Attract More Clients Online: Serve First, Sell Second - International Coaching Federation
COVID-19 Resources for ICF Coaches

Attract More Clients Online: Serve First, Sell Second

Posted by Melissa Birchler | March 15, 2021 | Comments (0)

Growing your coaching practice in today’s noisy digital world can be as simple as giving away free, valuable content. 

Many coaches insist that because word-of-mouth referrals are their main source of new clients, they don’t need to invest in additional marketing strategies. The problem with this thinking is that there is simply too much competition, making it harder for consumers of coaching to find – let alone evaluate – all the different coaching services. 

One way that you can stand out is by focusing on one aspect of digital marketing, called content marketing. In a nutshell, it means consistently giving away valuable and relevant information that addresses your clients’ challenges 

According to content marketing author Joe Pulizzi, “Content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling.” It is a way to attract more of your ideal clients and grow your business. 

The content you market could include your web pages, blog posts, LinkedIn articles, webinars, presentations, podcasts and more. If your goal is to grow your email list so you can have more personal communication, you can also offer a free PDF or checklist in exchange for an email address.  

Some clients are simply not ready to engage with a coach immediately.  But with content marketing, you can start to build a relationship so that when the time comesthey’ve already established a baseline trust with you. This means when they are ready to buy, you are more likely to be top of mind. By “serving first” and “selling second, you are positioning yourself as an expert and authority in your area of expertise.  

Adapted from Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman’s “Content Rules” on creating “Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, EbooksWebinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business,” there are three key steps to effective content marketing. 

1. Figure out what is keeping your clients awake at night 

You have to earn the attention of your audience and that means finding out what their pain points are and how you can add value to their lives. How can you make their lives better, help them get that promotion or manage their teams more effectively?  

Content is of high value to your clients when it resonates with them. You can create enormous amounts of material, but if it is not relevant to your target audience, it is time wasted. This means that before you do anything, you have to be absolutely clear about who your ideal client is and the issues with which they struggle. 

As harsh as it may sound, people don’t care about you and how brilliant you are as a coach. They care about their own wants and needs. When you are generous and give away information that helps them solve their problems, they will naturally start to pay attention to you. 

Practice Development Coach Karen Cappello, MCC, who is based in Arizona, says that if you are still unclear about your clients’ pain points, some brief market research conversations can be a powerful way to gain more insights. 

“It is very useful to take the time to have these conversations as sometimes the problem you think you are solving is not actually the key challenge your clients are facing at the moment,” Cappello says. It can be as simple as a phone call or a brief coffee meeting to find out more about your clients most pressing challenges.  

2. Create effective content  

Armed with this information, you are now in a position to start developing a mini content strategy. You can create “content pillars,” or core problem areas that you want to write about. Make sure that they are also about areas that you can solve as part of your service offering. For example, if you are a health and wellbeing coach, you could write about healthy meal ideas, exercises to lose weight or how to stick to your health goals.  

Content is a great way to demonstrate empathy to your clients. You can show that you are human and that you understand their core issues. More importantly, it helps draw a potential client closer to you as your content shows them what it would be like to work with you. 

3. Distribute the content 

You need to publish the content wherever your clients areFor example, are they mostly HR executives who spend considerable time on LinkedIn? If so, you can then try to reach them by posting an article or infographic there. Monitor how many comments your content gets to measure if you are on the right track.   

The key takeaway about content marketing is simple: when you are generous in sharing your insights and knowledge, you show potential clients you care about them and the challenges they’re working throughYou demonstrate that you are in a position to help guide their journey to resolve them. 

Headshot of author Melissa Birchler.

Melissa Birchler

Melissa Birchler is a Swiss-based Co-Active Coach in training who helps organizations create content that gets read.  

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Not a member?

Sign up now to become a member and receive all of our wonderful benefits.

Learn more