Monthly Archives: July 2017

Someone carrying a bunch of tulips

Can Coaches Halt the Decline of Caring?

We hear a lot about the troubled history of capitalism but perhaps should be more concerned about the decline of caring, especially as coaches or consultants.

There is no need to worry about capitalism.  It is in fine health and is likely to be until a nuclear holocaust or catastrophic ecosystem collapse.   So-called anti-capitalist movements are on close inspection, different approaches to how we practice capitalism.

This blog advocates co-operation (scroll down to item 5), where capital is owned collectively.  The Soviet Union practiced state capitalism.  People do not have to own capital; it is still capital whoever or whatever owns it.

Western capitalist democracies advocate private ownership.  On closer examination, this is not always what its advocates claim it is.  Does salting huge sums of money in accounts offshore in the name of various corporations really count as private ownership?

Coaching and the Decline of Caring

I’m more concerned about the decline of caring.  And by this I mean trends accounted for by denial of the needs of other people.  Businesses ignore these trends at their peril because businesses that don’t care cannot thrive.  Decline of caring is particularly challenging for coaches and consultants.

I don’t plan to write about the role of major caring professions such as health, social services or education.  I oppose their privatisation because it is not possible to deliver these services through private enterprise.  If you don’t believe me, look at health services in the United States.  Governments should offer a well-funded, universal safety net.  There will always be gaps in provision to be filled by private enterprise or voluntary sector projects.

Businesses that don’t care may have a short-term advantage but most businesses, if not caring from the outset, soon understand there is money in genuine caring.  Coaches must base their business on genuine care for their clients.  The client takes on the coach because they need help with some issue.  The coach must care about the issue because failure is as much theirs as their client’s.

The problem is most business models focus on income generation at the expense of business purpose.  The coach who does not aim for significant change for the better, is unlikely to offer a credible service.

Circulation or Accumulation?

As soon as businesses understand their role is to keep money circulating in the economy, they see caring is important.  Damage to local economies and ultimately to community happens when there is less money in the economy.   Money circulating is common wealth, available potentially to everyone.

Nobody setting out in business as a coach, consultant or freelance, will make much difference to their community, however financially successful their business becomes.  But together many small businesses can make a massive impact.

It can be hard to see this impact because it is hard to attribute change in a locality to one particular business.  Sometimes we don’t know what to look for.  Maybe we must say, “We did this” and not “I did this”.  How can coaches increase awareness of their contribution? How can they use their outcomes to market their business?

Starting next week, I shall take three aims every business should have: purpose, financial and lifestyle and show how they can be aligned with your offer, marketing, clients and wider community.

Visit my new website, Market Together to sign up to my list so that you don’t miss any posts and hear about the exciting plans I’m working on to promote an alternative approach to marketing.

Please comment and let me know what you like about this post.  What would you like me to write about further?

random assortment of objects arranged to illustrate bricolage

Slow Down Your Marketing for Clarity

Clarity communicates and the first person to benefit from clarity is you!  If you are clear, then your message shall be clear to everyone who hears it.  This takes time and so I’ve devoted this and the next 2 posts to the benefits of slow marketing.

(This is the seventh of 12 posts based on my new website, Market Together.  Go there to find previous posts.)

Who else benefits from clarity?

  • First and foremost, your market. They need to know you are speaking to them, understand their problem and have a credible solution to it.  If you are not clear, you are likely to switch them off.  Once off, it will be hard to switch them on again.
  • Your customers, past and present, may be able to promote your business but they need something clear to help them. Clarity helps them write testimonials or speak about your business.  Don’t assume they understand your offer, you must do the thinking and share it with them.
  • Other businesses, especially where there is scope for collaboration. If your partners struggle to understand your business, the chances are they will be unable to help you.
  • Other people who ask about your business. Not everyone who asks about your business will be in your target market or a business collaborator.  But if you have a brief account of what you do they can understand and remember, then they may occasionally put you in touch with people in your market.  They won’t totally get what you are about but sometimes the random connection pays off.

What Do You Need Clarity About?

You need to be clear about your business and to do that you need to validate it.  Validation is where you systematically, review the main elements of your business.  The circuit questionnaire is one way to do this and helps to clarify 5 elements of all businesses.

