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Why Storytelling is Important for Coaches

by Hilary JM Topper, MPA

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As a coach, it can be difficult to find new clients or team sponsors. There is so much competition between both certified and non-certified USA Triathlon coaches. How do you set yourself apart from the competition?

Storytelling is a wonderful way to connect with people and to influence behaviors. People learn through storytelling. It enables a deeper connection between you and your client or sponsor. It’s not just a creative approach to marketing, it allows potential clients and sponsors to relate and connect to your brands from a different entry point rather than simply advertising.

Before pursuing new clients or sponsors for your triathlon “brand,” you should create a plan that includes your brand and your story using the following guide:

  • Identify your goals - What is it that you want to achieve? How many new clients? How many sponsors?
  • Target audience - What does the ideal client look like? What would attract that person to you? What type of sponsor would complement your brand?
  • Strategies - How will you target these two different buyer personas (clients/sponsors)?
  • Graphics/brand image - Do you have a logo? Does it reflect you and your brand?
  • Website - Do you have one? If not, what is your timeline for putting one up or how will people contact you and learn more about your coaching services, experience and background?
  • Social media marketing - Where would you attract your potential clients? Which social networking sites make sense for your target audience - Facebook? Instagram? YouTube?
  • Blogging - If you have a website, do you have a blog? What will you write about? How often? Will you push your content out on social media?
  • Podcasting - Should you have a podcast instead of a blog or in addition to your blog? Will it be a solo podcast where you tell stories of your experiences, or will it be an interview style show?
  • Publicity - Should you incorporate and send out press releases about the volunteer work you are doing in the community? Will that attract attention and visibility for your triathlon brand?
  • Email marketing - Should you buy a list of emails/potential clients or sponsors? If so, how will you “sell” your services?
  • Photography - People connect with images. Should you hire a photographer to take photos of you and/or your clients for your website or other marketing initiatives?
  • Experiential marketing - Does it make sense for you to create an experience for your potential clients and/or sponsors? Will this experience help you build business by connecting your potentials with your stories and experiences?
  • Advertising – Should you advertise on Facebook? Will you be able to target the clients you want? Are you better off creating a group?
  • ROI - What do you hope you return on investment will be? Were your expectations justified with the output you did?

Once you’ve established this plan, then think about the stories that you can share to win over support. For me, I share a story of how, at 48-years-old, I was never active and how I got off the couch and started to run. By 53, I started to compete in triathlons, never knowing how to even swim, shift gears or run. I talk about the trials and tribulations I had and share that with potential sponsors and clients. The type of client I’m looking for, it resonates with them.

But for you, it may be that you were an athlete in school, maybe you were even a D1 swimmer. You can talk about your experiences, and this can potentially attract new clients or sponsors to you because as you tell your story, your story allows you to further connect with your target audience.

Let’s take a quick look at a few non-triathlete brands that do storytelling the right way:

  • AirBNB – In their social posts they talk about work travel and how it can be rewarding by staying at an AirBNB. (Someone who travels for work, can relate to this and it sticks.)
  • DOVE Beauty Bar – They had a campaign on real beauty not just beauty from models. They showcased lots of different real women and their message about self-acceptance and to stand up against the status quo of beauty advertising really resonated with much of the population.
  • Gary Vaynerchuk – He is a marketing guru and keeps his audience entertained by his raw yet inspiring action. This is a marketing guy who built his father’s brand on YouTube and became in an instant and one of the first influencers on YouTube with the Wine Guru. He is constantly telling stories that people can relate to and that’s why he has done so well.

The thing about storytelling that is important is that it needs to have an emotional connection between your clients and sponsors. They need to be moved in some way and be able to relate to you.

We are more hardwired to learn by hearing stories because they will be remembered. And, if you create a story that people will remember, you will be able to build up your triathlon coaching business and get sponsors at the same time!

Hilary JM Topper, MPA is a USA Triathlon Certified Level I Coach. She is a published author, and her current book is called, Branding in a Digital World available on Amazon or on her website She is currently writing her third book about triathlons and it will be available in the spring of 2022 by Meyer & Meyer Sports Publishers.

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