I think we can agree that the overwhelming majority of coaches are struggling to get enough paying clients.
And that the overwhelming majority of coaches don’t read books on marketing and/or client attraction.
Is that a coincidence?
I seriously doubt it.
There’s a belief amongst many coaches that being brilliant at what they do will eradicate any need to market/promote their services.
Can you name any other ultra-competitive industry where that’s the case?
Being good at something is not a marketing strategy.
Your potential clients expect you to be a great coach, that’s merely the bar to entry.
It’s not a differentiator.
There are thousands of good coaches with no clients.
Your success as a coach will be determined by your ability to market yourself.
Today I’m going to share with you some of the best books I have read that can help you get clients.
Note: If you’re more in the mood for reading about self development and coaching, then 30 Self Development Books Every Life Coach Should Read (and one they shouldn’t) may be right for you.
I’ve limited this list to no more than one book by any author because otherwise, the post would probably be called 12 Seth Godin Books Coaches Should Read To Succeed.
With that in mind, you really cannot go wrong by reading any of his material, so let’s kick off 12 Marketing Books Coaches Should Read To Succeed with….
1. This is Marketing by Seth Godin
As alluded to, I could have pretty much picked any of Seth Godin’s books and been confident in the knowledge that you would have loved me for recommending it.
But whereas Purple Cow would help you understand the need to stand out
Tribes the need to focus on a smaller number of followers who love you rather than a lot who think you’re ok.
And All Marketers are Liars explains the importance of storytelling, it’s This is Marketing that wraps everything together.
Seth Godin ran a course called The Marketing Seminar that was purely based on this one book.
I took it twice.
If you’re only going to read one book on marketing (and if you want to succeed, please don’t), make it this one.
He epitomises everything that is right in marketing and never deviates from the line of you build success by always acting with the client/customer in mind and doing the right thing.
This book will give you a broad understanding of what Godin termed in the seminal book of the same name, permission marketing.
Find a niche, build relationships with like-minded people, establish trust and most of all, help people rather than hassling them.
Then you can sell to them.
2. The Clarity Method by Tim Brownson
Oh come on, you didn’t expect me not to include my own book, did you?
As I said in my New York Times full-page ad explaining my virtues, I’m humble, but not that humble.
Core values work has given me more breakthroughs than every other tool I have used combined.
They will help you figure out not just your own core values, but the ones you want to align your coaching practice with.
Core values will give you your why.
And as a coach, you know that your why is crucial in maintaining your focus on the big picture and driving you forward when things get tough.
Oh, and as an added bonus it will help you look like an utter genius when working with your clients to uncover their values.
The Dalai Lama didn’t say it was an utterly brilliant book for nothing you know.
3. Lingo by Jeffrey Shaw
I recently spent a day offering free video feedback on the websites of about 30 coaches who are members of the Coach the Life Coach Facebook Group.
There were a number of issues that kept coming up again and again, but possibly the most egregious from a marketing perspective was the use of language.
And by that, I don’t mean offensive language or poor grammar (that’s my territory), but adopting coach speak rather than using the type of language that their ideal clients would use.
In other words, not using their client’s lingo.
Lingo demonstrates that you must get inside the head of your ideal client and understand what her hopes, fears, frustrations, goals and dreams are.
Not knowing those things means you’re just guessing with your marketing.
Similarly, you must know how she expresses those things (the lingo) if you are to make authentic and meaningful connections.
And you must do all this before you try and sell.
I found myself really liking Jeffrey Shaw and I got the feeling he wanted to help me as much as take my money.
The way he built his own photography business using what he teaches in this book just adds an extra layer of credibility.
I know that new coaches like you are frustrated at how difficult it is to attract paying clients.
I also know that you may be feeling disillusioned with an industry that promised so much and is delivering so little.
If that is the case, then Lingo can start to redress the balance in your favour without resorting to competing on price as way too many coaches do.
4. Think. Do. Say. by Ron Tite
In the close to 20-years I’ve been listening to audiobooks I’ve only ever felt compelled to listen at normal speed for two authors.
Doug Stanhope because he’s a comedy genius and comedy is all about timing.
And Malcolm Gladwell because quite honestly he could be reading another advert for fucking bedding (like he does on his podcast) and I’d still happily listen because his voice is so hypnotic to me.
Ron Tite is the third.
Tite is not only is he very, very funny, but he oozes wisdom and marketing knowledge.
There is a lot of marketing noise out there and it’s growing exponentially.
