Here’s one of the first things I hear from most of the coaches I work with:
“I know I need to narrow my niche, but I just don’t know how.”
This is actually a great sign. It means coaches understand that if you’re not getting the results you want with the niche you have, you probably need a narrower one.
A smaller niche will bring you more clients? That’s right. Not intuitive perhaps, but right.
But here’s the catch. Coaches may know they need to narrow, but most often they don’t want to give up what they’re doing, even when it feels fruitless. It’s scary to narrow your coaching niche, even when it’s not working for you.
Yet there comes a time when sticking with the status quo is worse than facing your fears. That’s when a reality check can help.
So, how can you be sure you need to narrow?
Signs of a Coaching Niche that Won’t Go the Distance
Here are some tell-tale signs of a fruitless niche:
Who, besides me, says that narrowing your coaching niche is the shortest, smoothest road to success in coaching? Coach training schools, industry leaders, business gurus – and of course, coaches who have done this. We all agree that choosing a viable coaching niche is the first key step to a sustainable coaching business.
So why don’t more coaches give themselves this powerful advantage?
I want your input on this, and here is what I’ve repeatedly heard from coaches so far:
- “I don’t know what makes a niche viable.”
- “I thought I had chosen a viable niche, but I guess I didn’t, because it’s not working.”
- “Don’t I have to be an expert to target a narrow niche?”
- “I don’t know how to narrow.”
All understandable. So, let’s break these down one by one.
Want to know? The single biggest mistake I made as a life coach was trying to sell coaching. I didn’t realize that few people seek out coaching as a solution. Add to that, I was trying to attract big groups of people that weren’t easy to reach — women in transition and later, midlife women.
Just thinking about it makes me tired.
I didn’t know any better. All my peers were picking a topic they felt passionate about as their coaching niche. I blindly followed them onto that rocky road and never stopped to question whether that was the way to make a good living as a coach. Turns out, it wasn’t.
After two years, very few clients and paltry income later, I did shift to targeting a niche market — women entrepreneurs — which was way too big of a market with massive competition. And still I was scraping by, feeling like a fraud, and running frighteningly low on resources.
Still, whenever I did get a client, they valued my coaching. And I loved it. But I knew what I was doing wasn’t sustainable. I was working too hard for poor results.
There are still people out there who don’t understand the value of coaching. Some define coaching the way Ambrose Bierce defined consulting: “To seek another’s approval of a course already decided on.” And some people think hiring a coach is like hiring a friend to listen to you.
But then there are people like Google CEO Eric Schmidt – the lead architect of the most successful business growth story in recent history. When asked to share the best business advice he ever received, he said “Everyone needs a coach.”
So, is coaching worth paying for? The answer seems to be: It depends on WHO you ask.
I think I know where you come out on this question, or you wouldn’t be staking your career on the power of coaching. But here’s my point: Draw your clients from groups of people that believe coaching is worth the investment.
So how do you find and connect with those people? The answer may not be obvious, but it is straightforward.
Choose a Niche Market Full of Seekers
Certain groups of people, because of who they are, will readily invest in their own personal and professional development. Here are three examples of niche markets that are full of seekers:
I know you know what your current coaching clients want. But do you know what your prospects want? There’s a difference. Discovering exactly what prospects want from you is the key to enrolling lots of clients easily.
So many coaches miss this, because they already know what they’re selling – their coaching services. It’s a natural way to think, but it’s also a classic marketing mistake. They try to sell coaching as the solution before they’ve even asked what the prospect sees as the problem.
You have a profound appreciation of the power of coaching, and that’s essential. But if it leads you to try to sell coaching, you may be setting yourself up for poor results. The basic law of the marketplace is supply and demand. You can supply all you want of something you think has value, but if there is no demand for it, it won’t sell.
That’s why established businesses do research before they launch a new product. I realize “market research” sounds pretty off-putting – technical, boring, expensive. But at its core, it’s just listening to people to find out what they want. What could be more coach-like than that?
I call this “listening to your market” – and you have everything you need to start doing it. To prove it, try these steps:
Influence is a new watchword in the world of client attraction. It turns out that being influential is not about knowing it all, having all the answers or being right. It starts with getting meaningful conversations going with the people you serve. Coaches are good at this, so I invite you to apply this with your niche market for 90 days and see what happens.
Recently, a company called ThoughtLead offered “the shortest marketing conference ever”. The Influencer Project featured 60 thought leaders who offered sixty seconds worth of their best advice on how to increase your influence online. I’m impressed with the creative way that ThoughtLead offered value, started a meaningful conversation and built more influence with their market.
Six Tips to Build Influence With Your Coaching Niche
Here are six influence tips that you might not have thought of before. The first two are social media tips. The last four tips have a common theme weaving through them. Did you catch it?
If you’re honest with yourself, you know this. . . When most people prioritize where to put their hard-earned money, coaching is not high on the list. So why are you trying to convince people to buy it?
There’s a better way to get clients. I’ll lay out the four steps below, but it all starts with finding out what people will put their money into. And in order to find out what people will pay a coach for, you have to know which people you are talking about.
Trust me, there are plenty of people out there who are eager to invest in professional services for a specific purpose. Finding them, and finding out what they are after, is the art of target marketing.
I’ve seen over and over how the clients start flowing in when coaches target a viable coaching market. And the kicker is, targeting a viable market significantly reduces the amount of marketing your business needs. Why?
Coaches are getting smarter. I’m meeting more coaches who know that the typical approach to marketing a coaching business doesn’t work well. They truly want great results, so they are using better strategies much earlier than I did in my coaching career. And it’s working for them.
That indicates the field of coaching is attracting more business oriented folks. And that means that more coaches will succeed, which makes me happy.
Success in coaching comes from a combination of persistence, belief in self, genuine interest in people, and serving a market that will go the distance — a market full of people who are motivated to buy services for their personal and professional growth. I call them Seekers.
Are You Connecting with Seekers?
Recently a coach told me about her deep passion for coaching a certain group — moms. But, despite consistent hard work trying to attract enough of them, it’s not working. Prospects smile and show enthusiasm, a few enroll, but they only stay for a few months. So now this coach is ready to choose a more viable market. After all, why stay attached to a market that’s not abundantly fruitful, both in income and coaching experiences?
Here’s the thing. No matter how much you love the idea of coaching a certain group, if they aren’t seekers — not willing to invest — not much income will flow into your coaching business. It’s a hard fact to swallow. That old saying about leading a horse to water… Well, you can lead someone to coaching, but no matter how much you think they need it, if they won’t invest in the solutions you are offering, you won’t have enough clients.