What No One Tells You about Bait and Switch Tactics in the Coaching Industry
In the 1970s, when I was really little my grandparents used to love to visit Florida. We lived in chilly Connecticut and they would come home from their trips with these huge mesh nets filled with juicy oranges and canvas tote bags with screen-printed smiling sun faces and sail boats. Florida seemed like a magical, warm place, where Mickey Mouse lived, the sun shined every day, and citrus fruit abounded.
One day my grandparents returned from Florida with great news: they would soon be building a house there so we’d all have a place to visit in the winter. When the pictures came back from the photo lab, we saw the land they were going to clear and build on. I was about 7 at the time, so it just looked like a jungle to me, but I was sure that soon, it would be our home away from home.
As the weeks and months passed, conversations about the house in Florida took a strange turn. The trees weren’t being cleared. The house wasn’t being built. Instead my parents and grandparents huddled around their cups of Chock Full’o Nuts coffee whispering in stressed tones about what to do next. The land, it turned out, was unbuildable – swampland.
My grandparents were not educated people. Both of them barely finished the 8th grade. My grandmother never worked and my grandfather was a proud Teamsters truck driver. They bought the land with most of their life savings (about $50,000 back in 1978 if I am remembering right) and when they learned the land was unbuildable they felt like they had to get that money back. To my knowledge, they never did.
My grandparents had fallen for a classic bait and switch.
They thought they bought a beautiful piece of property where they would build a 2nd home as a winter escape (the bait); but what they really bought was unbuildable swampland (the switch).
When I’m teaching marketing to my clients, this term comes up a lot. “But Angela, I guess I’m just not comfortable with pulling a bait and switch.”
A bait and switch is when you advertise something as a bargain with the intention of substituting something inferior.
Here’s what google says:
The key piece of a bait and switch is the intention to substitute something inferior, see?
There are 2 ways you will always know you are not pulling a bait and switch:
- The product or service you offer solves the problem you promise to solve.
- The product or service you offer is not INFERIOR to the one you promise.
Is this a Bait & Switch or The Real Thing?
Back in 2007, I was over 300 lbs, fighting with my husband, and fired from my job. I knew in order to get my life back on track I had to lose at least 100 lbs. Once I did that it would be easier to find a new job and hopefully give me a chance to save my marriage. The most pressing problem I was aware of was my weight. I had other problems of course – marriage difficulties, career uncertainty, self-confidence, difficulty speaking my truth, the inability to feel my feelings, a disconnection from source and spirit, and chronic illness like diabetes and thyroid disease to name just a few – but when I woke up and looked in the mirror, all I could think about was being fat. My clothes never fit, my eyes were disappearing into my face, I was unattractive and unlovable. It made sense that my husband and job didn’t want me. It also made sense they WOULD want me when I was thinner.
Even though I was in dire financial straits, I found a book, and paid the author of that book thousands of dollars to coach me to lose weight. Her marketing spoke directly to my heart. She knew how painful it was to carry around extra pounds. She understood what it felt like to not have control over how much or what you ate. I could tell from her website that she knew what it was like to just love food and not be able to stop eating and that she had found a way to do it and to lose weight. I NEEDED that secret. My mind had been scanning for the solution and now, here it was, right in front of me!
I begged her to take me as a client.
But once I became a client, we barely ever talked about food or exercise.
- She wanted to talk about my thoughts and feelings (which were clearly unrelated in my mind).
- She wanted to talk about my overwhelming desire to control my husband, my boss, and my mother.
- She wanted to talk about my childish expectations about the world.
- She wanted to talk about how I wasn’t accountable in my own life.
- She wanted to talk about how I was taking no responsibility for creating my future.
In the process, I realized these underlying problems in my life were the root cause of my extra weight and not the result of them.
In the process, I realized I’d chosen a job and a husband uniquely designed to help me hide from my greatest dreams.
In the process, I realized I was a whiny victim who took little to no responsibility and blamed others like a petulant teenager.
In the process, I realized, I didn’t like myself very much and to lose weight permanently, that was going to have to change first.
In the process, I realized, if I didn’t speak my truth, I was doomed to a life of overeating to try to quiet that voice.
