Business & Marketing Advice for Coaches & Instructors
Attention coaches and instructors of all kinds! Are you trying to move your teaching or coaching business online?
At a time when so many instructors and coaches need to transition their businesses online, I thought I’d summarize some of the key factors to consider. These are core concepts that apply to any kind of coach, whether your expertise is in the arts, health, or fitness. Here are important viability and marketing considerations.
Running an Online Business: Questions
There are three essential questions to running a successful online business:
- What are you offering?
- How are you monetizing it?
- How are you marketing it?
Your marketing is as important as your offer. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. If people don’t know about it, you aren’t going to make enough money and you’re going to fail.
1. Your Offer, aka. Your Value Proposition
What value can you offer in exchange for money? What sets you apart and what benefits can you offer? Lessons don’t have to be the only part of your value proposition. The market has been flooded with online lessons since the start of the pandemic. That’s given the few companies that were already online a massive edge.
With a flooded market, think about augmenting your offering in as many ways as possible to shape your unique value proposition. Considerations:
- Education value – What else can you offer besides the mechanics of your usual lessons? Consider the value of sharing your philosophy, opinions, experiences, research, and more. You have knowledge to share. Think creatively about this.
- Entertainment value – Are you good on camera? Are you funny? How could you increase your entertainment value. A little personality can really augment any education you’re offering.
- Personal connection value – It’s time to leverage the fact that you’re a “person of interest”; don’t shy away from personal branding.
Delivery Methods: How Will You Deliver Your Product?
How are you delivering your product and how are people consuming and paying? Are you streaming? Is it a download? Is it live and interactive? Are you offering a subscription or a one-time purchase? How are people paying and conducting transactions?
You need to make your delivery both easy and also exciting and attractive to people. Whether that’s watching a pre-recorded video or interacting in group discussions or some other format, explore all of the options and consider the benefits and drawbacks of each. With all of the innovations on the internet, there are surely delivery methods you’ve never even considered before. Do some research.
From what I’ve seen online, I think many of the teachers and coaches underestimate the power of personal connection and interactive experiences. There are smart ways to scale interactive experiences to still make good money for your time investment.
2. Monetizing Your Offer
You need an irresistible offer that people actually want to pay for.
Remember, you need to make it clear and easy way for people to “sign up” and pay. These days people do not want to have to email you and arrange private payments. You’ll never know how many clients you lose because your system is unclear or cumbersome. People want an easy sign up method that uses their credit card or Paypal in just a few clicks; the less work they have to do and the more clear the user experience, the more money you can make.
Scale your offering. Compare the work/time/energy/talent that goes into making your product vs. the amount of monetary return you’ll get from that offering.
One of the best options in any online business is to generate recurring monthly revenue rather than relying on one-off sales. This is one of the reasons I coach new and aspiring online entrepreneurs to steer away from one-off projects like building websites and instead find ways to create ongoing monthly packages, like monthly marketing packages. Rather than just thinking about promoting single, individual classes, consider selling access to an entire series or better yet, a monthly membership.
If you’re offering one-off online events or classes, you could also use a ticketing system. At the time I’m writing this, there’s a deal on AppSumo for a ticketing system I use and recommend called EventsFrame. This is an amazing lifetime deal for $49USD that offers NO FEES ON TICKETS. I picked it up last time it was available and it’s a steal. These deals expire so if it’s available when you read this, act fast.
3. Marketing is Everything
I believe that marketing is the most important part of your online business. It doesn’t matter how great of an offer you have or how talented you are; if you can’t get in front of enough of the right people, you will struggle.
Understand Your Audience
Who should you really be catering your offering towards? In an online capacity, you have three main possible target groups:
- People who are already engaged in your niche AND already know you
- A targeted niche, your biggest fans, but a limited pool
- People who are already in your niche but may not know you or be connected with you (yet)
- Also a targeted niche but with a much wider net
- People who are not yet part of your niche—they could be complete beginners or people from other similar niches
- A much wider net but much more unknown with a very different sales cycle
Right now, I see most online instructors and coaches focusing far too much on Group 1, the people who they’re already connected with. That’s definitely a warm audience and they’re probably your biggest cheerleaders, but it’s too limited of a pool to rely on for all of your income. You need to be continuously bringing in new people. You’ll have periods of thriving attendance but at some point, your existing student base will start to burn out, run out of money, get too busy, get tired of your offering, or just turn over.
Understand Your Current Marketing Reach
We live in a technologically “connected” but completely dispersed global community. Facebook is still the biggest online platform but you need to understand which platforms are right for your niche. Let’s take a look at the main platforms:
Facebook filters posts at all levels so only a select number of your connections will see your content. The more people who do engage with a piece of content, especially in the form of comments, the more Facebook will show that post. So the more popular your post is, the more popular it will continue to become. Meanwhile, most of your posts aren’t getting in front of enough people in the first place thanks to the filters so it’s very hard to gain the engagement that will help foster more visibility. It’s a conundrum.
