The Pro-Bono Client

Whether you’re a new coach looking for experience, or a vet looking to make a difference, sooner or later, you’ll take on “The Pro Bono Client.”

“Free” Isn’t Always a Win-Win

New coaches often see pro bono clients as better than no clients at all. At first, this seems like a great deal for both of you – a client who might not be able to afford coaching gets free services, and the coach racks up valuable experience.
But as the journey progresses, the coach may start to see issues with commitment and follow-through. Specifically, a lack of both. With this, momentum fades. Why? Because the client hasn’t got any “skin in the game.” It turns out, when a client doesn’t have to invest financially, very often they don’t invest emotionally either.

The Secret: Charge Something

Requiring even a modest investment (whether it’s money or an exchange of services) makes a huge difference. The key is to set your “pro-bono” rate somewhere between “write-off” and “hardship” – and this is different for every client. For someone with very few resources, $5 per session might be a fit. However, for someone with a modest full-time income, 75% of your full fee might be more appropriate.

The beauty of this is that you don’t need to guess what a reduced-fee client can reasonably afford. Instead, just be candid: explain that you’d like to find a compromise that isn’t an unreasonable burden, but will be enough of a stretch to support their forward momentum. With all of this information on the table, ask the client what fee they think is most appropriate.

A Modest Investment Can Be a Win-Win

This kind of candid, respectful conversation builds consensus around what will benefit both of you and the coaching partnership, instead of creating a zero-sum negotiation.

So, the next time you have an opportunity to work with a pro-bono client, work out a reduced fee instead. Help them become more invested in the coaching process from day one. Your client will work harder to get their money’s worth, and you’ll watch them succeed in record time!

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Giving Thanks – For Your Clients

In a month focused on gratitude, it only seems right to share the sentiment with clients as well as friends and family.
Gift Certificates
Appreciation can take many forms – from personal notes to personal effects. Many coaches, though, prefer to offer clients the gift of their services over an edible treat.
If you want to take this idea for a spin, have a look at this template, which I invite you to download and customize. Or pick one of the free templates available from Microsoft. Either way, print the certificates on high-quality paper, include your hand-written signature and pop them in the mail. Alternately, create certificates your clients can give to their friends and family as referrals.
Gift CardsAnother popular idea is to send gift cards – not only to show appreciation to your clients, but also to recognize strategic partners or former clients who may have sent you referrals.*
Make Gifts Meaningful, Not Necessarily Expensive
Whatever you choose, make sure it speaks to the recipient personally. It doesn’t have to be pricey either: some of the most thoughtful gifts are low-to-no cost. So whether it’s a donation to one of your client’s favorite charities or a hand-written card, acknowledging your clients and partners will pay dividends the whole year long.
* A note on gifts sent in recognition of referrals: a gift perceived as directly tied to referrals can backfire – the gift may seem less personal, if it feels like a “payment.” Also, many people consider this practice ethically questionable outside of a formal strategic partnership or referral program. In order to avoid both issues, I make it a point to send gifts to all my clients – regardless of which ones sent leads my way.
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Teleseminars

Teleclasses can be a really efficient way to offer a potential client the opportunity to “know, like and trust” you, all in one straight shot. The reasons they work so well are numerous:
  • Teleclasses are an opportunity to showcase yourself as a subject matter expert
  • They let you address potential clients’ questions and concerns (often in person, in real time)
  • They position you as a “go-to” resource for your target audience
  • The format allows for specially priced “calls to action” at the end of the class
Perhaps the best thing about teleclasses is that you can design your session once, then offer it again and again. In the end, what this means is that, for each hour of your time you invest in marketing, more people will hear about your work.
Choosing a Topic
You’ll draw the biggest audiences when you pick topics on which you can speak passionately and expertly. Create a list of issues or problems your target audience faces and prioritize the ones that matter to you most. Then, make a corresponding list of potential solutions to these issues. Leverage these two lists as you build an outline for what you’ll cover.
Consider the following 9-step timeline*, as you structure each session of your offering:
  1. Welcome – encourage audience introductions
  2. Introduction – WHO’s on the call, HOW it happened, WHY listen
  3. Content – case studies, stories, how to, endorsements
  4. Call-to-Action #1 (approx. 15 min. mark)
  5. Call-to-Action #2 (approx. 30 min. mark)
  6. Call-to-Action #3 (approx. 40 min. mark)
  7. Ethical Bribe – magic word, pop quiz, contest, etc.
  8. Summary – summarize key points, and give CTA 4th time
  9. FAQ session – after “formal tele-training” (if applicable)
With sound knowledge of your target audience and some advance preparation, you can use teleseminars to transform your coaching business. As marketing tools go, many coaches will tell you nothing has done more to help them create a profitable, sustainable business – not to mention the freedom to stop relying on cold calls, businesses travel and endless writing and blogging. So, give coaching teleseminars a try; you might just find it’s the easiest, fastest way to a full pipeline and a thriving business.
*”9-Step Timeline” from Alex Mandossian’s Self-Growth Teleseminars
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Charitable Marketing

Many coaches overlook the marketing benefits of donating coaching sessions for use as auction items or prizes at at charity events. But with a little forethought and planning, giving away some coaching can actually be a win-win-win.

