Show Notes

In this episode, Annie Petsche, a career and fulfillment coach, emphasizes the impact self-inquiry has on getting your messaging on the right path. And Melanie Benson, coach and podcast host, discusses moving from a corporate job to coaching and how she struggled early on without marketing knowledge and being repulsed by the idea of having to sell herself.

Anne Petsche, a career and fulfillment coach for multi-passionate people, emphasizes the impact self-inquiry has on getting your messaging on the right path. She shares the questions to ask yourself and walks through how to examine your life’s milestones in order to pinpoint the moments that have influenced your coaching style and messaging.

Melanie Benson discusses moving from a corporate job to coaching, and how she struggled early on without marketing knowledge. She even talks about initially being repelled by the idea of selling herself. 

Annie shares her advice for exploring your ‘linch-pin skills’ and how to turn them into a differentiator in your personal branding.

Melanie’s own experiences model how to align your marketing with your ideal client. She shares the people who shaped that differentiation approach and how networking can help you see the way your communication is interpreted. She points to most potential clients being outcome-oriented and how to work towards that. 

Annie paints the process of finding and attracting the right clients to support through coaching as an ongoing journey and emphasizes engaging with and listening to clients in order to understand how to connect with them.

Two big tips Annie shares:

  1. That marketing to the right clients is a journey, and
  2. That it’s important to explore what makes your ideal client ‘tick.’

Melanie discusses her three pillars for differentiating your coaching: mindset, messaging, and marketing. She explains that getting clear on your ‘superpower’ supports all three pillars.

Melanie shares her steps for finding your superpower, aligning messaging, and monetization. These are what turn your coaching into a brand. 

Annie shares her advice for listening to your ideal clients and how to use that knowledge to evaluate that clientele and best package your coaching to a potentially shifting audience.

She explains her ‘how-tos’ are centered on setting yourself against the competition and finding your unique positioning in over-saturated coaching markets.

Melaine talks about her steps for branding in three steps: getting your superpowers down, expanding messaging to include your coaching tone and providing clarity on your services, and monetizing your value.  

Annie points to curiosity as the greatest tool for coaches. She encourages coaches to use it by listening to their gut while building their personal brand and establishing differentiators.

She explains how this allows both the coach and the client to explore success, their solutions, and their personal brand.


Annie Petsche:

So if you’re a coach that is really feeling, I don’t know, necessarily where to begin or I’ve reached a place where I’m feeling overwhelmed by optionality, I can see a lot of different avenues. I am feeling just a little bit confused. The very first place to start is with you to travel inward and to start understanding yourself on a deep level.

Shawn Hesketh:

That’s Annie Petsche, a career and fulfillment coach for multi-passionate people talking about differentiation. We all want to stand out as coaches, but with millions of coaches out there how exactly do you do that? I’m Shawn Hesketh and welcome to the Coach Factory podcast.

In previous episodes, we’ve talked about how to market your business in unique ways. But today’s episode touches on the more personal elements involved in differentiating yourself because it’s more involved than just adding a great tagline to your website or nailing your value proposition. Differentiation begins with reflection on a fundamental level.

Annie Petsche:

So it does start with self-inquiry on a deep level and starting to ask yourself questions that challenge your own norms that you have subscribed to for so long. So starting to question what is my actual philosophy on some of the core systems that I exist within. And then, also taking a trip back in time, doing a retrospective on yourself to understand what is my experience thus far. Who am I? And really starting to understand what are some of the milestones I’ve hit in my life thus far.

What are some of the moments, like the key moments of growth, that really stand out to me that have yielded a lot of benefit? And assessing all of those micro-moments in your life and understanding what are the key themes here. Because once you start to identify key themes of how you’ve been living thus far, you can now start to understand, “Oh, I do lead that way. I do show up that way.” And you can start to understand more about how you operate, and what we’re really starting to drive toward here is your core set of linchpin skills, your unique genius, and differentiators.

And the thing about these pieces and parts of you is when you think about your unique genius, so what really makes you you, what sets you apart from the rest of the world, is it can be elusive because it is so interwoven into the fabric of your being, into the fabric of who you are that your greatest value that you bring to the table, your greatest strengths feel commonplace to you.

You don’t even recognize them a lot of the time. Yes, we’re going to continue to learn new skills, and we’re going to continue to gather information. Many of us coaches, I would venture to say, boldly, all of us coaches are learn it alls. We want to continue learning, but there are those core strengths within us that we want to understand that we already possess.

Shawn Hesketh:

It’s easy to get distracted by all the things you’ve been told you need to focus on in order to grow your coaching business. So it’s actually refreshing to reflect on what you already know. Melanie Benson experienced this early in her coaching career, trying to tap into her superpower skills while also focusing on the practical side of her business.

Melanie Benson:

I fell in love with coaching as a corporate employee who had been exposed to Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People Work and the leadership coaching they’re bringing into that organization. But I knew I didn’t want to be an employee, so I brought those concepts into being a coach, and I realized that being a coach really lit up the superpowers that I felt I was most enlivened by at that time, that I really felt like those were the superpowers I’d cultivated of helping people achieve extraordinary outcomes in accelerated timeframes. But there was one key thing I didn’t understand about starting your own business. I knew it was going to give me freedom.

I knew it was going to be a opportunity for me to be in my superpowers and to have more joy in my life, but I didn’t realize how many skills I didn’t have. I didn’t know how to market. I didn’t know how to sell. As a matter of fact, I repelled any sales opportunity because it was so wildly uncomfortable, and I didn’t have the right mindset. I thought like an employee. I was still waiting for things to come to me. I was so conditioned to receive a paycheck that I found myself in a very uncomfortable quagmire of challenges. I was not making enough money to live in the Los Angeles area and feeling very overwhelmed and conflicted about how to be successful in my own business.

Shawn Hesketh:

And while the early days of coaching can be focused on getting work, taking the time to develop an awareness of your unique skills and your niche plays a huge role in alleviating that stress. These linchpin skills are pivotal attributes that inform your personal branding.

Annie Petsche:

So when you start to identify your linchpin skills, and you start to understand your unique genius and your unique differentiators, which, by the way, your unique genius really is an amalgamation of your experience, your linchpin skills, your worldview and philosophy, and what you’re passionate about. So when you think about how do I move past this feeling that it’s commonplace and I’m doubting these pieces and parts of myself, and I’m not quite sure if this really is as valuable as I’m hoping?

That’s where your conscious action comes into play. Putting these skills into practice and watching the results occur is giving you hard evidence to show you that, yes, this is where I am leading with my greatest value, my greatest assets. Another thing is getting really clear on how you want to position yourself. So I recognize that these are my core linchpin skills. I recognize that this is my unique genius, but how do I let the world know that this is me?

And this is where we start to interact, and we won’t go deep into this, but this is where we start to interact with personal brand, and why your brand is so important, and how you are representing yourself. How you are positioning your unique genius at the center of your content, your speaking engagements, your coaching.

Shawn Hesketh:

It’s hard work to articulate what makes you unique as a coach and then build that into your personal brand. Sometimes, those things are only revealed after you dig in and start the work. But other times, as Melanie experienced, they come out of really unexpected places.

Melanie Benson:

So, in the beginning, the one thing I did know how to do was I knew how to go to networking events. I knew that if I went to networking events, I would meet people and that, somehow, that was going to open some doors for me. What I realized very quickly is entering into a networking event as a individual was very different than leading a networking event or being the guest expert. And what I found was I felt invisible. I found myself stuck and facing the prospect of having to go back and get a job. And that, just even considering that, felt so deflating to me.

And so I found myself willing to entertain that I didn’t know how to do this and I needed help, and I started going to workshops and events, anything I could get my hands on. I hired a coach, and my coach said, “Go out, be in the industry, be around other people who are successful.” So I found myself at a Mark Victor Hansen workshop one day, and this guy stood up on stage and said, “Hey, I’m starting this network.” It felt very brand-aligned, felt very energetically aligned. It was called Shared Vision Network. And he invited me to a call to find out more about it. So I got on the call. I don’t know anything about any of this, but it just sounded interesting.

And on that call, there was a Polish accent of a man who we both were kind of vying to lead this group, and he eventually stepped away and said, “I’m not going to lead it, but I want to be a part of it, and I’ll be willing to support you in getting it off the ground.” So we became really great friends. He’s name’s Adam Urbanski, and we started a mastermind together. And in that mastermind, Adam flipped a light switch in my brain where I thought, “As a coach, you sell people coaching. I will help you achieve your goal in three sessions a month for this amount of money.” And it wasn’t working.

I would think, “Oh, this is a great opportunity,” and the eyeballs would glaze over, or people would kind of do the duck-and-run method. And I was like, “What’s not working?” And Adam very kindly and very poignantly said, “You’re never going to sell coaching. People don’t buy coaching. They buy results.” Stayed with me the rest of my life, and it was the seed of what shifted for me, and recognizing I needed to have a specialty. I needed to position myself so my marketing worked better. I needed to solve a specific problem, not just be a coach.