Here’s how Facebook really works at all levels:
Facebook Personal Page
Be very cautious about spamming your friends with your business; people don’t “friend” you expecting a business transaction. You can be connected with up to 5000 friends. The algorithms are looser than with business pages, but most of those “friends” still won’t see your posts.
Facebook Business Page
There are no limits to how many people can like your page. You need a business page in order to run advertising so having a business page is a must. However, your organic posts will be heavily filtered by the algorithms though you have the option to pay (boost or fully advertise) your posts to reach more people. Do not rely on organic posting. You should also connect your business page with your Instagram account so you can advertise in both locations. (Make sure your Instagram account has been converted to a business account in the settings.)
Groups are designed for community engagement and you’ll have more success with the algorithms in a group than you will on a page. A successful group with a lot of community engagement can be one of the best ways to build community loyalty and to softly push your offers at no cost. You can connect an existing group with your business page or start to build a new group if you don’t already have one. There are still some limitations with groups; group posts can’t be shared outside of the group, and your posts still won’t reach all of your group members, the algorithms are a bit better in groups than on pages. Also, people who aren’t already in your group might have a hard time finding out that your group even exists.
Your events should always be connected with a Business Page, or sometimes under very limited circumstances with a Group, but only if you’re holding private, limited events. Once people have joined your event, their friends and connections will often see notices in their newsfeed saying “Your friend Ben Barker is interested in X Event” making it a great tool to get the word out about your date-based offerings. The good news is it’s very inexpensive to run advertisements to promote Facebook events. The algorithm for sharing your posts on the event page wall isn’t bad, but still not all of your attendees will see your posts. Still, events are a quite good and cost effective way to get the news out about events. The biggest downside to events is that once the event is over, the Facebook event becomes disabled and you lose the audience you built.
By the way, another algorithm hit that you should be aware of is that Facebook has started to penalize links that take people away from Facebook vs. content that keeps people on Facebook. So if you’re sharing a video from YouTube, it won’t get nearly the reach that the same video would get if you upload it directly to Facebook. The same goes for all external links. That’s another favourable reason to leverage Facebook events in your promotions whenever possible, or to upload your graphic and content directly to Facebook; you won’t be penalized in the algorithms for sending people away from Facebook.
On Instagram, you have two ways to reach people. There are regular posts (feed) and then there are stories.
a. Instagram Feed
You can create something purely visual and beautiful in your Instagram feed that populates your wall and that can capture something visual about you and your personal/professional brand in a way that Facebook can’t. (On the other hand, Facebook is far better for discussion. So you need both.)
You shouldn’t just share the exact same content on both Instagram and Facebook; in fact, I strongly discourage you from always posting the exact same content to both platforms. Occasionally it’s ok, but not for every post. These platforms are different and need to be handled with a different approach. Otherwise, it could feel like you’re spamming people.
Instagram offers a unique opportunity for you to diversify the way you’re reaching people and to tell a different kind of story. Consider doing something beautiful with your wall with an Instagram grid, colour filters, patterns, or other creative visual ways that will capture your audience’s interest.
b. Instagram Stories
Instagram stories offer a very unique way for you to let your guard down, show who you really are and what your daily life is like, in a way that today’s social media users are craving. Stories disappear after 24 hours, so you don’t want to put in too much effort into making them perfect. They’re great for getting more personal, candid, silly, or even off topic in a way that will help people get to know you. You might only post photos or videos to your newsfeed a few times a week when it’s something really good and strategic, but you can post to your stories as often as you’d like, even multiple times a day if you get on a roll.
*Please, avoid sharing too many photos to your Instagram newsfeed in a single day unless you have a darned good reason for it. It’s a good way to get unfollowed. Because you can only see one photo or video at a time as you scroll through Instagram, you want to be conscious about not flooding and “hogging” people’s Instagram feeds. Be selective about what goes in your feed and share the rest to stories instead.
I won’t say a lot about TikTok here but it’s been growing in popularity since the pandemic hit. It can be a very fun platform but it’s not particularly designed towards businesses. You can leverage it to grow your brand awareness but beware of spending too much time and energy there; it will be very tough to monetize your efforts.
Twitter is very active in some industries but not for others. Before deciding to focus on Twitter, check your industry to see if it’s a worthwhile investment. It can be a good platform to interact with other industry experts and to establish your own reputation and expertise. However, it can be a difficult place to actually attract new clients.
