Journey of Consciousness

Most marketing advice for coaches doesn’t work

Why? Because most traditional marketing focuses on the conversion, the sale.

And as a coach, these conversions are not what you’re chasing. You’re not selling vacuum cleaners, or water bottles, so conversions are not your focus.

Conversions lead you to think about the client in the wrong way. If your focus is on sales, on signing people up to coaching sessions or online courses, you’re at risk of selling the client something that they don’t need, aren’t ready for or won’t appreciate. You’re not just chasing “a sale”, you’re looking for the right sale, to the right client… and that requires a conversation, an exchange with someone who resonates with what you do and sees the value in the outcome, feeling or insight that you’ll guide them to.

So, how can you shift your marketing mindset? How do you shift from the conversion drive and focus on creating opportunities for conversations instead? That’s what this guide is all about …

Rather than sell, coach

In traditional marketing, the information flow is one way: from the person trying to persuade towards the person being persuaded. Instead of persuasion, it’s more effective to focus on engagement, on asking, on listening. In order to speak to a client in a way that doesn’t feel like selling, you need to ask questions, inspire ideas or invite a change of mindset. Get them thinking about the kinds of things you work on with clients and guide them to a place where they feel that working with a coach is the perfect next step for them.

When you start a conversation, you shine a light on the shadowy corners of their understanding. The key is to make them think – with information, a question, a fresh perspective… Turn on the lightbulb and leave them wanting to know more.

If this sounds familiar, you’re right – you’re using your coaching skills to market your coaching!

The 5 levels of awareness

Many coaches find attracting new clients hard work. They’re often comfortable talking about their coaching services and explaining everything, in detail, but struggle with the sales part.

Why does this often feel like hard work? Put simply, you’re talking about the wrong thing. You’re trying to take the potential client all the way from ‘barely aware they have a problem to solve’ to ‘buying your coaching product’ in a single leap. It’s too much.

With your existing knowledge and years of experience, the process and product of coaching may feel and seem obvious to you, however, a client is often starting at a point of (blissful) ignorance – they’re not even aware that they have a problem, that there is an opportunity for change or in fact that working with a coach is even an option. When there’s a mismatch in understanding or awareness, jumping too quickly to sell your coaching product doesn’t feel right.

By looking at the client journey in terms of five levels of awareness, we can split up the marketing messaging and content to talk to, and appeal to different stages of the journey. That way, you’re addressing the client’s specific level of awareness, and not overwhelming them or trying to make the sale too early.

The theory behind the journey people go on when considering making a purchase is very old – it was published in 1966 by Eugene Schwartz, whose copywriting reportedly sold over a billion dollars’ worth of products. He wrote ‘Breakthrough Advertising’ the book that informs most of the advertising you see in your daily lives and is likely the reason you have purchased most of the stuff you now own.

Although you’re not trying to sell cars, vacuum cleaners or fizzy drinks, these levels of awareness still apply. You can use them to understand where our prospective client is in that awareness journey and then talk to them in a way that appeals to their situation, doesn’t overwhelm them, and guides them rather than ‘sells’ to them.

Let’s look at the five levels.

Diagram showing The Journey of Consciousness - 5 levels of client awareness

These are the five levels of awareness:

Unaware: A person doesn’t know they have a problem, or can’t yet see the opportunity for change, and it can take a lot of time, energy and effort to move them to the next level.

Problem Aware: A person knows they have a problem, or can see an opportunity for change but doesn’t know there are solutions to the outcome they have identified.

Solution Aware: A person discovers that there are solutions, but hasn’t chosen one, and is still deciding if they’re ready to do the work.

Product Aware: A person is ready to do the work and is looking for a product that matches what they perceive the solution to be. They’re trying to work out if your product can help them solve their problem or support them in the change they want to make.

Most Aware: A person has decided they’re ready to work with you, they are on the cusp of buying but need to feel supported in taking the first step.

Most people think, and most marketing advice will tell you, to focus on those in the unaware level, as that is what the big brands do. For a considered purchase like coaching, and without an advertising budget of millions, this is often highly ineffective. This is why most marketing doesn’t work.

