Buckle up my friend, because this is a topic I’m super passionate about: Sleazy marketing!
Even though I get all fired up about this topic, it's taken me a long time to share this. There are two main reasons for waiting: First, I wanted to make sure I shared this episode with passion but also compassion. Second, I think this is a really great time of year to talk about crappy marketing tactics - because they are everywhere! They happen all year long but for some reason they are amped up during the holidays.
Most of my job is spent telling people “marketing isn’t bad, some people just do it sleazy”. So we’re tackling all kinds of crappy marketing today, why these tactics don’t work, and better ways to achieve results for your yoga business.
Marketing is all about trying things and seeing what works and what doesn’t, so if you’ve tried any of the marketing tactics I’m talking about today, please know that I’m not trying to shame you.
I applaud you for trying things, period. But most of the time we are looking to “experts” to learn from and they will encourage us to try a specific marketing tactic and immediately we have a gut feeling that it’s a bit sleazy. That’s the red flag, but it’s important to note that once we pay for someone’s expertise through a course or coaching, it’s really easy to ignore that red flag! So no shame here - this is a learning experience, too.
**This was also a podcast episode (episode #124). Use the player below if you'd prefer to listen to this message.
If it feels sleazy to you...do this.
If a strategy feels sleazy to you, do your best to find out WHY that person is teaching that specific method and WHAT RESULT is that they are going after. Once you know the why and result, you can decide what tactic to use to get that result.
"Something that feels right to someone may not feel right to someone else. If a strategy feels crappy to you, figure out how to get that result in a different way." - Amanda McKinney
I want to note that it’s important to me that you walk away from this episode knowing that you get to market your business in the way that feels best for you. So if you learn something from myself or others and it just doesn’t feel right to you, you don’t have to do that particular thing. And that doesn’t mean that tactic is a sleazy marketing tactic, it just means it’s not right for you.
For example: I like to use countdown timers when I’m running a special sale or offer. In my mind it makes it super clear when the sale ends, but I only use them when they are real. But I know many people don’t like to use them at all, even if the sale really does end. And good news: You don’t ever have to use a countdown timer if you feel that way! But it doesn’t mean that particular tactic is sleazy.
Sleazy social media tactics
While there are tons of sleazy marketing tactics that happen, these are the most common I’ve seen lately and have strong feelings about. Let's dive in!
Selling in other people's Facebook groups
This may look like any of the following - please don't do any of these things!
Posting outright promotional posts. If it says in the rules: "Do not promote your own stuff" - then please respect the rules!
Posting leading questions inside the group to get people to talking to you so that you can direct message them. Sometimes this may not be so obvious right away. What gives it away to me is when I see the same question posted in multiple Facebook groups.
Posting comments that encourage people DM you. Sometimes this sounds like: "Send me a DM and I'll send you my freebie!" or "Send me a DM if you want me to share my thoughts on this with you."
Sending unsolicited DMs to people. Period.
So these are your "Don'ts." Overall, DON'T join Facebook groups with the intention of selling (rather than learning or being part of a community).
Better ways to use Facebook groups
Facebook groups are a wonderful resource that you can definitely use to help your yoga business. Just do it in the right way!
Don’t join groups with the intention to sell. If you find yourself doing this, leave the group. Don’t tempt yourself.
Go into Facebook groups with the intention to learn and support, but make a promise to yourself that you won’t abuse that opportunity. Put yourself into the owner of the Facebook group's shoes and imagine that you have spent years building it up. Ask yourself how would you feel if someone else came in and started spamming the group members. Answer = it feels awful!
Join groups that are actively asking for your support and resources. For example: Local Facebook groups allow for promotional posts for local events.
Reach out to the admin of the Facebook group and ask if you can provide extra value to their group. Acknowledge that you don’t want to promote your business without their permission, but that you have some resources that you’d like to share to help their group members. For example: Stepmom FB group, you offer a free breath technique video for moments when they are feeling super stressed out. Give it for free, no sign up. If people want more, they can find more through you.
Start your own Facebook group! You can promote the heck out of your own stuff.
These are your "Do's!" Check yourself: Are you doing this with the right intention? DO think through how you can use Facebook groups in the right way that doesn't feel sleazy.
Selling in Instagram DMs
Selling in Instagram DMs is very similar to Facebook groups in terms of sending messages, but there are some specific differences when it comes to Instagram that can feel icky sometimes.
