Can This Business Be Saved?: Toot Your Horn!

Q: I’ve been a life coach for 20 years. Today everyone seems to be a coach of some type, so the crowded market makes it difficult to stand out and secure clients. Should I consider switching fields or is there a formula for getting noticed?

A: Yup, coaches are indeed a dime a dozen, but you shouldn’t jump ship because of the competition. Instead, redouble your efforts to market yourself and sell your services.

That starts with getting very clear on your brand. To break out of the pack, it’s key to define yourself in unique terms, which means avoiding the same labels and titles everyone else uses.

Think for a moment about the popular TOMS footwear, which isn’t only a shoe business; it’s an experience for socially conscious customers who want to feel great about the purpose of their purchases. Facebook isn’t merely a technology company or a social network. It’s a place to hang out, connect with friends and share mutual interests.

What do you and your work stand for? “You can’t be shy about what you do, who you want to serve and how their lives change when working with you,” says Jennifer Lee, a business coach in Orlando, Fla. Instead of announcing yourself as a “life coach,” talk about the transformations produced by your work. “I find too many coaches are quiet and humble about how the profession of coaching can affect someone in a big way.”

Whether at networking events, cocktail parties or school functions with your kids, proudly share the nature of your successes. Let people see how enthusiastic you are about the value of your work.

Sam Horn, who advises companies of all sizes on how to get noticed, recommends illustrating your point rather than telling it: “Don’t overwhelm your targets with information overload; intrigue them with opportunities, benefits and solutions.” In coaching, this will instantly differentiate you from others.

“Stay 100 percent true to who you get excited about working with and know what pains they are experiencing,” Lee says. “Once you’ve identified these two components, spend all of your time talking and marketing to them in their language. People will remember someone who—during the conversation—‘got it.’ ”

Lee built a successful coaching practice by securing speaking engagements and media coverage to position herself as a standout expert. Both of those platforms are viable for you to pursue, too. Pitch local TV, radio and newspapers on topics that would appeal to their audiences and to those you wish to attract. Share those successes via social media to expand the reach.

Finally, take control of the journey. “When you hear people say they are struggling, ask if they want this to change,” Lee suggests. When the answer is yes, be clear about how you can help immediately. Don’t sit on the lead, don’t get wishy-washy about the conversation, and don’t hint about your services. Be direct about your experience and the breakthroughs you’re skilled at creating. “They are waiting on you to show them the way.”

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