20 Reasons Why Your Coaching Practice Isn’t Thriving
This article will assist coaches understand why their coaching practice isn't performing the way they may desire and gives tips to improve performance
If your coaching practice is not thriving it may be for one or more of the following reasons:
Your niche is too broad or too narrow. New coaches make the mistake of trying to coach everyone and it simply doesn’t work – provided there are enough people in your niche, it’s best to define it as narrow as you can. Once you do this you can advertise and attract clients in your niche.
As part of your niche and your business persona try to find a name that explains what you do rather than call your business by your name e.g. J B Smith – there could be others with that name and you don’t want to be a telephonist directing phone calls. A dating coach could call themselves ‘Find a Partner’, a retirement coach could use the name ‘Thrive in Retirement’, and a wellness coach could use the name ‘Healthy, Wealthy and Wise’. Of course business name are subject to availability and certain names can’t be registered.
2. Understanding your client
This is vital. You must have an in depth knowledge of how your potential client’s feel and how they suffer – you must know their pain points – this is the easiest way to attract clients – they have a problem they can’t fix themselves. Likewise you must know how to assist your client overcome their problem within their budget and timeframe.
3. No Lead generation system
Every successful business has an effective lead generation system and coaching is no exception. There are a variety of ways to generate leads including lead funnels, advertising, email lists, newsletters, blogs and large events and seminars organised by leading, well known coaches. Coaching is a trust based relationship, so it’s best if your potential clients can see and meet you – take an example from Tony Robbins. For lesser known coaches try workshops, webinars, Meetup groups and networking events. You must be able to recognise and target your clientele both in person, in ads and online. Knowing their pain is a great way to do this as people identify with their challenges.
4. No proven process
Most successful coaches have a proven process that they rarely deviate away from – MacDonald’s has a process so that every time you buy a burger it’s the same. You as a coach could do no better than follow that example. A good process to follow is the following:
Advertise and promote to your target market – define it as well as you can.
Generate leads from your promotion – you may only get 1 or 2 leads from every 100 potential clients that see your promotion.
Once you get the lead you will need to convert as many as you can into paying clients – this may be as low as 5% for inexperienced, unknown coaches – knowing this you can calculate how many people you need to reach to get one paying client – using the figures we have – you will need 1000 people to get 20 leads (at 2 per hundred) and from that 20 – 1 paying client (at 5%).
Ensure you qualify your client – once it becomes hard work they will use every excuse they can think up to cancel and you (and coaching) will be blamed. You may be tempted to take on unqualified clients – my advice is don’t – some potential clients love to vent, but have no intention of doing any work. If you were brilliant they may tell 3 other people, but they will tell 11 people how useless you were and how coaching could never work – likewise their friends will tell more people and your reputation is in jeopardy. You need to confirm with them that they have the commitment to change and the funds to pay you – do this several times during the conversion process – contracts may help, but are not foolproof – their firm commitment is best.
Ensure you and your client are a good ’fit’ and once you sign up the client ensure you give your best value and see if you can get more work – rarely do clients have only 1 problem.
Ensure you ask for referrals and testimonials from each client – post the testimonials on your site or in your ads.
Keep in touch with your previous clients with a newsletter every 3 months or so – let them know how you are doing and ask for referrals.
People like to purchase products – they can see, feel and use products. Coaching is nebulous at best so you need to create products to assist clients to purchase your services. All you really need to do is to name your services and it will be seen as a product. If you are selling weight loss a good name may be ‘The Surefire Weight Loss program’ – for business coaches you could name your service ‘The Business Growth program’ – for dating coaches a name like ‘The Ultimate dating program’ might work well and for a Relationship coach a name like ‘Staying Together Forever program’ would help give potential clients confidence in your services.
You are not marketing your practice in a way to attract clients. Marketing should be done from the client point of view – they are not interested in your coaching skills except for how you can assist them – they don’t want or need to know the coaching process.
7. No one knows you
It stands to reason that if no one outside your family and friends knows you or what you do the chances of making sales are very limited. All new businesses need to find ways to get known and the best way to do that is to promote themselves and their businesses. Start in your local community – you are already known to some degree there and expand what you already have.
