First of all I want to say congratulations for taking the daring leap of faith that is entrepreneurship. I’m sure you’ll find it a journey that is incredibly rewarding as well as very frustrating. I know I do.
As you are aware the first step for building up an audience for your coaching business is your website. All of your online marketing efforts will either start there or, more likely, end there as people see your marketing, visit your website, see if it looks professional, and then sign up for a consultation.
Before you start work on your website you need to figure out what you’re going to say on your site. That begins with what is called the value proposition.
All marketing is selling somebody on a better version of themselves. This is true for car commercials, purse ads in magazines, and insurance commercials on the radio (saving money makes a richer you). With your marketing for your coaching services you are doing this literally.
With that in mind let’s first look at your value proposition. Here is one formula (from Steve Blank at Stanford) about coming up with your value proposition:
“We help X do Y by doing Z”
X = your audience
In this case the X is your audience. Who are they specifically? You need to have a very clear idea about this for two reasons:
- It is easier to tailor your message when you can picture your audience. (Check out this article for more information about customer development.)
- Your first instinct is to not limit your possible customer base but that is exactly what you should do. You can pick out a niche (a smaller segment of your overall audience) and own it with very targeted messaging. Once you conquer that niche (be the big fish in a small pond) you can expand. Or, said differently, if you try to sell to everyone you’ll end up selling to no one. Instead start by selling to exactly one person (a niche of your niche).
Y = the better version of themselves
Be specific about what this is. “Achieve your goals” or “find success” are very vague and mean different things to different people. “Smile more”, “sleep better”, and “secure a promotion” are bit more specific goals that somebody might have. (I haven’t done coaching but I imagine the more specific the goal your client has the more actionable the advice you give can be. And the more actionable the advice the more likely they are to follow it and achieve a positive outcome.)
Z = that action required to achieve Y
Your coaching services but what specifically does that entail? Weekly or monthly meetings? In person? Over the phone? Is it an x-step process?
“Renew the adventure in your life with one small step a day.”
A way that I came up with to reach a value proposition is using the “Five Whys?“.
This website visitor wants to hire a coach.
To gain confidence.
They feel overlooked and/or taken advantage of.
Nobody asks them for their input at work.
They are not viewed as an authority/leader.
They keep to themselves and do not attract attention.
So, in this example (and it is just an example) they think they want to gain confidence but they really want more attention, recognition, etc.
“The path to wins, recognition, and accolades starts with one step.” (signing up for a free consultation)
tldr: be specific about your service and the outcome right at the top of your page.
Back to selling somebody a better version of themselves I would recommend that your site use images with bright colors. Show them the person they want to become. Specifically for the first image I would use an image of an attractive female smiling (research shows both men and women are more likely to click a button on a landing page that features an attractive woman).
You can use Unsplash to find images to use on your site. I like this one if it were to be inverted (so she is facing left to right):
This one also seems appropriate for coaching and could be used further down the page:
Testimonials are great (they form what is called social proof) but they are even more effective with the picture of the person. Your testimonials should be on the front page of your site and, if you can, put smiling pictures next to each one.
As much as you possibly can you want to write your copy about the visitor rather than you. A good exercise it to replace “I” and “we” in your copy with “you”.
Secondly, be confident. Phrases like “I think” and “I believe” weaken your message.
Finally, tell me about what the process will entail for me as a client. What happens day one? Is there a plan tailored to my goals and time frame?
Traffic and trust:
Most entrepreneurs learn fairly quickly that putting up a website by itself does not actually result in any customers. This is particularly true for service businesses as opposed to ecommerce businesses. You likely will get some business from people you know and referrals but you will not initially get any from strangers on the Internet.
But you can change that!
You can build trust with your audience by developing a relationship with them and building your brand. Typically on the Internet that is done with social media, blog posts, email, videos, podcasts, etc. Focus on one or two of those.
Basically you need to put in a lot of hours and give everything away for free at first. The people that connect with you the best will be the ones that become your customers.
I strongly suggest email being one of your ways of building an audience, and a relationship with them, because it is a direct line to your audience that you own. You’re going to need to start with an email marketing platform. I really like Drip but there are others out there (Mailchimp probably being the most popular).
Sign up for Drip and create a five-day educational email course where you go in depth about a single sliver of what you cover in your coaching. Five lessons on meditation might be something that would be popular. Five lessons on workplace communications, going back to work after having a baby, marital nitpicking, etc. There are lots of problems that people would love to learn to handle better. Write up five emails about a topic and then on the last email mention that if they would like to explore further they can reply to the email and set up an appointment.
