How do coaches stand out in the crowded coaching space? Look around your industry, what do you see? Is everyone in your industry doing the same thing and offering the same services?
Same web design. Same newsletter. Same… everything. In some cases, even the same web content!
Not only is it predictable, monotonous, but it’s also booor-ing!
But if everyone’s doing the same thing and you’re also trying to jump on the same bandwagon, then why should prospects choose to work with you over the other coach who offers a highly similar service, with highly similar features for roughly the same price?
In today’s hyperconnected and increasingly globalized economy, regardless of what industry you belong to, you are not the only one doing that one thing anymore. And that’s a double-edged sword.
With the invention of the high-speed internet, a laptop and geographical targeting on Facebook Ads and Google AdWords, it’s fantastic that you can now do business in South Africa, Paris and Singapore simultaneously, all in the comfort of your holiday resort in the Maldives. You can now reach marketplaces that are previously considered impossible without physically being in that location.
The downside is, if it’s so easy for you to do, the same thing is just as easy for every other person who has a laptop and an internet connection.
Coaching is an interesting industry, as it is currently an unregulated industry and has a very low (or no) barrier to entry. Markets are becoming highly competitive and highly saturated more than ever. Not to mention the fact that there will always be a competitor who has an advantage over you be it in terms of resources, manpower or existing clients.
So, if settling for second-best is not an option anymore, how do you rise above the noise and stand out from the crowd?
First of all, if you took offense to my rather blunt intro, I apologize. That’s not my intention.
But my intention was to simply emphasize the point that there is a lot of ‘sameness’ in the coaching industry (and many other industries too actually,) and to stand out, you must consciously choose to not follow the crowd.
In this blog, I want to help you stand out in a sea of coaching experts and succeed in your business by sharing with you 9 tips that I have discovered and adopted in my coaching business journey.
Niching in refers to zooming in and only focusing on one specific segment of the market.
In the coaching industry, the more specific you are, the better.
Many startup entrepreneurs have ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’. When I was starting out in my coaching business, I had “shiny object” syndrome where I got easily distracted by the “eye-catching” things that I saw.
I jumped from one idea to another, made changes after changes and never settled with just one option. It became a major setback for my business and I ended up wasting an awful lot of time, energy and resources because I had no sense of business direction.
As frustration was taking its toll on me, I pondered on what I was doing wrong and I realized that the solution was to niche down my ideas and my potential clients. I started by listing down the things I’m good at and the things that I’m passionate about. With the list in my hand, I narrowed down my options further and did some research on my prospects and competitors.
This is where ideal client avatars (ICAs) come in handy. ICAs help you niche down your ideal clients and identify specific solutions to your prospects’ specific problems. When you know what to focus on and you’re finally clear about your market, you’ll be clear on your marketing message which will help you stand out, attract more clients and finally distinguish yourself from the competition.
Know Your USP
What unique experiences and skills do you bring to the table?
Identify your core values, principles, and the people you stand for.
What gets your prospects excited and pumped? Why should they choose you? Developing your Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) starts from answering these fundamental questions. I talk about USP, and the importance of having a USP in much greater detail here.
Your USPs go beyond the unique features of your services. One important thing you must always remember when developing your USP is to avoid pleasing everyone. Yup! You heard that right. Who do you think would be most interested in you and your services? That’s who you should focus on talking to when developing your USP.
What business traits do you think would most appeal to your ideal clients and would be most worth remembering?
To stand out in the crowded marketplace, you must lead with your USP.
Leverage your strengths and unique characteristics in your business. After carving out your niche and your ideal clients, try to describe what makes your offerings unique and list down the benefits of your service. From there, you can distill the information you’ve gathered and ask others about what they think of the list that you made. If they agree that those USPs do get the job done, then your USPs are good to go.
Develop Your “Blue Ocean” Strategy
Instead of simply competing against other businesses, why not change the rules of the game?
Set the pace and be the game changer. You can either be the best coach in your field (boorrrring!!!) or be the best coach in your field who’s known for doing something out of the box. There’s a huge difference between the two and that’s what this blue ocean strategy is all about.
Blue Ocean vs. Red Ocean Strategy. In the book Blue Ocean Strategy, there’s what researchers call the “red ocean” and “blue ocean”.
Red ocean describes an ocean filled with sharks fighting each other for the same prey while blue ocean portrays a calm ocean with little or no competition at all.
In terms of your business, red ocean is where you don’t want to be trapped in.
So just how do you develop your blue ocean strategy in an overcrowded industry and stand out? How can you create a new market space and succeed at it?
Innovate and Improve. Step up and innovate where you competitors are failing. Ask what’s currently not working in your market, and ask how you can take it to the next level, and do it better. Break out of conventional boundaries and think ten steps ahead.