Remember to share lots of value-rich content. The more real value that you can share (content that’s truly useful and not salesy), and the more you’re willing to share that content openly (ie. give it away for free), the more that you can set yourself up as an expert and build trust and credibility. Use smart hashtags related to your industry, and be sure to reach out and engage!
Like with Twitter, LinkedIn can be very good for establishing yourself as an expert. You also might have a more successful time finding clients on LinkedIn if your coaching or teaching relates to professional development. I would not emphasize LinkedIn for coaching or teaching related to the arts, fitness, etc. But if you’re a financial coach or teaching skills that can help augment someone’s professional skills, get onto the platform and become part of the conversation.
The most successful LinkedIn users leverage storytelling to push their professional agendas. Whether it’s in the form of “mini blog posts” sharing opinions and advice, full blog posts, or videos, tie your professional purpose in with personal storytelling for the most successful networking.
If you have a very visual business and you offer tutorials, or you do a lot of blogging, Pinterest might be worth your time investment. Check the activity for your niche and industry on Pinterest before getting too involved.
Google My Business, Google Ads & SEO
Google is exceptionally important for local businesses. If you have a local business and plan to return to a local focus after the pandemic, take this opportunity to update your Google My Business account. Even if you could theoretically work online with anyone, there can still be advantages to taking a local focus in your marketing.
Google Ads can also be a worthwhile tool for essential seasonal registration. Depending on your niche, the months of September and throughout the holidays leading into January could be good times to run Google Ads. But watch out; they can get expensive—far more expensive than Facebook & Instagram ads.
SEO is also extremely helpful for many businesses but keep in mind that it’s a much longer marketing play. When you emphasize your SEO, you’re planting the seeds now for rewards you might not reap until later. It’s always good to build up your website, which acts as your storefront for your digital offerings. So having content on your website that people are actively searching for can be optimized to help your overall website traffic and potentially your sales. Here are several blog posts I’ve written about SEO if you’d like to learn more.
The biggest mistake I see in many niches is entrepreneurs relying too much on posting the exact same content in too many locations or too repetitively. While cross-posting and getting your message out is important, it needs to be customized and adjusted for each platform. Or sometimes the exact same content is suitable for different platforms but shouldn’t necessarily go out at the same time.
Try to mix things up in both your visual elements, written messaging, and also the timing of your posts so it isn’t repetitive. That way you’ll still be maximizing your free/organic reach as much as possible but it won’t feel so repetitive.
Your Network Needs Reminders
Don’t spam your existing followers with your promotions every day BUT remind your connections reasonably regularly that you’re offering something and that they can learn more about it by joining your group, liking your page, and staying connected with you on different platforms. Remind people in other locations that you have a Facebook group. Remind people to connect with you on LinkedIn. Let people know that you’re on Instagram and that you’re offering a Q&A there or a live video. These are gentle ways to ensure people are paying attention to you.
Soft vs. Hard Selling
Your business page is the best place for straight up promotions, but even then you don’t want to only use it for 100% advertising. Check out what I have to say about content marketing further down in this article. Your Facebook event page is also a good place for more direct promotions, but you can also benefit from mixing in other enticing content.
Your Facebook group should generally be used for a softer sell. The focus should mostly be on conversation, engagement, and a free content (content marketing) to foster a community feeling.
Post to all of your Facebook locations regularly, alongside the other platforms, but try to find fresh ways to get your message out into the community. This does take time and energy, but it’s the best free and inexpensive way to reach people, and it can be worth the energy.
Organic vs. Paid Marketing
I really feel that most instructors and coaches are overestimating the reach they think they’re getting with their current organic posting. Look at your combined connections on your Facebook personal page, business page, group, events, and other accounts. Now keep in mind that a lot of those people are repeats in several locations. Once you look at those numbers and then consider the algorithms, you’ll start to understand that you’re reaching far fewer people. That’s why it’s time to internalize a big lessons:
You need to spend money to make money.
I know, it’s scary to spend money… especially when you don’t have much! But you have to ask yourself how serious you are about this. Are you just waiting for the economy to fix itself? Or are you going to get serious, put on your business hat, and get down to work?
Word of Mouth Is Important But Unreliable
Word of mouth is still the most influential and persuasive marketing out there, but you can’t wait for the people you already know to do all the work for you. That’s essentially what you’re doing when you just post your offering on your existing social media platforms.
You can’t just rely on the people who are already in your network. Start differentiating between organic (free) marketing opportunities and paid advertising. When I run ads in just about industry, I start with $25 to $50 in testing. Then, when I see it’s working, I might spend anywhere from $150 and $500 but while I’m doing so, I’m watching the conversions into sales to make sure that every dollar spent is working towards its purpose. The testing allows me to get specific with both about my audience and the ad creative and copy and every step of the way I watch to make sure that I’m getting the desired results for the ads.
