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“Marketing isn’t about closing a sale, it’s about opening a relationship.” – Mike Kim
How can we create a unique brand that represents who we are as coaches without it feeling too self-promotional? Learning in Action President, Alison Whitmire welcomes special guest, Mike Kim for two workshop-style sessions, helping us understand how to think about branding differently and how to market ourselves in a way that truly conveys who we are.
Mike Kim is a speaker, business coach, and marketing strategist who specializes in brand strategy and copywriting. He’s been hired by influential thought leaders like John Maxwell, Donald Miller, Suzanne Evans, and Catalyst Leadership. Before running his own business, Mike worked as the Chief Marketing Officer for a successful multi-million dollar New York City firm. Mike is currently keeping busy speaking at virtual conferences, teaching everything he knows about branding, entrepreneurship, and life. He also has a highly regarded show dedicated to personal branding, the Brand You Podcast.
As coaches, many of us struggle to market ourselves because it feels too self-promotional. Instead of our marketing efforts being about drawing attention to ourselves in an egocentric way, we can shift our perspective, and see it simply as an act of sharing our thoughts and ideas — communication. The reality is that all relationships start from the human principle of communication. No personal relationship will survive without the sharing of thoughts and ideas, and the same holds true with the relationships we have with our audience and prospects. In this sense, Mike Kim says, “Marketing isn’t about closing a sale, it’s about opening a relationship.”
The function of any business is to solve our customer or client’s problem for a profit, and coaching is no different. The truth is people buy based on their emotion and they rationalize the decision later. So we must open the relationship by sharing little bits of ourselves to create connection points with prospects. And we can apply this perspective to other parts of our business like our social media, websites, advertising, realizing they are all just opportunities to recreate the phenomenon of what happens when we meet face to face. All of our marketing is as simple as sharing our thoughts and communicating.
In the coaching space, our clients surely hire us for our strategies and methodologies, and also for who we are as people. It is our personal stories that set us apart because nobody else has our story. We create the foundation of our unique brands with those personal stories — emotional parts of our personal lives we share connecting us to our prospects. We can then build our brand from here, with our products and services flowing from this foundation.
As coaches, we have to reveal our core in order for our clients to believe we can help guide them to their core. We must be clear on why we do the work we do and weave this into our marketing as well. Three key questions in the ‘PB3 matrix’ can help us pinpoint what drives us in our work as coaches:
Answering these questions helps us zero in on what we really care about so we can use that passionate perspective in our communications and convey it in a way that people tune in to and resonate with.It is our personal stories that set us apart because nobody else has our story. We create the foundation of our unique brands with those personal stories — emotional parts of our personal lives we share connecting us to our prospects. Click To Tweet
Coaches typically work with people based on their needs and don’t necessarily work within niches in the same way that another business might. Taking a broad view, coaches tend to focus on these primary areas: health, wealth, and relationships. It can be even more useful to narrow down our focus even further in one of two ways — either in a vertical or a horizontal market.
A vertical market centers on a particular industry. For example, a vertical market for a coach could be working with executive leaders, parents, or entrepreneurs. Focusing on a horizontal market, on the other hand, means offering one type of service, perhaps leadership or MBTI coaching, to all types of people. The more we focus on one area — vertical or horizontal (or an intersection of both) the more clear our marketing will be. And the more we narrow our focus the more we develop deeper relationships and our businesses naturally grow. Yes, clients may leave us along the path, and new clients who we can serve at an even deeper level will find us.
When we’re meeting new people and networking, it can be a real challenge for coaches to communicate clearly what we offer. We often get caught up in describing our working in ‘coach speak’ type terms that others not in our industry don’t always understand. These two simple questions can help us define our market and convey what we do with even more clarity:
The idea is to have a vision of the person we want to work with so we can clearly convey this to past clients, colleagues, or others in our network.
If marketing is about opening a relationship, cultivating our audience can be as simple as talking more with people we already know whether they be current clients, past clients, colleagues, etc. An easy way to do this is to focus on our email contact list — friends can be the most natural place to start.
A brief email sharing what we are working on and asking if our contacts would like to hear more about it can get the conversation going. And what can follow are basic questions about their biggest struggles, or what types of books, podcasts, and blogs they turn to for help with this issue. Dialoguing with our contacts in this organic way gives us insight into what they need help with, gathering useful data we can turn around to create content.
How can we market our coaching businesses like no one else can? We start with what’s easiest and what lights us up. We can open up relationships in an organic way by sharing our thoughts, ideas, and personal stories, making a connection on an emotional level. Finding a horizontal or vertical area of focus can help us to further refine our work and connect with our audience on an even deeper level. And, we can find simple ways to have conversations that help us learn more about our audience and the problems the want help solving.