What is a digital marketing coach

What is a digital marketing coach?

I get asked this a lot. What does a digital marketing coach do? And, especially, what’s the difference between a digital marketing coach and any other digital marketing professional? To answer this question I’d like to tell you the story of Ben.

Ben’s niche was high-end, automatic toilets that did everything for you except the actual, well, you know… And business was booming. The competition was still limited and Ben knew it was time to take the next step. He needed to sell his toilets online. And quickly. So Ben did what any of us might do, he searched on Google for a digital marketing agency. And that’s where things started to go wrong.

The key is not the will to win. Everybody has that. It is the will to PREPARE to win that is important.

Bobby Knight

I met Ben after he had been through two agencies and three different websites. He was worried he was losing the competitive advantage he’d worked so hard to achieve in his market segment. 

In this article, we’ll look at: 

  1. What a digital marketing coach does.
  2. How a digital marketing coach is different from a digital marketing agency.
  3. When you should consider hiring a digital marketing coach.
  4. And how to find a digital marketing coach that is a good fit for your business.
  5. Finally, we’ll learn how Ben saved his online business.

1. What does a digital marketing coach do?

The objective of digital marketing is to help businesses and organizations to reach their target market. A digital marketing coach works with the company leadership team, specific departments, and outsourced professionals to develop internal processes that ensure the effective execution of their digital marketing strategies.

Similar to consulting, coaching will look at people and processes, but coaching goes one step further.  Digital marketing coaching examines the interpersonal relationships that might be affecting performance.

Business owners can feel overwhelmed by the COMPLEXITIES of digital marketing.

Most Business Owners

Often the digital marketing coach works directly with the business owner or leadership team to help them understand the nuances of digital marketing and the performance of their team. It’s very common for business owners to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of digital marketing and to feel like they are missing out on possibilities because of their lack of knowledge.

A digital marketing coach provides an independent and trusted source of knowledge and support to business leaders and the leadership team.

So this raises the next important question.

2. What’s the difference between a digital marketing coach and a digital marketing agency?

A digital marketing coach and a digital marketing agency have two very distinct roles, and it’s important to know the difference. A digital marketing agency has a very clear mandate to execute a digital marketing plan and to achieve the objectives set out in the agreement between the agency and the business. Often the digital marketing agency will also be involved in developing the plan and the objectives.

So what is the role of the coach here? Surely hiring a digital marketing agency is sufficient? And sometimes it is. A good digital marketing agency will work with a business to build and implement an effective digital strategy to meet a business’s goals. But there is a caveat. An agency has its objectives and its own agenda. In an ideal world, the agency’s agenda should align with that of the business. We don’t live in an ideal world.

A digital marketing coach can help you to evaluate ALL the possible options without bias.

Alastair Thompson

More often than not an agency will suggest tools and services in which they are specialists. An agency might push products and services that generate larger margins for the agency. A digital marketing coach has no financial incentive and can help you to evaluate all possible options without bias. This is the essential difference between a digital marketing coach and an agency. The digital marketing coach is completely aligned with your goals.

A digital marketing coach can help a business choose a digital marketing agency, or work with the digital marketing coach to align the business’s objectives and KPIs with the agency. A digital marketing coach can even help a business evaluate the performance of the agency or may act as an extra voice for the business in brainstorming and strategy sessions. The participation of a digital marketing coach in the interactions with an agency empowers employees and improves their knowledge. It also keeps the agency accountable.

As the business and team grow their understanding of digital marketing, so the synergy between the business and the digital marketing agency gets stronger, producing better results, faster.

3. When to hire a digital marketing coach and is it worth it?

There are three stages where businesses should consider hiring a digital marketing coach. The first stage is when the business is small and starting out, and is looking to start doing digital marketing. A digital marketing coach can help the founders and employees learn about their niche and create a growth plan for their digital marketing efforts and team. The second stage is a logical extension of the first step, where the digital marketing coach works with the team to help them implement their growth strategy, be it in-house or with an agency. The third stage may come later when a business has grown and is looking to build out a dedicated digital marketing team. At this stage, the digital marketing coach will help the team define the functions and processes required for effective teamwork and execution of the digital marketing strategies.

Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more PRECIOUS, than to be able to decide.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Is it worth it? The calculation is very simple. Your digital marketing coach will bill you for the hours worked. Ideally, this might be 2 hours a week. That’s 8 hours a month. The results are better, more informed decisions, more confident, productive team members, solid internal processes, and more accountability from outside contractors and agencies. This translates to faster growth and increased revenue.

This brings us to the final question.

4. How do I find a digital marketing coach?

Digital marketing coaches are a new phenomenon. There are tens of thousands of digital marketing professionals, but how do you find a coach? And more importantly, how do you find the right coach for you?

The first thing to remember is that a coaching relationship is like any other relationship, there are two parties involved. My first piece of advice is to start with your needs. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are your business needs? Are you launching a product? Are starting a business? Are you ready to build your own in-house marketing team? By clearly defining your needs you’ll be able to better match yourself to a suitable coach.
  2. What is your budget, both in terms of time and money? And, as an extension, what is your timeline for working with a coach? These items will help both you and the prospective coach decide if you are a good fit for each other.
  3. What market segment are you in? While not essential, working with a coach who has some experience with your specific market segment can be very useful.

Once you have defined your needs, you can start searching for coaches that can meet your needs. LinkedIn is an excellent starting point for your search. If your digital marketing coach isn’t on LinkedIn, I would be very wary of working together. LinkedIn is the go-to platform for professionals. If your digital marketing coach isn’t there, you need to know why.

Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.

Booker T. Washington

Once you’ve found your coach you’ll need to set up a call and check the synergy. Your digital marketing coach is a professional with whom you are going to be working closely and potentially sharing some sensitive details about your business. Choosing a coach, any kind of coach, is such an important decision that there are over five million search results for that exact query. But I’m not going to go into that here.

5. What happened to Ben’s automatic toilets?

Ben and I met at a coffee shop. I’d been recommended to him via a mutual friend who had done some work with me before. But Ben was wary. All of the digital marketers he’d spoken to had promised him the moon, but none had delivered. His physical store was doing great. His online business was a money sink. He didn’t want to spend another cent on websites and digital marketing he told me. And became our first goal. Not spending another cent until his online store was profitable.

We started meeting once a week for ninety minutes. We defined what “profitable” was and set our a roadmap for how to get to “profitable”. Luckily Ben had a physical store with a lot of foot traffic. We were able to leverage the customers to the physical store and use them as ambassadors for the online store. We set up training sessions for selected members of his team and started to empower them to operate the online store and marketing drives. Before long we started noticing traffic to the online store increasing, without spending another cent! And that was the beginning.

Don’t build the rocket before discovering that you don’t have enough fuel to reach the moon.

Alastair Thompson

There are a couple of learning moments in Ben’s story but for me, the most important lesson is to start small, move quickly, and learn early from your small mistakes. Don’t build the rocket before discovering there is not enough fuel to reach the moon.

In closing, I will make one important observation. Your investment in digital marketing over the years can be one of the biggest cash drains on your business, or it can be one of the biggest revenue generators for your business. Make sure you have somebody in your corner that you can trust to stand with you, stand up to you, can stand up to your partners and your digital marketing agency, and who will tell you the hard truths that can end up saving or making your business millions of dollars. That person is your digital marketing coach.


  • Alastair Thompson

    I’ve led teams on 5 continents and worked with large companies and individual entrepreneurs to launch their products, their businesses, and their dreams. I have twenty years of deep, practical experience in data-based digital marketing. I have an undergraduate degree in process engineering, a master's degree in education, and a project management certification from HarvardX. I am a mentor to other leaders and an advisor for technology startups. I have founded two successful businesses. I coach groups and individuals.

3 thoughts on “What is a digital marketing coach?”

  1. Hello, dear author! Thank you very much for this fantastic blog. It has greatly aided me. I hope you will continue to write content like this in the near future.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *