Feature

Alison Smith: Parenting Coach and DIY Marketer

In business, marketing is key.

But when it’s you and only you behind the wheel, it’s something that’s hard to master without coming off like the stereotypical slimy sales person

That’s why New Brunswick parenting coach Alison Smith has gotten innovative when it comes to marketing her service to reach new clients.

Smith’s coaching specializes in a collaborative approach to parenting, one where everyone in the family, even the kids, are treated with equal respect.

“It’s based on absolute respect for everyone in the family, adults and children, as individuals of their own thoughts, feelings, opinions, beliefs and finding ways to collaborate together to come up with solutions,” Smith says. “To guide our kids rather than the older paradigm of controlling and punishing. It’s responsive. It’s proactive. It’s looking at a bigger picture. So it’s ‘what is this behaviour communicating?’ as opposed to ‘I don’t like this behaviour, we need to stop it.’”

Instead of immediately punishing bad behaviour, Smith says her approach focuses on getting to the root cause of bad behaviour, while at the same time letting the child know that it’s wrong.

“It’s really reframing the language we use when we think about our kids, talk about our kids and talk to our kids,” she says.

Smith offers individual coaching and consulting, group coaching and workshops. There is also an online membership, which is similar to the format of an online course, with live events and message boards.

Though many of Smith’s clients seek out her services on their own, like other entrepreneurs working solo as consultants, getting new customers relies heavily on marketing yourself. Smith says it’s been something she’s had to learn on her own and she soon realized that if you want to find potential customers, you need to go where they are.

“Since parenting can be quite a personal thing, I wanted to come up with a way to meet parents where they hang out in a way that’s not threatening and easy for them to get a little bit of a sense of who I am and what I do,” Smith says.

The majority of Smith’s clients are mothers, so she started thinking of what time-crunched mothers of young children do for fun.

“They socialize at maybe mom and baby meet-up groups, but they do some home shopping too. So things like Tupperware parties, Arbonne parties … those kinds of things,” she says.

So Smith decided to team up with a few of her friends who work in the direct sales business. While they would host “parties” she would also be there to offer some free parenting tips and describe what she does.

“I started doing some of those and they were really well received. The parents liked it because they didn’t have to commit to making a phone call and paying some money and coming to find out that ‘yeah, maybe this isn’t for me,’” Smith says. “It was a way to get a little bit of a sample in a comfortable setting.”

But it’s not just mothers who are Smith’s clients, she works with dads too. Though most dads are not big on Tupperware parties, many are fans of beer. So Smith created “Pints and Parenting” in partnership with a friend who runs the Fredericton Craft Beer Festival.

“Because dads face slightly different struggles than the moms sometimes, we created a space where we could really be honest and talk about things that [dads] don’t usually get an opportunity to talk about but are still important to them,” Smith says.

The event was hit.

“Some of the dads signed themselves up, some had their wives say ‘you need to go.’ The beer was a real draw,” she says. “But they were all there because they wanted that space where they could talk about those kinds of things they don’t usually get to talk about.”

When it comes to partnering with others for events, Smith says it’s important to find the right fit.

“Relationships are really important. It has to be authentic. So trying to force a collaboration when you’re really not a fit just isn’t the way to go,” she says. “Because people are pretty savvy and they’re going to know if you’re being honest or not.”

Another important aspect of partnering up and hosting events for your business is offering some sort of value to your potential customers.

“Marketing seems to really have changed and the general public is getting quite tired of the old ways. They know how they’re being marketed to and they’re very sensitive to being marketed to,” Smith says.  “I think they’re really overwhelmed with all of the messages. Not just marketing messages, but just information overload is everywhere. So finding a way that’s less threatening than “oh my goodness I’m going to be sold to’ and something that shares the value.”

Smith describes it as marketing without being heavy on the sales side, which let’s face it, makes everyone uncomfortable. She says offering that value and being authentic is key.

“What will people get out of this? And if they didn’t decide to work with me, you never know who they know or who they talk to,” Smith says. “Just be yourself and be very authentic about it. If it doesn’t work for your business model, try something else that does.”

Smith says her approach has made a significant difference in her lead generation process. With more and more people entering the world of consulting and direct sales, Smith says partnerships and thinking outside the box is the new reality of reaching new clients.

“I can see it heading in that direction for sure. People’s time is so precious right now that they really need to get some value and they need to know who they’re working with and really trust that they’ve got their interest in mind,” Smith says.

“If they can do more than one thing at once, for example, they’re getting their new makeup line at the same time they’re picking up a few tips and hanging out with friends, that’s even better because their time is so precious.”