Wait, what?? Client acquisition has a hierarchy?
The truth is that it doesn’t, but you’d be hard pressed to know that from the chatter on the coaching grapevine. Worse yet, that chatter is supported by people within the profession who really ought to know better…
1) Referral or Word-Of-Mouth
This is the ultimate kind of client acquisition in terms of coaching kudos. It’s the ‘my coaching is SO good that my clients find me’ process.
However this isn’t an accurate representation of what’s happening. What’s really happening is a form of invisible privilege. I’ve referred to it in a previous article, where I called it monetisable credibility.
The truth of what’s going on with referrals (or word of mouth) clients is that this particular kind of coach has existing credibility within a group of people who are in a position to pay for coaching, and who often already understand what coaching is.
This kind of coach doesn’t recognise their privilege. They don’t understand the concept of monetisable credibility and they think that their coaching speaks for itself.
2) Coach Directory
I have only occasionally heard of someone being able to build a ‘proper’ coaching business (ie a financially viable one) from being on a coaching directory. It does happen, but coaching directories aren’t quite the client source that coaches hope that they will be.
The reason that coaching directories aren’t quite what coaches hope, is that they aren’t where people go to find a coach, mostly because most people aren’t looking for a coach.
This fact hit me like a brick a couple of years ago. I had someone book a call with me who had built a really beautiful coaching directory. They had spent 2 years and all their redundancy money on it. Although they had lots of coaches subscribed to it (at a hefty fee) they hadn’t ever managed to generate a client for any of them. They wanted to talk to me to find out how to get clients for their coaches. When I said that the problem is that no one is looking for a coach (vanishingly small numbers) they said that they realised that now and really wished they’d realised it before they’d built the directory!
The times that a directory can be useful is as a landing page for you as a coach (something to use instead of a website, although I’d argue that a well-optimised LinkedIn profile is way better) or if your client is corporate. I hasten to add that those who engage corporate coaches don’t all rush to a directory to find them, but occasionally they might. Corporates contain some of the only people who know what coaching is!
It’s a sad fact that the idea of having to market a coaching business is looked down upon by many within the profession. If the idea that if your coaching is good enough, your clients will find you is true (which it absolutely is not), then if your clients haven’t found you and therefore you need to market, you must be a substandard coach, right?
? < this is me, with my brain exploding at such nonsense!
The truth is that if you don’t make yourself visible to potential clients, how will they know that you’re there?
If you don’t explain how you can help them, in language they understand, how will they know that they need to engage you? (For the record, language they understand does not contain words/phrases like ‘holding space’, ‘limiting beliefs’, ‘coaching container’ (thanks to Suzanne Lindsay Holt for this cracker!) or ‘step into your authentic self’ etc)
Marketing Is Essential For Any Successful Business!
I had this ‘why do so many people sneer at the concept of marketing’ conversation with a marketing consultant I know.
She said that it was ever thus!
She said that somehow, particularly in Britain, there is this belief that what we do should speak for itself. This was said by a woman with a 40+ year career in marketing.
Having what you do speak for itself is not easy for any business. It’s nigh on impossible for a coach.
I’m writing this article is to reassure you that there is no hierarchy in ‘how to find clients’. Some coaches have monetisable credibility and others don’t. If you don’t, you need to market.
Marketing doesn’t have to be spammy, or pushy, or grubby/grabby, or boasty. It doesn’t have to be any of the other things that coaches fear that it is. Or the things that some senior people in our profession imply that it is.
Good marketing is both comfortable and effective and it works every single time it’s implemented properly.
Would you like to talk more about client acquisition? You are always very welcome to schedule a call in my diary.