Don’t Just Boost; Use Business.Facebook.com for Advertising
My biggest piece of advice when it comes to ads is NOT to hit the “boost now” button on your posts. It’s a waste of money with limited targeting and reach. Instead, run your ads by creating an account at business.facebook.com. I can’t tell you how many people ignore this advice and then later question their advertising results. They think they’re in the ads manager but they’re getting the watered-down version of the capabilities, not the full dashboard.
Facebook made this really confusing but trust me on this. It doesn’t matter if you’ve run ads before. Go right now to http://business.facebook.com/ and set up your free account. Once you’re in there, connect your page and use the ads manager inside of there, not from your personal page, to access all of the tools. This will make a huge difference on what you’re able to accomplish with your ads! You’ll be able to go to the Ads Manager and access all of the most powerful tools — https://business.facebook.com/adsmanager/
Using the proper business and ads manager will give you a massive edge and you’ll be able to get a much better return on your investment for your ads. You can learn more about the power of running successful Facebook & Instagram ads in this article.
One of the great things that’s great about running these ads is that even if people don’t “buy” your offer right away, if they like your ad you’ll have the opportunity to invite them to follow your business page. This will help you stay in touch with them for future ads. And even better, if you’ve installed the Facebook pixel and they’ve visited your website, you can retarget them with follow up ads.
Being well known and having a lot of followers isn’t enough. You need to stay in front of people within your community, and the best way to do that is with content marketing. Content marketing is about telling stories to get people interested in you, your brand, and your offering. It’s different from advertising, which is specifically trying to sell. Content marketing is giving away value for free in order to build trust.
People want to know and trust your brand before they buy from you. They desire storytelling that connects you with them on a very personal level. Your potential clients want to know that you value them; when your potential customers feel a positive emotional and psychological connection with your brand, you can establish the trust that they’re craving that will allow them to spend their money with confidence.
These feelings are complex, especially because they’re not usually conscious.
When you give away value on an educational, entertaining, and personal level, you’ll earn more brand familiarity and trust. Once you’ve built that trust, that’s when sales can be made.
On the one hand, you need to give away certain value for free as part of your content marketing. But not too much, since you’re also trying to make a living. This is where social media is a slippery slope because you can go down a serious rabbit hole where you’re creating loads of time-consuming content without seeing a monetary return on that investment.
Your Efforts Must Generate Real Income
Be Clear About How Your Free Content Is Driving Monetization
For a little while I was working with a lovely yoga and nutrition specialist to build her personal brand. She was pouring a lot of time and energy into creating content for social media in the form of videos and recipes. But the monetization wasn’t clearly showing a return on her resource investment. The problem was, it didn’t matter how many followers she had or how recognizable her name was in yoga and nutrition circles if she wasn’t making any money. The avenues to make money were not clearly defined.
Is it a Hobby or a Business?
All this is to caution you against putting too much time into content that you aren’t monetizing into meaningful dollars. You need to use your talent, time, and content to support your monetized offerings. Gaining visibility and building your brand is important to build relationships and awareness for your brand and offering. Some generosity with your content is beneficial, but there’s a line you need to keep an eye on.
Whether you’re making cool videos, sharing fun personal stories, writing blog posts, or creating free content in other ways, ultimately, you need to figure out how that’s leading to your financial sustainability.
When you share a blog post you wrote on Facebook that drives people to your website, you can softly remind people about your offer in your article. Or include it in your sidebar where they’ll see it while reading the free content. Cautiously consider a pop-up to have website visitors sign up for your newsletter. Follow up with your website visitors who have watched your free videos or read your free content by using the Facebook pixel to target them with ads for your paid offer.
Instagram is challenging because you only get one link—in your bio. You can set up a free LinkTree account to provide multiple link options to remind people about in your bio. One of the advantages of building your Instagram following is that when you reach more than 10K followers, you get access to the “swipe up” feature that lets you drive people to your url of choice.
Content marketing is great because it helps you to sell without being too salesy. It should always be a soft, gentle reinforcement of your offer. But that monetized offer needs to be firmly in place. The whole point of the free content is that it should be adding value and building your visibility to support your financial gain.
Bringing It Home
If you find yourself spending a lot of time making content or giving away your time in other ways and you’re not generating enough money, you need to get real with yourself. Are you creating amazing lessons that only a few people are buying? Are you hosting live events without any monetary return? Where’s the money?
Before you go any further with your endeavour, please check yourself. Is this a business or a hobby? Give yourself a bit of time to test out the desirability of your offer, your monetization, and the full extent of the marketing capabilities that are available to you. But don’t spin your wheels for too long before seeing a return on your time and resource investments. You need to start making some serious money ASAP for this to work, and if it’s not working, it might be time for a different plan. I hope you’ll figure it out and make it work and I wish you every success.