If you’re an executive coach, you know by now that your field is changing dramatically as it both grows and matures at the same time. Many new competitors are coming in, some bigger players and standards are starting - at the earliest stages - to emerge, and clients are expecting more from their coaches. Overlaid onto all of this is broader changes to professional services, where tech-enabled services and digitalization are rapidly becoming the norm.
We recently surveyed the awarenow community of coaches to find out what they are doing to position themselves for success in their changing marketplace.
1.Prepare to go “down” the corporate ladder
Executive coaching used to focus on managers with problematic issues and then evolved to serve as performance enhancers for the most senior executives in a company. More recently, it has become much more common for even middle managers to have access to coaching services, especially in larger companies. Paul Sanbar of super9solutions sees that
“coaching will soon be just another part of every onboarding for larger companies... sign up for your medical, your dental and vision, and your personal development service.”
However, this expansion of the market presents its own challenges, as new entrants enter the market while companies may not be willing to invest as much money into coaching middle managers as they do in supporting top executives.
At awarenow, we are seeing coaches respond by differentiating their services and finding more cost-effective ways to serve more clients. For example:
2.Pick a niche and own it
According to Forbes, specialization is coming to executive coaching: “coaches will be hired for more niche work . . . Saying you're an "executive coach" will likely lead to questions like, "what specialty?"
In an environment where market expansion is attracting many new coaches to the market, specialization can be a valuable differentiating factor. As coach David Shechtman from Evolution explains:
“Coaching is a very subtle and nuanced field. Because it's become popular, many professionals are attracted to it and bring with them a trendy or transactional approach, which has the potential to diminish the value of delivery and the reputation of the work.”
The most obvious areas of specialization are by industry and/or function; clients (and their bosses) will want to know that coaches understand the environment in which they are working. The coach who works with sales managers in finance and insurance will have a leg up over the generic “executive coach” for her or his niche.
Other specializations are developing in response to societal trends. For example, many coaches on the awarenow.io platform report that clients are increasingly looking for coaches who can help their technical staff develop leadership and interpersonal skills as companies and individuals realize that technical skills are not enough. Similarly, companies are looking to coaches and consultants to help them be more inclusive, driven by evidence that “when everyone feels welcomed and includes, companies thrive,”
according to Thomas Ryan-Lawrence, CEO of Opinly, a diversity and inclusion platform.
3.Save Time. Use Technology.
Especially in small organizations or for solo coaching practitioners, the administrative burden of running a coaching business can significantly eat into the cost structure as well as a major distraction of time and energy from coaching clients and/or attracting new ones.
- In fact, the genesis of the awarenow.io coaching management platform comes from client requests for an all-in-one platform to manage their coaching business. Designed by coaches for coaches, the platform takes care of all of a coach’s administrative functions. For example:
- It automates billing and scheduling and links them to each other.
- All client communications - whether a schedule change range to a question about the coaching content - all come to one place and stay in one place. No more hunting around a dozen different platforms looking for that client message.
- Payment processing can be automated and even tied into the secure audio and video conferencing system, so that clients can be billed (even for overtime if desired) according to rules you set.
One coach compared the awarenow.io platform to “having a full-time assistant for my coaching business who always knows what I want to do."
Another estimated that the platform saved her “at least an hour per day."
What could you do with an extra hour every workday?
Simply put, it’s going to be difficult to compete as a coach if you’re spending more than a nominal amount of time “running the business” as opposed to coaching or promoting your services.
That said, technology is not just to free up your time and energy from administrative and/or repetitive tasks. The proper use of technology can be a powerful differentiator in the marketplace. Which brings us to our next success accelerator…
4.Enhance Your Services. Use Technology.
Technology is not just a way to free up time and energy; it is a way of meeting and exceeding clients’ desires, scaling your business, and, as is becoming apparent, providing continuity of service during disruptions like those caused by the Corona virus.
As large professional coaching organizations form and larger companies get used to working with them, clients will expect a branded, slick portal in which to track their activities, measure progress, and access resources. Even a solo coach should look as professional and well-resourced as a large coaching shop. (These were also some of the early feature requests for the awarenow platform)
That said, a professional look and feel is only half the battle. Coach Danny Morris observes that some coaches have become “too focused on looking good and marketing, and don't resource themselves enough to really show up for their clients.”
As such, coaches should be thinking of ways to deliver more value to clients in a way that is efficient with their time. Enhanced services can include elements such as gamified content, quizzes, video and text resources on demand, recordings of previous sessions, journaling, moderated self-assessments, progress reporting, secure (and HIPAA compliant if relevant to your field) audio and video calls, and so on. Larger coaching organizations are offering these, and smaller players will need to keep up.
Some features qualify as both enhanced services as well as scaling tools, such as e-courses and an automatic, paid, referral program. Even optional additional marketing support to acquire new clients.
As noted above, there are simply too many features of the awarenow platform to list in this article; please, click here to request a demo. In addition, the experience of the coaches providing services during times of disruption like those caused by the Corona virus has shown that the ability to provide virtual coaching and digitally-enabled services can be a powerful tool in terms of providing business continuity and giving clients confidence that you are prepared for every eventuality.
These are some specialized top executive coaches on our platform:
Awarenow is committed to the success of independent coaches and small coaching organizations. The platform - designed by coaches for coaches - is low-cost (free or $55/month, depending on the options you select) and is being used by thousands of coaches around the world. We invite you to join our community - click the link below for more information.