Todd wanted want to know how I have always had a steady flow of coaching clients going back to when I started my business, despite not always having a big list, not always having traffic, and all my shyness/introversion psychological limitations! If you are a coach who struggles with sales and marketing then this article is for you.
The reason I am writing this is to help all the coaches out there who want to attract more clients, or maybe start their coaching practice. From my conversations with my own coaching clients and online forums it seems more and more people are looking at coaching as a service that they could begin offering but are frustrated with a lack of take-up.
I’m likely to go long so this will be split over two parts (more if you need it, let me know your questions in the comments). In this article we will cover some ground work, and in the next look at the sales and marketing factors.
First we need to understand what we are discussing …
What is Coaching?
Different people want different things from coaching, and different coaches use different definitions. Also every industry has coaches who target different challenges. I am not big on definitions, I am more concerned about results.
So while people might consider my coaching to be in fact mentoring, consulting, training, and so on, it is a mixture of all of the above. In my view I do whatever it takes 🙂 In your practice the client is paying you to achieve a result. That is the whole point. If that means giving your client ideas, motivation, information, a blueprint, or the traditional “drawing out of the answers” then that is what you need to do.
Don’t worry if another coach would be snobby about what you do. Results are how you get client successes and therefore testimonials and referrals, so it’s not just good for your customer, it’s good for business!
Why Would You Coach?
I have friends and mastermind partners who think I am crazy to spend so much time doing 1:1 coaching. If you haven’t added coaching to your service offering, then we should discuss the rewards you can get out of it.
For a while I stopped taking on coaching clients but I found I really missed it. It helps me stay grounded in reality and tap into any number of markets and niches that I would otherwise not be exposed to. Besides, I enjoy helping people and seeing them achieve their goals. Yes there are financial benefits, even if I am being told my coaching is too cheap (my prices are going up when I get ten minutes) but the human interaction and the sense of accomplishment is as great or greater reward.
Let’s talk about the financial side … is it profitable? In pure hourly rate terms, it can be. I put a lot of thought into my coaching clients over and above the hours they spend on the phone, plus I send materials and answer a lot of emails, but it still works out worthwhile financially. You know what the coolest thing is though? The questions, challenges and solutions that come out of the coaching is how I build my content and my information products! That is when you get to see the real financial benefit and why I have kept my prices low for so long. I have customers who have been with me for three years or more who are still paying 2007/2008 prices, but I am happy to keep them on that level because while I am helping them I am getting great insights.
Obviously you are still selling your hours so as demand grows you have to balance things, have too many clients taking up your hours and it loses sustainability. That’s the situation I might get to before long if I am not careful.
The solution to that issue is either put prices up or build a group coaching practice in addition to or instead of your 1:1. That’s what I am doing with the forthcoming Authority Blogger 2011 launch – in addition to my 1:1 coaching it will be possible to have a structured, group program. It means while people don’t get quite as much individual attention, they still get tailored advice, and the group dynamic can actually be a real benefit. Of course, time wise, it scales much better.
What do you need to be a coach?
- At the most basic, you just need an email account. You can do quite a lot over email, with the advantage the client gets detailed notes and can scroll back through previous conversations/
- I use Skype and recording software to capture the calls in case the client wants them to reduce the need for detailed notes. I use Ecamm recorder for Mac, there are various Windows alternatives but I hesitate to recommend one because I am not familiar with them personally.
- For web technology you absolutely MUST build an email list. I use Aweber and recommend it to anyone.
- If you are doing group coaching then you have to build a membership site. You must share previous calls and notes, and it is really shabby to cobble something together, not just because it looks unprofessional but because the more difficult it is to find stuff, the worse your chances of getting clients the results they are looking for. Avoid all the complicated software out there, you don’t need it, and I would avoid paying a monthly subscription for something you don’t own. Use Wishlist, which is a WordPress plugin. It’s robust, industrial strength, but very easy to use. I use it for all my courses and membership sites now.
Putting it Together
People will want to what is inside your head in a way that is tailored to their particular situation. The more in-demand that advice is, and the more people who know you offer help, the more customers you will get.
The mistake most people make though is they expect people to buy on their first visit. That is unlikely to happen.
This, of course, is where blogging and content marketing come in.
Use your content to draw people to you, and then introduce them to your offer. We will discuss more on this topic in the next article. For now understand you need to talk about your client challenges in a way that allows you to impart ideas and experience while getting people to want to hear more. This builds your subscriber list and allows you to get in front of your prospect multiple times.
So at the very least, build a list (use Aweber as mentioned above), build a page where you discuss your offer, and take their money (use PayPal to begin with). Easy! Well, ok, “simple” might be a better word.
If you have done all that and are not getting customers, or are impatient for more but can’t wait for the next article, most of my customers come from three different places.
- Referrals – Do great job of wowing your existing clients and they will bring friends. Again, it is about results mostly, but also their relationship with you. When they praise you, ask for referrals.
- Networking – If you are looking for business people then use LinkedIn. Lewis has a brilliant video course that will make your LinkedIn work rock. I already learned a great deal from watching a couple of his videos. Life coaches could find many people in Facebook. I have picked up a fair few clients from live events and workshops – relationship is so important that seeing you face to face makes a huge difference.
- Forums – By answering questions and showing you “have the right stuff” you will build a reputation, and again, allow people to get to know you.
In all cases, the prospect will check you out, because they are doing due diligence on something that requires commitment. Make sure your blog has these vital elements:
- A great first impression that presents you in a positive light.
- Content that speaks to their challenges.
- An effective subscription capture mechanism.
People see coaching on service pages and rush into offering it without thinking through what elements you really need. Yes, it can be a very profitable way to generate an income by helping people, and that income can be generated with a much smaller audience than, say, advertising, but you do need to put in some good foundations first. In the next entry I will share some marketing approaches so that you can fill your coaching practice more easily.
Let me know if you have any questions about this, and share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below …