Do You Need a Blogging and Content Marketing Coach?
Content marketers and bloggers get a lot of advice from a lot of different angles. It's basically impossible to research any topic without finding a guide on how to do it, a case study on how good it is to do, and a service or three willing to do it for you.
Businesses struggle and fail, though. So what's the problem? It's certainly not lack of information or lack of access to information. Some can be chalked up to not knowing the right questions to ask, not knowing how much you don't know, and that's fine. More, though, comes from not knowing how to make use of that information, how to prioritize it, and how to filter it.
That's where coaching comes into play. There are people out there who sell their services as marketing and blogging coaches. You can, if you so desire, hire one of these people to guide you in your marketing journey. The question is, is it a worthwhile investment, or an unnecessary expense?
What Makes a Blogging Coach
Before we can talk about whether or not a coach is valuable, we need to establish a definition of what, exactly, a coach even is.
In my mind, there are two kinds of blogging/marketing coaches. The first kind is the group of people who dedicate themselves to coaching. These are people like Stephanie Fiteni, who offer coaching, speaking, consulting, and marketing services to other businesses and entrepreneurs.
These people generally don't just come in and take over your marketing efforts like a marketing company would. You aren't outsourcing your marketing to them. Rather, you're bringing them in to analyze your existing efforts. They point out what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong, and they help you develop a plan to move forward. They give you advice and leverage their experience.
The other group of people who offer coaching are the part-time coaches. Now, don't get me wrong; these people just as often know their stuff as dedicated coaches. Neil Patel offers consulting as one of his many services.
These people follow the advice of bloggers like Chelsea Baldwin, who writes that all bloggers should offer coaching as an added service:
"In my own business, I let people book one-off sessions ranging in price from $125 to $200, and sometimes I even book month-long programs for corporate teams for thousands of dollars. It’s relatively quick and easy money, and you don’t even have to spend time creating a product. Coaching is something you can start to offer as soon as you get readers. (Or even sooner, if you explore other ways to score your first coaching clients.) Even if you don’t start out charging $100+ per session, and even if you’re only getting the occasional client at first, it’s still cash in your bank."
After all, if you're a successful blogger, you have experience you can leverage to help those who don't have as much. Coaching and consulting isn't that difficult, and it can help you earn additional money on the side. It builds your reputation as a thought leader and it forges lasting relationships with a broad range of entrepreneurs.
What a blogging coach does not do, however, is take over your marketing efforts in any way.
You might compare it to fitness or working out. You want to improve your psychique and get in shape. Maybe your goal is to lose weight and build muscle, or you want to train for a particular kind of event like a rock climbing event or a marathon.
There's no end to the millions of articles written about every single facet of these topics. "How to prepare for a marathon" as a search query has 34.4 million search results! Digging through all that information, you'll find a huge array of training options, gear recommendations, time schedules, supplements, and everything else you could think of, and more besides.
How do you know what of that advice is written by someone who has run marathons, versus information written by ghostwriters in a content mill, versus information that works but is out of date or less effective than other strategies? How do you know where you should direct your energy? If you're new to running, you don't.
This is why gyms offer fitness coaches. These people obviously can't take over and train your body for you, but they offer advice on how you can train. This advice is based on their past experience and knowledge of what does and doesn't work, as well as working with you to customize it for your specific situation, time scale, and goals.
Depending whether or not you take and use their advice (and use it correctly) is entirely up to you.
The Benefits of Using a Blogging Coach
There are definitely benefits to contracting a blogging coach to work with you and improve your business.
They have experience they can use to inform your strategies. If I had the chance to have someone like Neil Patel audit my site and tell me the top ten things I can do to boost my traffic, I'd pretty definitely take it. Do I want to pay for his services right now? Well, that's another question. I know, though, that Neil is extremely good at what he does and has been doing it for a long time, so I can trust his expertise. A good coach has years or decades of experience and knowledge of tips and tricks they can help you put to use to grow your business. These are experts that qualify leads by how many millions of dollars you're earning, which means they are best suited for larger and more established businesses.
They can identify areas where you're in need of help. One of the best things a coach can do for you is look over your site and tell you the areas where you need improvement. Or, more specifically, they can identify those areas, and then tell you precisely what you need to do to improve. That might be putting more work into keyword research, or emphasizing on-page SEO, or putting more effort into refined advertising, or focusing more on social media, or writing longer posts, or any number of other pieces of advice.
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They can prioritize efforts to get you the most bang for your buck. More important than the advice they give you, however, is the order of that advice. I might know that I could do five different things that would all have a beneficial impact on my business, but I have no way of knowing ahead of time which ones will have the best impact. If I have 10 hours I can spend doing something, should I dedicate all 10 to one task, split it 5/5 for two different tasks, or spread it out? Which tasks should I put more time into and prioritize? How do I best take advantage of the Pareto Principle, where 80% of my results come from 20% of my effort? A coach can help me identify which 20% of my efforts I should focus on.
They know how to use data to drive decisions. More so that experience, coaches know how to use tools to gather data and use that data to drive their decisions and advice. They can look at your site and get an idea of what kind of advice they'll give, but a good coach will give you more than just unfounded advice. They'll use data from your analytics, or from tools they have that can analyze your site, and will provide that data – and possible access to the tools themselves – to back up their advice.
