Coaches Falling for the Bait and Switch

Coaches, I wanted to share something that's been on my mind recently: the "Bait and Switch" some coaching platforms are pulling. The ones that have cheap or “free for coaches” subscriptions or enticing referral programs but have a bit of a catch.

These platforms market themselves as your partner, offering what on the surface seems like a great offer. But the not so hidden catch—they also sell plans and self coaching directly to athletes. So, after you bring your athletes onto their platform, they can swoop in and sell their services directly, potentially cutting you out. If you’re questioning whether your current coaching platform is really looking out for you, check out this article: Is Your Coaching Platform Serving Your Best Interests?.

Continue reading, or if you prefer audio you can listen to the episode on the podcast, or watch the video on Youtube.

As I mentioned in that article, there is nothing unethical about this and it’s a completely fair and valid business model. I sometimes find myself feeling slightly jealous that they have both sides of the market that they can extract revenue from but I am still very happy we decided to focus solely on coaches. I just love working with coaches. Anyway, for coaches it’s important to walk into this with eyes open with full understanding of what the potential pitfalls are.

Here’s a story to illustrate what I mean. I subscribe to a bunch of coaches' email lists as I like to keep up with what’s going on with coaches (a sneaky trick of my own). One platform stood out with its aggressive referral program, I’m not exactly sure how it works but I’ve seen multiple coaches dropping links to this platform in their newsletters, encouraging athletes to sign up.

I got curious and replied to one of these emails, asking the coach in question how they liked the platform. To my surprise, the coach said they’d never actually used it. They were promoting it purely for the referral incentives. This short-term gain might look appealing, but it’s a risky move in the long run.

In this situation the platform is using coaches as their “Acquisition Channel” which means they are leveraging the coaches audience to become their own audience. When you promote these platforms, you are giving them direct access to your athletes. They can then market their services to your athletes, offering training plans, performance tracking, and more. Before you know it, your athletes will see the platform as a potential replacement for your coaching services. This might not happen straight away so may not be obvious, but overtime they will attract athletes to their offerings.

Now, you may argue that if coaches are good at what they do, their athletes will stick with them. This is true to some extent. However, athletes sometimes move away from one-on-one coaching for various reasons anyway. This is where these platforms can lure them away prematurely, potentially never to return.

Here’s my sales pitch.

If you were using something like Training Tilt, You could offer your own low-touch coaching through training plans and membership features. This way, even if athletes are looking for less direct interaction anyway, they’re still within your ecosystem and not paying someone else. This isn’t just a hypothetical situation. Coaches have been losing athletes to these platforms for years.

Sure, the initial referral bonus or reduced or “free” subscription cost might seem like a win, but the long-term impact on your coaching business can be harmful.

We’re proud to be the only endurance coaching platform that doesn’t sell directly to athletes. Our goal is to support you, the coach, in providing the best possible service to your athletes.

So, next time you see a too-good-to-be-true referral program or a “Free for Coaches” subscription offer, take a moment to think it over. Is it worth risking the long term success of your business for? Focus on delivering top-notch coaching and maintaining those strong relationships with your athletes. In the long run, that’s what will truly benefit your business and your athletes' success.

Your connection with your athletes is something special. Stick with platforms that get it and have your back.

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