How to save money on paid ads

Simon, surrounded by piles of cash, asks the question, "Should I spend this all on ads?"

Paid ads promise to bring you more business. Paid ads are relatively easy to use. Paid ads are a tempting marketing option…

And paid ads are a highly ineffective way to attract new clients for coaches and consultants.

It’s tempting to take what looks like a shortcut. At first glance, paid ads seem to promise to let you skip the queue and get you in front of a lot of people.

So why am I saying they don’t work?

There’s no trust built with a paid ad

When your business is all about asking someone to commit to making a change in their lives or business, it’s not a simple purchase-and-done scenario. You need them to commit to the process and put in the effort to make it work.

To get that commitment and effort, the client has to trust in you, and understand the change you are offering to guide them through.

For quick results, most marketing people talk using a funnel. You put a lot of leads in at the top and those who are motivated to buy reach the bottom (purchase!) To get enough clients to be sustainable, a sales funnel relies on getting a large number of people in at the top – it requires constant feeding, and that’s where paid ads come in.

Funnels can and do work, but they work best for transactional purchases – when you’re asking for a financial commitment but not an emotional or energy commitment.

Maybe paid ads work for coaches who specialise in fitness and personal training (the usually hype is along the lines of “I earned six figures from one set of Ads”). However, let’s be brutally honest here… most people who sign up for a fitness program or gym challenge don’t finish it. They weren’t ready to do the work when they signed up. If you’re interested in sign-ups instead of successes, maybe paid ads are a fit.

Informed prospects become the best clients

To attract clients who are ready to do the work, you first need them to reach a place where they understand the process that lies ahead and the investment (in money and time) they need to make. An investment decision requires consideration and for that, they need information and insight – which is where your marketing content can be exactly what they’re looking for.

The payoff?

Once someone understands what they’re investing and has decided this is the change they want to make, then they’re far more likely to get the most out of working with you. (And unlike a New Year’s gym membership, they’re more likely to stay the distance too.)

Your content can build trust and understanding by sharing ideas, answering common questions, and offering new perspectives.

Getting people thinking, and understanding the change they seek to make on a deeper level, gets them closer to being ready to start.

Don’t ‘funnel’ your prospects, connect with them

If you’ve read this far, you’re likely resonating with this idea and my way of thinking about attracting clients. This is how this kind of content works. It’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. Some people will have stopped reading a while back and gone to set up a funnel. That’s ok with me.

Understanding who you can help most effectively with your work means you can write content just for them. Those who are on the same wavelength will engage and keep coming back for more.

Marketing this way might take longer to build a client list, but it is highly effective compared to trying to skip the queue with paid ads. Engaging with people via your content is slower in attracting clients, but the clients it attracts will get more out of your work and are more likely to recommend you.

But … I need clients now.

This is a common resistance to this way of marketing. I understand the pressure to pay the bills and get new clients on board – and as I’ve already said, paid ads are tempting. The problem with spending money to interrupt people and sell them coaching is that it doesn’t work; you just end up deeper into the same problem.

Running paid ads can increase the reach of content that has already worked well. So, if you really do feel like you need paid ads in your marketing mix, then I would focus on the content first, experiment with some different messages and see what connects, and then try to boost their reach with the ads.

Sustainable marketing engages with the audience

Skipping the queue can be tempting. But if you rely on paid ads to attract clients, even if you have some success, you’re setting yourself up to always be paying someone else to interrupt other people in the hope that they become clients. It’s not sustainable. However, if you start to invest in your own content and build your own audience now, that will pay off in the longer term.

Making your own content that answers relevant questions, launches new ideas, and inspires different perspectives will slowly build momentum and attract the kind of client who is ready to do the work and invest in making the change they seek to make.

If you want to learn more about creating this kind of content and reaching more of your ideal clients, consider reading my book Reframing Marketing: A 3-step Guide to Effective and Ethical Marketing. It’s a practical guide to marketing for people like you, and it will guide you through getting your marketing working without spending a lot of money on paid ads.

You can order your copy directly from me at