They can, if their advice is followed, dramatically improve your business. Obviously, the goal of coaching is not just to listen to the coach talk, it's to do what they tell you. A fitness coach giving you advice can help you achieve your fitness goals. A blogging coach giving you advice can help you grow your business to achieve whatever goal it is you're looking for. That could be more subscriptions, more sales, more followers, more traffic, better rankings, or anything else.
They teach you how to improve, rather than doing things for you. Coaching is not necessarily an ongoing relationship. You can keep in contact with a coach and pay them for ongoing sessions and aid, but you don't have to. Often, they give you a few sessions, a few meetings, and a plan for how you can move forward. You take their advice, their resources, and their recommendations, and you improve. You don't just improve your site, you improve your own knowledge and experience. You can leverage that experience moving forward, and continue to implement improvements as you learn and grow.
They're cheaper than an ongoing outsourced manager. Coaching can look expensive for a session on an hourly basis, but again, you're not beholden to pay for a three hour session every week for years. You get a lot of value out of a few coaching sessions, and then the expense is done, while the advice and information you received lives on. As long as you're capable of learning, growing, and implementing that advice, you get near-endless value out of those sessions.
Compare this to a blog manager. An outsourced blog manager might take over your whole marketing strategy. They'll implement their strategies, they'll put their experience to use, and they'll grow your business, but here's the catch: if you stop paying them, it cuts off. They didn't teach you anything or give you the tools to continue with the success yourself, you just become reliant on them.
The Pitfalls of Hiring a Blogging Coach
Despite all of the above, there are some real problems that can come up when you're hiring and working with a blogging coach.
You still have to take their advice and put it to use. "They don't take over and do it all for you" is a good thing because you can learn and improve and develop the tools to succeed on your own efforts, but it's also a drawback in that you do have to actually do that. If the coach doesn't explain things very well, if they don't set you up to succeed, or if you just aren't capable of doing the learning yourself (or don't have the time to do it among everything else), you end up paying for an expensive list of things you're not going to do. What you get out of blog coaching is as good as what you put in, the same as any other coaching. It's much like how seeing a fitness trainer doesn't do you any good if you don't do the exercises.
They might not actually be very good at what they do. There are a lot of people out there who offer coaching or consulting as a side gig simply because posts like the one I linked above tell them to. They're convinced that because they have a site that gets traffic, they know what they're doing well enough to teach others. A lot of people simply don't have the skills to teach.
This is doubly true with content marketing specifically. Some aspects of content marketing are fine to coach. Developing a bird's eye plan and pointing out specific goals is one thing. It's quite another to teach technical SEO in three hours, or give someone a crash course on technical writing for the web. These are skills that take time to learn, and are difficult to teach, especially in the constrained setting of a coaching session.
The money you're spending on a coach might be better spent elsewhere. Coaching isn't expensive in the grand scheme of things, and sometimes the value you get out of them developing a roadmap and performing a site audit is a great value for the money. On the other hand, instead of spending $200 for a couple hours of someone's time, you could spend that same $200 for six months of a high-quality marketing tool that lets you put some serious work into, say, keyword research, link auditing, or outreach, or $200 worth of paid advertising to boost your bottom line enough to afford such tools.
Nothing a coach says is going to be truly unique. A coach has experience and the tools necessary to customize advice for your situation, but nothing they tell you is going to actually be unique information. All of their advice has been written somewhere in a blog post dedicated to the subject, whatever the subject is. It might be tricky to find and recognize it as something you can use, but it's out there.
How to Identify a Good Blogging Coach
If you're interested in picking up a blogging coach, you need to make sure the one you hire is worthwhile. They'll all have good testimonials on their sites and good reviews elsewhere, but that's not important. The absolute baseline necessary to be a successful business is knowing how to manage your reputation, after all. The ones with bad reviews and bad services aren't going to show up in your searches.
One thing I look for when I'm investigating a blogging coach is whether or not they understand the basics. If you've read some of my reviews of various services for marketing, you know I like to nitpick little signs of quality. For example, a social media service that talks about "growing your Twitter favorites" is a sign that the company doesn't care about what they're doing, since Twitter changed "favorites" to "likes" years ago.
Up above, I pointed to Stephanie Fiteni as an example of a dedicated blogging coach. I'm sure she provides at least an adequate service, though I haven't contracted her myself. When I look at her blog, though, I find things like this post. Missing punctuation in the first sentence. Random capitalization. Random extra line breaks. Very few images in the post. No blog comments. Tags that are invisible until you hover over them. The Google Plus button in the social sharing buttons. No real keyword focus.
Most of these are little things, and I'm not trying to single out this one example, but these small things are indicative of a larger concern. If the coach doesn't put attention to detail into their own blog, how much are they putting into yours? Sure, it's entirely possible that their site exists solely to attract traffic, not be a portfolio piece, but then I have to ask: why wouldn't it be?
Of course, if you're the kind of person looking for coaching, you might not know enough to be able to spot these kinds of potential issues. I'm not in need of basic coaching; the site isn't for me. Still, though, it's something to watch out for.
Another thing to look for is what level of service the coach usually offers. Look at the clients they list as testimonials. Are those people successful now? That can be an indication of how good the coach is. A person can be satisfied with coaching and still not be a big-name success. That's fine, but if that doesn't align with your goals, they may not be the right coach for you.
You'll also want to make sure they work with your industry and business style. Some blogging coaches specialize in small businesses, in local businesses, or in specific niches like health, finances, or B2B businesses. Finding the right coach can be surprisingly tricky, despite the number of people offering the service in general.