The Middle Way Of Marketing: Let's Talk About Making Money Honestly As A Coach


There's something I've been aware of for a long time in the coaching world that I'm finally ready to articulate.

It's been on my mind more than usual lately since I got this email from one of my coaching friends Peter Rubin. Here's what he wrote:

Hey Greg, I have a question for you. Out of the blue, intuitive hit...
Do you believe that communications get less personal / less meaningful as they scale?
Do you believe that a template inherently lacks heart? Or not? And why?
What is the edge of your practice around scaling and keeping it real?
I have a feeling you have an emotional/energetic answer that would be inspiring to me and to the world.
Peter Rubin

His question reminded me of a similar conversation I had with Jacob Sokol, the founder of Sensophy, about the apparent tradeoff between our scale and depth of impact as coaches.

I've come to SEe Every Online Coach as falling on a spectrum

On one extreme, you have the struggling but caring coach. The one who is trying their best to serve people intimately but refuses to learn and adopt various marketing approaches that would help them grow their business and provide even more value. We'll call them the "sweethearts".

On the other extreme, you have the scammy internet marketer. These are the people you see driving Porsches in their videos, using yellow highlighter on their sales pages, and in some cases making a boatload of money from their programs. We'll call them the "players".

You can see these extremes play out in lots of different ways. For example:

The sweetheart values authenticity. The player values a compelling image.

There is a middle way.

The sweetheart offers only custom approaches (recreating the wheel each time). The player offers a magic formula (based off of one or two tactics that worked for them).

There is a middle way.

The sweetheart drags out relationships with their potential clients for years without ever inviting them to go deeper. The player uses manipulative, high-pressure tactics to close the sale immediately.

There is a middle way.

The sweetheart focuses only on transformation. The player focuses only on money.

There is a middle way.

The sweetheart has a deep impact on just a few people. The player has a negligible impact on many.

You guessed it...there is a middle way.

I also want to point out that there are a number or business coaches who market themselves as heart-based entrepreneurs (to attract sweethearts), but when you actually look at how they operate their businesses, they fall pretty far towards the "player" side of the spectrum.

Here's What It Means To Take The Middle Way In Marketing

The reality is, most people do not benefit from hanging out too close to either end of the spectrum.

But sometimes it can feel very black and white. Like we have to choose one or the other, instead of incorporating the best elements of both.

When it comes to making marketing decisions in your business, I recommend taking the middle way.

For example, I don't think you should try and reinvent the wheel every time with your clients. And I also don't believe in a magic formula. You can build frameworks over time that help shortcut the people you work with and are customizable to them.

The term "middle way" comes from Buddhism and it describes a path of moderation. Instead of viewing things as binary (i.e. I have to sacrifice my integrity as a coach and scale or I'll never make enough money), the Buddha advocated taking a balanced approach.

I believe that marketing doesn't have to be a necessary evil. In fact, it can be one of the best vehicles in terms of helping people achieve their full potential. But only if you do it right.

I'll give you a quick example Of what I mean...

Recently I got to the point in my business where I become curious about using Facebook Ads (up until now my growth has been pretty organic). But there was a problem...

In my mind I had viewed the act of advertising, especially on Facebook, as inextricably linked to the scammy internet marketing contingent. I've worked hard to avoid ever falling into that group.

So even though I recognized that FB Ads could help put me in front of people who would benefit from what I offer and who would never otherwise hear from me, something about it felt off. I couldn't break that connection in my mind.

Here's what I eventually realized:

Facebook Ads are just a tool. They allow you to multiply your message and reach more people who might resonate with it. That message can be an honest one or a dishonest one.

With that in mind, I decided to take the middle way. I hired someone to help me do FB ads and I'm going to do them in an honest way that provides value and brings new people into my orbit. In some ways, this approach has even more integrity for me because I'm not leaving people hanging who I could help just because I have a certain association with ads.

Who do you know that models the Middle Way?

Here are some people in the coaching industry who seem to have done a good job balancing between each end of the spectrum:

This list only includes a few of the people who I follow and have had a personal interaction with. It is by no means exhaustive. And each of these coaches are located on a slightly different point on the spectrum.

If you know of others who are modeling the middle way of marketing, or if you have questions for me about the distinction, reach out and let me know. I'd love to expand the list and start a dialogue about the split that's going on in our industry.

The Bottom Line

If you find yourself too far to one side of the sweetheart-player spectrum, figure out what it would take to bring yourself closer to the middle. And learn from people who have achieved the balance that you're after. That's where your coaching business has the best chance of being both financially rewarding and service-oriented. 

With gratitude,


*Note: There actually used to be a membership site online, mostly for bloggers, called "Third Tribe Marketing" that took a similar stance as the one in this article. The two chief differences here are that 1) I'm speaking specifically to coaches and 2) I believe that these two different approaches are on a spectrum, as opposed to in separate buckets or tribes.