Many coaches find it hard to get clients. You can spend a lot of time, money and other resources marketing your business…with dismal results.
It’s easy to get demoralized when marketing and many people simply give up. It may even seem easier to go back to formal employment.
I started coaching in 2011, first as a hobby and later as a full-time business. When I started out, things were easy because I really didn’t need to make money as a coach. I was comfortable.
When I turned my hobby into a business, things changed. I now had to get clients. This required a total mind shift and a new way of doing things.
Here are some tips that have worked for me and other coaches I’ve worked with.
How can you get clients?
When I started coaching, I was very confident about getting clients. It also helped that I didn’t need an income from coaching. So I coached because I wanted to, not because I had to.
The reality of how hard it can be to get coaching clients came to me in 2014 when I had to make the shift from coaching as a hobby to having a full-time coaching practice.
Suddenly there were more bills to pay and a lot of expectations from the clients I was working with. It was time for a reality check!
Since then, I’ve coached and mentored other coaches, trainers and consultants who were struggling with the same issues I struggled with.
With time, I discovered that until you become a top-tier coach with a waiting list of people who are willing to wait to work with you, the only way to get consistent clients is through strategy sessions or consultations.
Here’s the math for most new coaches:
- You talk to 10 people to get 6 who sign up for strategy sessions.
- 3-4 people who show up for the sessions are your ideal clients.
- You get 2 clients out of every 10 strategy sessions done.
You can now calculate just how many people you need to talk to in order to get 2 clients.
Until you get very good at (1) identifying the right people to invite for strategy sessions, (2) inviting people for strategy sessions, and (3) conducting strategy sessions that sell, you’ll need to do quite a number of these sessions in order to get clients.
In this article, I’ll examine sources of coaching clients at 3 different stages of a coaching business:
- Starting out.
- Growing your business.
- Earning a full-time income from your business.
I’ve also tracked in links to resources that will help you implement the tips outlined for each stage of your business.
Where do clients come from?
1. When starting out as a coach
If you’re starting out, the first place to find clients is within your regular circles. This includes family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, people whose contacts you have, in church, and anywhere where you appear on a frequent basis.
The worst places to try and get clients is from adverts, social media or online sources. These require a lot of time and skill in order to master how to convert your fans into clients. Don’t waste time on Facebook, Twitter, etc at this time. Get moving within your current environment.
At this stage, you’ll also work on building your coaching and marketing skills so there’s need for speed so that you have income as soon as possible. Start with what you have and where you’re at.
Create time in your calendar for 2 strategy sessions per week. Go through your phone, business card holder, and contacts lists and use this checklist to categorize people into who you can help and what you can help them with.
As soon as you have 5 names on the list, start making calls and find out where they are with their challenges. Invite them for strategy coaching sessions. Make at least 2 calls a day.
If someone is not ready for coaching or doesn’t need it, don’t be afraid to ask for referrals.
2. When growing your coaching practice
With time, you’ll exhaust the people that you know. This means that you need to start marketing to strangers.
So, where will you find strangers who will turn into clients?
The worst marketing methods for coaching are those that don’t have direct contact with people. These include advertising, cold calling, and general social media ads.
According to the Coach Training Alliance, the best methods of marketing coaching are:
- Calling people you know or have been referred to you.
- Having one-on-one meetings with prospects or referrals.
- Sample (strategy) coaching sessions.
- Attending networking events.
- Public speaking (with you as the speaker),
- Collecting and following up on referrals.
Many service professionals fear networking and speaking. I avoided getting out there and talking to people about my work until I had no choice but to do it.
Today, I love attending events and speaking (despite being an extreme introvert). This shift happened when I discovered that all I have to do is have conversations with people as opposed to trying to market to them.
Start attending networking events where your ideal clients are found and introduce yourself in terms of what you do and the benefits your clients get (Tip: remove the words “I’m a coach” from your vocabulary).
For example, when asked to introduce myself, I say:
“Hi, my name is Caroline Gikonyo. I help professional and business women reduce overwhelm, overwork, and burnout. As we work together you reduce stress, create better balance between your life and work, achieve your goals, and become happier, freer and more fulfilled.”
With such an introduction, someone will either fit in with my target or they know someone who needs to work with me.
I struggled with this introduction until I started listening to the way my clients were framing their challenges. They all talked of being overwhelmed, overworked and on the edge of burnout. And they wanted to be happier, have more freedom and fulfilment, and to create better work-life balance.