Here are your "Don'ts":
Sending an auto-message to everyone who follows you and selling something right off the bat. Not all auto-messaging bots are bad, but ones that sell immediately are.
Messaging anyone and everyone who comments on a post (with the intention to sell).
Cold-messaging people who you aren’t connected to at all and selling something or sending a leading question that leads you to selling something. The ones I get start off something like: "Amanda, we love what you're doing on your account - and we know you could do even more!"
Watching people’s stories and/or posts and sending a DM with a sales pitch to “fix” them. When I said that, I bet you just cringed a bit. As a yoga teacher, you're trying to support people, you're not trying to fix them. However, this strategy is taught all the time. I get these messages about my face or my hair. Here's an example: On Instagram, I use filters sometimes, but sometimes I don't. If I don't use a filter and I have a zit on my face, I almost always get a DM from someone trying to sell me a magic potion for my skin. It feels absolutely crappy. Let me tell you - that is so incredibly rude. If someone ever teaches you this method, do not do this. It's a crappy sales tactic.
Better ways to use Instagram DMs
There are so many great ways to use Instagram! Instagram is my favorite social media platform by far. I love the genuine connections that I have on Instagram in direct messages. If you have messaged me on Instagram and asked me a question or commented on something, you have definitely heard back from me. I love it! So it all comes down to the intention.
Here are your "Do's" when it comes to Instagram DMs:
Only send messages when they are coming from a place of connection or support, not fixing people or only selling.
Ask for DMs to offer more support inside Instagram, not to sell something. For example: You can share a story that says: "Send me a DM if you’d like me to send you a link to a free breath technique to help with stress. I really want you to have this if you need it today." If it's a paid offering, don't go this way. Instead, you could say something like: "Dear friends, I have been navigating stress and anxiety during the holidays my whole life, and I have put together a package of things that help me. It's like a toolbox for navigating the holidays. It is $97 and it's packed with amazing things. If you want it, send me a DM and I'll send you the direct link so you don't have to search for it on my website." See how different that feels? You're being transparent about the price so you don't have to be weird in your direct messages.
It's best if 80% of your content is value-add content, not selling. This goes for other marketing channels as well as Instagram. Give, give, give, then invite, invite, invite them to take your next step 20% of the time.
Use Instagram to learn about your dream student so that when you are selling something, you know what words to use. For example: I will share something about sleazy marketing when this podcast episode goes live. If someone reaches out to me, thanks me, and we have a conversation, then I will make a note of that conversation. Later on down the road, if I have an offer that might help them that's directly related to what we talked about, then I might reach out to them at that point (in a way that puts no pressure on them whatever). In fact, I would probably send them a short audio DM so they can hear the genuine intention in my voice.
That wraps it up for social media! That's the longest section because I see these things happen so often.
Fake Limited Spots or Time
Whether it’s email, social media, your website, or a flyer, if you don’t have limited spots or time available and you say this, it’s lying.
The "why" behind having limited spots or time is to create a sense of urgency. But doing this in a fake way is not good. Quite frankly, if you say you have limited spots or limited time and that is not true, then you are lying.
The psychology behind creating a sense of urgency is real and it does work. But if you're lying about it, people won't trust you in the long run.
There are better ways to do this:
Close registration on a certain date
The sale ends on a certain date
Have limited spots and the offer closes when a certain number of spots are filled
Offer a bonus that ends on a certain date
Figure out a way to tap into a sense of urgency that feels good to you.
For example: Inside Thrive, I'm running a program called Last 90 Days. Anyone who joins Thrive can watch the replays of the Last 90 Days weekly coaching sessions at any time, BUT they won’t be able to track their progress in the weekly tracking tool if they joined later. Will that stop them from making progress? No. But did it help people sign up for Thrive at the beginning of October? Yes. The sense of urgency was there - but I didn’t lie to people.
I mentioned the countdown timer as an example earlier, and I believe this is why some people don’t like the countdown timer - because it feels like a lie. Since so many people do use this in a fake way it can be annoying to people or people doubt the realness of it.
Shaming / Fixing People / Fear-Based Marketing
This is basically calling attention to something that evokes a strong emotion for the person, and somewhere in the marketing message it conveys that if they don’t buy your product they will stay “broken”, “wrong”, etc.
The "why" behind this is to make the person "problem aware." It’s often the case that we need to help our students become problem aware because if they aren’t aware of the problem, they don’t know they need our solution. You’ve likely heard me and others talk about this, because we want to let people know that we can help them get on the other side of their struggle.
