UFYB 204: ELEVATING THE COACHING CONVERSATION BY EMBRACING COMPLEXITY IN YOUR MARKETING
If you’ve been a listener of the podcast for any length of time, you’ll know that my approach to thought work strays from your average life coach. I’m committed to elevating the coaching industry, which I believe requires an understanding of the bigger world and all the different systemic oppression most of us live under, and this is something I’ve been diving into with my friend and colleague, Simone Seol.
So, Simone and I have decided to create a limited series podcast called Outside the White Box: Elevating the Coaching Conversation. We’re bringing you the full first episode right here, and we’re talking all about embracing complexity in your marketing. This podcast is not just for coaches, but for anyone who loves nerding out on coaching, and especially so if you’re a little bit skeptical about the industry.
Listen in this week if you have a deep hunger to know more about coaching as a descendant of other intellectual traditions, and you feel the need to be a more well-informed coach. We’re showing you the fine line between marketing with simplicity and clarity without dumbing it down, and why this is the key to up-leveling your business.
If you want to get notified every time we put out a new episode of Outside the White Box, text your email address to +1-347-997-1784, and when prompted, reply with codeword OUTSIDE THE BOX. Or click here, and we’ll send you a link to the episode in your inbox!
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What You’ll Learn From This Episode:
- Why Simone and I created this limited series podcast.
- How you can benefit from this podcast, even if you’re not a coach.
- Why there’s a need for a new way to think about marketing in the coaching space.
- How marketing is often based on the insecurities we’ve absorbed from our socialization.
- The balance that has to be struck in marketing simply without dumbing it down.
- What is required of you to be able to convey a crystal clear message about what you and your offers are about.
- The detriments of marketing in the framework of one problem with one solution.
- Why you can make money without having to present an image of perfect certainty.
Listen to the Full Episode:
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Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome to Unf*ck Your Brain, the only podcast that teaches you how to use psychology, feminism, and coaching, to rewire your brain and get what you want in life. And now here’s your host, Harvard Law School grad, feminist rockstar, and master coach, Kara Loewentheil.
Okay chickens, I am so excited about what you’re going to hear on the podcast today. So if you have been listening to this podcast for any amount of time, you know that the way that I think and teach about thought work is not your average life coach.
We’re not talking about manifestations, we’re not talking about vibrations, we’re not talking about keeping our vibes high. We’re not talking in generalities at all. We are really both talking about very concrete coaching tools and skills that you can learn to improve your life, but we’re doing that in a way that acknowledges the context of the bigger world and that acknowledges all the different systemic oppression that most of us live under in various different ways, in one or more marginalized identities, most listeners of the podcast at least, but without giving in to feeling like a helpless victim of the world and still empowering ourselves.
And I think that the fact that I had such a varied career and intellectual education really is part of what makes me able to do that. And I’m so really committed to the idea of elevating the coaching industry and the coaching conversation. I really believe that coaching can change the world the way that I do it, the way that we do it.
And it’s really important to me that coaching get to as many people as possible in its full transformative power, which in my belief does require an understanding of the real world that we’re all living in. So this is something I’m really passionate about, it’s something I teach in depth in my Advanced Certification in Feminist Coaching, and it’s something that I talk about with my colleagues and my coach friends all the time.
And so my colleague, friend, also my student in the first round of Advanced Certification in Feminist Coaching, Simone Seol, who is an amazing marketing coach and seven-figure business owner in her own right, she and I started talking about this and we decided to create a limited series podcast that is all about this.
It’s all about how do we elevate the coaching conversation. Why is it important to understand history and social systems and sociology and different cultural backgrounds and why is it important to understand all of the rich lived context that people live in in order to be the best kind of coach you can be?
And it is called Outside the White Box: Elevating the Coaching Conversation because we really want to encourage coaches to not try to coach just in this white box of pretending that everyone has the same experience and all the tools apply equally to everyone in the same ways.
We don’t believe you have to do that to be a good coach and we in fact believe that the more that you are willing to acknowledge your own biases, acknowledge the complexity of the world, acknowledge the complexity of people’s experiences, make room for shared empowerment and non-hierarchical coaching in your coaching relationships, the more effective you are as a coach.
