Un-marketing: unconventional ideas for growing your audience - Coaching Blueprint - marketing for life coaches


Let me guess; the term “marketing” is one part of running a business that tends to give you the heebee jeebies. You know it’s an essential part (ahem, THE most essential part) of running a successful coaching practice, but traditional marketing strategies don’t feel in line with the heart-centered work you’re doing in the world.

Wrapping your brain around selling your services can be really tough. In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have to convince anyone to hire you. They would just see and feel the benefits of your work by interacting with you, and make the decision based on that. (dreamy!)

Back when I started my business 3.5 years ago, I tried marketing myself in all kinds of ways – signing up for coach-client matching services (only got weirdos wanting to hire me for less than I was charging), going in to forums where I thought My People were hanging out and offering free advice all the time in hopes that they would want to hire me eventually, taking out ads on other people’s blogs, you name it. None of it worked. I’m not kidding – a huge amount of effort, and sometimes money, and none of it worked. It just left me feeling energetically spent and even more broke.

When I stopped doing what I thought I was supposed to do to market my business and started doing what felt organic and real, that’s when everything turned around. I can’t guarantee any of these things will work – that depends on what feels organic and real to you – but the following are three ideas for growing your audience that I’ve used to increase my following, build a great online reputation, and establish a Wait List of 1:1 client two months out:

Get out and talk to people

I’m an introvert so this one doesn’t come easy to me. But there are ways in which I like stepping out of my cocoon for short periods and the rewards are massive.

One is travel.

I’m a constant traveler and can often be found living abroad somewhere. Still being introverty, but it gives me the opportunity to meet a wider diversity of people. I don’t talk much about coaching, but I make friends and connections and darlin’ – that’s networking.

Another is to take on a short-term contract doing something similar (but different) to your main business. I like to switch things up because if all I ever do is run my business, my brain goes stale.

For example, last winter I pressed pause on my business and took a four-month contract working as a coach on an Antarctic expedition ship. This allowed me to flex my coaching muscles in a totally different way AND meet some very adventurous, interesting characters thus growing my network organically. Again, friends and connections = larger network.

It’s important to get out and talk to people without treating them like prospects. You have an opportunity to show your value in every human interaction you’re a part of. People gravitate towards you because of you, not because of your professional designation as a coach. This isn’t about being coachy all the time, this is about being a really generous and curious human being and speaking about the work you do with enthusiasm.

Help people you really respect for free

Charlie Hoehn nailed this when he pitched Tim Ferriss with an offer to help make his business more awesome for free. Think about who you love in your industry – surely there’s something in your (multi-passionate) repertoire of skills that could be leveraged to make their life easier. It may be as simple as an introduction to another person you think they’d love.

Ask yourself where you can help other people shine. It doesn’t need to be a Big Name either. When you ask people you respect for their time (soundbyte for a blog post you’re writing, for example) ask them if there’s anything you can do for them in return. And mean it.

It’s amazing how far a little bit of goodwill will go in the long run. I’ve had someone I helped once two years ago (with a website problem) refer a friend to my website who ended up buying a $4000 coaching package from me. The key when helping people you respect is to not expect anything in return. Help others the way that you would love to be helped when you could use it. The karma gods will have your back.

Hang out in places you really like to hang out – in person and virtually

Marketing isn’t just how you show up in the world, it’s where you show up in the world. The people you need to help are everywhere, not just in Facebook groups related to your field. They’re just like you. They like the same things that you do.

I love knitting, and it’s entirely possible I’ll meet an entrepreneur who needs my help in the yarn shop. I also love craft beer. It’s highly likely I’ll meet an entrepreneur-in-the-making behind the bar serving me cold ones at the local fancy beer pub.

Online I often find myself in a FB forum all about brewing kombucha, nerding out over how healthy my latest SCOBY – symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast – is. (Eww, right?) But really – I’m there because it’s a passion of mine and though it has nothing to do with my business, when people connect with me in there they often find their way to friending me on FB and then eventually end up at my website.

So go…hang out in those Game of Thrones fan fiction forums or the Japanese Paper Shop down the street. Meet Your People.

Allow for synchronicity, kindred spirits, new organic connections. Marketing.

Heather Thorkelson has been a location independent business strategist over at heatherthorkelson.com since 2011, working with entrepreneurs who mesh making money and making the world a better place seamlessly. When she’s not consulting for her clients, she’s either growing her second company – a polar expedition agency – or on a plane en route to some new adventure. You can find her most often over on Facebook and on Instagram