What is Compassionate Marketing?

What I Learned Interviewing Over 150 Coaches And Holistic Practitioners Attempting To Grow An Online Business

Published 8.12.22 by Jonah Richman

In September of 2020, during the Covid stay at home orders, I began a project to interview coaches for marketing research. This was part of my strategy to help me grow my business as a marketing consultant and coach. 

These interviews were not recorded and I promised to keep them confidential so that they could feel safer to be open and honest with me. 

In June of 2022, I completed 150 interviews. Here are a couple of common themes that I heard:

  • Many of these coaches studied social media marketing through YouTube and other free content sources. They were experimenting with posting Instagram content, but were not getting people asking about their services.
  • Others had made investments into programs that claimed to help coaches reach 6 figures, but they hadn’t reached that target. Some of them felt, after signing up for the program, that they were being taught manipulative strategies so they left the program. 
  • Many expressed a strong desire to grow their coaching business using methods that were ethical and considerate of their potential clients. They used phrases like “trauma informed” and “not bro-marketing.”

None of this surprising to me, as it all sounded very similar to my own experience. That is until I went through a shift in the way I think about and practice marketing. 

I began my first coaching business in 2012 offering relationship coaching and teaching workshops on Nonviolent Communication. In my first year I earned just under 10k, just enough to supplement my part time job. 

I was enjoying doing work that felt meaningful to me and I wanted to turn coaching into a full time career, so I joined a program that taught strategies for earning 6 figures a year.

I felt uncomfortable with some of the strategies and ideas they were teaching me, but I figured they knew better than I did so I did everything they taught me. 

My main offer at the time was a year-long program on Nonviolent Communication that included 1on1 coaching. 

In my program, I created an environment where people could feel emotionally safe to do deep hearing work, but the way I was selling the program was not safe. One of my most loyal students told me that she felt embarrassed bringing her friends to my free introductory workshops, because I was “hard selling.” Unfortunately, at the time, I shrugged off her concerns and kept marketing doing things that way. 

I also decided to stop ignoring my concerns with their methods. I searched for coaches who were able to build successful businesses without using manipulation and hype. 

I decided that I was going to ditch all marketing and sales tactics that didn’t align with me anymore and see how it goes. While this felt risky at first, I’ve experienced only a small but temporary drop in income. Then it picked back up and I’ve experienced consistent business growth ever since.

Here’s what over 10 years of being a coach has taught me: Us coaches and holistic practitioners don’t have to give up our values in order to have a successful business. In fact, we’re better off if we don’t.

In the rest of this article I’m going to explain an important difference between the way that I market my business, which I call Compassionate Marketing, vs what I was originally taught.