How to be an annoying coach and turn your potential client way the eff off.

Photo Credit Liz Bridges, Zambia,

Photo Credit Liz Bridges, Zambia,

This morning I received yet another marketing email where the subject line was, "9/15 Consulting Call" - my first thought was, "Crap, did I somehow forget about a consulting client today?? I don't recognize this person's name!" After a quick scan of my calendar, this thought was followed by, "OK maybe this person is trying to schedule with me for the same day, that is odd..."

As I clicked open the email, it started with a warm and personal note to me (or so I thought), "Hi Mari, I've been following your work and love what you do (fill in all of the usual insincere compliments here)", and then...wait for it...this person launches into the standard "blah, blah blah" selling me on how I can book more clients, book more speaking gigs, brand myself like Oprah, increase my visibility, write a best selling book, and increase my income.

Basically this coach could do it all, short of fairy dust, magic wands, and delivering me a size 6 waist line. This was not an email to me. This had nothing to do with me. This person had zero understanding of my work, who I was, or what I needed.

And worst of all, I'd never signed up for her "list."

I feel the same sense of "ick" and annoyance that many of us do when receiving a hooky email like this. And like many of you, I usually just delete and move on with my day. 

However, as this particular email was especially manipulative, and because this was a coach (and coaches, as many of us know and/or have experienced, don't always have the best reputation for integrity), I felt moved to share my thoughts with her, which were as follows:

"Hi (name),

As a busy clinician, national speaker, best selling author, founder of a treatment center with a 3 month wait list, supervisor, as well as a coach consultant who is booked until the end of the year, and one who is known for my integrity and specialization with helping therapists create multiple income streams, and a professional who has owned and operated 3 very successful businesses over 30 years, and a business woman who has created and developed highly profitable passive and leveraged income streams, since you have sent me an unsolicited email on your ideas of how I can be a better business woman, with all due respect, I have some unsolicited suggestions/questions on your approach.

As email tone can be hard to understand, please know that this is shared with concern, compassion, and not an ounce of punitive feelings, however, I do believe in being clear, kind and direct:

1. Where did you get my email? I did not sign up for your mailing list. In fact, I've not heard of you before this email. Gentle reminder that it is important not to spam people who have not signed up for your mailing list. This practice, at the very least, is unethical, and at worst, illegal. And frankly, we coaches get enough heat, let's not add fuel to the fire with this kind of approach.

2. Your subject line implies something different than your email. In fact, upon seeing this my first thought as a coach was, "Is this a client asking for a consult for today?" When I opened it up and read your first words, it felt confusing because you seemed to know me, and then in spite of your initial compliments, from what followed, clearly you do not know me or my work.

3. By not being clear in your subject line, when a person then opens up your email it feels misleading and frankly, shoots your marketing efforts in the foot. It leaves the reader (in this case me) with a feeling of "ick." I would guess that Ick is not likely what you were aiming for?

4. What is clear to me is that in spite of your compliments about my work, you have never looked at my website, nor do you have any sense of who I am or what I do, or have the slightest idea about my schedule or need of your services. Wouldn't it be more honest to simply lead with this?:

Example: "Hi Mari, You and I have never met, and I don't believe you have signed up for my solicitations. If you prefer to delete now, I understand. I am writing because I am a coach who wants to help others in the area of (specialization). Rather than go into all of the details of my work, you can find that information listed here if you feel you need this support (add link). Thank you for taking a moment to learn about me, especially when I realize you must get a lot of email, just like I do. I'd love to learn more about who you are if you would like to share, or even if you have any questions."

5. Why is it important to know your list? Because you are operating from a non-refined list and blasting out to a large group of people, some who will be turned off, many who will delete, and all who will see right through the insincere compliments.

If this is a new marketing term to you, let me help: A non-refined list (where you mass market to a bunch of names that you have built up willy nillly without a sense of your audience) does not draw in your ideal client. Instead, it leaves one with a sense of being tricked into opening your email, and then feeling "sold" too as part of a crowd. No one likes that feeling.

