The life coaching industry is more popular than ever. In recent years, coaching has become one of the fastest-growing industries in educational services, with a market size of $14.2 billion in the U.S. alone. And it’s not slowing down any time soon. In fact, it’s set to keep growing at a compound annual growth rate of 4.85% from 2023 to 2030.
More and more businesses and individuals are recruiting coaches to help improve. It’s a lucrative business, too. Veteran coaches with over 15 years of experience earn an average of $160,000 annually.
The challenge is standing out. Since it’s such an appealing business to get into, and with so many interested in becoming a life coach, you’re up against a lot of competition. How can you get your foot in the door of this lucrative and rewarding industry?
The answer is to use your network. Let’s break down four steps you can follow to boost your business coaching growth by using your network.
1. Know your network
Take it from the experts – it’s all about who you know. I love Jonathan Clery’s take on business coaching: “Build proper relationships and ask for referrals,” says the successful coach. “I spent thousands on ads and trying to do email marketing and e-books. Then…no clients.”
Automation like social ad optimization and email funnels can be great, but as any experienced coach can tell you, this is an industry that requires a lot of human interactions. Having a networking strategy is essential, not only for increasing your customer base, but also for improving visibility and reputation.
The first step in using your network to grow your coaching business is to take stock of your network. Take a look at who you know and what they’re good at. This can be as simple as going through your LinkedIn contacts, or your contact book, and saying, “Sarah is in the medical device industry. She’d be a great asset to ask about that new study that came out.” Or, “Gillian just successfully got funding from that venture capital group. Maybe she’ll share her pitch deck with me.”
Then, take stock of what your needs are. Are you looking for new customers? Do you need an investment to grow your business? Would you benefit from expert market information? Rather than looking online or asking strangers, start by looking at your network first. Do you know someone who can help? Reach out and ask them.
2. Turn your contacts into customers
Your network is not a fixed asset. It’s always growing. One of my favorite quotes about networking is from Derek Coburn, the best-selling business author, because he emphasizes how important old relationships can be in your coaching career. “Dormant ties can be more valuable than your current relationships,” he notes. It’s easy to forget, but people from your past could easily become new coaching customers.
Consider that you probably know dozens of people across companies, industries, and even countries, people who you haven’t yet offered to help with your coaching business. How can you turn these untapped contacts into opportunities?
First, identify who those people could be. Try to dredge up any past memories you have with them. Search for them on social media to discover what’s going on in their lives right now. Make as detailed notes as you can about each individual. And crucially, note how exactly you think you can help them.
Be sure to reignite the spark in the relationship. Send them a note, start a conversation, let them know you were thinking of them, and start rebuilding your relationship. Once you’re back on regular speaking terms, offer to help out with their priorities and share yours.
It may well be that they say no, and that’s okay. Stay in touch anyway. This can be as simple and fun as leaving comments on social media and having a call once in a while. The “no” may be temporary, and you may be laying the groundwork for future opportunities.
3. Use your network to stand out in a crowded market
The first step was intuitive, common sense. Of course, the people you know can help you with their assets. The next step is a little less instinctive: use network engagements as a way to show you’re a thought leader.
You could be the best coach in the world, but you need customers to see that in order for them to hire you. One of the best ways of doing so is by actively engaging with members of your network on topics of current interest, both visibly and publicly. Invest time in your network on a regular basis to share thoughts, engage in conversations, and provide advice or insights.
For example, you might see an industry leader in your network share an insight on LinkedIn. Repost that insight with your own thoughts and commentary appended. Ideally, that industry leader will then engage with your post, which will show casual browsers both your expertise and association with industry leaders.
Remember that your strengths, areas of expertise, and your knowledge are your brand. Show them off and you’ll encourage people within and outside of your network to reach out to you and trust you. This can actually be a great way of restarting old relationships, too.
4. Design a seamless contact-growing system
Up until now, I’ve suggested a lot of manual work. That’s the reality of most networking – it involves reaching out, staying in touch, posting on social media, and updating information databases to make sure your outreach is relevant. This can get complicated, and the bigger your network, the more complicated it’ll get. That’s why I recommend building a personal CRM. Sometimes, Excel just isn’t your friend.
Doug Lester, a coach at Harvard Business School and Fortune 100 companies, makes a great point in his video that these blank, uncustomizable spreadsheets that many coaches rely on don’t work well enough. Spreadsheets are for sales, quotas, and pipelines. But networking and coaching are both about relationships, not numbers.
A personal CRM lets you personalize your network outreach based on your priorities. Once you set one up, you can stop digging through social media or scanning Google alerts to make sure you’re up to date. Your CRM should automatically show you a brief bird’s-eye view of your network, as well as allow you to dial down into each individual, to make sure each conversation you have with your network is as relevant and personal as possible.
Just do it
You can read all the networking and coaching articles you want, but if you want to grow your business, the best advice is to get out there and start having conversations. Start by setting your goals. Then, dig deep to mine your network for old, perhaps underutilized, contacts. Use social media to have conversations with your network, showing off your expertise. Finally, make sure you stay on top of your growing network with a CRM that works for you.
In such a competitive market, with so much available for successful coaches, the right time to do all this was yesterday. But the second best time is now. Pick up the phone and make your first outreach.
Yiannis Gavrielides is the co-founder and CEO of Covve, helping professionals grow and nurture their contact network. He actively supports entrepreneurship as a partner at Invelopment Partners.
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