust you – and you never get to serve them.
In a world of overexposure (thank you, Facebook), I understand the reluctance to join in the publicity-seeking fray that seems to be everywhere, including on social media. The fact that too many people have a look-at-me attitude with marketing is why it’s so important to engage in marketing that is authentic and adds value versus marketing that makes it seem like you are one more person who thinks he’s the center of the universe. You’re not the center of the universe, but you’re in the universe, so get out there and meet some people! Don’t be passive!
- Coaching too much.
Yes, there can be too much coaching in your marketing. I see this from coaches who try to pull everything from the client, including what coaching is, how much it costs, and what the typical contract looks like. As a professional, you have to share this info with your potential clients in a clear and straightforward way.
Have some empathy for your potential clients; they are new to coaching, which means they don’t know how it works and they need you to tell them (yes, tell them) how it works so they can feel a sense of safety with you as a coach and so they can make an informed decision about working with you. There is a time to only coach, and that time is after there’s a signed contract; everything before that time has only a dose of coaching.
- Coaching too little.
We can also mess things up by not having enough of a coaching presence during the marketing stage of the relationship. Some of the most successful new approaches to selling are very coach-like in that they focus 100% on helping the buyer succeed – even if that means the buyer choses not to buy whatever you’re selling. One of my good friends has trained hundreds of sales professionals, including folks at big companies like Dell, to use this kind of approach and it works. If you’re curious what that looks like, let me recommend two books: Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play and The Go-Giver, both of which describe a very coach-like approach to selling.
When you coach during the marketing stage of the relationship, just be sure to coach around the client’s agenda and to have your own agenda (such as rates, logistics, target market, etc.) clearly defined for yourself. The big coaching topic during marketing is what does the client need and where can they get it. It’s great when they discover they need coaching from you, but it’s also great when they discover they need something or someone else because you’ve added value and served them well.
- Playing the imitation game.
A dumb mistake some coaches make is to market in a way that is perfect for someone else, but not for them. You see someone else blogging, so you think, “I should blog.” Or you see someone else leveraging Facebook in a fantastic way and you think, “Oh, I need to become a Facebook expert.” Or you see a coach who joins the Rotary Club and you follow suit.
Stop it. That kind of thinking is a big mistake.
The best marketing comes at the intersection of three vital conditions: 1) something you’re good at and love doing, 2) something that adds value to the recipient, and 3) something that leads naturally to you and your coaching. Imitators totally fail on condition #1 and the mess comes quickly. Just imagine the coach who decides to blog only to realize how much she hates writing, how bad her writing is, and/or how unmotivated to write she is. Discovering the marketing strategies that naturally fit you, your strengths, your preferences, and your design is worth the investment.
If you want to be a successful coach, you need to avoid these mistakes while upping your marketing game. To that end, let me suggest four steps (each of which is kind of intense, but well worth it):
- Get to know yourself. Discover your strengths, your weaknesses and what really works for you. Who are you? What are your high performance patterns? What are the skills that you just love to utilize and which ones make you wince? When you know yourself and accept the unique combination of traits and talents that are at your core, you can show up in the world with confidence and success.
- Identify your ideal client. You’re put on this earth to serve, but not to serve everybody. When it comes to coaching, who are you called to serve? What’s your ideal client like? What kind of person are they? What are their values and characteristics? You’re going to invest a lot of time with these kinds of people, so make sure your ideal client is someone you actually like and want to invest time with.
- Clarify your offer. Your ideal client is not looking for coaching, they are looking for help with a problem or an opportunity or some kind of situation. They don’t want coaching; they want coaching to address something that is really important to them. What is it? Your coaching niche is clear when you know whom you serve and what you’re helping them with.
- Determine your strategy. When you put it all together, how are people going to get to know you, like you, and trust you? Hoping and waiting are not the elements of a good strategy. You need to determine a strategy that leverages your responses to the first three questions and puts it all together into a game plan. Once you have a strategy, you can get busy executing it!
Let me encourage you to avoid marketing messes and to implement these four steps that are crucial for effective marketing. If you’d like even more help, guidance and encouragement, check out CAM 511 Growing Your Coaching Practice in which we go really deep into these four elements and help you put together your own unique approach to marketing.