What Febreze Can Teach Us About Marketing Coaching
When researchers at Proctor and Gamble (P&G) discovered Febreze, it was a scientific breakthrough. They had discovered a product that could neutralize unwanted odors, everything from animal smells, to rotten eggs.
Now they just needed to figure out how to market it.
They started by giving product samples away in a small number of cities to learn how people used the product. One such user was a park ranger in Phoenix whose love life was being crushed by her occupation. Her job was to remove wild animals from residential areas, many of which were related to the affectionate, cat-loving cartoon character Pepe Le Pew (i.e. skunks). As you can imagine, skunks don’t like to be handled by humans and we all know what happens when you try to pick them up.
The park ranger’s entire house smelled like skunk. Her clothes, drapes, carpets and even her bed reeked of skunk.
When P&G marketers got a hold of her, tears of joy were streaming down her cheeks. Febreze was a miracle. Magically, it had rid her house, car, and every other possession of the awful smell. This meant that she could finally welcome people back into her home, reviving her dating life.
So what did P&G do? Inspired by her story, they built a TV campaign showing people how they could neutralize their homes of nasty pet odors. The result: sales started out small and got smaller. The campaign failed.
What was going on? Why wasn’t the campaign proving to be effective? More research was required.
Their next home visit was to a cat lover. Even before the marketing researchers entered her home, they could smell the odor from her nine cats. When they asked her about the smell, she replied “what smell?”
Darn! Like millions of other pet owners, she didn’t know she had an odor problem. P&G went back to the drawing board.
Finally, with their third home visit, they cracked the code. While observing a woman cleaning her bedroom, they noticed that after snapping the sheets tights and making one final adjustment to the pillows, she paused for just a second to admire the work she had done.
The marketers then realized that Febreze could be the exclamation point on a job well done. They started to portray women spritzing their bedrooms as the last step to tidying their rooms. Ta-da!
Sales finally took off and now Febreze is a billion dollar product.
So what exactly does Febreze have to do with coaching? What can individual life coaches learn from the sales of a widely distributed household consumable product?
1. Just because the product is amazing, doesn’t mean people will buy it
Febreze was a revolutionary product. They just needed to figure out how to market it.
Coaching is the same. Just about anybody who has experienced coaching, loves it. People who go through coach training frequently come out of it a different person. It’s described as “transformational”, “enlightening”, “inspiring”, “life changing”, and more. And yet, coaching services are not exactly “flying off the shelf” like bottles of Febreze.
This is an understated problem that the coaching world faces. Don’t assume that because coaching is so amazing that everybody around you wants it.
Here at Noomii, we truly believe that we can grow the coaching industry by marketing it better. As a whole, if we do a better job marketing coaching (similar to what P&G did with Febreze), more people will experience and benefit from it.
2. You shouldn’t try to solve a problem clients don’t know they have
The pet lover didn’t know that her house smelled like cats. And if she did, she didn’t care. It wasn’t a problem for her and she certainly wasn’t going to start buying Febreze.
Coaching is the same. I have asked hundreds of coaches to describe their clients. Coaches frequently describe their clients as being “stopped by limiting beliefs”, "wanting to find their inner light", “lacking clarity” or “needing to be their authentic selves”. The diagnosis may be accurate but their clients didn't necessarily see it that way before they got coaching.
Sure, some clients are very aware of their problem, like the park ranger. They know they have limiting beliefs, inner light ready to shine through, lack clarity, or want to be their authentic selves and that’s great. However, a large of percentage of people who could benefit from coaching are more like the pet lover whose house, unbeknownst to her, stinks like cats. For example, they don’t know they have limiting beliefs and if they do, they don’t think they need to change them. The same can be said about the need to “find clarity”, “be authentic”, “find their inner light”, “feel a sense of empowerment”, etc…
Many of the phrases that we use to describe the problems that coaches solve and the solutions coaching provides are completely missed by potential clients.
3. Do the research to give people what they want
The last lesson that we can learn from P&G marketers of Febreze is that they had the right business mindset. Specifically, they kept researching until they came up with the right marketing formula. They even changed the product from one that neutralizes odors to one that kills odors and leaves pleasant fragrances behind.
You may need to do the same thing. If you work with college students who are entering the workforce for the first time, figure out what their biggest concerns are and address them. Do they want more self-confidence or help navigating the job market? Do they want to learn how to market themselves better or develop better work habits? Do they want to find a secure job or start a business of their own?
Whatever is their issue, you need to figure out what it is and solve it. You may even need to consider offering more than just coaching? If you can help with resume writing, job searching, business plan writing, or other related services, do that. It’s okay to offer more than just pure coaching.
How to have your coaching services fly off the shelves like Febreze
Now that you know the story of Febreze, here’s a simple action plan to take advantage of the lessons learned. You need to get out there and do some market research. It’s so simple and yet few coaches are willing to “get out of the building” to ask people what they think. You need to it. Don’t assume you know what your clients want.
Find three past or existing clients and ask them the following questions. When you do, take down their answers exactly the way they say them. Don’t paraphrase or use your own words.
Think back to the day before we started coaching. What problem were you trying to solve?
Why did you think you had that problem?
What were you hoping I would help you do?
Find three potential clients that you would love to work with and ask them similar questions:
What life, career, or business problem are you struggling with?
What have you done to try to solve that problem?
What do you think you need to do to solve it?
What would it be worth to you if I could help you solve that problem?
Once you’ve collected answers to the questions above, look for the common answers and start promoting a service for that audience. The marketing copy looks something like this:
Are you struggling with:
You probably think/know that in order to overcome these challenges you need to:
That’s exactly what I do. When you work with me (or complete my program) you get:
When you fill in the bullet points, enter the information you collected from your existing and potential clients. You may be surprised by the results.
If you have done this before or are brave enough to do it now, share your results in the comments below. Even if we don’t coach the same types of clients, there are bound to be shared lessons to learn.
I originally read the story of Febreze in Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. If you haven’t read this book, you should. It's perfect for coaches. It explains so many of the questions I had about will power, addiction, goal setting, and other curious human behaviors.
More recently, I was reminded of the Febreze story in an advertising and marketing podcast that I listen to called Under the Influence. You can listen to the episode of Under the Influence that talks about Febreze on the CBC website starting at about the 15:27 mark.