As the author explains, it’s like constantly walking through Times Square with all the neon lights and advertising that is vying for our attention.
People no longer know which way to turn, or who to trust. So they just tune everything out.
If you want to stand out (in a good way) you don’t do so by adding to that noise.
Spamming people is just noise, as is having one-way conversations on social media and trying to constantly sell to people who don’t even know you.
In other words, or rather Ron Tite’s words, you cannot keep pitch slapping people.
Just on the slim off-chance, you don’t buy the book, I must tell you a line in the book that made me howl with laughter.
One person who had attended one of his speeches had filled in a comment card saying he should be called Ron Trite.
It takes confidence, self-deprecation and honesty to include that in your own book.
And trust me, Ron is not trite.
5. Influence by Robert Cialdini
This book is a classic.
On its publication in 1984, it was instantly raped and pillaged by marketers the world over.
And then everybody popped back later to rape and pillage it some more.
If you want to know why scarcity tactics work, this book will tell you.
If you want to understand the law of reciprocity works, this book will explain it to you.
If you want to know why marketers still insist on using prices like $47 and $97 rather than $49 or even £100, then you’re in for a treat.
And if you want to be crazily attractive to the opposite (or same) sex then you can sit on a train reading this book and you will look smart…..probably.
A lot of the stories have been replicated on blogs and in other books so you may know a few, or a lot, it’s still well worth buying though.
Note: The book has been rewritten and expanded with new research in 2021 which took a great book to my favourite of all time. To the extent that I bought the Audible version and then the hard copy too.
Just buy it and thank me later.
6. Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
If like me, you prefer shorter books that get straight to the point, then you will like this.
Holiday has a background in the very aggressive and very intense industry of PR (his book Trust Me, I’m Lying is an excellent portrayal of the industry and how he came to turn his back on it).
Growth hacker marketing has two fundamental elements to it.
#1 – Think differently
Sure you can buy ad space, spam the crap out of people and generally just copy what people have already done.
And it could possibly work.
But it probably won’t, and it certainly will not help you to be admired and sought after.
Or, you can do things that have never been done before.
In other words, don’t follow the coaching crowd.
#2 – Be prepared to pivot
Too many coaches set off down one marketing path such as Facebook and when it’s not working refuse to quit.
The time, energy, and sometimes money, they have poured into it acts as a sunk cost keeping them flogging a dead horse.
Of course, it could be they are just doing it wrong, or it could be they need to refer back to #1.
And if you’re thinking of publishing a book then Holiday details how he got one of Tim Ferris’ books to the top of the bestseller list at the end.
7. Contagious (Why Things Catch On) by Jonah Berger
How do you fancy a fried meat pattie made of pig heart, tripe and intestine served on a sesame topped bun?
What about if I cover it in a sugary sauce that includes imitation barbecue smoke, surely now you want it?
Well, how about if I tell you that it’s the only one of its kind and there are hundreds of thousands of people just like you desperate to get their hands on it if you don’t want it?
Unless you’re a vegetarian, or maybe a pig, you probably want it now.
That is pretty much what the McRib is and what McDonald’s did to stimulate interest in a waning product line.
This book is a fascinating look into how companies do things that may seem counterintuitive from a marketing perspective, but that still work.
From the $100 Philly Cheesesteak to the Bar with no obvious way of getting in, there are a bunch of cool stories, often from smaller businesses, that crushed it in generating word of mouth marketing.
Which by the way, is the cheapest and most effective marketing of them all if you can pull it off.
8. The Third Door by Alex Banayan
A quarter of the way into this book I’d have described it as ‘precocious kid sets off on a quest to interview a bunch of A+ list celebs and gets lucky on the back of winning a TV quiz show’.
Well, that would have been utterly wrong.
Now I’d describe it as ‘crazy determined self-effacing kid sets off to interview a bunch of A+ list celebs and gets knock back after knock back, but refuses to quit even when staring humiliation and ridicule in the face’
Banayan describes the first door as entering the nightclub with all the other paying guests.
The second door is when you are lucky enough to be waved in by security because you’re connected, or a VIP.
The third door is when you slip down the side alley, through a window in the kitchen and enter the club through a secret door behind the stage.
Alex Banayan is a force of nature in his refusal to take no for an answer and determination to find that third door.
Just the stories about him trying to get in front of Warren Buffet are worth the cost of the book and show a rare single-mindedness.
If you want to get in front of decision-makers and influencers in your industry you may need to find the third door because so do all your competitors.
9. Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller
I’m a fan of this book without being a fan of Donald Miller’s style.
When I pay for a book I don’t expect the author to be upselling me with such regularity like Miller does in both this book and the follow-up, Marketing Made Simple.
But it would be churlish to leave out such a brilliant book because I’m old and salty.
If you don’t yet understand the incredible power of using stories (especially the Hero’s Journey) in your marketing, then this book will explain it to you.
It will also show you how to craft a story that can be as short as one sentence. Think taglines, or bloglines as they are called in the movie industry.
And Miller is an ex-script writer, so he knows his shit.
At the very least, you will come away understanding (which very few coaches do) that your About page isn’t really about you.
But there is a lot more to it than that.
Just step away from your credit card as you read it and when you click through to his website to download the forms.
10. The Little Red Book of Sales Answers by Jeffrey Gitomer
EVERY coach should learn the basics of selling, yet few do.
Whether it’s our ideas, our thoughts, our products, or ourselves, we are all selling all the time.
So we may as well learn to do it well, right?
Gitomer has done a bunch of ‘little books’ such as on Little Black Book of Connections, Little Gold Book of Yes and all are really good albeit with some crossover.
But this is the one I’d recommend to any coach who hasn’t had any formal sales training.
Gitomer just flat out knows sales and he has a writing style that is fun to read and very easy to follow.
Sales can get technically tricky at times (something that is lost on even many salespeople who think it’s just about closing deals), but Gitomer simplifies it.
Whereas this book is aimed at professional salespeople almost all of the information can be easily and directly applied to coaching and used by coaches.
Of course, you could always hire me to teach you sales as I’ve got 20-years-experience, but this book may prove a cheaper option.
If you can, buy the hard copy because the design is brilliant and very tactile.
11. The Methods of Persuasion by Nick Kolenda
I have been following Nick Kolenda for a number of years and he puts out some excellent material around customer psychology and conversion optimisation.
A lot (perhaps all) of the information comes from other people’s work and I’d advise going straight to the horses’ mouth (Kahneman and Tversky) if I wanted to read about cognitive biases, but it’s none the poorer for that.
It takes real skill to take complex ideas and theories and then distil them to the core elements and make them as easy to understand and digest as Kolenda does.
I don’t care who did the work, if you can present it to me in a manner that I find useful and implementable I will thank you.
Just like I’d laugh if you told me a joke you hadn’t written.
If you want to know why companies like Amazon do what they do on sales and product pages and why things work and others don’t, then Methods of Persuasion is for you.
12. The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
I hemmed and hawed about adding this book because I thought 70% of it was pure filler and it kind of lost its way in the second half.
Also, Ferriss – who by the way, is a genius – admitted that the title is marketing hype.
So, I’d not recommend this to you with an eye on only working 4-hours per week, or even only spending 4-hours per week working on your marketing for that matter.
However, if you want ideas about how you can reduce your workload by starting to outsource jobs that can be done for a fraction of what you’re worth per hour, then it’s a good starting point.
13. What’s Your Choice?
Come on then, leave me a comment and tell me which book (or books) it was almost criminal of me to leave off the list because I will be expanding it over the coming months and years.
Note: The links are Amazon affiliate links.
5 thoughts on “12 Marketing Books Coaches Should Read (If they want to succeed)”
Greetings and thanks for the list.
All David Ogilvy’s works still remain breathtakingly insightful decades later. Persuasion Engineering by Richard Bandler and John LaValle remains a classic, although in need of an update.
I read an Ogily book a while ago and was very good, I agree. I just haven’t read the seminal Ogilvy on Advertising, which I really should tbh.
I have read Persuasion Engineering and most of Bandler’s stuff t bh, but they kinda morph into one, excellent though much of it is.
I took my 2nd NLP Master prac with the Society of NLP and Lavelle did most of the training as Bandler was sick.
An interesting character!
thank you for the list. I love reading your posts. I am now listening to Purple Cow. I have been cogitating on my reply for a couple of days. As my reply is a bit left field – the book that helped me get more clients is ‘The Pumpkin Plan’ by Mike Michalowicz.
I talk a lot about this book to my clients and ended up doing a video about it for my fb page.
I read The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur many years ago when it first came out and enjoyed it so I may well check that out. Thanks!
My present favorite is The Power of Momentum by Stephen Guise. I think you will like it. It’s refreshingly different and quite insightful.
If you’re pressed for time, read the last two chapters first. 🙂