So I got to stop myself because I’m going to record a whole podcast episode length sermon on this soapbox right now. But what we’re doing is publishing this limited series podcast but I want you all to listen to the first conversation.
Because the truth is although we talk about this as kind of coaches who are speaking to other coaches, it’s actually relevant to anyone who gets coached also, to understand how to pick a good coach, to understand why it’s important to pick a coach who has a systemic analysis of the world, who has some grounding in understanding all of the different intellectual frameworks that play out in the real world in people’s lives.
And so if you at all like to nerd out on coaching and thought work, whether you’re a coach or not, this podcast is for you. If you are already a coach, this podcast is absolutely for you and I implore you to listen to it and to listen to all the episodes that you can show up and serve your clients and the world and yourself at the highest level.
And if you’re someone who’s been a little bit skeptical about coaching, I think a lot of people have had bad experiences with the life coaching and wellness industries, and especially people who live in one or more marginalized identities, people who are women of color, who have heard other coaches say that racism is just in your thoughts or something ridiculous like that.
Or fat clients or students or just listeners who have wanted to get coaching but then have been told things like, “Being overweight is a sign that you don’t process your emotions,” or whatever. There are so many different ways in which the coaching industry because of its biases and its blind spots has not been able to reach all the people who need it and would benefit from it. That’s why I’m so passionate about this conversation.
So we are sharing the first full episode with you today. And then after this, we will be releasing and I will be releasing on this podcast little clips from each of the subsequent episodes. So this week it’s our full episode, it’s the first conversation in that series, but after this I’ll just be releasing clips to give a taste, a bonus each week taste of what’s in that full episode.
So if you want to make sure that you get notified every time we put out a new episode and you just want to get a link in your email and have it be really easy, we have made that easy for you. You can text your email to +1-347-997-1784. That’s +1-347-997-1784 and you’ll be prompted for a codeword and you just reply with the phrase outside the box.
Write it normal, like spaces between the words, just like you were texting it to a friend. Outside the box. Or you can visit unfuckyourbrain.com/outsidethebox, in which case it is all one word. Unfuckyourbrain.com/outsidethebox. So you give us your email there and we will let you know whenever we release a new episode and we will send you a link to the episode so that it is super easy for you to listen.
You can also search Outside the White Box on any podcast platform that you use, however you’re listening to this, you can also search for this new podcast and hit subscribe. And obviously, if you want to leave a review, that’s great. We love that too, to help other people see it as well. Alright, without further ado, here’s our first episode of Outside the White Box: Elevating the Coaching Conversation.
Welcome to Outside the White Box: Elevating the Coaching Conversation. Your podcast with two life coaches who have Ivy League educations and vaguely remember some of what they learned. This podcast is deeper than a Tumblr post, but nothing approaching a PhD dissertation.
I’m Simone Seol. I’m Kara Loewentheil and we’re two life coaches who think that the life coaching industry could use a little bit of an intellectual glow-up, but we do not claim to be experts in anything other than the coaching. Don’t @ us with any actual expertise. Keep your actual expertise to yourselves please. We hope you enjoy.
Kara: All right, hello. I wanted to say hello to my chickens, but who knows who’s listening to this. They may not be listeners of my podcast or your podcast. I feel like we should introduce ourselves maybe?
Kara: What do you think? So I’m Kara Loewentheil and the host of the UnF*ck Your Brain podcast, a former lawyer, reproductive rights lawyer and academic, and now a master certified coach. And I coach women on how to identify the ways that socialization has impacted their brains and has impacted their self-confidence and their thought processes and how to liberate themselves from the inside out.
Simone: That sounds so good. I am Simone Seol, I live in South Korea, that seems important for some reason. Because Kara said she’s a former all the things, I was a former tarot reader and an epidemiologist, that also feels…
Kara: I mean, look at those two together. Usually that is not the normal.
Simone: I am the host of the Joyful Marketing podcast and I teach life coaches how to love marketing and be as good at marketing as they are at coaching. So that’s my deal. I’m so excited to be embarking on this journey, a new journey.