8. No credibility
This is related to your niche and is ideally your niche is an area where you have authority, experience and expertise. This includes age – if you are 25 and a single Relationship Coach trying to assist married couples in their mid to late 40’s you will not be seen as someone with the life experience regardless of your education or coaching credentials. Likewise if you are a 75 yo career coach who retired 15 years ago, trying to assist people finding jobs, you will have to account for the rapid changes over the past 15 years in the job market.
Advertising is the one area most small business fall down – most don’t start advertising until they are desperate and then Murphy’s Law takes over – they get no leads. When you are starting you will need an advertising budget of 50 – 60% of your projected sales and will need that for 3 – 6 months. So let’s quantify that – if you budget for $10,000 in sales over the next 6 months you will need $5 – 6,000 in your advertising budget and hopefully have that saved in a separate account. As you get known and get clients you can reduce the percentage, but don’t stop until you are fully booked 6 months in advance.
So let’s look at places to advertise. Now this is totally dependent on your target market – a retirement Coach would not advertise in the same market as a dating coach. So once you know the age group, gender, education level, relationship status, family status, income, etc. of your target market then you can start. There are other demographics like reading preferences, holiday destinations, entertainment preferences, shopping preferences etc. that may also assist in choosing the most cost effective media to advertise.
So as a coach it’s best to meet face to face or online where people can see you.
Meetup.com offers unlimited numbers in a group for around $US200.00 per annum (sometime less if they have specials) – you can have 3 groups for that investment. You can have ‘organisers’ who host events and so can run lots of events – make sure the people enjoy the activities your groups provide. You may also get the opportunity to ‘take over’ a group where the organiser has ‘stepped down’. A weight loss coach I know uses Meetup to attract potential clients and then sells them his services. I also know several photographers who use Meetup to assist people to take great pics, but then gets to be the wedding photographer and manages to do family portraits – because he / she is known. Meetup is in mostly every country and does better in urban areas where there are more people.
Networking groups can vary in cost – I used Eventbrite (pre pandemic) to promote my networking group. Some, like BNI are quite expensive – again it depends on your target market. There are many women’s networking groups. Try to form relationships with attendees rather than trying to sell and handing out business cards. Get to know the people you chat with and exchange contact details – follow up ASAP – invite them for coffee, lunch, to an event, to your office etc. Aim to meet 10 people per event and get them on your email list.
Workshops are relatively easy to organise – there are many venues, including some McDonald’s, who will give you free use of a room for a couple of hours. You can promote your event on Eventbrite for free or use Facebook, but unless you pay, your event will not be seen by many people – paying allows you to target your audience and can be done for around $US1 per day.
Webinars are also OK – Skype offers quite large audiences and there is no time limit as there is with Zoom. You have the chance to be seen, heard and display your knowledge – if you promote your webinar via Eventbrite you will also get attendees email addresses and sometimes telephone numbers.
Expos can be useful (the pandemic aside). If you are a Wellness Coach and you see a Wellness Expo go along, but be discreet because there will be paying stand holders – you may decide to take a stand yourself. But there is nothing stopping you chatting to other attendees, or even stand holders, and exchanging contact details.
Events can be a source of leads too – there may be an event in your area promoting budgeting – if you are a Money Coach there is no reason why you couldn’t attend and discreetly exchange contact information – you may already know some people, because it’s in the area you operate.
Flyers are usually fairly inexpensive. Make them appealing and deliver them to letterboxes in your area – start with 1 – 2 – 3,000 – your children will have lots of fun distributing them and it will be a family outing. Don’t expect any more than 1 – 2% of people to contact you. Make it clear you reside in the area, pick out 1 or 2 pain points, and have pics of the pain relieved – use emotional language and make sure you have a ‘Call To Action’ area.
Publications can be OK too – if you coach children you may decide to advertise in their school magazine. If you coach or identify with a particular ethnicity you may find they have a weekly or monthly publication. If you cater to a particular industry or profession you will find they have a monthly magazine – note some of these can be very expensive.