Now, yes, there are people at some point in their journey where they’re looking for a coach, and so they’re going to look at all the coaches they know and hire the coach that feels most aligned. But most people don’t know they want to coach. They just know they want an outcome. And that was a magnanimous shift in my own process was recognizing I have to stop trying to sell coaching or experiences or whatever the feature was and get really clear who do I want to work with and what’s their problem they’re struggling with and how am I uniquely qualified to help them solve that problem?

Shawn Hesketh:

Just like your clients, you are also on a transformational journey, and only you can answer those questions as you discover your brand and what makes you unique. Annie has a few tips for connecting with your ideal client along the way.

Annie Petsche:

So one big thing that is going to set you apart as a coach is recognizing that the journey to understand your ideal client is a perpetual journey. It’s not a one-time said it and forget it. “I’m going to do this exercise. I’m going to understand them, and then that’s what I’m going to operate off of.” But it’s critically important that you continuously learn about your audience and you listen to what they’re saying. You listen to what they’re telling you. How they’re engaging in your comments. How they’re speaking in session with you.

The language that you’re hearing from them and continuously iterating your ideal client. It’s an evolution. I work with my ideal client all day, every day, in the background. Of course, putting pen to paper, it’s on a more regular cadence, but that’s number one. It’s not just a one-time exercise. So number two is going deeper into what makes them tick. So everyone can listen to a laundry list of pain points and say, “Oh, yeah, that’s me.” But when you go a level deeper, and you explain, “This is why you’re experiencing this.

This is why this is your current circumstance, and this is how you got here,” that’s when people really start to say, “Oh my goodness, how do you know me so well? It’s eerie how much you understand me.” So then that’s another level is not just understanding their challenges and their pain points, but understanding who they are as a person, understanding their characteristics, their qualities. I understand all of that about my audience, and I speak directly to that in my content, and it blows people away.

Shawn Hesketh:

But remember the note from earlier. Your coaching business is a journey. You might use a particular skill early on in coaching but then find it might not be the right fit later on. And just like Melanie, you can face moments where that journey takes you in a totally new direction towards new clients, and you may discover an even stronger superpower than what you found before.

Melanie Benson:

As coaches, sometimes, in the beginning of our journey, we do the things we’re good at because we haven’t really uncovered or unlocked our unique superpower that gives us what I call a sales advantage. And the superpower may emerge as you create your own success and start to see demonstrated results in your clients. Now, going back into that time, what is messaging? What is marketing, and what is mindset?

For me at that time, being able to help somebody achieve an extraordinary goal, really the ideal client was somebody who was learning all this stuff but didn’t know how to prioritize what to do first, and they didn’t really know what was making them feel overwhelmed. They were living in a space of overwhelm all the time and what I quickly discovered was two things.

Number one, I’m good at this, but I don’t want to do this all the time. Number two, my ideal clients are not overwhelmed. They are under-leveraged. And so my business has grown multiple times because, as I got clearer about where my superpowers really were, I would start to hone my messaging and my positioning to lean into that more.

Shawn Hesketh:

Annie shares some really great advice about listening even more intently to what your clients say so you can learn from them.

Annie Petsche:

A major well of valuable data is your clients in session with you. I’m always taking notes based on what my clients are saying. When I hear something that my client says that I’m like, “Oh my goodness, this is gold,” I instantaneously capture it. I do not wait and hope that I’m going to remember it. Right now, I am disrupting whatever I’m doing, and I’m capturing it. Another major area to learn about your client is in your content, in your comments, in your engagement.

If you’re putting out content that is inspiring people to ask questions, inspiring people to ask how or what does this mean? That gives you an opportunity to engage and have a conversation with them. And that’s going to funnel into the curiosity piece that I also want to talk about. Your audience, your clients, it’s not just a one-way street. It’s not you always teaching them or you being up on your digital stage or on your real stage being the expert. You’re learning from them. Take that opportunity to learn in everything you do.

Shawn Hesketh:

Okay. So you’ve done the work on yourself and discovered your linchpin skill or your superpower. So what comes next? Even after all the work of discovering your unique core, there’s still work to do to translate that into tangible differentiators in your branding, your marketing strategy, and ultimately your monetization.

Melanie Benson:

I always encourage my clients to start with where your superpowers help you have a unique sales advantage, meaning your talent, your expertise, your wisdom, your trial and error has given you knowledge that, if you were to translate that to a client, would be valuable. There’s a few pieces wrapped up in there with how you do it and how is that different from how other people may do it, right, or what the delivery mechanism so this where how you create an offering around it might set you apart and make you unique.