When you meet new people, find out a little bit more about them and if this matches what you do as a coach and then invite them for a strategy session. If you’re not sure about whether they would benefit from a session, invite them for coffee or lunch and get to know them better.
a. Find out where your ideal clients hang out
Become a regular in places where your ideal clients are. Attend at least 2 networking events per month for 3 months and introduce yourself and what you do. Don’t collect cards from everyone at the events. Instead, aim to make 3-5 deep connections at each event.
With time, you’ll identify the places you love networking. Pick 3 and make a rule of attending these events regularly.
TIP: Create 3 signature talks and speak at the same places.
b. Create a follow-up system
This will help you keep regular touch with your prospects. A simple way of doing this is to start a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly newsletter.
Many people are not ready to buy from you when you first meet them. Having regular, non-intrusive contact with you will keep you at the top of their minds when they’re ready to buy. Without regular follow-up, you’ll be creating new clients for other coaches who come after you.
TIP: Sign up for my newsletter using the form on the top right-hand corner of this page to get an idea of how to manage your newsletter.
c. Set up a blog and write consistently
Use the tips from Problogger to create your blog and start building an online platform for getting more visible. You don’t have to be a good writer as your skills will improve over time.
However, don’t be afraid to start writing. I never thought I could write as well as I do and I still cringe when I read some of my old blog and email articles. It’s been a steady process of learning, growth and constant improvement.
If you’re already marketing your services on social media, drive your fans to your blog and then collect their email addresses from the blog. This will beef up your contact system as they’ll go into your follow up system.
3. When want to earn full-time income as a coach
Once you’ve decided to go fully into coaching, you’ll need to build your credibility, visibility, and business skills.
By this time you:
- know the marketing tactics that work for you (and those that don’t).
- regularly attend at least 3 networking events per month.
- have a follow-up system for prospects and clients (e.g. newsletter).
- are using social media and/or blogging and getting leads.
- have referrals from prospects or clients.
- have improved your coaching and business management skills.
What you need now is a marketing plan that will not only help you get new clients but will also position you as the go-to expert in your niche.
Your marketing plan will consist of 3 things:
- A precise description of who you coach (your ideal client): Create an ideal client persona so that you’re talking to one person in all your marketing. This article will help you identify your ideal clients from people you’ve worked with.
- A specific goal that is SMART: What do you want to achieve from your marketing? For best results, start working with a yearly goal. Make your goal SMART with these tips.
- An action plan: Break your goal down into specific strategies that you will implement. Aim for not more than 3 core strategies that you’ll work on monthly, weekly and daily, with each action building towards the achievement of your goal. Remember to give each item in your action plan a date or deadline. Here’s how to create an action plan.
a. Identify your ideal client characteristics.
Look through the clients you’ve coached and prospects who have done strategy sessions. Identify what’s common about the people you liked.
Do the same for those you didn’t like so that you have an idea of who you don’t want to coach. Create your ideal customer avatar or persona using the characteristics of the people you’ve enjoyed working with.
Create your ideal customer avatar or persona using the characteristics of the people you’ve enjoyed working with.
b. Create an action plan.
Decide on your marketing goal for the next 12 months and make it SMART. Break down the goal into an action plan.
c. Create your marketing plan.
Use the information above to create a marketing plan with 3 main strategies. Implement your plan consistently and gather new data.
Keep track of results daily, weekly, and monthly. Make changes to your plan each quarter if you find something new that’s working better.
Your next step
Many coaches get frustrated when trying to get clients because they try to jump through these 3 stages of growth.
For example, you will get frustrated and demotivated if:
- you’ve just started out and spend time on social media or blogging.
- your business is growing and you don’t have a follow-up system.
- you’re stuck doing the same things you did at startup.
- you try to do too many things at the same time.
Start with a few marketing activities, especially the ones you like and that give you instant visibility. Become good at them before you move on to others.
When using online strategies such as social media, blogging, and email newsletters, take care not to get sucked into the internet and end up wasting time and money there. An hour a day for online work is more than enough to build your online visibility and credibility.
So where do coaching clients come from?
They come when you taking consistent action on getting more visibility and credibility. They come when strangers turn into people who know, like, and trust you.
Are you willing to take the necessary actions to build a network of people who want to work with you or are willing to refer others to you?
Use the information in this article to identify the stage you’re at today and grow your coaching business one client at a time.
As you work on your marketing, you’ll notice that clients are not always people you contact or give strategy sessions to. That’s one very nice result of taking consistent action on your marketing.
What stage is your coaching business? How do you get clients? Please share with us in the Comments below.
(Image credit: Stuart Miles at Free Digital Photos)