6. Sharing the good work you are doing in the world is wonderful and important. I love hearing about people's work and passion, and I love supporting my clinical and coaching colleagues. However, selling to people who did not sign up to be on your list, or to those who do not have a need for you product, or "pretending" that you know about the person's work, is akin to someone coming to your home early in the morning, knocking on your door, and trying to sell you a product or service you have no need of.

For example: Imagine waking up to an urgent knock on your door (think of this as the hooky subject line), you feel a sense of panic hearing that kind of a knock, so you jump up and rush to open the door, and discover a stranger on the other side saying to you, "Hi (your name), I've been following your career and I respect your talent as a swimmer, you are one of the best! Given this, I'd like to have you sign up for my pool cleaning services."

This is not what the knock implied (the knock implied an emergency or a need). And let's say you don't swim, so clearly this person does not know about who you are because you don't swim and you don't have a pool. You've never had a pool. And you don't want or need a pool. Confusing, right? Frustrating, correct? Annoying, wouldn't you say? Yet, in spite of your initial confusion and growing irritation, the person continues to share all of the details of their pool service, the hours, days, fees and so forth.

What is your choice as a response to this invasion? You can close the door in their face (similar to deleting an email), you can ask them not to return (similar to asking to be removed from their list), you can share that you do not appreciate their approach in a rude way (I would imagine you may get a few rude emails in response to your marketing email here), or you can explain to them why their unsolicited sales approach does not feel genuine, has left you turned off, and suggest something else (what I have done here with you today).

The risk in taking your (my) valuable time to do so is that they may become angry, defended and closed off. But now and then, the salesperson gets it. They ask questions, they take in the constructive criticism, they may own and apologize for their less than stellar approach, they may choose not to personalize, and they may thank you for your suggestions and thoughts. And by doing so, they understand that you may then refer them to a person who does actually swim and does actually have a pool.

And if they are really smart marketing people (or at least willing to learn how to become a smart and ethical marketer), they will publicly praise you (e.g. "I learned something about the importance of refining my list and improving my marketing ethics from Mari Lee, The Counselor's Coach today..."). Why is this important? Because giving credit where credit is due is part of building a trust worthy reputation. Further, they will share what they learned from you to others because they understand that by doing so, they will repair the trust rupture, demonstrate actual authenticity (vs. manufactured) which others will then respond to and want to refer to.

In closing (name), I hope my taking time to share this with you helps refine your efforts. I also know that you will receive this information how you choose. I wish you all the best on your future growth. I love supporting other coaches and clinicians as well. And since our paths have crossed here in my private space, if you would like further support in your business building efforts, please let me know.

 And, respectfully submitted, I'd like to be removed from your mailing list.

Kind regards,

Now, I realize that this may feel harsh to some of my readers, and that is OK. I can be a direct boss babe at times and not everyone enjoys that.

However, for those of you who know me (or are in the process of getting to know me), you understand that I lead with heart, soul, experience and integrity. No need to shame or blame a person for their marketing approach bungles as we all start somewhere.

That said, there is a need for experienced coaches and business women to begin to break through some of the bullshit that is being sold as "smart marketing." Until someone (or a lot of someones) is willing to take a moment, take a stand, and let these folks know that this approach is annoying and offensive in a kind and direct way, how will they learn?

The coach who emailed me this morning, while well meaning, seems to be under the impression that this approach is acceptable. As such, I am willing to be the voice in the crowd that says, "This won't work and here is why." She may kill the messenger, or reject this advise, make up a story about my feedback, dislike me, or choose to receive the feedback as shaming. The good news is it is her choice to process how she wishes.

However she receives it, and more importantly, how she moves forward with the feedback is entirely up to her. My sincere hope is that it offers her a new lens and new of charge.

I'd love to hear some feedback from all of you. What are your thoughts about coaches marketing? Have you experienced an email like this?

If so, you are welcome to share below (but please do not name names or point fingers, that's not what we are about in this space).

Kindly and in support (and keepin' it real with respect and compassion),