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Survey Results: Are People Wasting Money on Coaching Programs?


In my last blog post, I asked you to fill out my survey, called “You Can Lead a Horse to Water.”  I’m so pleased that 38 of you have answered the 5 simple questions so far.

If you’re reading this and have not yet taken the survey, then please go there RIGHT NOW, and weigh in on this important subject with your answers, before you read this post.

The more people who answer the survey, the more powerful the results will be!

 Survey Results

Here’s what the survey shows.  There were 5 questions, so I’ll give you the results, questions by question.  In all cases when I quote numbers, I’ve rounded them to the closest whole number.  I find the data easier to digest that way.

Again, there were 38 respondents to this survey so far.


Survey Question 1:

Have you ever bought a program and never listened to or read the content?
  • 80% responded “Yes”
  • 20% responded “No”

What does this tell us?  For one thing, the fact that 80% of intelligent (they must be intelligent; they’re change agents!) people spend money on something they highly value, and then NEVER make use of it!

This is the exact figure that’s been quoted by others, without any reference or citation.  Now I’ve “scientifically” shown that this is true!


Survey Question 2:

How many programs do you estimate you started but never finished?
Out of 38 people:
  • 28 answered —  3 or more programs started but not finished
  • 20 answered —  5 or more programs started but not finished
  • 10 answered — 10 or more programs started but not finished!

So more than 25% of coaches and other change agents who took this survey have invested in 10 or more courses or programs, and never finished them!

This tells me that the coaching and training service industries have a problem.  That problem is called “CLIENT RETENTION.”  The longer a client or student stays with you, the more they learn, and the more they refer other clients to you.  If you lose them, who knows where they’ll go?


Survey Question 3:

How much money do you estimate you’ve wasted in this way?
  • 16% responded — $0-$100 wasted on unused programs
  • 16% responded –$100-$500 wasted on unused programs
  • 68% responded — OVER $1000 wasted on unused programs

Let me repeat, a whopping 68% estimate they have wasted more than $1000 in this way!  As one person wrote, “Most of the programs I purchased were in the $97 to $197 range but there was one I purchased for $750 that I never touched and that one bums me out the most. A BIG investment I could ill afford.”

But that’s not all.

One person wrote that they have lost over $75,000 by buying programs they didn’t make use of.

Another person wrote “$20,000+  shocking.”


Survey Question 4:

Have you ever noticed people not utilizing YOUR programs?
  • 80% yes  (78.95%)
  • 20% no  (21.05%)

Notice that these are the same percentages that we found in Question 1, which was:  Have you ever bought a program and never listened to or read the content?

  • 80% responded “Yes”
  • 20% responded “No”

I love when data is consistent.  (Any scientists reading this, I’m aware of the confounding variables.)  So a little more evidence that 80% of people don’t make full use of the programs they buy.


Survey Question #5

When you run a program, what percent of people do you estimate you lose during the program, or never hear from after they purchase? Please type in a percentage number (e.g. 25%)

Woman Thumbs DownAnswers range widely from 2% to 90%.  A few said they had not run programs or had run very few programs.

  • 20 responded that they lose 20% or more of their people
  • 10 responded that they lose 50% or more
  • 4 responded that they lose 70% or more


What do these results mean?

The big message from this data is that we’re not focusing enough on client retention. Therefore, we’re not retaining our clients long enough.  A majority of them are leaving and not coming back.  They never learn anything from us because they don’t even know the information we’re teaching.  And they are not getting the benefits and transformations that they wanted when they invested in our programs.

This is bad news from a business point of view.  It’s easier to keep clients than to get new ones.  Yet clearly we’re operating from a different principle — constantly filling the pipeline and then the funnel, and not focusing on keeping the clients we do have from dropping right out of the funnel.

I’ll be exploring what we can do about this problem in later blog posts.  But being aware that you are “losing” clients in this way is the first step.

Are you surprised by these results?  Do they resonate?  What have you noticed in your coaching practice, or as a client in a coaching group?

7 thoughts on “Survey Results: Are People Wasting Money on Coaching Programs?

  1. I agree with many of Amethyst’s points above. On one hand, this is a great example of the 80-20 rule – which seems to be some form of nature.

    On another hand (and I’m gonna run out of hands shortly!), people do pack too much in – I am definitely guilty of that in the past and sure that I could cut some more.

    Thirdly, so many programs use subtle and not-so-subtle forms of manipulation to get people to buy – and they do so before being ready or perhaps just not being a good fit.

    Gaining consciousness about which our inner selves is making these sorts of decisions would likely go a long ways to reducing unnecessary expenditures. Of course, we could also call for a consciousness upgrade with those of us who offer programs with volume of signups being the number one goal as compared to relevant signups.

    I love the data – thanks for doing this.
    Roxanne Darling recently posted..Benefits of To Thine Own Self Be TrueMy Profile

  2. Beautifully stated, Winnie. I especially like “I think it’s our responsibility as professionals to help those who take our programs to engage with, finish, and apply the skills we’ve shared with them. If we’re truly change agents then we’ve got to help people make the changes they want.”

    That’s exactly why I’m putting the focus here. We need to investigate ways to get people not just to stick to showing up, but to fully take in the material, get over their internal blocks, and make those changes. Just think what impact coaching would have on the world!
    Gina Hiatt recently posted..Ready to Run Online Get-it-Done Coaching Groups? Take this Self AssessmentMy Profile

    • One addition to training programs that could make them more effective is teaming with people who are skilled and enjoy helping resolve emotional changes quickly and painlessly. It could be a built in option in training programs-a service provided that people are educated about up front and built up as the way to understand the “spin” their in and learn what it presenting that also could become part of their offering to others. Progress could become more steady and avoid so many getting lost and falling off the wagon or never seeing their way to success.
      Mary Wolken recently posted..“Time for Me” a giftMy Profile

  3. So glad you’re opening people’s eyes to this Gina! I’m going to guess this has been a problem in training back to Aristotle! How do you get people to engage in and fully apply the programs they take?