Just look at how Apple evolved as a leading company in a once declining industry. Many years ago, they were just like any other PC maker in the market, but they’ve adopted blue ocean strategies that gave birth to products like the iPhone, iPod and iPad which changed the game in the consumer electronics industry.
Bring Your Passion Into Your Business
What do you love doing most? What are your interests and hobbies?
Whatever they may be, find a way to incorporate your passion into your business.
When you are passionate about something, your customers can tell the difference. Not only will you always bring enthusiasm into what you do, but passion is what’ll carry you through during rainy days (and we all experience rainy days as entrepreneurs).
Are you into arts but not so much into the technical side of business? Why not use your artistic skills in your business process, like in designing your website? Take it from business magnate Richard Branson whose wise words always ring true to me:
“If you have an idea that might work in an area that you’re not passionate about, instead think about ways that you could apply it to a sector that does excite you.”
While he wasn’t really that passionate about banking, Richard Branson found a way to make things work by bringing in his passion for customer service into the industry.
Share Your Stories, Connect With Your Customers
Genuine empathy matters in your business. Get inside the head of your ideal clients. (And again, this is where your ideal client avatars come in handy.) What experiences in your past can you share with your ideal clients that you feel they could relate to?
One of the best ways to stand out is to share your personal experiences – your struggles and successes, through storytelling. Stories have the power to inspire people, bring emotions to life and form deeper connections with your audience. Your stories make you memorable and relatable. Everyone remembers a good story and that’s one surefire way you can stand out.
Engage. Engage. Engage.
Customer experience is a fundamental catalyst in today’s highly competitive markets. If you want to stand out in the overcrowded coaching industry, you must take engaging initiatives.
Engage and build strong relationships early on. Social media is a great platform to engage not only your existing clients but also your prospects. Provide people with informative and interactive contents and respond to comments in a timely manner. Not only do you increase your visibility and web presence, but you also learn more about your clients and prospects. You hit two birds in one stone. An engaging and proactive company is likely to retain more clients and get more prospects than a passive one.
Don’t Let Comparisons Ruin Your Day
A short note on emotional management. To be able to stand out from your competitors, you need to know your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses.
While a healthy dose of comparing your business with that of your competitors’ is normal, you should always remain in a neutral/objective state-of-mind when doing so. Because once you let your emotions rule over your mind, self-doubt, fear, and self-criticism will start to creep in and eat you up like there’s no tomorrow.
And that’s the last thing you want to happen, especially if you’re a one-(wo)man-band running the entire show. You need your emotions to powerfully serve you, so you could stay focused and productive for the entire day. Not… ruin the rest of your working day. Am I right?
Find Inspiration Outside Your Industry
Sometimes, the only way in is out. It might sound crazy but sometimes the best ideas come from a totally unrelated industry.
When you are trying to find a solution, improve things or create new ideas, chances are, you’ll end up doing what has been done before if you just look within your own industry. It’s the same as thinking outside the box.
So how do you get inspiration elsewhere? Sometimes it’s as simple as reading your favorite books, watching shows that you love, listening to music or having a conversation with people outside your industry. Fresh insights can bring clarity and added value to your business which in turn help you stand out from the competition.
Sometimes the best ideas come from a totally unrelated industry.
So who can you chat with today that can give you that fresh ‘pop’ of inspiration in your business?
Learn From Your Competitors’ Mistakes
Listen to your customers. What annoys you the most about your industry? What are the common complaints of people in your industry? What do customers and prospects get frustrated the most about your industry?
Pay attention, and listen carefully to what customers and prospects are saying about you and your competitors. Because if you listen carefully, you’ll find a treasure trove of golden nuggets (of wisdom!) waiting to be uncovered.
What are customers and prospects complaining about? How can you make the customer experience exceptional for them, improve on industry standards, and bring your level of service to the next level?
WOW Experiences vs. Un-WOW experiences. Wow experiences are what make customers become repeat customers, and insist on doing business with you above anybody else. This is known as ‘brand insistence‘.
On the other hand, un-WOW experiences are the experiences that send fuming customers storming off the other direction and choose to never buy from you ever again. And the worst part is, you never hear about it ever again (unless they write a complaint on your social media pages!) and you never get the chance to apologize or make it up to them.
Learning from the mistakes of your competitors not only spares you from going through the trial-and-error process but it also gives you the opportunity to do things right the first time.
So as you can see, finding your x-factor is not as difficult as it seems.
My dear coaches, I hope you had a great time reading this blog post and learned a lot from it.
Now it’s your turn! I would love to hear from you. What was your biggest A-HA moment? What is one thing you want to take away and implement in your business after reading this article?
I can’t wait for you to finally stand out and shine in your own unique brilliance. Good luck and keep on shining!