Kara: How did I not know you’re an epidemiologist?
Simone: It’s not something I lead with. I talk to my physician coach, friends about it and they’re like, “You never talk about your graduate school degree.” I’m like, “It just never comes up.”
Kara: What do you have, a PhD, a Masters?
Simone: I have a master’s from Columbia.
Kara: Wow. Yeah, you don’t lead with that at all. You’re like, “Let’s start with the tarot.” Apologies to anyone who hears my cat screaming, this is real life here, we are recording from our home studios.
Simone: Cats are a vital part of intellectual life, I’m just saying.
Kara: That’s true. Cats are here to keep us humble, that’s my thought. Today I got recognized at a hotel and then I came home, my cat was like, “I don’t give a shit who you are, I’m pissed.” Keeps us humble. Okay, I feel like we should talk about what the fuck this is. What are we doing?
Simone: Yeah. We are here to elevate, elevate the conversation for coaches.
Kara: You guys can’t see us, but Simone and I both showed up to this podcast recording wearing…
Simone: The exact same thing.
Kara: And we don’t normally have the same style.
Simone: At all.
Kara: At all. We’re both wearing black, she’s wearing a black top…
Simone: Solid black, and I almost never… Solid black top.
Kara: Yeah, Simone never wears black and I wear black a lot, that’s not as weird. But then we’re wearing matching…
Simone: Black tops and red glasses.
Kara: Yeah, we are wearing matching red glasses, except that Simone’s, as usual, are three times as fabulous because she has this collection of giant glasses.
Simone: They’re just huge.
Kara: That’s what we’re here to talk about, glasses. No, so coming from our respective backgrounds, even though Simone’s has been secret – apparently of having gone through what some might call elite educational institutions. But more importantly I think, just having a diverse intellectual background, having studied and worked on areas that require a lot of education and involve a lot of intellectual thought and are very different from life coaching.
Of course, we could fight all the ways they’re the same, but you didn’t go get your Masters in epidemiology thinking, “This is going to be really useful when I’m a marketing coach.” I wasn’t like, “Let me suffer through three years of Harvard Law School and clerking in an appeals court in the deep south so that I could be an amazing life coach. That wasn’t my thought process.
So we have just been talking a lot about the ways in which we think that the life coaching industry is amazing, and also that it would be even more amazing if we, and all of us who are coaches and care about these things, spend some time thinking through the various ways that we can elevate our industry.
I feel like anything I say now, I am trying not to seem like I – this industry. I love the coaching industry, I love coaches. I think coming from my personal background and one of my values is to be well-educated and well-informed, and I think that so many coaches have amazing coaching skills, they don’t necessarily know that much about what are the origins of the tools they’re using and what traditions do they come from? And what is the intellectual background of those things?
Simone: I think that there is a deep hunger to know these things and to talk about these things, and maybe that hunger isn’t even articulated in our minds because we don’t see anybody offering those ideas, right? So that’s where Kara and I are hoping to begin to fill the gap.
Kara: That’s how you know Simone’s the marketing coach. She was like, “Here’s a positive way of saying this, Kara.” And I’m the former lawyer. But yes, the positive version would be, I think that all my knowledge, I feel like, has enriched my coaching and I want that for more people, and I want more people to understand that. And I think in a good way, we’re seeing a push in the industry to be more diverse and equitable and inclusive in very modern ways.
And it almost for me, a part of that is, also you need to understand the history to be a well-informed coach. And I think to take your coaching to the next level, it’s important understand things like historical background and the cultural contingency of some of the things you teach, like what is going to be the same across populations and what might not be?
And who’s your lineage and where are these ideas and practices coming from, right? There’s a lot of whitewashing that goes on of practices from different traditions and you and I guess I should say, we’re not pretending we’re even experts on this, we’re just like, we want to talk about…
Simone: We’re actually experts in none of this, like Kara is an expert in law and coaching, and I’m an expert in coaching and just coaching.
Kara: No, marketing, tarot, epidemiology. Yeah, so this is not two people with the PhDs to back this up, but we are two people who…
Simone: Yeah, we are curious, we are deep thinkers and I know that there are so many other deep, curious thinkers in the coaching industry who are hungering for more meatier conversations on the topics of, where are these ideas from? I think these questions are embedded in our minds.