Put an opt-in form for this email course on your homepage.
Another way to get people to signup for your email list is by giving away an ebook. They don’t have to be long but, like with an email course, you are demonstrating what you are an authority and why somebody can trust you. (This is my guide to creating an ebook.)
I might recommend podcasting as your second avenue for building an audience as it is really hard to standout in the blogosphere these days and it is less work than video. Possible formats for a podcast:
- Q&A (either with a “caller” or where people write in with questions and you answer)
- Book reviews
- Discussions on books, academic papers, etc.
Stick to one format for your podcast (you can launch more if you want) as I hear it is good to get into a rhythm for them and it allows you to be creative inside constraints.
Instagram could be a powerful platform for reaching your ideal client and seems to be a place where inspiration (and self-help?) thrives.
Eventually you are going to want to track the number of people who visit your site and how they find you so install Google Analytics.
Some days I struggle to find the motivation to work on my business and do my ONE Thing. One thing I posted on my business dashboard is a question, “Why are you trying to help and how can you best help them?”
If you needed any further entrepreneurial inspiration check out my book, Passion and Perseverance, which is a collection of advice from entrepreneurs much smarter and more successful than myself.
With one of my businesses I was struggling to close deals. The sales cycle was long, it was difficult to get to the top of the buyer’s priority list, and initial excitement faded to unresponsiveness. This was somewhat of a niche industry and I did not have colleagues to turn to for support. What I needed was a group of industry peers to talk to.
Using these three very simple methods (so simple I cannot believe I’m writing a blog post on this but it took me a long time to actually make this effort so maybe others could use a push) I started connecting with my peers. I ended up getting a much better response to my emails that I had expected and some very thoughtful advice that helped show me why I was struggling.
Yes, it really is that simple. Just like the guy/girl at the party that you would love to talk to, if you do not introduce yourself then nothing will happen. You cannot wait for fate to intervene. Maybe nothing does happen but more likely than not you might end up talking to somebody who provides good conversation, has similar interests, but can also provide a different point of view.
It helps if you know a little bit of background on the person in order to get the conversation started. See what articles they have written or products they have released. Complement them. Everybody loves a compliment.
Send congratulations notes
Now when I see a fellow entrepreneur in the industry featured in a press article, or that they have won an award, I drop them an email congratulating them. This is an extension of the previous method and is a great excuse to take the step of introducing yourself.
Ask for advice
At the end of the day this is what you really want–advice in how you can take your business to the next level.
Many people are willing to dispense with advice but it is up to you to decide if you want to take it. Because they might not know the full extent of your business and situation the advice might not be as applicable as you might like. They will speak about what has worked for them and their business. Thus, try to prequalify who you ask for advice from. If they took a path to where they are today similar to the one you are on then they might provide you with insightful and actionable advice. If not, then you still might get inspirational advice but you will not be able to act on it as much.
How to connect
Your industry peers might have their contact information on their websites. I think it is best if you treat them like a cold lead (http://blog.engagetactics.com/selling-cold-lead/) and email them first and then possibly ask for permission to set a call up with them. Many times they will prefer to respond via email until you have built up a rapport.
If their contact information is not posted there are a couple of ways to try to reach them.
Hunter.io has been an amazing tool that has helped me to build up a list of cold leads. After using Google to build up a list of potential prospects (if they have an About Us or People page I capture each name, title, phone number and email if they have it) I turn to Hunter.io to find any email addresses that were not published. More often than not they have the email address I desire.
You can use the same method to find your industry peers and get their contact information.
I do not particularly love LinkedIn but it has definitely become the online networking tool for the business world. Lots of people publish links to their LinkedIn profile which I take as an invitation to connect with them. When you request a connect on LinkedIn do not use the default text. Instead use one of the methods above (introduce yourself, congratulate them, or ask for advice). This shows you are not a bot or spammer but somebody genuinely interested in connecting with them.
If you have no 1st or 2nd degree connections with somebody you are going to need their email address in order to connect with them on LinkedIn.
The thing I love the most about Twitter is the ability to talk to anybody else that has an account. They might not listen but no other medium has the same power to reach busy people without having to get through all of the gatekeepers.
It is harder to establish the personal connection with Twitter so it might be best to think of it as a way to slowly establish a relationship by following them and consistently trying to provide value by providing them feedback on their posts and passing on links that might interest them.
