01 May, 2012
Coaches – Know YOUR Niche By Andrea Harding
The question is; how do you know if you’ve chosen the right niche?
I have some experience I would like to share with you about the pain of choosing the wrong niche and my path to finding the right one.
In the early days of setting up my coaching practice, I went about choosing my niche, and I decided quickly that career coaching was the one for me.
I justified my choice by telling myself that I had carved out a career in a competitive environment, juggling the demands of family life and still maintaining some kind of sense of humor. So, surely I would be a good match for clients wanting a career coach, and I would get lots of paid work and be really successful?!
Once my website was up and running, I started receiving a number of enquiries from people who wanted to transform their careers. Some of those enquiries converted into paying clients with whom I worked with for an agreed period.
Over time, I began to notice a pattern emerge. Clients were indeed a mixture of men and women, from different age groups, from different commercial sectors and at different stages of their career journey.
However, the emerging common denominator was all these clients made tremendous changes to their lives as a result of working with me.
My thoughts turned to the enquiries that didn’t covert into paying clients. I knew my coaching services were really valuable, so why did a notable number of enquires fail to convert? When I started to reflect on the individuals concerned, I noticed these individuals had high profile careers and could be described as ‘movers’ and ‘shakers’.
During initial meetings I got the distinct impression these potential clients thought me to be “a nice girl, but not for me”. I got a strong sense the type of coach they really wanted possessed knowledge and experience to revolutionize their careers.
To be honest, I felt dashed that I hadn’t been able to cut the mustard. More enquiries came by way that I was unable to translate all of them into paying clients. Again I observed these people were of a certain breed.
And then the penny dropped. The coaching enquiries that I could not convert were clearly a very different from me. Despite my best attempts to build rapport there was still something missing.
I came to the realisation that in business, you can only be what you really are. It seemed to me that if I was going to establish myself as a coach, I needed to market myself to natural clients who could relate to me instantly.
So my quest become to understand what I was about, rather than to ‘choose’ a niche. I was asked a wonderful coaching question which really helped me to distill my thinking.
The question was: If a potential client had just met you, and was thinking about working with you, what would they ‘get’ about you in the first 5 minutes?
This question is really driving at; what is it about you that might motivate others to think about working with you? In other words, what is the essence of you?
To start with I couldn’t answer this question, but with reflection I began to understand that my style of coaching was highly supportive and nurturing. No wonder senior executives weren’t booking me; they don’t want to be nurtured, they wanted their coach to challenge, push and get results!
Once I had developed the theme of my coaching style, I could think about the type of client that might want to work with me, and Eureka, my niche was defined!
This eureka moment was pivotal to everything in my coaching practise. I changed my website so the look and feel was congruent, my business cards were re-vamped to give the right key messages and I chose advertising and networking events carefully.
So if you are struggling to define you niche, my top tips are:
1. Understand why you have decided to pursue a career as a coach
2. Understand how you come across to others
3. What feeling or sense would a potential client get from you?
4. Where does your previous experience or expertise lie?
5. Do you have any subject matter expertise you could marry with coaching?
Clients will spot it a mile off if you are trying to fake it. Have utter congruence and integrity with the messages you market on your website, business cards and other marketing material. The current economic climate is challenging but it will push you to set up a business that is built on solid foundations.
So on that note, and in the motivational words of the English poet, Sir Henry John Newbolt, “play up, play up and play the game!”