What’s more, if you try to take people through these five levels too fast they get overwhelmed and feel like they’re being sold to – nobody likes that.

e.g. “Are you feeling stressed? – Buy my 6-week Better Sleep programme!”

This is too fast! If I am feeling stressed then why do I need or want a better sleep programme? Will this help? How? Why? If you try to close the sale too early, you confuse the client.

It’s far better to build curiosity – create a little tension, an itch to know more. People love to explore and learn about new things, so a better approach would be to take the client on a journey that they can explore at their own pace. This is what the five levels of awareness enable you to do.

Graph showing the unaware level of awareness

Unaware

When someone is unaware they have a problem, or even that the problem exists at all, they are not – unsurprisingly – looking for a solution. They’re just going about their day to day, perhaps not even knowing that their lived experience is not like anyone else’s. They might assume that how they feel or their situation is just like everyone else.

At this stage, you don’t want to try and sell anything to them. Instead, you need to raise their level of awareness to the point that they realise that their situation, feeling or actions are something they might like to consider differently.

In order to progress their awareness level, you need to get them to switch their thinking or perspective. This isn’t easy and can take a lot of time, effort and money to do well. This is why marketing can feel like hard work!

Big brands tend to focus on convincing people that they have a problem. They often rely on creating a problem and playing to people’s fears to encourage them to purchase a solution. This feels unethical and doesn’t sit well with selling coaching services.

Most “marketing advice” focuses on this ‘create a problem and then solve it’ tactic and that explains why most of it doesn’t work or feel right for coaches. With coaching, you’re often working with sensitive and personal issues so it really wouldn’t be ethical to try and do this.

You can learn from this that it can be done, but that doesn’t mean it should be done.

Graph showing the Problem aware level of awareness

Problem Aware

The word problem here isn’t meant as a judgement nor in a derogatory sense. Here it describes someone with a frustration, an issue, a feeling or a tangible problem that they want to do something about. As much as a problem can be something to be resolved it can also be an opportunity for change, evolution or reflection.

To fit it into the graph though we have to choose one word, and that word here is ‘problem’.

A problem aware person isn’t ready to hear about your products. They’ve only just realised that they have a problem, frustration or an opportunity for change. They don’t yet know that there are ways to solve their problem or make a change.

At this stage, what you can do is support them to join some dots, link ideas together or open them up to a new perspective or viewpoint of their current situation. You’re certainly not going to try and make a sale at this point.

You can use empathy to make them feel seen, heard and understood, and use their own words and their language to help them join the dots and come to their own realisations. Reflecting the problem back at them shows them you understand them and demonstrate that you’re the best-placed guide to go with them on the journey.

Graph showing the solution aware level of awareness

Solution Aware

A solution aware person is looking for answers to their problems — they’re starting to become curious and begin looking for answers to their questions.

This is where you can show them what they can do to solve their problem. But you’re not necessarily focusing on your product yet. You want to educate them about what a good solution looks and feels like, and what they might like to consider when they are choosing a coach.

This is the stage where the client has questions and is seeking answers. They don’t want to hear about specific products yet because they’re not yet even sure if they want the solution. When thinking about coaching, someone is deciding if they even want to solve the problem, whether they’re ready to do the work.

Once you have their attention, from the previous level where you helped them understand the problem in more detail, you have the opportunity to highlight what a solution might look like. You can also answer some common questions they have about what kind of solution might be the best fit for them. Here, it can be just as useful to signpost someone off to another solution as it is to guide them towards yours.

As tempting as it is to tell them all about your product at this stage it’s better to help them understand the solution first and come to their own decision that they are ready to engage with a coach to do the work. Only when they are ready to do the work will want to consider working with a coach.

Graph showing the product aware level of awareness

Product Aware

Once the person knows what a good solution looks and feels like, know why they want it and have decided to commit to the work of solving their problem, they will now search for a product that meets their newly-acquired criteria.