First and foremost, the charity wins by having a valuable service for participants to buy or win, without any impact to their already tight budget. The participant wins through the coaching experience itself – if they’re lucky, at a great price. And you also win – through the satisfaction of supporting a great cause – but also in several other ways:

  • Participants (whether they won your prize or not) will associate your brand with the cause you’re supporting, as well as with “giving back” in general.
  • Your business may be able to take the value of the session(s) as a tax deduction.
  • Winners could become full-paying clients, continuing beyond the session(s) you’ve donated.

Choosing an Event

Sometimes you can find great options by simply calling local charities and asking if they know of any benefit events which would be a good fit. Your local newspaper may have notices about upcoming events. You can also sign up for a free account on HARO. Although this site bills itself as a way for reporters to find experts to interview (which could be great for your business, too – but that’s another newsletter!), the HARO mailing list also receives numerous solicitations from charity benefit events seeking donations.

As you evaluate each donation opportunity, think about who is likely to participate. Who will this event attract? Are they in your target market? Would your “typical client” be interested in other prizes being offered?

Preparing Your Prize

While the financial value of your gift package is a charitable donation, remember that the prize itself will introduce your company to everyone attending the event. Even though you’re giving away services (non-tangible), take the time to assemble a physical gift package that represents your company well. For example, consider making a signed certificate and using a gift bag or other attractive packaging. Write a short congratulatory letter explaining what they’ve won and how to schedule with you. Don’t forget to include several brochures and business cards the winner can share with others.

Taking That First Step

While not a complete marketing strategy, participating in charity events can be a great way to increase exposure while you “pay it forward.” You’ll create a lasting impression on your community, and potentially, win new clients. All you need is a desire to contribute and a charity event to support. So, grab a newspaper or hit the internet. Start combing for your next charity auction today!

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What’s Your Take on Intakes?

Whether we call them “designs,” “discovery sessions” or “intakes,” every coach seems to have their own idea about what constitutes a good one.

The “D&D” session (Design and Discovery) typically serves as a springboard to a coaching program. No matter what the we call it, this session is intended to give both coach and client an in-depth opportunity to:

  • clarify goals
  • design the alliance (establish how best to work together)
  • define terminology
  • conduct foundational exercises (the output of which will be leveraged throughout the program)
  • discuss logistics

Of course, there are probably as many different ways to structure a design session as there are coaches. That said, there are a couple of things the more successful ones have in common:

  1. They’re longer than a normal session – often two hours or more, and
  2. they’re typically scheduled between one week and one month before regular coaching sessions begin.

For multi-hour D&D’s, many coaches bill accordingly – a month’s worth of fees (or more). With that in mind, clients have to decide whether to proceed immediately into regular sessions (paying for the D&D and first month’s sessions at the same time) or wait a month, which keeps the first month’s cost the same as subsequent months.

While some coaches prefer to bypass the D&D entirely, this can be short-sighted. Not only does it “launch” the coaching journey (for example, by establishing the context under which the client came to coaching), but it also provides a number of stand-alone insights and take-aways. These “quick wins” give the client immediate value, encouraging confidence in the coaching process and, perhaps more importantly, trust in the coach.

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Pre-Consult Questionnaires: A Coach’s Time-Saver

If you’ve never considered using a qualifying questionnaire in your marketing, you might be missing out on some big benefits. This short survey, which a potential client completes when requesting a sample session, entices the prospect while helping protect one of your most valuable resources: your time.

Asking a few questions about the potential client’s needs entices him or her with the promise of a customized strategy session. At the same time, it safeguards your time by giving you an idea whether a candidate is ready to enroll or not – allowing you to decide whether to invest your time in a consult.

An Example

If you have a website, you probably have some kind of contact form already. Why not put it to better use by also using it for intro session requests?

Consider what benefits could you reap by requiring the following “quiz” the next time someone requests an initial consult:

  1. What do you most want to change in your life?
  2. On a scale of 1-10, how important is it for you to achieve this change?
  3. What have you tried in the past to facilitate this change?
  4. What areas would you most like to focus on? Check all that apply:__ Relationship __ Career __ Health __ Business
    __ Finances/Money __ Weight Loss __ Parenting __ Dating
    __ Other (please specify) _____________________
  5. Is there anything else you’d like me to know?
  6. Full Name _______________________
  7. Email _______________________
  8. Phone (_____) ____-_____

It’s easy to see how a prospect’s response would give you a good idea about whether it makes sense to offer an initial consult – and without trading emails or phone calls. If you do “approve” their application, you’ll already have some relevant details to help guide the discussion.

One Final Thought: Keep It Simple

It can be tempting to get as much information as you can, in order to help you further filter your prospects – things like current employment, marital status, children, education, etc. Remember that prospects are more likely to complete a survey if they sense it will be quick and simple, rather than long, complex, or intrusive.

