(In response to a question on a the Kickass CTI Coaches Group on Facebook.)
I have been thinking about this topic a long time, and in over 17 years have observed a lot of people struggle, and a lot of people find very different routes to success. One tip, one approach, one solution simply does not work for everyone. For a lot of coaches there is a confidence/competence hill to get over. But with good coach training, practice and more clarity on who they can genuinely help – this problem usually fades with time. I.E. – when you genuinely see where your coaching can make a difference in people’s lives, your inspiration grows bigger than your resistance. And if you are into self-reflection, mindfulness, stress management, or generally open to grow or be coached past your current limits, this process is accelerated.
For many coaches, there is a whole lot of confusion and lack of basic knowledge around marketing/practice building/ what works and what does not – and how much time and effort is required to get a practice off the ground. And many coaches wait far too long to start the process. My best advice is to start putting time into the business building really early, like after your first round of training. Don’t wait until you finish certification or leadership.
Since we all have different backgrounds, come to the issue with different personalities, and all have our unique saboteurs/baggage – no one solution to practice building works for everyone. To generalize, my best advice is that once you have enough experience to make an informed decision, find a group of ideal clients (niche) where you feel called to make a difference, where you are sure you can help people, where you are sure enough people are prepared to spend money to solve their problems and where the marketing is easy for you. When you can really understand their needs, and talk/connect/build a relationship with them, that focuses on what they are interested in – things get a whole lot easier. And choose marketing channels that suit your strengths. I am more of an introvert so I enjoy webmarketing/social media/writing etc., far more than networking or hunting down clients one at a time.
As to business building courses/support. You really need to do your homework. No kidding, I cannot tell you how many programs and marketing gurus I have seen come and go in the world of coaching. Some have lots of glitz and hype, some don’t. Some are expensive and some are not. Some focus on sales and some focus on marketing. Some focus solely on online marketing, some focus mainly on conventional marketing. Some provide individual attention, some use a very much one-size-fits-all or death by Powerpoint approach. Some are really solid, some are not. Some ask for big payments up front and make it next to impossible to leave if it is not a fit. Some provide participants huge financial incentives (I have seen 50% of the tuition and over $1000) to promote the program to others – which puts the quality of the testimonial in question. Sometimes it seems that almost every second coach is offering a marketing program. (Self-disclosure – I run a practice building program twice a year. Been doing it for years.) Some are offering to teach others how to market well before they have demonstrated they can actually fill their own practice outside the world of coaching. Every option seems to have its share of proponents.
Generally, I would encourage coaches to proceed with caution when selecting a good business coach or practice building program. Talk to them and do your homework. I might ask:
- Tell me about your practice. (Do they only work or market to coaches, or can they demonstrate they know how to market outside of the world of coaching. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with working only with coaches if you are teaching coaching skills, but if you are attempting to teach other coaches how to market, you should be able to demonstrate you can fill your practice with clients from beyond the world of coaching. Otherwise it is the blind leading the blind and that is not good for anyone.)
- What sort of commitment do they require. I happen to believe clients should get value out of every single session or be free to leave. No program or coach is a great fit for everyone, and if a client is not a good fit, they should be able to move on and get the help they need. So I tend to be suspicious of programs where there is not a fair cancellation policy or where people have to spend all their money up front. ( I have known too many coaches who dropped thousands of dollars on a highly hyped program that simply was not a fit, or provided really poor content, and yet they had no option to drop out and get even a partial refund.)
- Check out the testimonials. Is there a mega incentive for people to rave about the program to recover their own cost of tuition, or are they genuinely impressed. For smaller programs, you can often contact the folks who offer the testimonial or at least look at their marketing material. For larger program you can often get a contrary view by Googling, “(FILL IN NAME OF PROGRAM) SCAM”
- Make sure the content you are going to learn is a good fit for your niche and your personality. Do not sign up for a program about building a mega online business if you hate online marketing and do not love putting time into blogging or social media.
Finally, I believe that generally there is much more growth and value in programs/support that have some component of 1 to 1 coaching and mentoring. It is usually more expensive, but the reality is few people can learn all they need to learn off a recording, book or Powerpoint slide. Most of the successful coaches I know had their major shifts/insights/breakthrough during conversations with their coach.
Hope this helps,