Successful people tend to be busy so you might not get a response to your first email, or ever for that matter. But, just like the hustle school of sales, you need to follow up two or three times before giving up on a response. Do a “goodbye” email as the last one where you thank them for their time and wish them the best of luck.
Hopefully this is the simple push you needed in order to connecting with and engaging your industry peers. There is no telling what sort of advice and opportunities will come from growing your professional network.
(See my post “Network up. Niche down.” for more on why this is a good strategy for your personal and business development.)
For one of my products I was getting getting polite interest but not turning any leads into customers. That is a recipe for a failed business. I knew that the product was a good one that would allow the leads to make a huge jump with their business in terms of retaining existing customers and winning new customers but nobody I talked to was signing up.
I had a problem.
Either I had grossly misread my niche’s needs or I was not communicating my product’s value proposition well enough. (Or maybe a bit of both.) I had done some customer development prior to building the product but at this point the product was built and ready for users. And if I had been effective at communicating the value of the product you would have expected to get some people signing up and trying it out.
Since that wasn’t happening the issue was clearly that the value proposition in my marketing materials and sales calls was not good enough. I needed to improve it.
When I had originally created the product’s website I had tried out some of the common value proposition formulas such as Steve Blank’s:
“We help X do Y by doing Z”.
And this is Geoffrey Moore’s:
“For (target customer) who (need statement), the (product/brand name) is a (product category) that (key benefit statement/compelling reason to buy). Unlike (primary competitor alternatives), (product/brand name) (primary differentiation statement).”
Those did not work for me in this case. I suspect that is because a lot of them are about positioning your product versus a competitor for potential customer who is already sold on the need. In my case I needed to sell the customer on the need for a product in this category rather than tell them why I am better than the competitors. One day I was reading a business post-mortem which was laid out with the “five whys” and a light bulb went off. I should use that for finding my value proposition.
The five whys are a powerful business tool that were originally developed at Toyota. The technique is used to get to the root of a problem by asking why five times. Start with the problem and then ask why it happens. Take that answer and ask why it happens. Repeat until you have asked why five times and you will be much closer to figuring out what in the organization is causing the problem you are seeing.
For using this technique for finding a value proposition let’s use the example of Groove which provides help desk software. These are the five why’s they might ask about their customers:
A customer needs help desk software:
- Why? – They want to better manage their support requests.
- Why? – To provide better service to their customers.
- Why? – To reduce churn.
- Why? – To increase revenue.
- Why? – To grow their business.
Based on this they could try the following as value propositions:
“Build a world class business by providing world class customer support.”
“Simple help desk software for successful businesses.”
“Help desk software you can scale with.”
A customer needs software to handle social media:
- Why? – They have a lot of social media accounts.
- Why? – They want to connect with their audience no matter what social network they are on.
- Why? – To share their content.
- Why? – To provide value to their audience.
- Why? – To build relationships.
“Build relationships with your audience.”
“Engage your audience with your best content whenever and wherever they are.”
“Turn followers into customers by making sure they see the content you share.”
A customer needs an email marketing platform:
- Why? – They want to dynamically send emails.
- Why? – To provide different content to different segments of subscribers.
- Why? – To deliver content that feels personal.
- Why? – People respond better to personal emails.
- Why? – More engaged people will move down the sales funnel.
“Deliver personalized emails to every customer and future customer.”
“Provide personalized content that converts at every stage of your sales funnel.”
“Build personal relationships by making every email personal.”
“A business is built on relationships and relationships are between people. Make every email personal.”
I suspect a lot of Drip’s customers, if not the majority of them, are moving to Drip from other email marketing platforms. In that case they don’t need to sell the visitor on the benefit of email marketing software but why Drip is better than the software the visitor currently uses.
(I actually really like what they are using here: “The best marketing automation platform, hands down.”)
Drip is better than competitors:
- Why? – It is easier to use.
- Why? – Because it has a visual campaign builder that ties all the features together.
- Why? – So you can customize every communication.
- Why? – Because that will convert more subscribers to customers.
- Why? – The founders know from their years of experience.
“Created by business owners who understand that powerful software should be simple to use.”
“Decades of email marketing experience at your fingertips.”
“Developed by, and for, entrepreneurs.”
“An email marketing platform proven to be easy to use and powerful enough to convert your subscribers into your customers.”
Test. Test. Test.
Some of those value propositions were better than others but what is nice about this exercise is that by slightly altering the premise and going through the five whys again you will end up in a completely different place.
