I had a very sad conversation with an embarrassed coach recently, Let’s call her Alison.
Alison is someone with a successful corporate career spanning decades and she left it to start a coaching business.
Journey To Coaching
As is often the case, Alison found coaching through work. She was offered some coaching and found it massively beneficial. She managed to get herself onto a coaching course as part of her professional development and she used coaching to develop her team.
Everyone, from the course provider to those she coached told her she was a great coach.
No longer in love with her corporate career, and at 55 she felt that she still had one really good job left in her before she retired. Wanting to run her own business for some time, but not quite figuring out what that business would look like until she found coaching.
Finding herself working from home over the pandemic she took the opportunity of suddenly finding herself with several extra hours a day due to the lack of a commute, so she started her business.
The Usual Stuff
She did what all new coaches do; had a website created that is all about her, her story, her coaching qualifications and philosophy and her various packages. She knew she wanted to work with corporates, so priced accordingly. She was delighted with how the website looked — calm and professional, with a bit of personality in it too. That was when she sat back to wait for the enquiries to trickle in.
Alison had calculated that she only needs about 6 clients a year and that seemed such a low target. She was utterly confident that she would succeed in finding those clients reasonably quickly.
When nothing was happening, Alison decided to quietly reach out to some of her contacts in the corporate world. She has made several friends over her career who are now in senior in HR positions. Although she hadn’t wanted to ‘pull in favours’ she felt that maybe this was the right thing to do. As she put it ‘ I thought that although having the first couple of clients come from my work colleagues wasn’t what I wanted, I only need to get the first few clients and the rest will come from referrals’.
When Things Don’t Pan Out — Don’t Be Embarrassed
To Alison’s horror, these conversations didn’t result in the coaching contracts she wanted. The people she knew were very interested in what she had to say, but were definitely not in the market for buying her services.
Sarah, she said, I’m so embarrassed! I have shown people in my corporate world that I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve made a fool of myself. I thought I knew what I was doing, It wasn’t expected to be easy, but I sure as hell didn’t expect it to be impossible either. I feel so ashamed!
No One Teaches Us This Stuff
The thing we must remember here is that no one teaches you how to market. It’s not taught in schools and very few of us take further qualifications in it. So why do we think that we should be able to do it? (As an aside, we have several mentees with a background in marketing — they realised very quickly that what they know about marketing just wasn’t appropriate to their new venture.)
Once upon a time, marketers were considered professionals and we wouldn’t have dreamed of doing our own marketing in the same way that we wouldn’t do our own accounting or legal work. However, with the advent of the internet and social media, suddenly we all think we’re experts. The rub is that we are not.
One has to be philosophical and ask the question that if it was so easy to market a coaching business, why would 82% of coaching businesses fail in the first two years? The answer is quite simply that they wouldn’t.
Don’t Be Embarrassed — Learn!
There are places you can go to educate yourself on how to market a professional services business, which coaching is. However, it’s not the same as any other professional services business, because — and here’s the rub — no one knows what we do! Worse than that, people think they know and they’re wrong.
Put the same time, effort and momentum into learning how to market your coaching business as you did in learning how to coach. The rewards will be worth it, I promise.