It’s every business owner’s worst fear: You spend a ton of time designing a workshop and no one signs up.  

And painfully, this happens – more than we want to talk about. Business owners, especially coaches and holistic practitioners, put their heart and soul into creating a workshop or group program and then …. Crickets. No one shows up. No one signs up. Silence. Devastating silence.

Cue the gremlins:

I hate marketing! I hate sales. I’m no good at this anyway. I’m never doing this again. Maybe I should just give in and get (or keep) a day job. (Even though I hate it!)

Unfortunately, this usually happens because the workshop was designed in a (well-intentioned) vacuum. The same well-intentioned vacuum that keeps many coaches with wide-open practices, wondering how to get clients. We come out of our training programs with wide-eyed enthusiasm, clear about what our clients need. (We just spent how many months or years studying it, right?) And we’re ready to meet those needs – ALL OF THEM! Because most of the coaching and holistic programs teach us skills that can be applied to just about anybody and often to many different issues.

Most of the new and even not-so-new coaches and holistic professionals I know want to help everyone (sometimes with everything!) They are deeply resistant to specializing (aka niching) because that might eliminate someone they could help. They so deeply want to be of service and they are committed to helping all the people to be healthier, happier and more connected to their deepest purpose and highest vision.

Unfortunately, our clients generally don’t use those words. They use words like “I hate my job” or “my relationship is falling apart” or “I’m tired of feeling tired” or even “My team isn’t meeting their targets.” And when their eyes are scanning the interwebs, they are not looking for #fulfillment #purpose or their #highestjoy … they are looking for specific solutions for their specific problems.

When we try to design for everyone, fundamentally we are designing for no one. The more specific we are about who we are designing for and what problem we are solving for them, the more successful our workshop or group program will be AND the more likely we will be able to sell it – easily. This is the same logic and approach as choosing your niche for your business and the core foundation of effective marketing.

Because one of the key commonalities between adult learners and consumers is that they need to see value in what they are consuming (be it knowledge or a product) and they need to see how it is directly relevant and useful to them. When we are combining these two things – learning and purchasing – it is essential that our clients can easily see how what we are asking them to invest in will make a concrete difference in their life.

So how do we know exactly what their problem is? And how can we possibly promise to solve it?

If you ask a marketing coach, the answer is Market Research. If you ask an instructional designer, the answer is Needs Analysis. Whatever you call it – it is the art of asking the right questions.

So, if you want to create a really powerful learning experience that you can sell with confidence and ease, the secret no one told you before is: ASK YOUR PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT (within the scope of what you know how to do) – AND CREATE THAT!

If you’re not sure who your people are, you need to start there. If you have several different types of people, pick one! Start somewhere. But be specific. If you’re really stuck, consider working with a coach to help you get clear.

Check out my Facebook business page  for the replay of the FB Live that I did about this very topic on Wednesday May 30.

You can also join me for the next Design Lab.  The first module is all about getting clear on who you serve and how your program will help them.

Yours in service,



  1. RIght on the mark, Shoshana! I am enjoying watching and listening. I’m a big fan of your style and process!!

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