For example, we just talked about equity and feminism, which are topics that Kara speaks out a lot about and teaches on. That just gets to the theme of morality and moral responsibility and coaching and the theme of moral responsibility and coaching is on every coach’s mind that I know of. Every coach cares about those ideas, but the wider, moral, social, ethical significance of what we do isn’t something that’s necessarily taught in any coaching school that I know of.
And it’s not because coaching schools don’t give a shit, it’s not like they don’t care, but I think the coaching industry is very, very young. The art and science of coaching as something that we study and evolve, it’s just the youngest discipline in the history of the world and being only a few decades old, as far as I know.
And compared to other disciplines like philosophy, psychology – well, I can’t really put psychology next to philosophy because philosophy is so, so much older, but even psychology is, depending on how you count, a couple hundred years old, philosophy, you can say thousands of years old.
And I think the thought systems that undergird coaching are really descendants of these other intellectual traditions, and the way we think about it, and the way we approach it, the way we practice it can only be enriched by more intentionally thinking about where it all comes from.
Kara: Yeah, I think that’s actually – as you’re talking, I’m thinking, okay, actually the point of this podcast is that we want to put coaching in some context. And this isn’t the only context and it’s not all of the context, but it’s some context.
Simone: We’re not experts after the context either.
Kara: We’re not experts of the context, but we know something and it’s some context.
Simone: But we like asking questions that we might not know the answers to.
Kara: To me, this leads into the marketing aspect, which is, I think so many more people in the world would benefit from coaching and be drawn to it, if more of us knew how to talk about it in these contextual ways, right? Because as you said, it’s a very young industry and coaching is often presented in this vacuum as if it just stands on its own, makes sense on its own, applies to everybody in the same way, and you don’t need to know anything about anything other than…
Simone: Displaying out of some corporate boardroom in the 70’s.
Kara: Yeah, or just one person’s brain and it has no – I just imagine it in this white room, there’s just coaching in the middle as if it’s just like spraying Athena from Zeus’s head, just here’s coaching, and you don’t need to know anything else.
And it’s true that you can totally coach without knowing anything else, it’d probably help some people, but there’s such a richer, deeper conversation to be had about coaching. And for me, we talk about this all the time in the Advanced Certification in Feminist Coaching I do, the whole point for me is, how can we teach people to, especially for me, women, people socialized as women, to hold themselves in their full humanity?
To do that, we need to have a little bit of a bigger field of vision about human experiences. So that’s our 15-minute intro on what this podcast is about.
Simone: Also we’re talking about every time we coach another human being, we’re talking about where they came from and where they are now and where they’re going, right? Just in the entirety of their lives, and I think it’s a big responsibility, it’s a lot to hold in somebody’s awareness.
I don’t know, I just think we should talk about all the things that’ll all be relevant in being able to serve, not only whatever that person’s goals are. I think life coaching gets couched a lot in terms of setting goals and achieving goals and creating the results and the outcomes.
And that’s all very good, but then beyond that, we hold the entire person in our minds, not just the immediate, pragmatic circumstances of their lives, but also their inner emotional life and their spiritual life and their physical life that these are all connected. And the more holistically we can look at it, the more layers of what we can look at it, the better we can serve our clients.
Kara: Yeah, and I think that leads us to marketing because – so we’re going to do a couple of different episodes in this series and…
Simone: More than a couple.
Kara: More than a couple. I think we have five. But who knows, we’ll probably come up with five more as we’re going, although you’re going to have a baby at some point, so we can’t just go forever. But one of the things we talked about was marketing because one of the things that Simone and I share in our belief system is that you don’t have to dumb down marketing to appeal to people, right?
And that marketing in the coaching space is so often taught as, yes, you do need to make it clear and comprehensible, there’s definitely a lot of marketing in coaching space that doesn’t work because it’s too coachy or vague, or people don’t know what it means.