Many business owners do not really think about their business as it is and embark upon marketing something they do not themselves understand.  Taking the time to really get to grips with your business “as-is” is valuable time spent; time often swallowed up with the day-to-day pressures of running a business.

It is likely you know more about your business than you realise.  To take time to think about your business systematically, will help you bring aspects of it to your conscious mind that otherwise pass unnoticed.

Using the Circuit Questionaire

The circuit questionnaire covers five elements:

  • Your brand
  • Your products and services
  • The problem your market experiences
  • Your solution to this problem
  • Your market

If you are clear about all five, you have a viable business.  You may be able to improve on one or all of them.  You cannot improve on these aspects unless you know what they are now!  To improve one element is likely to improve the others.

You may be able to introduce improvements without validation but you are likely to add random bits on.  Bricolage is the word used for art created from whatever is to hand.  Without validation, you are likely to build a monstrous business that makes little sense to the onlooker.  With validation, your bricolage shall be more coherent and make sense to others.  There is virtue using what comes to hand but the key to success is being able to integrate new ideas into your business, not just add on another bit for the hell of it.

Clarity is empowering and so in my next post I shall explore what you can do with that clarity.

In these posts and emails I am forging a new approach to marketing.  Please comment and let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree.

To make sure you see everything, complete the form below to go on my mailing list.  You’ll get notice of future blog posts and receive my Thursday emails.

duck swimming at speed

Are Your Prospects Prepared to Take Action?

People on step 1 of the awareness ladder know they have a problem.  To move to step 2, they need to be aware of solutions to their problem.  Are your prospects ready to take action?  (This is a post from the circuit questionnaire sequence, fourth element – Problem.  I omitted this post from the problem sequence by oversight a few months ago.)

Preparedness to take action leads to an active search for solutions.  People need to know there is likely to be more than one solution to most problems.  They need education to avoid the dash to the first solution to hand.

A Case Study

Here’s a case study.  An organisation had a very poor website.  Based on old-fashioned technology, it looked dreadful and did not begin to market their services.

They knew they had a problem and acted out of ignorance.  They went to a website designer.  He was the person who serviced their IT systems and produced a technical solution.  Not interested in the organisation, he knew nothing of marketing.  Indeed he was actively sceptical of marketing.  They now have a website that looks superficially better.  It does not use the latest technology, it looks dreadful because it is poorly maintained and still does not effectively market their services.

The big difference is they have wasted several thousand pounds on a system that can never serve their needs.  They have learned nothing from their re-design and continued ignorant of how their website and the Internet can support their business.

This is not uncommon when it comes to websites.  Indeed, it is not uncommon when it comes to business in general.  You may be brilliant at delivering your service or product.  But you are wasting your time if you can’t sell it!

Anyone in business needs to learn how to market it.  Are they ready to take action?

Will They Pay to Solve the Problem?

If prospects are willing to pay, you have a market.  There don’t have to be many to make a viable market but there needs to be enough.

The big problem with marketing, including websites, is many people resist sales and marketing; they really don’t want to go down that road.

But it is the only road in town!  There are many options available to those who set out on that road.  Many people have set views about marketing and sales.  They don’t understand marketing as education or sales as communication.  They have an image of pushy sales people and don’t see their offers as their contribution to the world’s benefit.

The truth is there are solutions that don’t work this way; they need to be learned. Usually, to get the practice you need, some type of mentoring helps.  An initial outlay to get yourself orientated in the marketplace is worth every penny.  The alternative is random activities that can cost a lot more in time as well as money.  I tried many things before I found approaches that really helped.

Resistance like this is not restricted to marketing.  Dieting and exercise is not something that appeals to everyone who is overweight.  Indeed the idea of exercise used to put me off because I was so heavy.  Now I start to get twitchy if I don’t get out and walk!

Usually, if you have a problem, you need to own it and bring the solution into your routine.  Most people need help to do this.  More accomplished people recognise they need help and are willing to pay for it.  They know they can save a lot of time with the right support.

So, I know I have to pay for help with some problems and I can get by without help for others.  This puts me in some markets and not in others.

How Much Can You Charge?

