6 Signs of a Good Educator
How to Navigate the Noise & Find a Good Coach or Course
What to Look for in an Educator
1. They Say No
A good educator isn't afraid to tell a potential client or course student no. This is important for two huge reasons:
1) If an educator can say no, it means they are achieving success and are not desperate for business.
2) They care about serving and may say no because another educator may be a better fit.
I tell potential clients or Editor's Course students no, not frequently, but on occassion if I feel like we may have differing ideas or they have a very specific need I think someone else could help them through better.
And as always, when I do refer someone elsewhere, it's an educator or course I have experienced or have first-hand knowledge about and am not in any way affiliate with them—meaning, I'm not getting paid or a kickback for referring them.
2. Others Back them Up, Beyond Testimonials
It is very easy to get a good testimonial, or what I've seen is worse, testimonials with only first names listed where you can't confirm who said those things. Anyone can get their best friends to say nice things about them or a course.
Are testimonials important? Absolutely. But I would also see what others say about the educator who aren't their poster-child client or on the testimonial list. See a friend get all excited about signing up for a course, then never mention it again? Ask them about it before signing up for it.
3. Ask Real Clients/Students for Feedback
Again, pulling the curtain back—many educators will send testimonials reviews after the first session or module of a program when the clients are really excited and they have probably jam-packed their best content up front in order to get those glowing reviews.
How do I know? Because that's how 2 out of 4 courses I've reviewed did it to me, and were pretty transparent about their strategy.
Take a look at the testimonial page, and reach out to those people individually about how that educator or course served them after the excitement died. Did it really help their business long-term? Does the educator still connect with them in some way? Was the rest of their time together fruitful?
4. More than Data, Real Experience
I'm going to stop apologizing for being real...but here's more realness that may be painful to hear.
It's super easy to manipulate data.
When an educator says their client started making 200% more after working with them, what they don't share is that the client may have not been making any money to start.
When an educator says their course has the highest completion rate, what they don't share is that they incentivize their students to finish (basically, click through to the end) the course or they lose the content or can't be an affiliate. And I know this again from a course I was asked to review.
And full transparency, the first round of Editor's Course I gave a little money back to those who completed the program as incentive to complete it, because I wanted them to complete it. I didn't use that stat for promoting the program. I stopped doing the incentives though because of how I felt about the course I was asked to review, it didn't feel authentic.
In another vein, some educators use data as their attractor to make them seem well-educated. And absolutely, being current in your business research is so helpful for teaching. I'm a research nerd, and am totally attracted to people who know all the stats. But, I would encourage you to take a closer look at their real experience.
Meaning, have they actually done the work they talk about?
Have they built and successfully produced and sold a real, tangible (non-digital) product? Have they built and successfully produced and sold a real, in-person (non-digital) service? Even if they weren't the creator or boss, do they have experience in the work their clients experience? Have they proven their business strategies outside of education?
Can they relate to your late nights striking a wedding? Do they even know what striking means? Do they understand the fear of investing in something before selling it, unlike digital products that are easily pre-sold? Can they empathize and relate to your pain points?
It's totally fine if they can't relate to you in all things, an outsiders opinion can be so valuable. But I would look to find an educator who isn't just smart, but is also understanding of your challenges, in a first-hand perspective if possible.
5. They've Achieved Success at least 3x
*(In a business other than education.)
It's is really easy to sell out the first time. Everyone gets excited over something new, and of course the curiosity motivates people to buy. It's a little harder to sell out the second time, but is possible because of those who missed out the first time. It's a lot harder to sell out the third time because the excitement is gone, and by then you've probably had your first (or first few) disgruntled customers.
I didn't start teaching until we sold out of three issues of Cottage Hill. I wanted to be sure that I taught from real experience, real success and not just a fluke success.
When searching for an educator, it's great if they had a good year and want to share their lessons. And if you're an educator, that's fine, I totally get the excitement of figuring out how to make something work and wanting to share.
But, if you want to be a really good educator; and on the flipside if you want an educator who is well-equipped to teach sustainable methods from experience, they will have proven their success, in whatever appropriate form, at least three times.
This alone is a great way to weed out the scammers from the really good educators out there.
6. They Don't Use Emotional Manipulation
I wish you could see my face. This is when I wish a had a camera by my desk and could make a face like Jim on The Office. Oh gosh, guys...
A good educator does not have to emotionally manipulate you to work with them or buy their product. I know I'm stepping on so many toes right now, but I have to be honest.
What I mean is the very personal and emotional story shared at the end of a pitch to get those last people signed up 3 minutes before a webinar ends. It looks like using religion, family or a deep personal pain to directly sell.
You can definitely talk about your faith, your kids or a personal story, but there's fine line between connection in your content and emotionally manipulating, using those things for people to directly buy from you.
This is not developing emotional connection, or ethos, as I know is taught in marketing. This is emotional manipulation, and if an educator relies on that to make their sale they are compensating for something lacking in their abilities.
There is a deeply personal story I share on occassion at in-person events. Every time I share it, it makes me cry. There's no theatrical, dramatic or manipulative motive behind the story—I simply share it because I genuinely want the story to help creatives value themselves. I never share the story in a pitch or even to talk about my business in any way when I share this story.
To me, that degrades the real moment of that story that was life-changing for me. And, it shows a disrespect to the group I'm sharing it to because it indicates that I think they are not wise enough to decide if they want to work with me, I must manipulate them to be on my side. As I mentioned in another post, I can share this while speaking at workshops—which is where I usually do—because I do not pitch at workshops. Read more here.
This story has been stolen without permission to promote a sales webinar. Other proprietary content I share in workshops (non-pitching environments) have been plagiarized into blog posts and newsletters sent to me by my clients. This isn't an educator hearing an idea and making it their own. It's a pure copy and paste of both personal stories and proprietary content—educators who call me a 'dear friend' thinking that allows them to steal my words without permission for their own business gain. I do not allow my work to be stolen, and definitely, not my personal stories to be used for a sale or a following.
Which, sidenote: If an educator's content is mostly pulled from other places, it's a sign they aren't confident in their own methods and feel like they have to prove their legitimacy. A stat, research point or quote here and there is totally fine and can help greatly with making points. But stealing personal stories and methods, even with credit is a clear sign that maybe the educator needs more refining.
But that's exactly how I feel about emotional manipulation: silly and unnecessary. Good educators don't need it. And it's often a sign of other questionable behavior.
Share your faith, family or vulnerable stories for connection, not selling—giving those parts of your life the respect and dignity they deserve. And believe me, your audience will trust and respect you more for it.
And for those wondering, the best way to integrate ethos into your marketing is to not make it about you, but about others. If you truly serve, that creates the strongest emotional bond with your audience. No tricks and strategic tears necessary.