Certainly the way I was taught it, there was a lot of this – I agree that you have to show people the result that you’re going to be able to help them create, but it was very focused on, this relates to the thing you were saying about goal setting, it was very focused on, it’s to lose weight, or it’s to stop drinking, or you’re going to have to show them this concrete physical goal, and you have to pretend that you have the secret to it, or you have to simplify. So I have my own thoughts about it, but I’m curious to hear, since you are the marketing expert, what is your take on how we can up-level the marketing aspect?
Simone: Yeah, I think that’s so interesting because I was thinking about this whole, you have to offer the problem and the solution, frame of thinking about it. And I think one really interesting thing about that is that that is predicated on the idea, which you and I, I know we’re going to talk about later, but that’s predicated on the idea that humans are rational creatures that make rational decisions out of rational self-interest, it’s a very modern Western idea.
Kara: And that people want to solve their problems, which, I mean, sometimes.
Simone: Yeah, that’s a good point. So you need to put it in this very linear, reductive way. And like you said, people are way, way more complicated than that. And the thing is, everybody knows – I teach marketing to coaches all day long, every single day, and if you talk to coaches, they know that they are way smarter than whatever they’re thinking of their clients as, or their customers as, right?
So my customers, I think need a problem solution pair because that’s what I’ve been taught, but for me, I buy for a million and a half weird, complex reasons. And it’s almost like not trusting the clients to also be complex creatures with bodies and minds and spirits that buy for all sorts of reasons, because we’re not just rational creatures who are driven towards a solution to a single problem.
And that’s not the only reason we spend money, right? We spend money because we have money. We spend money because we’re bored, we spend money because – we buy because this influencer that we like also bought that same thing, we buy because we had a drink and we were tipsy, we buy because we’re horny, we buy for all kinds of reasons.
And everybody will know that about themselves, that their own reasons are complex, but somehow, we feel like we have to reduce our own client, the people that we want buying from us, to a caricature, this reductive caricature. It’s like give people who want to buy from you more credit, right? You want to show up in more of your complexity and trust that they’re going to show up in their complexity of desire as well.
Kara: Yeah, and I think for me, it’s a lot of – I think there’s this idea of not only are you going to solve a problem and a solution but, this is what all the marketing bros will tell you. It’s that kind of mainstream marketing culture is like – and you basically tell them that their life is terrible now, and then if they solve this problem, it’ll be amazing forever.
And that, I think, is such a disservice to your clients’ intelligence and to the reputation of the coaching industry and to the expectations that your clients come into. It’s like, what I have found to be true is that I can 100% sell something by explaining that it is not going to make their life perfect because they’re a human and they’re always going to feel terrible half the time.
Simone: That is going to boggle so many people’s minds right now. Kara explicitly tells people, “Hey, come buy my wonderful offer, and you’re not going to be happier at the end of it.” And they buy.
Kara: They buy. I do say you might be a little happier. I think that what are all doing really is helping people solve the basic problems in their lives so they can create more interesting ones. It’s like, okay, right now I’m uncomfortable because I literally don’t know how to process an emotion. When I learn how to solve that, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to have negative emotions, I’m just going to be able to set a bigger goal or do deeper work on it.
And I think as a feminist coach in particular to me, so many things that are sold to women, the marketing is based on the insecurities that you have absorbed from socialization, right? So it’s like, “You need to lose weight so you can finally feel good about yourself. You need to find a husband so you can finally feel good about yourself. You need to be a better mom because you’re ruining your kids.”
Like you say, of course every coach we talk to knows they’re doing something more complex and interesting than that, but somehow, we have all been sucked into this idea that the marketing has to be – it’s almost like there’s a difference between simple and dumb, right? Marketing has to be simple in that you need to be clear in what you’re saying, and this is my perspective, you might disagree.
Simone: No, I completely agree.
Kara: My marketing is clear in what I’m saying, in that you can come to it and if you read an ad, it is moving in a logical progression and you understand what the words mean. So it’s not vague, I’m not like, “Come find your inner bliss on the journey of your, whatever, whatever to finally be a butterfly.” People know what I’m saying.
Simone: Some people want to be a butterfly, Kara.
