Don’t start with the hardest part of marketing

Most coaches start with the hardest bit of marketing.

If it seems that you’re always talking to people who don’t understand coaching, let alone that they would benefit from it, then you too are engaged in that ‘hardest bit’. It’s exhausting, isn’t it? A lot of work and effort with limited engagement in return… because these people are unaware of their situation or that coaching might help.

It is often assumed that these people are your only potential clients, but luckily there are other people with whom your marketing will resonate much more easily.

There’s a journey people take when considering a purchase or commitment, and ‘unaware’ is just the first stage on that journey:

  1. Unaware: They don’t know they have a problem or issue to solve.
  2. Problem Aware: They’re aware of the problem, but not that there are solutions available.
  3. Solution Aware: They know there are solutions, but haven’t chosen one yet; they don’t know about your services yet.
  4. Product Aware: They’re aware of what you’re offering but aren’t totally sure it’s what they need.
  5. Most Aware: They know more about your service. They’re ready to buy but need to know more details first.

Starting with stage one sounds logical. But when you’re marketing coaching, setting up the journey’s end first and working backwards makes more sense. Let me explain…

Don’t start with the hardest part of marketing

Why work ‘in reverse’?

Most marketing advice focuses on selling products and services that need little consideration to purchase. Convincing a yoga enthusiast they need a new yoga mat is not an especially complicated journey, for example.

But deciding to work with a coach (and then choosing one) is a much more emotionally complex process.

Just trying to convince people that they need coaching is unlikely to work. Nor can you ethically play on people’s fears, as much of marketing does.

Besides, if you put all your marketing energy into getting people from stage 1 to stage 2, you have none left for building and maintaining the rest of the journey (what about stage 2 to 3, or 3 to 4…)

Build the whole journey

This is the key: your marketing needs to address all five stages, helping people at each one find their way to the next. You’re mapping out a route, and your marketing is about being a good guide, signposting a journey that they can take at their own pace. The easiest and most logical place to start is at the destination. Start with the ‘most aware’ and work out what they need. Then you can go back a stage and focus on what ‘product aware’ people need to become ‘most aware’; and so on.

Diagram showing 5 Levels of Client Awareness

Stage by Stage

Here’s what we recommend at each stage:

  1. Make your product offer clear and easy for the most aware to buy. If you want them to book a call with you then make booking simple and clearly signpost it. Use an automated service like Calendly.
  2. For the product aware aim to clearly show how your product fits their expectation of a solution. Describe your services from their perspective, focusing on where they want to end up. Show them what the process of working with you would be. Then signpost them to where they can take the first step in becoming a client.
  3. Bring your services to the attention of the solution aware. Tell them about your method and what they can expect to achieve with you. By doing so, you’re putting your services on the table for their consideration. Then invite them to consider your product as a possible solution.
  4. The problem aware are looking to find out more about their perceived problem, experience or situation. Don’t offer solutions at this stage. Empathise with them. Share experiences and stories that give them a deeper understanding before you begin signposting possible solutions.
  5. When you know how you’re going to guide people on the rest of the journey, you can decide on the best first step to take for the unaware. This is where you need to grab their initial attention – helping them connect their situation to the potential issues or problems that are creating it (e.g. difficulty sleeping can be caused by stress; stress can be caused by…) Then throw up a signpost pointing to where they can learn more about the problem.

In creating this journey ‘backwards’ you create a clear path for the client to follow. As you might now be able to imagine, starting at the other end would be very confusing as you have nowhere to signpost people. Their journey would be over before it began, because they want to learn and discover and you would be trying to sell.

My short guide to fix all your problems

But… I just want to solve people’s problems.

It’s tempting to jump straight in with a solution. But think about a time when someone did that for you before you were ready – was your response a variation on “Yes, but…” by any chance? A premature solution can be overwhelming for the potential client. Too much, too soon and they stop the journey. Or go on a detour. Or get lost. Or look for another guide.

Create a journey with the end in the mind

Coaching is a significant and (hopefully) life-changing investment. It’s not an impulse buy, it’s a journey. Make the journey more manageable for them, and you, by breaking it down into these stages. Then set up a variety of marketing content to guide them as they travel at their own pace. Not everyone will complete the journey and become a client but for those that do, the learning that took place along the way will support the coaching process when it starts.

And the bonus benefit? You have an organic marketing process with content for all, regardless of their stage of awareness, and when you’re not trying to convert a prospect into a client with every post or podcast, your marketing will feel a lot less like marketing – to you and to them.

This article is the first section of one of 50 topics in the coach’s marketing journey course. In the full topic, we go on to explain how to map out all the content you need and implement this journey.

For more about the journey of consciousness and people’s stages of awareness, check out the page on our website for a more detailed explanation. If you’d like some support in building your journey then we have a coach’s marketing journey course to guide you through the whole process.

Our community for coaches is for like-minded people, faced with the same challenges as you, who are enjoying their marketing bringing them more meaningful conversations with ideal clients. You can take a look around, access all the content, group sessions and our coaching-specific marketing resources with 14 days of free community membership.

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