There are many factors to consider:

  • The urgency of the problem
  • The benefits of finding a solution
  • The qualifications of the person offering the solution

Perhaps the most important thing to understand is you’re not offering information.  These days people find information online.  Your role is to curate information; that is organise and interpret it.  It is to support your clients as they experience using information and for accountability.

If you are known for doing these things well, you are likely to do well.

Let me know if you find this post helpful and where you would like more information.

Apple handed over at fruit stall

Market Together for Mutual Support

Sharing specialist skills becomes possible as trust develops between businesses.  They may meet specifically for mutual support or else they may have a common interest, such as sharing a building.  This post takes this further and suggests possibilities for closer collaboration.

Giving and Receiving Mutual Support

I almost left the word “mutual” out of the title of this post because it is possible for support to be one way.  A carer offers support and may receive little in return.  A business-owner might offer support to another business out of friendship or to a relative and not seek anything in return.

There’s no problem with one-way support but it is not the topic of this post.  Mutual support is the point, the goal, of collaboration.  The idea is all businesses that engage in collaborative marketing benefit from their work together.  There is no guarantee of success, of course but the aim is to find opportunities for mutual benefit.

Imagine a group of businesses have worked together for a period.  They have viewed each other’s marketing campaigns and provided feedback.  They have exchanged specialist skills and assisted each other with aspects of their marketing campaigns.  Now they are ready to launch.  Are there possibilities for mutual support?

This will depend on the nature of the group.  Similar businesses may have a lot to offer each other but may compete for similar markets.  Very different businesses may not compete but their markets may not be relevant for all the businesses present.

How Support Works

Ask each other: how can you help get my message out?  Pool ideas in a positive way.  You are seeking win-win strategies.  Here are a few possibilities:

  • Shared mailing lists – this is possibly the most straightforward possibility. Each business prepares an email and the others circulate it to their mailing list.  The message should include a link to a landing page so that if someone responds from one business they can sign up to show interest in another.  If someone has a few hundred people on their list, only a few are likely to be interested in another business.  If they can opt to sign up for the new business’ list, they can receive emails from the new business too.  A note from the original business may help if the people on their lists trust them.
  • Recommendations – circulating an email to people on your list recommends another business. The email could include a request to recipients to pass on the email to people they know who may be interested.  But recommendations can happen informally.  Most people can carry a few flyers for a few favoured businesses and make referrals when there are opportunities.  There are many variants on distributing printed material such as flyers and posters.  Discuss possibilities together and get beyond asking people to carry them around to pass out as they see fit.
  • Joint ventures – affiliate schemes may be possible, where each business receives something in return for every business that signs up through their contacts. Other possibilities might be special offers from the other businesses when someone signs up for one of them.
  • Joint packages might be another possibility. Here two or more businesses offer the same package as part of their portfolio of packages.  If the customer opts for the joint package, the participating businesses collaborate for its delivery.

Isolation and Collaboration

In-depth exploration of mutual approaches to marketing can be rewarding.  Marketing a business is always hard work and made harder by the isolation many business owners experience.  Collaboration helps find support short of employing staff.  Even with staff, collaboration with other businesses is still valuable.

Marketing is always risky but there are steps you can take to reduce risk and use time and money effectively.  A lot depends on being able to identify opportunities and move swiftly to take advantage of them.  This becomes easier if you have done the foundational work on your business.  Paradoxically, to increase speed of business growth you need to slow down your marketing.  Next time: the power of slow marketing!

In these posts and emails I am forging a new approach to marketing.  Please comment and let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree.

To make sure you see everything, complete the form below to go on my mailing list.  You’ll get notice of future blog posts and receive my Thursday emails.


Do You Care for Your Target Market?

In this final post of what has been a very long sequence exploring the circuit questionnaire, I shall tackle perhaps the most important question: how do you care for your target market?

In a sequence running alongside this one, I argue the need for re-enchantment of marketing.  It is through our enthusiasm, our passion, for our offer, our market and the wider transformation that results from our work, we contribute something positive.  Follow the sequence on my new website, Market Together.

Marketing is an opportunity to be creative with our offer and the skills we bring to bring a real difference to prospects and other listeners alike.  It is ultimately a spiritual discipline, contemplating the world we encounter and intervening to meet the needs we find there.

