This is a tough love article all about marketing. I’ve had it on my mind for a while now and something happened last week that has crystallised what I want to say, and why.
Marketing Is A Process
Marketing is a creative process. It is an ongoing process. It’s the process of saying the same thing over and over again, in different and interesting ways.
It’s the process of curating an audience that looks like the kind of people you want to work with. This is something that you start and then continue, for as long as you have a coaching business.
Marketing is also a waiting game.
In the beginning, when you begin to put yourself ‘out there’ and market yourself as a coach, there’s a feeling of excitement and anticipation. I wish I could bottle that feeling for coaches to take as a tonic in The Dip (as Seth Godin calls it).
There is always a dip. The dip is the time between when your marketing message is sent out into the world, and the time it takes to ‘land’.
Ensuring Your Marketing Message ‘Lands”
There is a process for making sure it lands. That process is as follows:
- Choose a niche (or target audience – they are the same thing)
- Create an ideal client avatar, who will be the focus for your marketing and who is the personification of the people in your niche.
- Write a marketing message for exactly that kind of person.
- Curate an audience of people who look like that kind of person.
- Become visible to those people
- Be consistent
Providing that you do those things (they don’t necessarily follow that order, which is why I haven’t numbered them), you will generate inbound enquiries.
The Dip is the period of time between your first social media post (which is always where we start our coaches) and your first inbound enquiry. The reason that there is a dip (we refer to this as ‘shouting into the void’) is because not every person you’re connected to will see everything you publish. In fact, a tiny percentage of them will, which is why maintaining visibility by publishing regularly is important.
The dip is the time it takes for your message to float into someone’s consciousness, to bury itself as a little seed, for that seed to be watered by the individual seeing you and your consistent message, for them to think ‘s/he’s talking about me!’ and for them to reach out to you for a conversation.
That time period depends on a few of things (there are more, but for the purposes of this article, these are the most important ones):
- Is the potential client going to pay their own fees?
- Does the problem they’re struggling with have an element of shame attached to it (even if logically it shouldn’t)?
- Are you being consistent?
If the answer to…
- 1 is yes, that reduces the length of time from first visibility to first client.
- 2 is yes, that extends the length of time.
- 3 is yes, that reduces the length of time.
Whilst the length of time is variable, providing that you have everything in the ‘ensuring your message lands’ list properly, marketing always works.
Marketing always works in the same way that coaching always works. It works providing that the one responsible for taking action does indeed take that action.
Getting In Your Own Way
Where I see coaches fail in their marketing:
- Not being consistent
- Being vague with their message
- Making themselves a ‘special case’
The first two are simple to fix and most of my day-to-day work is spent on these two topics to help our clients see the reality.
The last one is one that I often can’t help with, and it can be a real problem.
So what do I mean by a ‘special case’?
There are lots of reasons that a coach believes themselves to be a special case and the few examples I’m going to mention are exactly that – few. To be fair, coaches don’t always start from the position of ‘special case’ but some of them move there and get stuck and it is such a shame.
The reason it’s a shame is that a coach can become entrenched in their position and it’s one in which private coaching clients are vanishingly rare.
Examples of special cases include:
“It’s different for me”
This is when a coach believes their particular set of circumstances are unique – which they rarely are – and this uniqueness means that they need to do marketing differently. (For differently, read ineffectively.) Sometimes they think that their ideal client is different, but they’re not different either.
“This doesn’t feel nice”
This is when a coach has failed to realise that learning how to market is just as much of a personal development journey as learning how to coach was. What that means is that while we’re learning, we will be doing new things and that new things are by definition, outside of our comfort zones. This also means that some things will be uncomfortable the first time we do them. They’re not, of course, uncomfortable by the time we’ve done them dozens of times – they’ve slotted themselves into our new, expanded comfort zone, but this coach doesn’t realise this.
The highly qualified
This is when someone who has lots of hours of coaching logged and they think it means that they can short-cut the marketing process. This kind of special case emerges when the experienced coach in question has realised that marketing is a lot of work – a full half of the work the owner of a coaching business needs to do. These coaches are used to being in an elevated position in our profession and had somehow believed that this elevated position would carry itself into their marketing. Sadly, this isn’t true and these coaches are often destined to work for others, at associate rates, forever.
The ‘chop and changer’
This coach believes that they are a special case because they can’t make a decision and stick with it. They don’t see it like that of course, they see their inability to stick with their decision on whom they’re marketing to as evidence of their unusual personality, of their not wanting to be pinned down… The truth is that if you market to one particular target audience and then decide to change it, what you’re doing is starting again from scratch. This coach is not simply pivoting, they’re wiping the slate clean of everything they’ve done to date and starting again. That’s huge – and not to be recommended.
I was once this last person. I believed that I was someone who didn’t like to be pinned down to one thing. Change was more appealing than business as usual (BAU). Back then, I used to pride myself on the fact that BAU bored me senseless and I saw it as an indication that I was a free spirit and creative. It’s all nonsense of course. The reality is that as a marketer it’s my job to make my work fulfil my creative side and it does. I did have to battle with this ‘free spirit’ limiting belief to achieve it. The success of The Coaching Revolution is a testament to my journey from chop-and-changer to ‘grown-up marketer’.
Is It You?
The problem with the special cases is that they don’t realise that they have made themselves into a special case. They believe that they’re different in a way that makes them superior. They believe that the usual ‘rules’ don’t apply to them. They’re wrong, of course. That will lead them to not being able to develop a financially viable coaching business. These coaches break my heart because if only they could step out of the special case persona, they could thrive.
If you recognise yourself in any of the descriptions I’ve given, don’t despair. That recognition is the first step towards solving the problem.
If you’d like to chat with me about your coaching business, this is my diary. A conversation costs nothing.