Kara: Some people do, you’re right, I’m not the right person for them. But it’s like, you can express a complex idea simply, in a way that people can understand it. And your marketing does need to be simple, in that it needs to be comprehensible to the average person and explain something in a new way to them, but it doesn’t have to be dumb. We don’t have to pretend that if you just learn my 10 secrets, then you’ll be married in a year and then you’ll never feel lonely again. That’s not what’s going to happen.
Simone: Yeah. I agree. I was thinking about how – I completely agree about the importance of clarity and simplicity. For example, I think I’m in a unique position as a business coach because I teach on business and marketing and I do talk about money, but I think the primary thing that I sell is the emotion of joy.
Having joy in your marketing and people pay me lots of money so they can learn how to have joy. And I think when you come across my marketing, it’s not like, if you buy from me, this thing and that thing’s going to happen, you’re going to make this much money. It’s more complex than that, it’s more intangible than that, but at the same time, it’s very clear. Anybody who meets me, “meets me” in the online space comes across my marketing, has a crystal-clear idea of what I, as a person, what my brand, what my company, what my offers are about.
And I think in order be able to convey that without going into the butterflies and whatever language, you need a disciplined curiosity about how to talk about what you do in a way that’s going to make sense to people, which is not the same as dumbing it down.
I often cite the example of, the greatest marketer that ever lived in the history of humanity, probably at least one of the greatest, has to be Jesus, right? Because he lived and just – he marketing on his behalf lives to this day, has taken over the entire world to colonize the entire world. And he spoke of parables to get people to understand what he was talking about.
But what’s really interesting is that people from the time of his life, they literally died because of what he was teaching, died for those ideas because he was such a good marketer, people were so fucking sold, right? And what he was selling was eternal life, “Follow me, believe in me and you will have eternal life.” And you might get arrested and thrown into a den of lions and die and all of your family might abandon you, but that’s okay because you’ll have eternal life.
First of all, the story there, part of the moral is that you have to trust people, especially people who are interested in life coaching. To yearn for a greater meaning, for a greater purposefulness in their lives that goes beyond just losing 10 pounds and finding a partner, whatever. Getting promoted at work because clearly Jesus didn’t market on any of that and he was still incredibly successful.
Kara: Jesus’ thing wasn’t, how to lose 50 pounds in the Galilean desert like, “Let’s go on a retreat. So we’re going to go into those caves that the monks use and you’re going to…”
Simone: Hold on, where was I going with this Jesus stuff?
Kara: I don’t know. I got very into the whole Jesus parable.
Simone: Listen, obviously this is not about proselytizing Christianity, but I just think…
Kara: That would be hilarious if this podcast turned into secret Christianity proselytization. Because while you were talking, I was like, this is a great example of how your marketing doesn’t appeal to everyone because us Jews were like, “Whatever with your eternal life, we’re not interested in buying this.”
Simone: Yeah, but people who bought into Jesus’ marketing tried really, really hard for two millennia to convert y’all. And so it’s always been that work for a certain type of the population.
Kara: Exactly, but you have to understand your marketing’s never going to work for everybody. Yeah, some of us are just like, “No, thank you.”
Simone: So the point is people do want to buy intangible things, people seek and crave and yearn for a greater purpose and people will pay exorbitant costs, like their own lives, to get what they want, as evidenced by, not only Jesus’s followers, but examples are rife everywhere in history, of people just dying, paying exorbitant amount for what they believe in.
And you can do that, you can create that compelling case for why what you’re offering is so meaningful and why it’s life-changing and why it’s what somebody needs, while also being like, “Okay, so I’m going to tell a story about a mustard seed.” Or whatever. “I’m going to make it clear and understandable to them.” But what did make Jesus such a successful marketer was that there was something about him that when he talked about it, people really believed it with him. It came from an inner conviction, it came from, I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but I’m just assuming.
Kara: I did not predict we were going to talk this much about Jesus honestly.
Simone: Listen, I could actually tell the same story about any religious leader, any cult leader. But the point is…
Kara: Crash right up there.
Simone: Just the point is to think about the efficacy of the charisma, or the quality of ideas that get people to jump on board with something, which is basically what marketing is, right?