In a world obsessed with finance and the decline of capitalism, we witness the decline of care for others.  This is clearly true for caring for those who are disadvantaged but erosion of care affects everyone.  Without care we lose the essential ties of community and everyone suffers.

Care for Your Target Market

You can show care for your target market before, during and after you spend time with your client.  At all times, they are your first concern.  If there is a bond between you, the chances are your client will respond positively to your guidance and achieve what you promised when you made your offer.

Before the Deal

It is important to show not only you understand their problem but have some sense of how it feels.  You share in their experience to some degree.  This does not mean you must experience exactly what they experience but you show you understand and empathise with what they are going through.

This can be done through marketing; using stories and testimonials to convey your experience of the problem.

During the Deal

First, you are there to listen.  This is your prime objective.  Most people don’t have an opportunity to be heard in the working life and simply need space to think things through.  Your role is to structure that space and make sure your client keeps moving forward.  What moving forwards entails will depend on your offer and their needs.

It is also a good idea to over-deliver.  I stipulate session length in my formal agreement and usually allow more time if necessary.  I can bring the session to an end on time if I need to but it helps to be flexible.  Also, offer unannounced bonuses.  These can be relevant to your offer, eg a book, or some gesture, perhaps lunch!

After the Deal

Follow up and show you are interested in the progress made.  I have had several coaches who have not got back in touch.  This damages them in three ways.  First, they cannot find out how effective their coaching has been months and possibly years afterwards.  This is valuable information lost to them.

I would be much more likely to buy again from a coach who is interested in me.  Some coaches come over as money-making businesses who just care about delivering their packages to as many people as they can.  If they have a great reputation, they can get away with this but for most coaches, probably not.

Finally, I am less likely to recommend a coach who I don’t believe really cares.  For most coaches, referrals are an essential means to find new clients.  Testimonials are likely to be more detailed and insightful and referrals more likely.


Does care for your clients have to be genuine?  Empathy can benefit your business and so perhaps it may seem it does not.  Make it seem genuine and you might get away with it.  I’m not convinced by this because your true feelings are likely to find expression however you attempt to disguise them.

There are things you can do to show you care.  It is always a good idea to make sure they are part of your routine.  Work out some way of showing you care, schedule it and use it!  This is not about some sentimental effusion of emotion.  It is about showing you share a concern and committed to helping; that you are reliable.

Your routine practice will ring true if you do really care.  Act as if you care and you will find in time you do.  The benefit of caring is mutual.  Why should it be any other way?

Please let me know if this is helpful and if there are any points I could expand upon.

Cartoon 2 business women implies mutual benefit

Market Together to Share Specialist Skills

Last Wednesday, I opened the topic of collaborative marketing.   I explored feedback and suggested there is real value to your business when you offer feedback to other businesses and receive feedback from them.  As relationships deepen, it is possible to offer specialist skills.

Giving and Receiving Specialist Skills

It may be you would ordinarily charge for specialist skills.  But is it right to charge a group that offers support for your business in exchange for support for theirs?

The principle in such a group, is to offer specialist skills without charge.  By all means, if you commit a lot of time to helping someone, point out the costs in moving focus from your business to their’s.

The aim of collaboration is mutual benefit for all involved. The priority is to each person’s business first.  The ethic is one of self-interest.  I help you because in doing so, my business benefits.  Businesses work together for mutual benefit.

No-one needs to keep detailed records about what each person does for each other person.  However, there will from time to time be work that comes up that requires substantial commitment of time and resources.

So,  get agreement from collaborators about how to handle big jobs.  This can be by exchange of services, paying perhaps at a reduced rate for services or referral to someone outside the group.  There is probably no need to have hard and fast rules but it helps to know what the options are.

Why Specialisation Works

So, why does sharing specialist skills work?  This happens where trust grows in a group, so its members commit to supporting each other’s businesses.  These are informal arrangements that fall short of joint ventures.