There are a lot of ways to figure out your value proposition and you should be continuously testing to see which one resonates best with your audience. It can be the difference between having a successful business and being out of business.
Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month which is where thousands of people set a goal to write a novel during the month of November. How you get there is up to you but many set a goal of writing at least 1,000 words a day.
I fully intend to take part one day but, as an underdog, right now I’m focused on my business. This month I am going to spend less time consuming other people’s content and media, unless it is for brainstorming or immediately applicable purposes, and instead spend more time creating the marketing content that will grow my business.
Underdog Action Plan
I am going to challenge myself and challenge you to create at least one good new piece of content for your business each week this month. What you will end up with are four assets that you can use to build your business going forward.
My goals for the month:
- Finish draft of Engage
- One authoritative Slideshare
- One new email course
- One marketing flier
- One landing page and video for a new feature
The first one is not part of the action plan but me hoping to really tap into my inner-author during NaNoWriMo.
Here are some content marketing ideas for you if you’re struggling to come up with four great ideas:
Take five or more of your highest quality blog posts and bundle them up into an ebook. Think of a subtitle that will tie them all together. This guide goes through how to pick a title, design a cover, format the content, publish, and market your ebook.
Create a new landing page that speaks about only one feature of your product or aspect of your service. I recommend using one of Leadpages’ free landing page template and Copyhackers for copywriting ideas for your landing page content.
Think of one informative blog post that you have been meaning to write and create a Slideshare of it instead. Send an email to prospective clients that mentions that they might be interested in this new presentation you created.
Think about a topic that you recently had to research that relates to your business. While it is fresh in your mind create a five-email mini-course on it. Promote your new course on social media after you have created a landing page for it (see above).
What is the question that you get asked the most by colleagues, clients, or friends? Record a short video where you answer that question.
See you in December
Remember that all the books you read, blog posts you skim, and podcasts you listen to do not do anything to help your business without you taking action. This is your month of action!
Come December we will all start seeing the results of the hard work we’ve been doing.
Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what your four things are!
I love podcasts and one of my three favorites is the Tropical MBA podcast. (In case you were wondering my other two favorites are Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders and Startups for the Rest of Us.) In one of their episodes they said something that has stuck with me for years:
Network up. Niche down.
I love that volumes worth of business advice can be simplified down to four words. If you understand that then you can stop reading this blog post now. If not then keep reading.
Here is a slightly longer explanation from the episode:
“Look at what successful people are doing. Talk to them. Learn from them. Apply those lessons to a niche. Your original niche is likely too broad. Look for a niche of a niche.”
Learn (from the people you are networking with) and teach (the people in your niche). The lessons you learn from your network will help you reach more potential customers and provide them more value.
Networking provides opportunities to learn as well as potential help, introductions, partnerships, and investment. Be selective about who you reach out to and what professional or entrepreneurial groups you join. (This should even be extended to what websites you visit, podcasts you listen to, and books you read.)
People who are going to be able to provide those types of opportunities are people who have already been where you want to be. Those might be people higher up the corporate ladder at your, or another, company, people that have started successful businesses in your industry, or people who started a similar business in another industry.
At the end of the day:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
You can raise yourself up by that principle just as you can lower yourself down.
We are going to go deeper into networking in future posts but when you do reach out don’t do so blindly. Make sure they are a good fit for you and the advice or help you are looking to receive. Don’t send the same email to everyone. Learn a bit about them and show it when you first email or talk to them. Provide value before asking for value in return. Be specific with your question or ask.
It is easier to engage a small group of people than it is a larger one. There is a distinct difference in talking with friends and colleagues over a meal compared to speaking to a crowd in an auditorium. The extension of this is that it is easier to market to a niche (or a niche of a niche) than it is to every possible user of your product or service.
We have discussed how people respond better to messages that are personalized to them. In order to do that for a large niche you are going to end up creating many, many customer segments and will need a team of marketers to create content for them all.
As an underdog you don’t have enough hours in your day for all of that.
When your business is at an early stage try to totally own something. Be the absolute best at one thing that people care about. For a certain group of people the thing you are best at is the thing they value the most when choosing a product or service. Once you capture those people you can expand to a second group. Rinse and repeat your way to world domination.
The Underdog Action Plan
- Write down the names of ten people you admire in your industry. Send each of them an email.
- Name the one thing that you do better than anybody else. Write copy for a landing page that highlights that one thing.