Actor by training
Biz owner by choice
Wildly enthusiastic by nature

I work with the enthusiastic overthinkers among us to clarify exactly what it is they do and why it matters through equity-centered coaching,  and values-based  copywriting.

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Information is Not Transformation: Misleading Marketing Tactics

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Megan Dowd

Human First, Biz Second®

“This is going to transform your business.”

“In just 6 weeks, I’ll help you transform your operations from chaos to clarity.”

“These tools will unlock a new level in your business.”

How many times have you read someone’s sales page or testimonials and thought… “Well that’s a bold claim”? Me? Oh, hundreds.

Here’s the thing: It’s likely not even those brands or business owners’ fault. They’re not being shady (intentionally).

So much of the online business world is about selling “transformation.” This elusive idea that we can be better, do better, have more — if we just find *The One Thing* that will show us The Way. We’re taught by coaches and marketing veterans that we want to offer transformation. That we have to highlight the transformation possible with our offers.

But what if your offer… doesn’t offer transformation? What if it’s solely information?

The breakdown: Information vs. transformation

Let’s be honest: What people are selling more often than not is information. Especially if it’s a “passive” product, like a self-guided course, template set, etc. Of course, that information will be needed to guide people toward transformation, but that transformation is usually a longer road than advertised — and may require other ingredients beyond the information provided. 

A lot of information, a lot of programs, are sold with the intent to INFORM – which is awesome. You’re going to teach someone what they need to know. BUT this can get confused with TRANSFORMATION, and you might end up overselling someone on what they’ll actually get out of the program or offer.

If you’re not taking on the responsibility of the transformation that you’ve sold someone on – if you’re not literally teaching them how to implement those tools to effect change – you’re not selling a transformation. You’re selling information. 

Because there’s a big difference. If you’re not a teacher, or don’t understand how to implement curriculum, maybe there’s an assumption in your head that giving someone the information alone will “transform their ability to make it happen.” 

That’s not true — and it’s a bold, self-centered claim. The information one person needs to achieve certain results is not the same information or support another person will need to achieve their own results. 

Information alone doesn’t change everyone’s life — or we’d be getting our shit for free on Google. Information is really only the first step, implementation is the driving force to change, and you can’t assume people have the tools they need to implement just from getting information. 

Everyone has different learning styles, and everyone’s brains work differently.

Why does the difference matter?

As course creators, service providers, product designers, influencers, etc., we have the responsibility to understand the transformation that is possible with our information – but that’s only the first (although super important) step.

We also need to consciously represent inclusions, rather than inflate their value. Your 3-email template isn’t going to transform their business; it’s going to help them create a nurture sequence faster and with less stress.

Now, I want to be super clear: anyone who has launched an offer has probably inflated the value and the transformation it provides. It’s honestly just standard in this industry. But that’s why it’s so important to understand the difference and really think about them in our own offers — so that we can change that standard.

Want an example to help you see how we can put this into practice? (See, here’s my giving you information)

Option 1: Information only 

In an information-only setting, your offer is usually lower-priced, doesn’t come with coaching, and offers a clear outcome/deliverable.

The biggest draw for clients is how you’ve curated the information. Sure, they could find it all online themselves after hours of incessant Googling… or they could grab your meticulously curated selection of valuable info. 

Do the work for your client by distilling the important bits, guiding where to go in-depth if they want to learn more, and sharing what they don’t need to worry about in general. Your perspective is what we’re paying for here — even if it’s a freebie — so you damn well better offer it,

Another note about the information approach: It’s typically for your DIY audience. The transformation is completely reliant on them to do what they need to with the information you provide, so of course results my vary. 

The client journey IS the information. They started out without this information or not knowing this information IN THIS CONTEXT, and the outcome is having information. This is the one time “clarity” is an OK answer for “What do you walk away with” — but make sure you include examples of what that clarity can do for them.

Stacking this informational offer with tales of transformation is false advertising at best, predatory marketing at worst. Don’t fall into the trap of saying “This will transform…” Instead, show them why YOUR curation of this information is valuable.

Sometimes info-focused offers are indeed transformative and that’s freakin’ fantastic — but that’s not guaranteed nor supported.

Option 2: Information and Transformation

In a transformation-focused offer, you share the information (i.e. include templates, courses, etc.) as well as support, guidance, or frameworks used to reach a new level. It’s not one specific outcome, it’s a tiered-approach to overall growth in specific area of their business or life. 

This kind of offer is both curation of information and assistance in application. With an informational and transformational offer, a leader or mentor understands what you do and how you work to help you apply things in the most effective way(s) possible.

These usually have some kind of 1:1 element, too. Group coaching programs are often sold as transformational, but unless there’s an element of personal tailoring per client, it’s frequently informational with the veneer of transformational.

For example, some group coaching programs have timed curriculum and weekly coaching calls to cover said curriculum. Unless the coaching groups were handpicked and curated purposefully, there can be no guarantee of transformation because there are too many variables – and not everyone learns that way. Transformation is only possible when a guide/mentor/coach knows what variables matter for which client.

Changing the standards of offer messaging

Can you see how reframing your offer from transformation to information (or vice versa) changes how you talk about it? How you feel about it?

Do you know how many times a client or friend has said they “feel scummy” talking about their offer like it’s the Cure for Cancer? Sometimes, we just need permission to step away from industry “best practices” that were created by a subset of people who wanted to make $$ rather than serve their audience. 

There’s another important reason to address the information vs. transformation debate: The other messaging tropes associated with them. Namely: Income marketing (dun dun duhhhhh).

Income claim marketing is exactly what it sounds like: A claim you’re making that your offer will help someone make a specific level of income. Whether directly (“This program will help you make $1,000 this week”) or indirectly (“Unlock a new level of income and profit in your business with these steps”), you’re making a promise that you (the provider) cannot deliver on in any certainty. It’s OUT of your control, and it’s setting people up for failure. 

Transformation and income claim marketing have become so common in our online world that they seem commonplace. We don’t see how insidious this messaging is… until we buy that program we thought would be The Thing, only to find out it’s just another thing.

If you’re making promises about what people will get after buying your offers or working with you, you best be able to back that up with social proof, testimonials, and experience. This is not a newbie game — you can’t promise results when you haven’t gotten those results for yourself or others. And not everyone will get results from the steps that worked for you.

It’s time to check our “marketing standards” at the door, take a long look at our offers, and start to represent them as honestly and transparently as possible.