  • Sharing skills is an opportunity to develop new skills. Imagine there is a demand for a particular skill in a group.  Maybe one member of the group sees an opportunity to support their own business by learning the skill.  It is an opportunity to practice new ideas.
  • You may find people in your group offer specialist help you have never considered using for your own business. If they offer something you have not considered, you need to apply the test: is this something of potential value or a distraction?  Listen to what they say.  They know their method and may see opportunities in your business that you can’t see yourself.   So, be ready to receive specialist help, even if at first you don’t see its relevance. Which leads into the next point:
  •  Collaboration extends experience.  It is not just narrow benefits added to your business but new possibilities from extending your experience as a business-owner.
  • If you can provide business support for co-business-owners, they can provide social proof by showing others what you can do, writing testimonials and when they speak to others about your business. High quality opportunities to show what you can do can be really valuable.

Sharing skills requires a degree of trust.  People need to know they are not wasting time but also need to be confident they can leave you to prepare something to help their business.  As trust grows, it becomes possible to go further and provide increasing support for others.

In these posts and emails I am forging a new approach to marketing.  Please comment and let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree.

To make sure you see everything, complete the form below to go on my mailing list.  You’ll get notice of future blog posts and receive my Thursday emails.

Red circle with cross on blue background

Third Party Influence on Buying Decisions

Perhaps one of the least anticipated issues you face when marketing is third-party influence on buying decisions.  I have been in this situation several times.  My prospect arrives at the point of sale and then announces they need their spouse, employer or committee chair to agree to the deal.

The problem is you are sending your prospect into a situation where they have to sell your offer to a third-party who has never met you.  Almost invariably, the answer is “no”.

Third Parties

The first question is: who are third parties?  These are people who have a veto over your prospect’s decision.  So, this would not include business owners, who recommend you or hold a grudge.  They exist and prospects may listen to them but they do not have a veto in the sense they can forbid a contract with you.

Broadly, there are two types of veto from third parties: domestic and business.

Domestic vetoes usually come from a spouse or partner.  These are perhaps the hardest people to persuade. If they are not involved in your prospect’s business, they base their decision on unrelated circumstances.   There may also be prejudice.  They may have no concept of commercial rates or not approve of coaching or consultancy for various reasons.  Actually it matters little whether their prejudices are well founded; the problem is you cannot reach them directly.

Remember too, if the prospect has doubts, they may consciously or unconsciously seek a veto from their spouse or partner.

Business vetoes come mainly through line managers.  These may be business owners, middle managers, committee chairs or even whole committees.  Chances of success are better here because it is possible they will see the value of your offer to their business and may have a budget for staff development.  With a culture of staff development, they may understand your offer’s relevance.

Prospects may play this card because they need a reason to delay their decision. So, be alert to the reason the prospect is seeks to postpone their decision.

What’s to be Done?

Try to get a decision at the meeting.  If the veto is really an issue, they may back out later but with a handshake and quick follow-up, with any luck the problem will come to nothing.  I have tried incentives for a quick decision coupled with a clear decision date.  I have not found this approach works particularly well.  Nothing beats a decision on the spot.

So, if the prospect volunteers information about a third-party veto, discuss how they intend to deal with it.

Sometimes it may be possible to meet the third-party.  This depends on what you sell.  If the third-party is in effect party to the deal, include them in the meeting and conversation.  So, if you are network marketing utilities, speak to both partners.  If you are selling something of benefit to a business, ask to meet with all the relevant people.

If you can’t meet the third-party, you will depend on the prospect to market your offer to them.  How can you help?  Can you speak to the third-party on the phone?  Are there documents, a story and/or a website that might help?  Agree a date to get back together and wait for the prospect to cancel!  Provide all the support you can manage and then write it off.  If by some miracle the deal comes through, the chances are the prospect really wants it and so makes sure they get the result.  So, make sure they do really want it.

Who Pays?

One final point for business third parties.  It is always possible the prospect could pay from their own money.  Many people say they don’t have the money. You are on far more certain ground discussing how they can pay than gambling on the whim of an unknown third-party.

At all times be professional and resourceful.  A prospect impressed by the way you handle this, is more likely to buy!

Please let me know if this is helpful and if there are any points I could expand upon.

Shadows of 2 people in conversation, with arrows showing the flow between them.

Marketing Together Generates Feedback

So, you have three strategic objectives: your business purpose, financial purpose and lifestyle purpose.  These will set your feet on the right road, so now the question is whether you travel your road alone or with others.  To travel with others means you have opportunities to give and receive feedback.

