When beginning our journey as life coaches we are often excited at the idea of helping others, following our passion, and making a positive change in the world.
Even though there are several paths you can take to become a Life Coach, each school has their own step-by-step guide to training and the ICF provides a clear outline of what is expected for credentialing. The mixture of your education, natural born abilities, and desire to help people will serve as a solid foundation where you can build mastery over the profession of life coaching.
There is, however, an aspect to coaching that doesn’t exactly have a clear cut plan; that often doesn’t come naturally to us as coaches and can tempt us to spread ourselves too thin, quickly leading to coach-burnout and a failure to achieve our dreams.
The 2017 International Coach Federation Global Survey revealed that 82% of coaches will fail within the first 2 years of business. While we may be trained and ready to coach, we are often lost in a sea of confusion and self doubt when it comes to the business & marketing aspect of owning a coaching practice.
All is not without hope. There is a trend that can be found amongst successful coaches, who don’t just survive, but thrive. A principle that, if followed, will save you a lot of headaches, heartache, and lost time and will also bring the clients you actually want to coach. In business it’s called…
Finding Your Niche
Life Coaching is a generic term. At the end of the day the term “life” encompasses all things. However, even if you are new to the coaching world you have heard about other types of coaching. Whether it be executive, health, transition, ADHD, grief, mindset, parent, career and the list goes on, there is a seemingly infinite amount of possibility when deciding what kind of coach you want to be and who you want to help. When we choose our coaching specialty we are choosing our niche.
Simply put, your niche is a group of specific people whose demographics and needs are similar. This concept often begins with identifying your ideal client/buyer persona and tailoring your marketing to a single individual, rather than everyone in the world at once. Often coaches choose their ideal client by modeling it after a favorite past client, an area of passion or expertise they may have, or after themselves. You have everything to gain and little to lose by narrowing your focus.
Take the medical profession as an example, while there are general practitioners, every doctor chooses their specialty. Orthopedic surgeons, cardiac surgeons, podiatrists, emergency medicine physicians, rheumatologists, each doctor narrows their focus, knowing that when they master their specialty they can help people exponentially more than if they dabbled in several medical fields. If we were patients at a hospital, we only want to be seen by the expert in the field of whatever affliction we may be suffering from. You can apply the same principle to life coaching. You as a coach should narrow your niche so you can do the greatest amount of help for yourself and others.
Most new coaches begin by feeling like they should help everyone and while coaching is absolutely beneficial to everyone, every expert marketer and brand strategist will say you need to narrow your focus, and here is why.
5 Reasons Why Niching is Important
1. Resources (tangible and abstract) are finite.
There is only so much of you to go around. Money, time, motivation, discipline, and willpower; these are resources, they do run out, and often much quicker than we plan. You can either take your pitcher and fill up one glass to the top with some to spare or you can try to fill up 1000 cups and leave yourself and everyone else thirsty for more. But how does this translate to coaching? Here is a hypothetical example:
You are a divorced middle-aged mother and you know your niche is newly divorced mothers between the ages 35 and 45. You would begin by doing some research about where that woman can be found in life and on the internet. You would discover it’s very likely she would be on Facebook rather than other social media platforms. Here you would create a solid social media plan, create a page, develop a Facebook following, post, and create ads for your specific client. You will quickly learn how much work even a targeted social campaign can be. But you will have the time and knowledge to get it right because you are focusing on a single platform rather than attempting to put in time and energy daily on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tik Tok, Twitter, and all the other new platforms.
Keeping the same example, what if you wanted to market beyond social media? You could ask next, where can I find my new divorcee with kids on a day-to-day basis?
Because you’ve modeled your ideal client after yourself, you likely have access to a small but warm market of women like you. You can market at PTA meetings, single parent meet-ups, mommy and me events, school events and the like. You will soon find that the women attending these events are receptive to your marketing because they are like you and already trust you.
Choosing a niche allows our hypothetical coach to create an informed and effective plan. By knowing your ideal client you switch from blindly throwing marketing darts at a wall to hitting the bullseye every time or at a minimum making it on the board.
2. You have to be able to speak to your client for them to hear you.
Generic is boring. Would you rather have a 4 course meal tailor made to your tastes or eat a loaf of Wonderbread? When you choose to market generically your message will be bland and won’t wow anyone. Trying to make everyone happy makes for a dull and homogenous experience.
Want people to buy your services? Make them feel something. Even alienating people (within certain reason) can be a strategic move. Saying “I’m an executive coach who ONLY works with CEO’s who have the guts to be Captains of Industry.” may be bold, but it certainly makes a statement that will attract attention and it gives the impression of exclusivity, which in turn makes us all want to be included.
3. Your client has to trust you to pay you.
Marketing and sales is about authenticity. Your client has to trust you in order for them to give you the two resources that they value most, their time and their money.
Gaining your potential client’s trust can happen in a matter of seconds or over the course of several years, each customer having a unique experience of the world and your marketing. If you as a coach and business owner want to expedite the trust building process there are a few techniques you can take, all of which begin with you knowing whose trust you wish to gain.
