In this short post, I look at the language we use in marketing, whether we need to rethink it and a few tips on how to write ethical copy for coaches and healers.
Are you hammering your message home?
Should you be?
Marketing is littered with inhumane metaphors:
Hooking a client
Nailing a customer
Putting prospects through a funnel
Pushing a pain point
Netting a client
This might sound trivial but are we really in the business of fishing, lassoing, capturing or hunting for humans?
It makes it look more like a war between them and us. Like our prospective client has the money we want and we'll do what we can to get it out of their pockets, all the while sniggering behind our hands about having outsmarted the competition in the process.
I don't know about you but that sounds a bit shitty to me.
If we're in the business of nurturing, healing, supporting, guiding and nourishing our clients then surely we need to rethink the phrases underpinning our marketing methodologies and strategies. What do you think?
We're all healers in this sector. I don't care if you're the most secular business coach to have ever sat in a swivel chair, you're a healer. Even if you engage zero woo, you're repairing something in your client's life: whether that's their unhelpful thoughts regarding success and abundance or how to create a business plan and manage cash flow. You're in this to help other humans and that makes you a healer, albeit an unconscious one.
I work with responsible practitioners every day: people who've studied hard, become accredited, update their training and knowledge all the time, and who are ethical, respectful and conscious in their work. Whether you're a straight-up business coach or a deeply spiritual therapist, I'm talking here about the human healing we all have the ability to offer, every day and in every human interaction.
Where our marketing culture has come from
Delve into a volume like Ogilvy on Advertising by advertising tycoon David Ogilvy and you'll soon find that the advertising industry once inhabited a very different landscape. Peopled by largely white, male creatives, it was part of a huge machine of which regular small business owners like you and me had little part.
Granted, the contribution of the UK advertising industry to the economy is estimated to be in excess of £120 billion or 6.4% of the GDP so it's still big business, but these days with digital marketing bringing opportunity for anyone with a device attached to the internet to create, optimise and post, we're living in an environment where micro-marketing is not just a trend, it's a necessity.
Many of my clients have come from this kind of corporate background, with already well-rounded careers in communication but they talk about how they struggle to express who they are and what they do now that they are a coach. I also come across the confused and perplexed, who wonder why what their fear-focused marketing guru has told them sits so uncomfortably in their stomach.
I think this is because there is a disjoint between traditional marketing and the sector that they now find themselves in.
Tension for attention
According to experts Luke Sullivan and Edward Boches in their guide to advertising Hey Whipple, Squeeze This the game is all about storytelling. No news there. But there's more: 'If you don't have conflict, you don't have a story' we're told.
How does this work? 'Our brains are wired to heed warnings...to be interesting, a story needs both positive and negative forces in play.' the book goes on.
In other words, you highlight the need: perhaps in the form of what may happen if your audience doesn't buy your service or product. It might involve discussing the problems they already have and how you can solve them.
But here is where I believe our industry departs from many others: the people we're dealing with may be fragile and vulnerable. Turning up the volume on their pain as a crowbar to open their wallet seems wrong to me.
So what's the answer?
I'm not suggesting we throw out the rulebook and leave client connections to happen by chance. We still need to strategise our communications but we can tweak our approach to ensure we're working in alignment with sound ethics.
Instead of amplifying pain points, we identify and empathise with them.
Instead of hooking a reader with baseless sensationalism, we responsibly key into their emotions.
Instead of bagging a client with a general heal-all, quick-fix claim, we talk about the specific benefits of what we do and how it will improve their life.
Instead of concentrating on the arrival point, or the outcome, we acknowledge the value of the journey.
Above all, it's not a them and us situation, it's a partnership. Your communication should bridge the divide, not drag them kicking and screaming over it.
Yes, we can use tension to create attention and storytell the benefit of what we do - but we do it responsibly. Poking a stick in a wound is not on. It's never on.
How do I go about this?
As a writer and a writing coach, my specialism is specifically words. Use the specialisms you already have to guide you:
Tune in to how much you already know about the power of language. Whether you're qualified as an NLP coach, an EFT practitioner or you're trained in energy healing, you already know the effect what you say can have on your clients. Sit quietly and connect with the inner mechanisms you use to communicate, relieve stress, bring mindset change and bolster your client's self-love. Allow these to infuse into your writing. Be brave.
Use your powerful language for good. Choose words that uplift, clear blockages and gently shake your reader if you think they need it. Often my clients talk of seismic shifts and thunderclap moments: these are the powerful points we want to capture in words.
Lead with benefit: something that my clients hear me talk about all the time. This doesn't mean that you necessarily always create a perfect, rosy picture but it does mean that when you talk about pain points, they don't become over-inflated or overbearing.
What you love, loves you back
Every client that I work with has their own story. Most have been through burnout, trauma or struggle in their lives and in a compassionate act of human understanding, they're throwing the rope back to haul out those still lost. Each is still on their own journey of discovery and growth and as they learn, they skillfully pass these lessons on to their clients.
The journey, the methodologies, the natural skills and authentic personality mesh together to create a coach or therapist quite unlike any other. Client and therapist have to fit together like jigsaw pieces so that the magic can happen. You're not right for every client and every client is not right for you.
Trust the process.
The clients naturally drawn to you will bring you the most joy to work with. They may also take the most out of you but it'll fill you up.
This may take a degree of bravery but trust me, it'll be worth it. If you'd like someone to guide you through the process or just help you to take the first steps, I can help. Get in touch or book a free chat. I'm here for you.