    When I was in the corporate universe I remember a training association estimated that 90% of participants won’t change their behavior after completing the program and I think that relates to the engagement during the program and support after the program.

    You’ve uncovered a multi-layered problem and I believe Amethyst hit on part of it. One is that people are ill-prepared for the emotions that these programs bring up and the coach or guru doesn’t fully address it.

    Then there’s the issue of cramming too much into your programs. I agree the coach thinks that’s needed but I disagree. I think it’s simply a bribe (ethical it may be) to get people to take action. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these things get reduced or even eliminated as the online expert industry progresses and buyers get hip to this technique.

    People can be easily overwhelmed and I think it’s our responsibility as professionals to help those who take our programs to engage with, finish, and apply the skills we’ve shared with them. If we’re truly change agents then we’ve got to help people make the changes they want.

    No, we’re not responsible for their actions but we must acknowledge and provide the support they need to have the breakthrough they really want.
    Winnie Anderson recently posted..The secret to powerful messaging that’s not salesyMy Profile

    • Winnie, I have had an experience in a 20k coaching program that I thought was a match- As soon as the marketing section didn’t fit my niche my coach became standoffish as she was regimented with the group coaching process. I have to admit that I am a high achiever and have now chosen to hire an offline marketing agent to cut through all the smoke and mirrors that seem to abound in various online products. Please people I think what I have come away with here is that the programs I have been involved with have oversold and underdelivered. Also I really think that coaches need to take a step back and although making money is the why everyone is coaching in the first place the client assessment process needs to be rethought for peop0le in the real world. If you choose to put high value on your programs make sure you are willing to go the extra mile:)

  4. SOO Awesome that you are quantifying the incredible amount of money that is being invested and not be2ing capitalized upon!

    There are a couple of things that I want to add to this Gina Hiatt

    1) I too have witnessed literally MILLIONS of dollars being invested through programs (including very high end masterminds) where people did not fully participate, engage and consume the material – one group I’ve been I have seen over $23,000,000 being invested and about 20% of the people really actively participating and less than 1% of the people coming anywhere close to replicating the mentor’s success.

    I believe that FINISHING is part of the issue but I think there is more to it than that. A lot of these programs “trigger” internal blocks, resistance and fear about actually being out there in the world in a bigger way. That’s why I personally prefer to work with very highly invested people either privately or in small groups to help them to not only succeed in implementing the practical tactical strategic pieces that I support them in learning in the areas of speaking and selling but in my opinion more importantly support them in healing the self worth, self esteem and self sabotaging issues that allow them to stand powerfully and confidently in their greatness so that they can deliver the gifts they were born to deliver. I believe successful program completion and implementation is 90% inner work 10% actual implementation work.
    Procrastination is a symptom of inner resistance!

    2) There have definitely been times where I myself have not ‘Finished’ – or fully consumed all the material that I have invested in – most often because I really didn’t NEED all that was offered in the program – sometimes the material was redundant to other material or skills I had already integrated. Sometimes I’ve been guided to invest merely for the CONNECTIONS in the groups or programs and not for the content at all! In one particular program – a $10K investment – I was asking my “upstairs team” (inner guidance/Spirit) WHY? am I needing to invest here and the answer was INVEST! So I did! There was VERY LITTLE In the program that I didn’t already know – most of the people were much further behind me on the entrepreneurial journey – HOWEVER….. ONE call with one of the program coaches in 15 minutes gave me a piece of information that was worth HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS if not MILLIONS of dollars to my business. Well worth the $10K investment for that one 15 minute call!

    3) I think many many coaches put WAY TOO MUCH stuff into their programs – with the belief that if they give MORE MORE MORE that people will VALUE what they have to offer and buy. The truth is actually the inverse. The more you give people the less they can really consume fully and effectively – people need information delivered in a variety of ways too – there are learners who are more experiential and kinesthetic, others are more auditory learners and of course there are the visual learners to the material AMOUNT and STYLE OF Delivery also have an impact on the capacity to consume. This again is why I personally prefer to serve people who really want to be HEARD rather than part of a HERD – and have created a business model that allows me to customize the service delivery while systematizing the content delivery so that everyone gets to experience their vision of success or better!

    LOVE Your survey and would love to see what would be revealed if you drilled even deeper!

    • Amethyst, your comments on this survey are right on. You have made 3 brilliant points here.

      1) As a psychologist, of course I totally agree that it’s all about Resistance being triggered by the challenges of the program. Totally. It’s not about the teachers not being good enough (most of the time). It’s about our internal battles.

      2) Yes, in many programs it’s more about the interaction among the people in the group than it is about the need to learn more information. I often say that if it was just that people needed to learn more, they would just read the book and make the change!

      3) I love that you brought up the piling on of information as one reason people don’t get anywhere. It’s frightening to see all that you don’t know yet (or think you don’t know) all at once. And if each class is overpacked with information, the brain reels and rejects most of what it hears!

      Amethyst, if you have ideas for drilling deeper, let me know!
      Gina Hiatt recently posted..You Can Lead a Horse to Water — Do Your Clients Do the Work? My Profile

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