It makes no difference whether you frame this as a “quiz,” “survey” or “interview” (or something else). Just make sure prospects complete it before you devote precious time to a one-on-one conversation. Whether you require this questionnaire before a prospect can self-schedule on your website, or as a prerequisite to receiving a call from your virtual assistant, a brief series of questions can save you from fruitless consults and increase your effectiveness with potential clients who do speak with you personally.

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Thorny Situation: The Recalcitrant Client

Though most of our clients come to us willingly, sometimes we’re asked to work with a client who didn’t volunteer for the program.

When this happens, it’s important to establish a few ground rules early in the relationship. Here are four simple steps you can take to help build a strong alliance:

  1. Protect confidentiality. Let the sponsor know that any information they receive about the coaching process will come from the client – not you.
  2. Educate the client. Make sure your new client understands the purpose of a coaching alliance, as well as the benefits that await them. This may not be obvious to them – especially if they didn’t directly pursue working with you.
  3. Ask the client to tell you what they’re interested in addressing and what they sense is the purpose of this relationship.
  4. Conduct a “sample” exchange to confirm that you and the client are a good fit.

This initial exchange is key, since it allows the client to learn about coaching first-hand. He or she also gets an opportunity to become more comfortable with you and envision a partnership full of possibility, rather than “another requirement” – or worse, a punitive assignment.

For example, this exchange might start with questions like:

  • Hello, ____! I’m curious: what’s your interest in coaching?
  • Are you willing to try a little coaching exchange with me?
  • What do you imagine we might accomplish together?

Or if they aren’t interested:

  • Well, since we’re here, what if we make use of our time together?
  • Would you be willing to explore a Wheel of Life with me?*

If all else fails, you could establish a connection by weaving in powerful questions while you:

  • play cards,
  • trade jokes, or
  • chat up their favorite sports team or hobby.

Bottom line: you can’t treat these individuals as paying clients, since they aren’t actually bearing the cost of your services. Because of this, you’ll need to gain their buy-in before the alliance can do its best work. In many cases, the sample exchange is enough to persuade a client to give it a try. In other cases, the client might still be tentative about the relationship – in which case you might need to negotiate a short “arc” of sessions on a trial basis, with the promise that you’ll check for feedback at the end of each.

Either way, helping an “assigned” client see the true potential of coaching can pay huge dividends. Once they begin to understand this level of personalized support, even the most reluctant client will likely see previously unimagined possibilities as “within reach.” And who better than a coach to show them a path to their full potential?

*Sample exchange, courtesy of coach Vicky Jo Varner

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Headache-Free Social Media Marketing

We’ve all heard that social media sites and bulletin boards can be valuable components of a well-balanced marketing plan. But I’ve talked to numerous clients who’ve had reservations about social media – and not because they were intimidated by the technology. Instead, they were afraid that marketing through these channels would devour huge amounts of their time, but leave little to show for it.
As with any “overhead” in your business (things you do that don’t directly generate revenue), one of the keys to using social media effectively is to choose your time investments wisely.  Here are some tips to help you make the most of your social media efforts:
  • Figure out where your target audience already spends time and go be there.This sounds a little obvious, but I’ve seen coaches spend lots of resources creating a fantastic blog with loads of interactive features and wonder why their potential clients aren’t swarming. Why create a new place for them to go, when they’re already looking for someone like you elsewhere? For example, on LinkedIn:
    • Search for groups that are relevant to your potential clients – for example, by interest or industry
    • Ask your current clients what social media sites they would use to find someone like you
    • Connect with current and prospective clients to see what groups they frequent
  • Spend some time observing, before you join the conversation. Remember: most of what you post on various social media sites becomes public and available to search engines. You’re better off establishing a presence in one or two online communities, rather than having one or two posts on every site under the sun.
  • Once you decide to participate, do so consistently. One of the most important things you’re trying to establish is credibility, and it’s hard to do that when your name only pops up in front of someone every few weeks. Devote a little time every day, instead of getting bogged down for hours.
  • Don’t spread yourself too thin. Focus on one or two online communities – maybe even on the same website. Trying to be everywhere at once just doesn’t work. Or if it does, you probably won’t have much time for anything else!
  • Make sure your profile is complete and include a photo. If you’re going to spend time building relationships in a social media community, be sure people who make their way to your profile find some substance. Think of this profile as you would a resume, even on sites that feel more informal, like Facebook.
  • Focus on giving, not marketing. Don’t waste your time telling your audience about your expertise; instead, simply show them you’re a generous expert. Answer questions, chime in on conversations, provide resources. That said, your posts should end with a brief signature that lets readers easily find out more about you.
Establishing an effective social media presence doesn’t have to be daunting, and it certainly needn’t hijack your schedule. Choose your online communities carefully and participate on a regular basis; you’ll soon find yourself building enduring, high-quality relationships. Before long, these relationships will move outside the social media sandbox – contacts will become website visitors, members of your mailing list and yes, even clients!
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