Posters can be a good source of getting your business into the community. If you coach children ask each school if you can put up a poster. If it’s legal, you may paste posters on ‘telegraph’ poles, light poles or traffic lights. Ask related shops if you can display a poster in their window and if it’s legal paste a poster in the side and back windows of your car. Having your car sign written is also an option to investigate.
Notice Boards are OK too, but have a limited life span – usually no more than 2 weeks, but it’s usually free, but you have to use their ‘card’. Many are in shopping malls, public places – town halls, libraries, and some are online. Make the ad appealing to your target market.
Write a blog and publish it on your website – try to capture email address by offering free articles. Read associated blogs, especially in your community and request to be a guest blogger and invite other bloggers to write on your blog. Once your blog is picked up by Google you may find you have a steady number of visitors to your blog and website.
Online platforms are many and varied. The best known are Google and Facebook. Facebook you can target your ads to areas and demographics and limit your budget – the lowest is about $US1.00 per day – I’m not sure you can with Google. Make a Facebook business page and write there quite often – Facebook send your message to a small percentage of your friends, but you can increase that by ‘promoting’ your posts. You can also make ‘events’, but to get them to any reasonable number of people you will have to ‘promote’ your event. Eventbrite will list your event for free and have a large number of events and visitors per week. LinkedIn is a professional platform and well worth investigating to find and network with other coaches, and possibly find clients.
Coaching Directories are great – many have the facility for clients to state what they are looking for – most of these are paid, but there are some free directories – maybe worth investigating?
Newspapers can be quite expensive and it’s hard to control your target market. National Newspapers should be avoided if you are just starting – they are expensive and most people will probably miss your ad anyway. Regional newspapers, especially if they have a ‘Coaching’ section are much better value – at least try for 1 – 3 months – if no responses then cancel. The Public notices section isn’t the best place – your coaching target market is unlikely to look there.
Radio, provided the price and the market is favourable could be your best bet, but ensure you match your target market – if you are a retirement coach there is no use advertising in an area where the audience is 25 – 35. Check whatever the representative tells you – there are sites that tell you the audience demographics, including listeners, age and interests. Check for specials – our local radio station runs a special every year in September – usually half priced ads until Xmas – again be wary – if Christmas is not your target audience then give it a miss. If you pay for advertising enquire about a ‘talk back’ radio show where you can answer listener’s questions. Look into local FM radio stations – many are small, but may suit your audience and budget.
TV is probably outside the affordability of most newish coaches. However there are local Cable TV networks in some parts of the USA – they may be affordable. Production costs could be prohibitive, but check them out – spread your advertising budget around – if no results, then cancel your ads.
Satisfied clients or people you have assisted are probably your best and most effective promoters. Also your family, friends and colleagues, both old and new, may be able to assist you.
New and unknown coaches are exactly that – they have few clients and no reputation. I have checked out coaching directories and some coaches charge ridiculous prices and have ridiculous terms – one coach wanted $US350 per session with a minimum of 8 sessions all paid upfront – dreaming I think – there are very few people who would take that risk. You have to make it easy for the client – you must minimise the risk. I am not an advocate of discounting, but some money is better than none. Why not offer the first 3 sessions for $50 each and then revert to your usual fee – which should be the lower end of the scale – you have made some income and have the chance of more work and referrals? As an example there was a dating agency started in Germany – she charged $10 per session for the first 20 clients and is now charging well over $1,000 – satisfied clients are your greatest advocates. If a Tony Robbins coach or a national coaching company or franchise is charging $300 per session, you are unlikely to get that – capishe? As your practice grows you can increase your fees, but never increase the fees of a current client – you are likely to lose that client and your reputation.
11. Strategic alliances
Work out who sees your potential client before and after you and see if you can’t contact these people and let them know what you do. The easiest example is a couple getting married – who does the organising – the bride and her family usually. Who does she contact before the wedding – a wedding planner, wedding dress shop, maybe suit hire for groom, bridesmaids and groomsmen, church, jeweller, car hire, florist, wedding reception place and travel agent (honeymoon). What does the family need after the wedding – a place to live, furniture, electrical appliances, removalist, they may need a cleaner, a pool guy if they have a pool or spa and a whole host of others. This is called a supply chain – most people needing anything have one. Make a list and contact all the people in the list and ensure you refer everyone you know in their market to them – hopefully they will reciprocate. Get to know all the local religious leaders and tell them what you do – many people ask them for advice. Note: Medically trained people will usually refer to other medically trained people – a doctor will usually refer to a psychiatrist or counsellor rather than a coach, but there are more and more holistic medical professionals, so get to know your local doctors.