If all of your competitors are doing on-demand products or they’re only teaching it through one-on-one coaching, could you be the person who creates a done-for-you model, or could you be somebody who has a really unique integrated way that you guide people to a result that your competitors aren’t doing? So finding that unique positioning in a market that maybe has multiple people doing something similar. I mean, in my case, there’s hundreds of thousands of people that do similar things to me.

How do you and your results help differentiate you in the market? My results differentiate me in the market because I don’t teach theory. I teach what I’ve actually mastered, and I master it with clients. So I not only have proven it through myself, but I’ve proven it through clients who repeatedly get 3, 5, 10 times a return on investment. They’re increasing their revenue, doubling, tripling, quadrupling their six-figure revenue. So those are kinds of differentiators in the market.

Shawn Hesketh:

Considering all these questions can feel overwhelming as you’re looking deeper into yourself, Melanie keeps the branding process on track with three simple steps.

Melanie Benson:

I say start with your superpower because when you really get that first, then the next step is the messaging. Once you get your superpower down, now you want to create messaging that helps differentiate you in the marketplace. Messaging is not just, “I do this.” It’s the tone of the message. Like, are you playful and fun? Are you soulful and spiritual? Are you professional and bottom-lining it? Do you always have some kind of quippy little comments that you make in your message that people tend to go, “Oh yeah, that’s so-and-so, that’s their brand, that’s their energy?”

Part of what I call creating a magnetic message is bringing your personality into your message while having clear outcomes in your titles, your topics, and things like that. And then the third pillar is the monetization. And actually monetization is a huge differentiator in your market. I am known as somebody that is a premium deliverer. People know that Melanie has high-ticket programs, and you are going to invest in her 22-plus years of wisdom and experience and her cutting-edge track record. But you’re also getting Melanie’s unique blend of consciousness and spirituality and empathy and connection, along with things that are proven to work.

Shawn Hesketh:

Figuring out your differentiators builds your own confidence in your coaching, and communicating them builds your client’s confidence in you. That’s why Annie has one last tip. Listen and trust your gut.

Annie Petsche:

Curiosity is one of the most important coaching tools in every area of your practice. And I want to lead into this by highlighting that coaches are already insatiably curious individuals. There is a reason you’re a coach. You are interested in the human experience.

You are passionate about creating impact and empowering other people to create impact. So let’s start there. This is a strength that you already possess, and that’s already a part of who you are. So now you get the opportunity to leverage it more intentionally.

Shawn Hesketh:

Leading this way is easier said than done, but there are steps you can take to make this approach more concrete.

Annie Petsche:

So this idea of leading with curiosity translates into everything you do. It translates into your copy, into your content, into your marketing materials. And one of the best ways to do this is to invite your audience into the conversation. Invite them to engage, ask them questions, ask them for feedback. And I’m not necessarily talking about something like a poll in your Instagram story. That’s great too. But getting in a virtual or real room in real-time is one of the most powerful ways to do this.

So here’s another way of leading with curiosity as a general approach or philosophy in your business that I think is really important, and it really hinges on, and this is a newer term that people might not be familiar with, but your adaptability quotient, which is really your ability to adapt to changing demands and needs of your audience and your clients. And this is a byproduct of leaving with curiosity is a high adaptability quotient. We are trying.

Our goal is to create sustainable businesses, and that means that, in the words of Simon Sinek, “We’re playing the infinite game.” We are not just getting to an endpoint. We’re not just developing a solution, and that’s going to be the core solution forever. We want to make sure that we’re staying curious. We’re understanding the shifting needs, the shifting wants and desires, and also the shifting technologies in this world around us. We have to remain curious so that we can remain agile and flexible.

Shawn Hesketh:

Thank you so much to both Annie Petsche and Melanie Benson for sharing their personal experiences and some practical tools for differentiating yourself and evaluating your coaching skills.

Hey, we’d love to hear from you. So if you’ve got questions about this episode or just want to let us know that you’ve found it helpful, go to:, and let’s start a conversation!

Our goal is to support the work you’re doing as a coach, so we’d love to send you a special gift just for reaching out.

Until then, thank you for joining me on this episode of the Coach Factory podcast, and I look forward to hearing how you uncover your unique brand so you can stand out from the other voices in your niche. This episode of the Coach Factory Podcast was produced with the support of Come Alive Creative. To hear more episodes, get the show notes, and learn how to start, run, and grow your coaching practice, visit

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