A blueprint for a coaching business
When you stand back far enough, businesses are remarkably similar. Everyone has to market to generate leads. Once you have those leads, you have to nurture them, and when they’re ready to buy, you have to be able to offer your products or services and make the sale.
When you stand back far enough, patterns begin to emerge.
There are at least two models that help us understand the patterns common to businesses.
The Business Model Canvas
One of the best examples of business patterns is the Business Model Canvas. In 2010, Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur published Business Model Generation, the book that introduced the Business Model Canvas to the world.
The Business Model Canvas is a visual representation of a business model. It captures the 9 key components of a business model, and is used (amongst other things) to design businesses and help foster innovation.
The Tornado Method
The Tornado Method is my own framework for understanding how business works, troubleshooting problem areas and understanding where to focus next.
Where the Business Model Canvas looks at designing business models, the Tornado Method looks at the specific things you have to do to have a successful business. (The Business Model Canvas is one of the 11 elements in the Tornado Method.)
The Tornado Method captures the 11 things you need to get right to have a successful business. It is used to understand what a business needs to do to succeed, and a number of tools, derived from the framework, can be used as a lightweight management framework.
If you’ve never seen the Tornado Method before, I strongly encourage you to download and read the free Beginner’s Guide to the Tornado Method here.
What has this got to do with a blueprint for a coaching business?
When you stand back far enough, all coaching businesses are similar. They all have to market in the places their clients hang out, all have a lead magnet to attract potential new customers, they all have some kind of coaching methodology, and so on.
It turns out that the top layer of the Tornado Method, the Revenue Engine, can be used as a blueprint for all the things you need for a coaching business.
A blueprint for a coaching business
In this article I present a blueprint for a coaching business. Specifically, I’m going to show you the minimum set of “things” you need to have a successful coaching business. My hope is that you will be able to look at your own coaching business and see if there are any gaps.
But be warned:
Using this blueprint to build a coaching business does not guarantee success. You also need to have a very clear target market, solve a very specific problem for them, and present it in a compelling way. More about this towards the end of this article.
A blueprint for a coaching business
I’m going to assume that you’ve now looked at the Tornado Method, and specifically that you understand how the Revenue Engine works.
So without further ado, here is the blueprint for a coaching business.
As you can see, there are a number of things you need to have a successful coaching business. You obviously need to market to attract attention, have some kind of lead magnet to get potential customers into your email list, nurture those leads, and so on.
Let’s have a look at each of the 5 stages of the Revenue Engine—and what you need in each stage.
Marketing is all the stuff you do to create awareness that you exist and you can help with a specific problem. At this stage, you know there are potential clients out there, but you can’t address them individually.
There are 5 must-haves in marketing:
Every business needs a website. This is where people go to check you out, learn more about what you do, and where you have your sales pages (if you’re selling your coaching online).
SEO for organic traffic
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the science and art of making sure your website can be found when people search for you on the web. In most cases, SEO does not generate a lot of new customers, but the basics are not difficult to get right so it’s worth spending a little time getting it right.
Content marketing is the practice of publishing content on a regular basis. This can be articles (on your blog) or YouTube videos, or posts on LinkedIn or Instagram (if that’s relevant for your audience).
There are at least three reasons content marketing is important:
- it creates awareness that you’re around and you are an expert in your particular area,
- it’s really good for SEO, and
- it forms the basis for creating lots of marketing material.
The biggest advantage of content marketing is that when people come to you, they’re already interested in what you have to offer (as opposed to going out and asking people if they’re interested in what you have to offer).
You can multiply the effect of your content marketing by turning each piece of content marketing into a little ecosystem of marketing material. An article (like this one) can easily be turned into a number of YouTube videos, LinkedIn posts, and so on.
Note that I’m making a distinction between content marketing and marketing material. Content marketing is usually longer-form, and the marketing material you create from that is usually shorter and goes out to market more frequently.
Channels to market
Channels to market already exist. You don’t have to create them, you just have to choose which ones you’re going to use.
A channel to market is one way you can reach your clients. Advertising on billboards is a channel to market. LinkedIn is a channel to market. Social media is a category of channels to market.
Webinars are not a must-have, but in my experience working with coaches this is one of the best ways to get people to know you better. Coaching is after all a business of trust, and letting people see what you’re like in person is invaluable.
Lead nurturing is the stuff you do when you can address someone individually. Typically, this starts when they download a lead magnet from your website. When they do that, you know they’re interested in what you have to offer, and you can start learning more about them, qualify them to see if they’re a potential client, and build trust by providing them with valuable content.
A lead magnet is something your potential clients can download for free from your website. They give you their email address in return for your lead magnet. A lead magnet can be an ebook, checklist, tool, infographic and so on—anything that will be of value to them that will also demonstrate your expertise.
For coaches, a good lead magnet is often one where you pick one problem (or a subset of problems) and walk your potential clients through how they can solve that problem.
Lead magnet follow-up sequence
When someone downloads a lead magnet from your website, the usual response is just to welcome them to your list. But you can enhance the value of your lead magnet by creating a sequence of follow-up emails that expand on the content in the lead magnet.
Of course, to follow up when people download your lead magnet, and subsequently send emails to announce new articles, pitch your products and so on, you will need an email list.
To build your email list, you will need to subscribe to one of the many email marketing systems out there. I use ConvertKit, but there are many options out there including Aweber, MailChimp, Drip and so on.
An evergreen newsletter consists of a series of emails with valuable content. If you write the content so that it’s relevant irrespective of when your customers join your email list, it is called evergreen.
Creating an evergreen newsletter can be a lot of work. My evergreen newsletter consists of a number of emails, each introducing one of the articles from my blog. With over 150 articles in my blog, there’s potentially 3 years worth of weekly content. In practice, I only add articles to my Evergreen Newsletter that I feel are high value for my subscribers. My current Evergreen sequence has 28 emails, which is about 6 months worth of content.
