A Surprise Discovery

I spoke to a new coach recently who was telling me that she was about to start her coaching business and that her main marketing focus would be Facebook ads. When I asked her why, she said that she was using them as her ‘lead generation tool’ because they can be targeted really specifically.

‘Great’, I said. ‘Who are you targeting the ads at and what are you going to say?’

‘Oh’, she replied, ‘don’t worry, I’ve got my niche sorted and I’m going to say that I work with small businesses and show some of my coaching packages.’

This is the point that if this conversation had been a thread of messages, I’d use that emoji that has a shocked face – you know the one; eyes wide open in astonishment.

We carried on talking and it turned out that she had mixed up the concept of a niche, with that of an ideal client avatar (ICA). In fact, she thought they were synonymous.

What’s A Coaching Niche?

The dictionary.com definition of niche is this:

denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.

There are countless numbers of niches for every possible product or service.

Let me give you some coaching examples:

  • A peak performance coach
  • A parenting coach
  • A diabetic coach
  • A financial coach
  • An empowerment coach
  • A mindset coach

The list is tremendously long. Each of those is a niche.

There are many, many coaches in each of these niches, all jostling for clients.

Here’s the thing; how do you separate yourself out from the other coaches in your niche? How do you help the clients you want to work with understand that you are the coach they need? That you are the coach who can help them to achieve their outcomes?

If you stop thinking about your marketing strategy at the niche stage, you are missing the most powerful tool of all.

Let me put it another way, if you’re a coach who works with small businesses and I have a small business, how can you make sure that I hear you in the marketing noise?

The Ideal Client Avatar For Coaches

Working out who your ICA is, is the single most important piece of marketing work a coach can do – and without doubt it is the most resisted in my experience.

The ICA is a fictional person, one who exists within your niche. It’s the fictional part that get’s coaches’ goat. Why would anyone want to create a fictional person for marketing purposes?

Let me explain.

If we go back to the coach who works with small business owners, let’s have a look at them and the possibilities that exist within that niche for an ICA; a place to focus.

Small business owners come in many guises. A few examples might be:

  • MLM owners (multi-level marketing, such as Tupperware or Forever Living)
  • Shop owners
  • Professional services
  • Tradespeople
  • Restaurant owners

Owners of a small businesses could be divided in a different way. For example:

  • Brand new business owners
  • Those who have been operating for a year
  • Those who have been operating for 5+ years

A different way again might be:

  • Business owners with a turnover of less than £10k
  • Those with a turnover of more than £10k, but less than £50k
  • Business owners with a turnover of more than £50k, but less than £100k
  • Those with a turnover of more than £100k, but less than £500k
  • Business owners with a turnover of more than £500k, but less than £1 million

You get the idea? Each of these business owners has different and specific problems and challenges – none is necessarily a ‘better client’.

Mix And Match

You can mix and match too. Your business owner might be a restaurant owner who has been in business for over a year and has a turnover of over £50k, but less than £100k.

Can you see how specific I’m being? Just so you know, for ICA work, I’m nowhere near specific enough yet.

I need to go on to work out how old they are, what their marital status is, whether they have children, what their ‘life priorities’ are, what they read, where they hang out (on and off line). The level of detail is both tremendous and tremendously important.

Again, let me give you a couple of examples.

Creating An Ideal Client Avatar For Your Coaching Business

It may be that my ideal client is a restaurant owner, who is in their early 30s, married with young children and they live in a city centre. They are very eco-concious and vegan. Their turnover is £55K and they want to get it to £100k.


They could be a restaurant owner, in their 60s, retired, living the dream that they have always had of opening a tiny restaurant in Cornwall. They have a spouse of a different nationality/culture who shares their love of cooking and they have a tiny restaurant, that has only 20 covers, opens from 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday for 6 months of the year and is entirely a retirement hobby. The restaurant showcases food from both cultures.

Can you see the difference in their needs from a coach? In where they would hang out (online might be SnapChat rather than Facebook or vice versa for example?), in what they would need to hear from you in order to think s/he’s talking about me, when you market your coaching business?

Marketing, Not Sales

One thing I need to be very clear about. The ICA work is about your marketing, not necessarily your sales. You market where you can offer the most value to someone who can ‘hear’ you in the marketing noise by being very specific about who you are speaking to.

You sell to whomsoever you want to – if they ask you to coach them and they don’t fit your ICA, you get to say yes if you want to (and no if you don’t).

Having a properly defined ICA means the difference between success and failure. As coaches we have limited resources. Those resources are time, energy and money. The ICA work is about using those resources wisely.

I hope that I’ve given you something to think about. If you are completely confused and would like some help with this, why don’t we book a time to talk? Maybe mentoring on this whole business-building thing might be for you? Here’s a link to my diary.