18/05/11

By Nick Bolton

Business coaching is flourishing. And it’s set to be a new growth industry, as independent coaches fill the hole left by government cuts to funded-support for small business.

But for anyone starting out as a business coach how do you make sure you’re not just another instantly forgettable, identikit business coach?

Here are sevens ways to ensure you stand out and make a success of your coaching business;

1.Be clear what your market is.

Are you really a coach for all businesses? Are you just as likely to be coaching the chief executive of an oil firm one day and a greengrocer the next? Of course not, and yet, that’s the kind of mistake business coaches make which leave them frustrated and clientless. So decide who you really want to work with. If you decide to work with small, high street retailers then become a true expert on that market and don’t waste time dreaming of the hallowed halls of Tesco.

2.Know your marketplace

Once you know who you want to work with, get to know that market inside out. Understand the problems, the opportunities, the social and political landscape and everything else that impinges on your group of business people. Know what keeps them awake and why they still do what they do. Imagine you had to face Mastermind’s black chair – specialist topic: your marketplace!

3.Be different

Know who you are going to help and decide how you’re different from the rest of the business coaches out there. You know what your potential clients want so how do you help them get it in a way that makes you stand out from the crowd. Perhaps you can create a signature system that is your mark: “30 days to 50% more customers” or something similar that allows your client to understand precisely what you deliver. Don’t be shy of making bold claims but make sure you’re good enough to deliver on them.

4.Be up to speed

It’s no longer enough just to understand the market you’re working in anymore because markets are increasingly colliding and cooperating thanks to the internet and social media. To be an effective business coach nowadays means to understand the role of the net and, even more so, social media for helping your client communicate, connect, attract, advertise and so much more. Becoming a true expert coach in this alone could set you apart from many business coaches out there.

5.Plan your marketing channels

You know who you want to work with and you know your message. The next step is to figure out how you reach out to your market. It’s both a blessing and a curse that there are now so many more ways to reach your market. A curse because it can be difficult to know where to start and you could end up spreading your message too thin across too many platforms to no effect at all. But a blessing because you can now choose the best route to reach your market in a way that fits your audience, your speciality business offering and your own style of communicating.

Congruency is key and I will never forget a leading internet firm asking a customer with a query to send a handwritten letter to the States! Admittedly that was some years ago but they were meant to be cutting edge! So what’s consistent for your message? Social media, networking, public speaking, direct introductions, advertising?

Once you have planned your marketing channels, make sure they are consistent and integrated visually, in terms of message and in your call to action.

6.Be clear what the outcome of working with you is

Surprisingly, many business coaches still focus on the service they offer the client. I say surprisingly because a business coach more than any other should know that people don’t buy a service for the process it involves but for the outcome it brings. So get clear what working with you will mean to the client. Package up your offerings so that they understand what they’ll be left with.

Boil it down. There are only a few major outcomes that a business wants. And if you boil it right down it usually comes down to increased profits (though admittedly not always). So why not cut straight to chase and be sure you can show how your services lead to more clients, lower costs, increased productivity, happier staff or whatever else you are brought in to achieve. And make your outcome measurable.

Simply offering a business audit or needs analysis is NOT what the company owner wants to hear.

7.Get a quick win and a referral

Finally, the best laid plans of mice and men are always ready to be squashed. So don’t let all the planning that you do or the inspiration you’ve had from the points above go unused and squandered. Get in to action quickly. If you’re at the very start of your business coaching journey, find someone to work with and either offer them a reduced rate or perhaps no fee at all, with the proviso that, if you’ve earned it and deserve it, they will give you five referrals, a personal introduction and a testimonial. Make like a snow ball and start rolling and you’ll gather energy and momentum as you go.

About Nick Bolton and The Smart School

Nick Bolton is the founder of the Smart School of Coaching. In addition he draws on over a decade of experience providing training to the public sector. Nick is passionate about helping ordinary people to extraordinary things.
The Smart School of Coaching is one of only a handful of UK organisations to offer a genuine coaching qualification (as opposed to an accreditation). The Smart School trains and support coaches and NLP practitioners to build passion-led coaching businesses. See: www.thesmartschool.co.uk