12. Under estimating the time it takes to establish a business.
It’s easy to think a business or athlete is an instant success, but that rarely is the case – there are many years the public doesn’t see – e.g. Facebook was started in 2004, Amazon started in 1994, Apple 1976, Google 1998 and Microsoft 1975. Each of these businesses is a household name, but they are the exception, rather than the rule. Each took advantage of technology at the time and was in the exact right place at the exact right time.
Antony Robbin met and worked for Jim Rohn in 1977, Jim Rohn started giving public lectures in 1963, Jack Canfield wrote a book in 1976 and went on to co author the first of the Chicken soup series in 1993. If you research other famous coaches you will find a similar trend. None of these famous coaches were ‘overnight’ successes so imagine how long it will take to establish your small coaching practice. If you estimate 10 – 15 years you have a good chance of being correct. Realise, though, that that is 10 – 15 years of hard work, constantly promoting yourself and your practice, and possibly aligning yourself with other successful people and coaches. Are you ready for the long haul?
Sport stars and athletes typically start around 5 – 10 years old, train hard, make sacrifices, usually meet a good coach along the way and make a ‘breakthrough’ in their late teenage years – instant success? I think not!
13. Not getting known in your community
Every business has to start somewhere and your best bet is your local community, especially if you grew up in that area, but even if you are a newcomer, the same principles apply. If you live in a large city start in your suburb and gradually extend your reach. Meet all the local community leaders, including the heads of local large businesses. Introduce yourself, explain how you assist people and especially if you can assist them, their employees, or associates – leave business cards and keep in touch – form relationships. Join the local Lions, Apex or Rotary clubs and attend functions and meetings. Attend community gatherings and introduce yourself to speakers and leaders wherever possible. Sponsor a kid’s sports team – go along to their games, get to know the parents, donate a trophy – get your name on it if possible. Present it at the annual presentation evening. Attend functions organised by the club and get to know the committee members. If there is a local Business Association join that and also the Chamber of Commerce – not only will you meet people, but also may get advance notice of upcoming events. Assist non profits raise funds, maybe make a donation, get to know the organisers and staff. If you are passionate about a cause – maybe saving pets in shelters – volunteer there. Get to know the reporter at your local newspaper, especially the one responsible for community affairs. Send pieces of publicity to them – announcing your existence, a new product, a new event, or your struggle to overcome adversity – people love to read about local people. Do the same with your local radio stations, including the FM stations and if you have Cable TV – get to know the people at the station. Speak or volunteer at local events – if you are female join every women’s group in your community. Attend Expos or other events and get to know the organisers. Offer to assist minority groups, the poor, the unemployed, former prisoners, and people who suffered a major financial or emotional loss – start a non profit to assist with payments for people who genuinely can’t afford your services and organise fund raisers, both local and online and let the media know – everyone you assist will be extremely grateful and talk about you and your services. All of the above activities are designed to boost and enhance your name and business in your local community, but nothing is instant – this is a journey rather than a destination.
14. Waiting for people to contact you
Even though you are paying for ads, the response will be slow, especially at the beginning – you may have to ‘tweak’ the ads to get a better response. You must be proactive and call at least 20 – 50 people in your target market per working day – this takes an hour or two – keep records and call every 3 months or so – form relationships where possible. The response rate will be similar to distributing flyers, but your name will be known by one more person (and they know at least 250 other people) every time you make a call. Invite them to have coffee, to a networking meeting, a webinar, expo or anything else you are organising, but qualify they are in your target market. When you meet ask about them, form a relationship, exchange contact details, ask if you can add them to your mailing list, and explain how you can assist them, their family, friends and associates. Record personal details and invite them again if you felt you ‘clicked’.