Establishing ourselves as an expert is one technique that is tried and true in gaining trust. Einstein, the theory of relativity; Nikola Tesla, inventor of the AC electrical current; Jane Goodall, primatologist and the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees; each of them known for the powerful and targeted work they did in their fields. If you want to be taken seriously as an expert you must narrow your area of expertise and learn it inside and out, so that you know it so well you can share your expertise with others confidently and convincingly.
If you aren’t yet an expert there are other ways to gain the trust of potential clients. One of which is to have a consistent brand and message that speaks to your ideal client.
When you see big yellow golden arches set against a red background what comes to mind? McDonald’s. How about when you hear “Just do it” and see a swish? Nike. What about the silhouette of an apple with a bite taken out of it? Apple.
How is this relevant to coaches? Each of these brands began with a single product and then grew from there. Notice that while their businesses expanded, the brand remained and can be found on each product. Before these brands could grow they had to first consistently be the best at making one thing and be known for making that one thing.
Your potential clients will begin to trust you when you give them a consistent and effective message/experience. They will purchase your services when you speak directly to them and make them feel something. This brings us to reason number four.
4. Know your client’s mind to know how to help them.
Neuromarketing has been an emerging field since it’s creation at Harvard University in 1990. Neuromarketing studies have examined the cognitive and effective response to marketing stimuli in order to see what areas of the brain are stimulated and ultimately what causes a human being to purchase or not purchase.
What neuromarketing has found is that people employ our “reptilian/primitive brain” to buy from emotions while still using our modern brain to justify our purchase after the fact.
Our primitive brain operates from a much more self-interested place, caring about it’s own survival and it’s own satisfaction. If you want to make your sale you must first appeal to the animal in us on an emotional level, then you can follow it up providing our modern brain with logical facts that justify the emotional urge to purchase. There are a few things to keep in mind when speaking to the primitive brain:
Keep it simple: The primitive brain is simple and so should your marketing be; deliberate color choices, using high contrast, and having a human face are all simple tools that can assist you in your marketing. Each choice should be tailored to what your ideal client would respond to. Also speak as directly and simply to your ideal client as if you have known them for life and speak in words they would use and can easily understand.
Make it about them: Everything you do in your marketing should be about your client. Brace yourself here and check your ego for a moment, nothing on your website or in your marketing should be made for you or to sell you, even your “about me” should be about them. People are self-interested and we are always seeking for a place we can share ourselves and fit in. Making your marketing about them will cause your ideal client to feel like they have discovered a space where they can be themselves.
Pinpoint the core motivating emotion: Picking an ideal client means you can define their pain points and then connect the pain points to their deepest motivating emotions. Most consumers focus on the logical part of the decision making process, not recognizing that it was in fact their emotions that made the decision for them. This is important to recognize because we often don’t realize what is motivating us. Linking the pain points to their motivations means you must tailor your unique solution to their unique needs. You must be able to dig deep into the subconscious motivations of your clients if you want a strong marketing campaign.
Knowing your client intimately allows you to create targeted content, ads, coaching materials, programs, and relate to your client and their needs in such a way that anyone who is generically marketing will never be able to. The more you know about your niche client the more capable you are at making them trust you, feel understood by you, and purchase services from you.
Going further into coaching, knowing your client’s and having your client’s know you helps to build empathy, one of the most important skills a life coach can possess.
5. If you’re 1 in a million, there’s still 7,125 people exactly like you.
This one is for the new coaches. It may be scary when you are starting out, there is a fear that you won’t make it. Imposter syndrome runs rampant and it can become tempting to try and help everyone because you are afraid that if you don’t, you will never make a real living being a coach.
Coaches, there is room for everyone and there is more than enough to go around. There are 7 billion people in the world. If you were coaching 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, with a different client every hour, you would have only 40 clients. If you think that there are only 40 out of 7 billion people that would fit into your niche you are setting a limiting belief that simply isn’t true.
The unique parts of you and the things that set you apart are what will draw people to you. We are all looking for people who are like us, understand us, that could help us and not judge us for the problems we hide from the world. Setting yourself and your services apart from the crowd will not only allow you to stand out, it may also give a voice and a safe space to several people who have felt like there is no one like them and no one that would understand them. When you choose to be like everyone else you are depriving the people that are like you of the opportunity to relate to someone and feel less alone in the world.
When you niche, you give your business several advantages to create the unique and authentic experience that people will be innately drawn to. Your coaching niche provides a space where clients are excited to be themselves and will lead to them telling the people they know about how life coaching with you is what they’ve always needed.
With all the above information being said, what is one way we can synthesize this into something palatable for an audience?
The Elevator Pitch. By crafting an effective pitch, we can shorten all the details about our niche into one or two sentences. Essentially what the elevator pitch does is tell people what the benefits of working with you are while cutting away the features of coaching with you. The Certified Life Coach Institute talks about this topic in far more depth, delving into features, benefits, and the perfect elevator pitch.
It may not be as exciting as getting out there and coaching, but developing your niche is one of the most important things you can do for the future of your coaching business and will pay dividends, not only to your practice but to the people you go on to help.