Giving and Receiving Feedback

Most of the time, while I’m giving feedback on others’ websites or marketing, part of me is wondering why I don’t follow my advice!  It is always easier to see other people’s faults, far more clearly than your own.  So, giving feedback can sharpen your act!

Receiving feedback can be enlightening too but not always so much as giving feedback.  Mostly people give feedback by offering a solution.  Usually, you need to understand the problem and not be distracted by someone’s solution.

Say you get feedback about your website, like there are too many words or a heading is not legible.  Even something as simple as this demands an answer to the question: what exactly is the problem?  Try to steer the conversation towards defining the problem the reader perceives.  They may not understand something you’ve written, so find out exactly what they don’t understand.  What might initially appear to be too many words, may mean a search for the right words.

Once the problem is clear, you can move the discussion onto what solutions may be possible.  Note there are always several possible solutions and the first one you think of will not always be the best.

Remember it is your business and your decision.  Get the most from feedback by taking time to step back and understand the problem.

Why Feedback Works

You need to spend time understanding the feedback you receive.  Assuming your feedback is helpful, what accounts for its positive value?

  • People bring different life experiences to the conversation. They see things in a different way to you.  If they are in your target market their views may be of more value than those who are not.  However, do not discount insights from anyone.  Anyone by entering a conversation about your copy, might bring some new insight to the table.  Don’t assume it’s worthless.  Anyone who is not you, can potentially bring a new insight, something that has never crossed your mind.
  • As you spend hours carefully preparing copy for your marketing campaign, it is possible to lose perspective. Insights from someone who is not so close to your work can be valuable.  Some basic assumption you have made might conflict with success of your marketing.  Someone who doesn’t understand your work is not necessarily being obtuse.  Find out what they struggle with and discuss how it can be made clearer.  Maybe you need to say something obvious!  The person you speak to may not “get” your business but the conversation may reveal volumes about how they perceive your marketing.
  • And of course, argument leads to transformation. An intense conversation, can lead to deepening insights or completely new ideas.  Someone from a completely different business to yours might open up an entirely new way to look at your business.  This revelation may be as much of a surprise to them as it is to you.

So, you see feedback can be valuable whether it comes from someone who is new to your work or familiar with it.  It is up to you to listen carefully and engage with your critics.  Feedback done well builds trust and this may open up new possibilities for specialised support.

In these posts and emails I am forging a new approach to marketing.  Please comment and let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree.

To make sure you see everything, complete the form below to go on my mailing list.  You’ll get notice of future blog posts and receive my Thursday emails.

Hammer laid on wood surrounded by bent nails

Do Prospects Want to Implement Your Solution Themselves?

There are three possible answers to the question:  do prospects want to implement your solution themselves?  They do, they do not and they may need help.


The do-it-yourself option (DIY) may be the cheapest and it can be the most time-consuming for the client.  This option assumes they have a degree of prior knowledge or experience and so with instructions, they can work it out themselves.

So, take website design as an example.  The client knows how to build a website.  Their problem may be they are less sure about the design.  They can implement any design but need help to draw up their design.

They may need a few conversations but then they can get on with the job on their own.


The done-for-you (DFY) option is usually most expensive and saves the client’s time.  There will be a higher expectation of quality.

For a website, the client provides information about what they want and the designer does the work.  To do a good job the designer needs high quality information from the client, while the client will typically want to spend as little time as possible on the website.

To get the best from a DFY offer, it is important the client takes responsibility for the work.  They need to provide clear instructions and be ready to discuss each iteration with the designer.  This is rarely an arm’s length arrangement.  DFY can save time so long as the client can spend some time on the work.


The done-with-you option (DWY) is a half-way house between DIY and DFY.  The idea is the client will learn how to design a website by working alongside the designer.  This is the time the DFY option saves; the DFY client usually does not want to spend time learning how to design a website.

DWY is mid-way between DIY and DFY in price and likely to take up more time.  The money spent on this option may save money on future websites and will certainly mean the client knows how to maintain their site.

Both approaches have their limitations and sometimes limitations can be beneficial.  The link is to a post that explores these limitations in more detail.


There is no right or wrong decision here.  It depends on what the client thinks is most important.  DIY saves money and DFY saves time.  DWY enhances their skills and increases their understanding.

Please let me know if this is helpful and if there are any points I could expand upon.