15. Explaining coaching instead of fixing problems
People have problems they can’t fix that causes them angst and anxiety – they are not interested in how coaching works, only that it does work and won’t cause an injury – they want the problem gone and for many, instantly. They are not interested in you, your credentials or how many degrees you have – only that you can fix their problems and within their budget. Talk about them, their problem, how they will feel once they are free of their problem – in other words talk solutions. They will assess your capabilities during the initial meeting – be confident, lead the conversation, keep them on the topic, make them feel the pain and the relief and you will have a good chance of gaining a client. Ensure you qualify they will do the work, stay the distance and have the budget to afford your fees.
16. Not enough capital or business expertise
I have read many times that small businesses fail due to two main reasons – lack of capital and business expertise. As an employee you do your task or tasks and your boss, manager or sometimes whole departments look after other aspects of the business. If you aspire to own a small business you need to learn to do every part because there is only you.
Of all the tasks associated with managing a small business the most important is making sales or income – without that you have no business. This means as a small business owner you must have some sales or selling ability – there are no exceptions! You need people skills.
Starting a small business takes time, so don’t quit your day job to become a full time coach in your own business – most will run out of funds and have to find another paid position. If you have flexible hours you could maybe take an afternoon off and devote that to developing your business. You could coach after hours, or on weekends, or start work earlier or later, or maybe coach during your annual holidays. Since the pandemic many people are working from home – this may give you flexibility as long as you complete the tasks for your employer first. You may have long service leave coming and could use that time to develop your business. You may be able to take unpaid leave or a sabbatical from work.
As a guide, if you quit your employment you will need at least funds to support yourself and your bills for at least 6 months, plus $5-10,000 saving in a separate bank account to launch your business. Depending on your lifestyle that could be several thousands of dollars. My advice, only quit your day job when you have your calendar fully booked with paying clients for the next six months.
17. Spending on the wrong kind of advertising
There are a variety of ways to spend money on advertising your practice. Choose carefully and only pay for ads that appeal to your target market – don’t get drawn in by fantastic offers, or expensive SEO – most are useless. It’s a fair bet that no one outside the C Suite in Google knows or understands the Google algorithm. Likewise people offering to get you a 6 – 7 figure income in 6 months.
Share your advertising budget around – start small, get advice and see how your ads go – change them if no results and if still no results cancel them. Some will work better than others depending on your content and the media. Stick with those that get results and maybe try others again as you get more experience and income.
18. Not enough time to promote your business
Most people claim to be ‘time poor’ these days, but with a little organising, you can usually schedule more into your week. You have 168 hours per week – you need to sleep around 56 hours, work and commute around 50 hours and that leaves around 62 hours per week – that’s almost 9 hours per day on average – 6 hours per working day (assuming you work 5 days) and 16 hours each day over the weekend.
Usually if you schedule things in your calendar it will be done, so how many hours do you need to promote your business. A good guide would be 10 – 18 hours per week, but it’s absolutely essential to do all things listed in the ‘Not getting known in your community’ section.
19. Coaching what you like rather than what the client needs
People have a myriad of skills and hence there are a wide variety of coaches coaching a wide variety of skills. From my experience people need coaches to assist with money issues – assist them find a job, career, career changes, getting promotions, education choices, business choices, having a successful business, increasing sales, reducing expenses. Health issues – lose weight, get fit, diet, self destructive behaviours, dealing with depression, OCD, ADHD and associated conditions. Relationship issues – family, friends, social life, people skills, low self esteem, self defeating beliefs, loneliness, isolation, divorce, helping their children cope, separation and finding the ‘right’ partner. Lifestyle and satisfaction issues – where to live, immigration and emigration, relocating, finding their life purpose, discipline and accountability, being organised, achieving life satisfaction, aligning their values with their employers values, work / life balance. This is not to say coaching in other areas will not be successful, but it may be harder to find clients willing to pay you – clients want a return on their investment.
20. Not coaching when the client is available.
Being in a small business usually means catering to the customer or client – they pay the bills. Working 9 – 5 isn’t always a choice – people may need to see you after hours or on weekends, or even public holidays. Being a coach entails all of this and even more on sales generation, administration, management, finance and time management.
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