There are better ways of doing this, and it's all about messaging. We want to avoid leaning on the "doom and gloom" type of messaging, like: "Your life will suck if you don't buy this thing!" Instead, we want to acknowledge the struggle they are going through and empower the student to make the decision that's best for them.
For example: Instead of saying “If you want to overcome your anxiety for good and stop crying on the bathroom floor every night, join my six-week series” you could say: “These tools helped me and my students navigate anxiety and I’d love to offer them to you as well inside my six-week series.”
You could even add this on your sales page, too: “If the six-week series isn’t accessible to you currently, here’s a link to a free resource that you can get access to today." With these words, we are highlighting the problem they are dealing with but not making them relive the experience through our words. We are acknowledging it but not sitting in it for too long. Plus, we can offer options and empower the person to make a choice.
This can sometimes be linked to creating a sense of urgency, but it also shows up by way of people saying “invest in yourself” in a way that feels sleazy. This statement isn’t sleazy by itself but when it’s coupled with high-pressure conversations or messages it most certainly is sleazy.
The "why" behind this is to push people to get off the fence and make a decision.
There are better way of doing this. The reality is that people will sit on the fence for a long time thinking about making a choice, so helping them make a choice is helpful. Like I said in the urgency conversation, you can do this with realistic bonuses or discounts, but you can also help someone make an informed decision by asking questions.
For example: I get messages each week on Instagram asking “Should I enroll in Thrive?" I have a set of questions that I ask the person every time. Sometimes it varies if I know a little more about their situation but overall, it’s the same few questions. I ask all the questions at once and tell them that based on their answers if Thrive is a good fit for them. I encourage them to make a choice within 24 hours for their sanity and then commit to that decision for a season.
What we want to do is (1) help them make a choice and (2) encourage them to be confident in their choice. I’ve found that giving all the info at once is a better way to take the pressure off. I don’t encourage you to send one question at a time to someone because that feels like a trap. Send the information and let them decide what’s best for them.
Sales Call Traps
This one really might get some people and I’m prepared to hear the flip side of this. I’m not 100% opposed to sales calls as they have their place, but I am opposed to sales calls that are high pressure and manipulative. They often combine a few of the sleazy tactics that I’ve already talked about and overall, the person walks away feeling unsettled about the purchase decision or they feel like they were just beat up for saying no.
The "why" behind this is a higher conversation rate.
There is a better way of doing this: If you prefer to have sales calls, identify the way that feels best for you and I highly recommend still putting your price on your website. I know that many people disagree with this, but I stand behind this one 100% and it’s also 100% okay if you disagree with me. We all get to do what feels best. But I believe this because I would rather you spend your time and energy on the phone with people who are willing to pay your rate for the offering. Yes you will have less consultation calls but they will convert higher so in the end it’s a better return for you.
For example: As for private sessions, I suggest (1) putting your prices on your website and not making it hard to find, (2) making it a short consult call and (3) conducting the call with the intention of connecting with the person and asking questions about where they need support and if that aligns with what you can support them with, then it’s a good fit. Offer the details and make the ask. No high pressure but rather clear details. If you have limited spots, tell them and give them a window of opportunity to book that spot. Then follow up with them before that window closes and thank them for their time and interest.
While there are many more sleazy marketing tactics that happen and I could talk about this all day long, these are the most common I’ve seen lately and have strong feelings about.
Your next step
Take a deep breath with me knowing that you don’t have to do sleazy marketing. Deep breath in...deep breath out.
Marketing is a great opportunity to CONNECT with people so go into conversations with that intention. If you go into an interaction with someone with the intention to sell, it will feel that way. But if you go in for connection and to support them, that’s how it will feel. Maybe you sell something and that’s how you support them - but maybe you don’t and that’s still success.
And seriously, please check your gut reaction when someone is sharing something with you that just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s a sleazy marketing tactic, it just means it’s not right for you. Trust that, identify the why behind the tactic, and figure out a better way for you to achieve that result in a way that feels good for you.
Until next time, give yourself permission to never use sleazy marketing tactics and grace along the way.
"Take a deep breath with me knowing that you do not have to do sleazy marketing!"
- Amanda McKinney
Want to learn how to market your yoga business in a way that doesn't feel sleazy?
In Thrive, my monthly membership for yoga teachers, you get social media and email templates, monthly Q&A calls, advanced trainings, business check-ins, a private community, and more. Thrive is a membership that can support you on every part of your yoga business journey - from the very beginning all the way to advanced challenges!