The problem I THOUGHT I had when I found my coach was that I needed to permanently lose at least a 100 lbs. The result I got from working with her, was permanently losing well-over 100 lbs. The way we got there was not at all what I expected, but that doesn’t make it a bait and switch and it certainly doesn’t mean the product was inferior. In fact, it was far superior to everything else I’d ever tried including Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem and Weight Watchers.
If your product or service is designed to get your clients the result they want (even if that’s in a way they don’t expect), it, by definition, cannot be a bait and switch.
This doesn’t mean you can do the work for your client. Not everyone can succeed because not everyone wants to succeed. One of the things my coach asked me to do was to journal every day in a very specific way. I’m a writer and this was pretty easy for me because I’d been journaling every day since I was in 1st grade. Had I skipped that step, however, I would not have gotten the results I did. I know many people who have worked with this same coach and skip that step or others and did not get the results I got. That doesn’t mean she pulled a bait and switch, it means not all of her clients did the work.
Sell the Sizzle
The basic principle of marketing is you must understand what your prospect wants (the sizzle) and what they need to get that desire met (the steak). Your job in order to be able to help people is to sell the sizzle, not the steak. The steak is too complicated for your prospect to see.
Understanding human psychology and neuroscience can help you see why cognitively it just isn’t possible for your prospect to KNOW what they don’t KNOW or to SEE what they can’t SEE.
You might know the core issue is self-love or self-confidence, but if that is your prospects actual problem, they CAN’T know it. If they knew it, they would solve it. Instead their lack of confidence is coming out in fear of public speaking or their lack of self-love is coming out in toxic and destructive relationships.
To reach those people and help them you have to sell the sizzle – Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking! End your Toxic and Destructive Relationships! And then deliver the steak – self-love or self-confidence coaching so that they get the result in a real, deep, permanent and transformational way.
That, to me, is the OPPOSITE of what happened to my grandparents. That’s not a bait and switch, that’s having a true servant’s heart and bring permanent hope and healing to the planet.
I think it’s your God-ordained responsibility to sell your prospects what they want and give them what they need to solve their problem.
The truth is, no one cares about your degrees or certifications or your struggle to create the perfect student center. They don’t care about your battle with making videos, or your logos, how great your design is, or how long your coaching sessions are. They don’t care about which divination deck you use, or the science behind your medical intervention. When they are considering how to spend their hard-earned money people only care about one thing:
“WHAT IS IN IT FOR ME?”
Think about some of the world’s bestselling and most loved books. Notice how the title focuses 100% on the sizzle:
“How to Win Friends and Influence People”
“The 4-Hour Work Week”
“Think & Grow Rich”
“How to Stop Worrying & Start Living”
“Co-Dependent No More”
“Awaken the Giant Within”
Each of the titles could have been written differently to describe the actual product or the process that went into developing the book but that would have been a complete waste of time. As an author or marketer, you only have a split second to capture the prospect’s attention. If someone already has the problem, their mind is a heat seeking missile looking for a solution to that problem. You want the attention of people with the problem you solve, because those are the people you have a soul-contract to serve. They can’t find you if you don’t learn this basic principle of marketing.
Let’s say you are the world’s best life coach or holistic practitioner or wellness doctor… and let’s say no one ever knows you exist and you don’t have any clients or make any money – here’s the truth: You can’t make a difference!!!
Let me say it again: If no one knows you exist, you can’t make a difference.
Being someone your prospects can find by focusing your messaging on how the way the mind works, doesn’t make you a Bait and Switch Scammer, it makes you a SERVANT, it makes you the leader of your movement, it makes you loving and generous. If learning marketing is hard for you, think of it as the crown of thorns you must wear to heal your people.
You owe it to the world to learn how to market your genius because owning your genius and standing in the light of why you are on the planet is how we heal the world. Hiding your light or hoping for someone to discover you or save you, isn’t fair to anyone, least of all the people you have a soul contract to serve.
Have you ever avoided marketing because you didn’t want to be accused of a bait and switch scam? Let me know in the comments or drop me an email. I can’t reply to all emails but I do read them!
P.S. The FTC has some guidelines for business owners about how to avoid “bait and switch” practices. You can find it here and I’m pretty sure you will see there is no chance of you doing anything like this in your advertising and marketing: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/advertising-faqs-guide-small-business