If you’ve taken them on the journey so far with content in the previous three levels then they will have seen that you’re able to explain the problem and the solution to them. Now they’re trying to decide if they trust you.

At this stage, they want to know about your product, but they might be comparing you with what other coaches are saying and offering. Your job now is to show them why you’re the best fit. It’s likely you’ve already won a lot of trust by simply starting to engage them with empathy. Not many people make clients feel seen, heard and understood. So, you’re probably ahead of most of the competition already.

Now you need to add some authority into the mix. This is where you show them that you’re best placed to guide them to the outcome, feeling or insight that they want. You need to show them how your product fits their understanding of what a good solution looks and feels like. This then empowers them to make an informed decision about if they feel you’re a good fit.

It’s about building trust, not selling. Only once they trust you will they be ready to move to the next level.

Graph showing the most aware level of awareness

Most Aware

Now the person believes you’re a great fit, they feel ready to engage with the coaching process and, most importantly, like they have reached this point with their own informed decision.

All they need now is to hear your offer. The biggest mistake people make for most aware persons is saying too much.

At this stage, you just need to get out of the way. You need to make it easy for them to take the first step and make it clear what will happen afterwards. This might be booking a discovery call with you, or completing a form giving you some information. It might be purchasing a course or a session. Whatever that step is it needs to be clear, explained in very simple terms, and you need to let them know what happens after they complete this step. So if they book a call, what happens then? If they buy the session, what happens next? This reassures the client that they can trust you – the next step won’t be a surprise.

Work Backwards

Most coaches start with the hardest bit of marketing – they’re trying to convince people in the unaware stage that they need coaching.

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.

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.

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

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.

To make your marketing more effective, and feel less like hard work you need to build the whole journey – backwards.

Your marketing needs to address all five levels, 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.

How to create the journey

Here’s what we recommend at each stage:

  • Make the first step as simple as you can. If you want them to book a call with you, or fill in a form then keep it simple and clearly signpost it on your website. Use an automated service like Calendly to make the booking process super simple for them, and you.
  • 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 looks and feels like. Then signpost them to where they can take the first step in becoming a client.
  • Bring the solution to the attention of the problem aware who have decided they’re ready to do the work. Tell them about your method and what they can expect to achieve by working through the process. By doing so, you’re framing your solution as a good fit, and putting it on the table for their consideration. Then invite them to consider your product as a possible solution.
  • 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.
  • Once you have the rest of the journey mapped out, you can decide on the best way to bring the ‘problems’ to the attention of the unaware. This is where you help 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 signpost 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.

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

When the solution is so clear to you, it’s tempting to jump straight in with a solution. However, a premature solution can be overwhelming for the potential client. Too much, too soon and they stop the journey, go on a detour, get lost or look for another coach.

Coaching is a significant and hopefully life-changing investment. It’s not an impulse buy, it’s a journey of consciousness.

You can make the journey feel more natural for them, and more manageable for you, by breaking it down into these levels. Then create 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 level of awareness, and when you’re not trying to convert a person into a client with every post or podcast, your marketing will feel a lot less like marketing – to you and to them.

The Journey of Consciousness

This journey of awareness, of raising the prospect’s consciousness of their situation, will nurture the clients who are the best fit for you, taking them on a journey of awareness from unaware to most aware. The journey forms a key part of the Coach’s Marketing Journey, explaining the six chapters of your own journey to becoming more confident about how you talk about yourself and your coaching practice. With the Coach’s Marketing Journey course you can work through these 6 chapters in a structured way to empower you to regain control of your time, finances and energy.

If you’ve read this far then you’re likely on the same wavelength as us and we’d like to share how to plan your marketing in a manageable way to attract more of your ideal clients. It will show you step by step how to create this journey for your ideal client to follow.

As with all our content, this plan is written especially for coaches, so it’s in tune with the reality of marketing to clients who are looking for, or find themselves at a point of change in their lives.

Download our free Coach’s Marketing plan that will empower you to work on all the essential areas of your marketing and make a plan that you’ll actually use.