An evergreen newsletter is also important because your clients are not ready to buy when you’re ready to sell. By staying top of mind, something you write will trigger them to say “ah, I need this”, months or even years after they first signed up for your content.
Sales is where you actually get to sell your products or services. Here’s the minimum you need:
It’s difficult to sell a high-end, high-priced product to someone who doesn’t trust you. One way around this is to offer an entry-level product. This product is relatively low in price, but still high in value. It’s easier for your customers to buy a product like this when they don’t know you well. If they buy—and you succeed in delivering value—they are more likely to look at your flagship products.
Your flagship product is your high-end offering. This is usually a product or service that costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Very often, these products are behind some kind of nurturing sequence or even a dedicated lead magnet. You can enhance the value of your flagship products by putting barriers in place; for example only selling at certain times, having people join a waitlist, and so on.
A pitch sequence is a series of emails designed to introduce and promote a product or service. For entry-level products a sales page may be enough, but a high-end (flagship) product usually requires a lot more convincing—hence the pitch sequence.
Every product or service needs a sales page. Depending on the cost of your product, your sales page can be as simple as a description of your product and a Buy Now button. Sales pages for higher-end products need to be commensurately longer, and social proof (in the form of testimonials) are a key factor in making effective sales.
Of course, to sell online you need a way to accept those payments. Most email marketing systems (like ConvertKit) integrate with Stripe (one of the most popular payment processors). PayPal is another common way to pay online.
Delivery is where you actually do your coaching. You need the following elements:
Your coaching methodology is a systematic way of going about your coaching. There are two main parts to a coaching methodology:
- The process you use to do the coaching
- The supporting tools, assessments and other bits and pieces that support the process.
Most coaching methodologies will include an assessment tool. The assessment is used to measure where people are when they start with you, and track progress over time. The assessment tool is sometimes used as a lead magnet or in your lead nurturing sequence, where you can show potential clients how well they perform in each area or category you will be coaching them on.
Very few people will buy your coaching services if you just say “trust me, sign up and I will make your life better”. Your coaching methodology is proof that you know how to go about getting results. To that end, your coaching methodology often shows up on your sales pages or your website.
These are the second part of your coaching methodology I mentioned above. From an assessment to specific tools for specific purposes, these help you pull out the right tool when it’s needed.
Coaching scheduling system
Once you have more than a couple of coaching clients, you will start running into problems scheduling your coaching sessions. You can of course keep track of the sessions manually, but something like Calendly can help a lot to streamline this process and give your clients a self-serve option. This is the kind of stuff you don’t want to waste time on, so automate it where possible.
When a client stops their coaching with you, it’s usually for one of two reasons:
- They’ve achieved the goals you set out at the start of the coaching, or
- they no longer see the value (circumstances have made it too expensive, or you failed to deliver on the promise in the first place).
For those clients that leave in good standing (they’ve achieved their goals), it’s worth following up with them. This reminds them of how good it was, makes it more likely that they will recommend someone to you, and sets the scene for asking for a testimonial.
Usually, a series of 3-10 emails, sent at increasingly longer intervals, are a good way to follow up with past clients. Once the follow-up sequence has been exhausted, you can add them to your Evergreen Newsletter.
A good testimonial, in a client’s own words, is worth a lot. And it’s worth even more when your clients talks about how bad things were before they started working with you, and how good things turned out after working with you.
To get these kinds of testimonials, you need to decide who you’re going to ask for a testimonial, and give them some kind of guidance on how to give a good testimonial.
The blueprint as a checklist
You can turn all of the elements in the blueprint into a checklist—here it is:
- Content marketing
- Marketing material
- Channels to market
- Lead magnet
- Lead magnet follow-up sequence
- Email list software (subscription)
- Evergreen Newsletter
- Entry-level product
- Flagship product
- Pitch sequences
- Sales pages
- Online payments
- Coaching methodology
- Coaching tools
- Scheduling system
- Follow-up sequences
- Testimonials process
In total, there are 19 elements you have to build or do. Is this enough?
Is this enough to build a successful coaching business?
You can build a coaching business just by making sure you have all the elements above in place. But that does not guarantee success.
The top reasons aspiring coaches fail to build a successful business is not because they lack some of the elements above. (To be sure, you need most, if not all, of those elements.)
But you need three more things:
- a very clear and well-defined target market
- with a (preferably) expensive problem
- and express what you can do for them in a compelling manner.
This is why the lower layers of the Tornado Method exist. You define your target market—and the problem you solve for them—as part of your business model design. Expressing what you do in a compelling manner is part of your brand nd your product ladder and shows up in your marketing material.
Get these remaining elements right, and you have a good chance of building a successful business.
But even so, there are lots of problems you will encounter along the way
For example, one of the most common mistakes I see coaches make is to offer a free coaching session (even a shortened one) early in the lead nurturing process. At this stage, you have not yet qualified your potential clients, and they don’t trust you enough to commit to anything. So spending a lot of valuable time on someone who has not yet been qualified—and don’t trust you yet—is not worth it.
So what can you do?
If you know your target market and you’re convinced that you’re solving an expensive problem for them, use the list above to build your business. You’re going to need all those bits and pieces to build a successful business.
But if you’re not yet ready to do that, here are three things that will help you now:
- Download the free Beginner’s Guide to the Tornado Method from my website. This will tell you more about what goes in to building a successful business.
- Check out the Tornado Roadmap for Building a Business. This is my high-end (flagship) product / service to make sure you get all the above bits right—with as few detours as possible.
- Finally, if you have any questions or comments, email me. I answer every email personally. Seriously.
Good luck building your coaching business!