Simone: So if you think about that, you can just break out of whatever box of rules you got yourself into.
Kara: Yeah. I think for me, it’s also about the way that I learned it was very – every time somebody asks me to do a marketing avatar, I want to kill myself. Like, “Her name is Jane and she has two kids and she lives in whatever and she buys Kellogg’s cereal.” That never made sense to me and it never worked for me, right?
And the way that I always thought about it was, if my brain is like this, then there’s a lot of other people’s brains who are like this and I can talk to them about what their brain is like, I don’t have to pretend that I know what the details of their life is like.
And I’m not saying that’s better or worse, people have built big businesses doing it that standard way too, but for the people who are like, we all know there are coaches out there who have work that would help people, and it’s not getting to those people because they’re not comfortable marketing in a way that is reductive, or that feels manipulative, or that – one of the huge things that changed for me in my marketing was that I just decided at a certain point that I was never going to do anything that felt like I was doing a bait and switch or like I was never going to do a webinar where I said I was going to teach you how to solve a problem, and then…
Kara: Yeah, exactly. Right, I was just not going to do that. And we’re all taught that, and we all read the same books by the marketing bros that tell us to do it that way. But that always felt terrible and of course, you don’t convert when you feel terrible like that either, right? You are allowed to just explain to people what’s going on in their brain, explain to them how you can help – it both is completely life-changing and will not change some things in your life, and make an offer.
Marketing is just a conversation with people, and I feel like there’s something about that idea of, well you have to offer this concrete problem with this concrete solution. That to me, is very much like that same whitewashed room.
It’s just devoid of context, devoid of history, devoid of cultural significance, right? If you selling weight loss coaching and you are not only not ever talking about genetics, you’re also not talking about the impact of stress on weight, and you’re not talking about how systemic racism impacts people’s weight through stress and cortisol levels. You’re selling this generic blank…
Simone: I think that people have the fear that if they complicate it, then people will be turned off and not want to buy it, which I think is the opposite.
Kara: Yeah. Right. If you complicate it by making it complicated in the sense of not clear, then that’s true, right? There’s just something about when you are marketing like here’s this problem, here’s the solution, and you are not doing it in a way that actually takes into consideration the bigger context, then you can only ever really be marketing to people who have the same exact problem you did with the same exact background and the same exact thought patterns, I think. There’s just something about – I think that coaching is always the worst for wear when it attempts to exist like this, it’s like a brain in a jar, without any of that context around it. I really should have written down what I was thinking.
Simone: No, you’re right, but I think people – listen, if you’re listening to this episode, you have permission to trust your people to be smart and curious, and to be as interested in the complexity of issues as you are. Because I don’t know a single weight loss coach who doesn’t grapple with these issues of socialization, right? I have a client who’s a relationship coach, who coaches single women and she’s very, very aware of the societal pressures that make women feel like they have to be partnered in order to be complete.
And when I coach coaches on their marketing, there’s always this fear of, “Okay, but if I really tell them really what I really think, if I really lay out the social issues there, then what if that interferes with my marketing? What if it confuses them? What if it…”
And I think Kara is such a brilliant example of, when you dare to elevate the level of conversation, when you dare to trust people to be just as smart as you, just as deeply thinking, just as discerning, then you will attract a caliber of clients who really are hungry to go there with you.
Kara: And what kind of business do you want to be marketing? To me, I’m sort of like, “Okay, will I make half as much if I market this way because it is simpler to market the other way? Maybe, but what do I want to spend all my time doing and talking about?” It’s like pretending to be someone you’re not in the dating world and then being like, “Well, now I have a partner who likes this other fake person.”
Simone: It’s super not fun when you’re doing that, right? When you’re presenting as somebody, like a half version of you. And I have to say, I have to take a lot of risks, what feels like an emotional risk for me to show up with all of my complexity of thoughts, because I question capitalism in my role in promoting the more nefarious aspects of capitalism as a business coach. I think about the parts where, in our industry, we’re not serving our clients as well as we could be because we are blind to certain topics.
I interrogate a lot of that publicly, in my podcast and in my teachings, and every time I do, the primal part of my brain’s like, you’re invalidating yourself, you are making things complicated. It would be better if you just had a simple, clear message that you hammered over and over and over again.
There was no room for doubt, there was no room for nuanced discussion, there was no room to even show my own humanity as a teacher and as a creator of ideas, as somebody who has doubts about things, and as somebody who asks questions that are bigger than I can answer right now.
And I made a similar decision as you some time ago, where I decided I would rather be the coach who is modeling what it means to always leave room for doubt and uncertainty because of ideals and values that I hold, rather than project an image of perfect certainty. And I think people pay me more money because of that, I’m convinced.
Kara: Yeah, I was going to say don’t take this as an excuse to make no money in your business because you’re just being so honest and complex. You definitely can make money this way.
Simone: The only thing that’s happening if you’re not making money because, “Oh, it’s so complex and people aren’t buying.” It’s because you can be deeply compelled by your own offer and have nuanced thoughts about it.
I think Kara and I have that in common, we both deeply, deeply believe in the value of what we’re offering and we can debate a million things about it because we’re always trying to make it better. And so if you feel like you’re having trouble with that part, I would spend time thinking about where am I not sold on my own offer? Where am I iffy on the fundamental value of what this is able to create for people, for the right people that I want to work with?
Kara: Yeah. And to bring it to a close, I think we would both agree, I think, that the more honest you are in your marketing, I think the better you set your clients up for success. Often what you hear is, “Well you just got to get them in, and then once they’re in you tell them the real deal.”
Simone: Who are you getting in? And what kind of mindset are they in?
Kara: Right, and what are their expectations? So if you can tell the truth upfront, you might lose people, I am going to lose people who are like, “Nah, that doesn’t sound right, I think if I got the promotion and the baby, I definitely would be happy forever.” And that’s fine, they’re not my client, but you are going to get…
We get so fixated, coaches often I think, think that there’s this fixed pool of people for coaching. It’s such a small industry in the scope of the world, and so many people are not getting the coaching they need because they see this kind of advertising and they’re just like, “What the fuck is this?” It doesn’t speak to them.
So there’s always going to be people that you will speak to by being more yourself. It may be that the kind of clients you got when you were not being yourself, yeah you may not get them anymore, but you’re going to get all the other clients who you will get by being yourself and by telling the truth.
Simone: There is infinite clients, and you will never discover how many of them there are, unless you start to trust that they’re there.
Kara: Yeah. So I think our message is, it should be simple and easy to understand, do not take this as permission to write a 6,000-word Facebook ad.
Simone: No, that is not a good idea.
Kara: Nobody can understand. There is a discipline and a practice and a skill to communicating complex ideas. That is worth it, and that is what you should study with Simone. But I think…
Simone: Different from dumbing it down.
Kara: Yeah. If you take anything from this conversation, it is that you can show up to tell the whole truth, which is that coaching doesn’t solve the problem of being a human, it just makes you more skillful at it and able to spend your time on more interesting problems.
Simone: It’s like going up the hierarchy of needs, right?
Kara: Yeah, totally. Exactly.
Simone: If you’re really concerned with anxiety over how to make your life not suck, you can spend all your energy on that, or you can learn how to manage your brain and then have negative emotions and struggle and fail on your way to creating a truly great life that you really want to be in.
Kara: Yeah, which will still feel shitty half the time.
Kara: Always, right? But yeah exactly, I think we can teach people that – I always say there’s no exit ramp off the human experience, and you don’t have to market in a way that promises that there is to have a thriving business and to help people.
Simone: And you can talk about things like hierarchy of needs like I just did.
Kara: Exactly, you can just name drop some Maslow and no big deal. Yeah. Totally. I love it.
Simone: What are we talking about next time?
Kara: Next time I think we’re talking about history, why it’s important to know about history.
Simone: Oh yeah. Stay tuned.
Kara: Until next time.
If you’ve enjoyed listening to this podcast and all humor aside, you understand that in order to be the best coach you can be, you need a deeper understanding of the history, the politics, the sociology, the cultural framework, and the critical theory that has informed everything we’ve talked about on this podcast, then you’re going to want to check out the Advanced Certification in Feminist Coaching.
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