First published in Coaching World in February 2017, published by the International Coach Federation © Accuren Limited
Coaching is an incredibly personal service. That's why for coaches, perhaps more than many other professionals, potential clients need to feel like they truly know, like and trust us in order to consider hiring us.
Unfortunately, many coaches treat creating a website, printing a business card, etc., as mere items to check off on their to-do lists for establishing their businesses. They stick a pretty logo and corporate headshot on a template website and hope clients will start walking in the door. But if they haven’t invested in establishing a clear, authentic personal brand and committed to consistently conveying their brand throughout all of their marketing and communications, then they often find they aren't converting as many of the prospects they would like to. Worse, potential clients may react to meeting them for the first time by saying (or thinking), "Gosh, you're not what I expected,” resulting in the loss of a sale.
What is Your Personal Brand?
"Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors.”
Or, as Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com has said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”
As a coach, your personal brand is essentially your reputation—how those who know or have come across you would describe you to others.
Your experience, expertise, values, strengths, personality—everything that makes you you—represent an important starting point for clarifying your unique personal brand, but it’s important to remember that your brand is not everything about you.
Other people have limited capacity to hold information about you (or anyone else, for that matter) in mind. Therefore, it’s essential that your brand essence be a narrowly defined, strategically chosen set of attributes that make you attractive and memorable in the eyes of the prospects that you’d most like to work with.
How is Your Personal Brand Conveyed?
In short, everything you say, do and create adds to or takes away from the credibility of your personal brand.
Your communication (written, verbal, nonverbal); your style; the fonts, colors and images you use on your website or in the documents you create; your logo; your tagline; your testimonials; your credentials; your prices—all these elements and more are mechanisms for conveying your personal brand and need to be working together holistically to tell a consistent brand story.
Why Does Your Personal Brand Matter?
Your personal brand is crucial when it comes to converting prospects into clients.
Because of the personal nature of the coaching service, potential clients are looking for someone they can get to know, like and trust before they make the decision to contact them. How do most people find a coach that meets those criteria today? Two ways: online research and referrals (which often lead to online research).
Your online presence has never been more vital to your business success than it is today. A 2014 survey conducted by Google, in partnership with Milward Brown Digital, showed that 89 percent of B2B purchasers use the internet to inform their buying decisions.
When potential prospects Google you, what will they find? Does your online presence convey a credible personal brand? Is there sufficient relevant content to facilitate potential clients getting to know, like and trust you?
Referrals are an important lead generator for many coaching businesses. So how can you get more referrals? Hinge’s Referral Marketing Study found that the most important factor leading to referrals is whether the person being referred is displaying visible expertise; i.e., readily available, high-quality examples demonstrating the value the service provider has to offer (e.g., speaking engagements, articles, books, website). Do you have an online presence that potential referrers will feel confident pointing others toward?
What Difference Can An Effective Personal Brand Make?
To illustrate the impact that investing in your personal brand can make, consider this case study:
An electronics retailer that had recently established a leadership development program for high-potential women in the company sought external coaches to provide one-on-one coaching for the 25 participants. Nine ICF-credentialed coaches were selected by the organization’s learning and development manager to submit a two-page bio that was distributed to each of the participants for consideration in selecting the coach they wanted to work with.
Although they did not have preexisting relationships with any of the program participants, two of the coaches (22 percent) ended up being chosen by 16 of the participants (64 percent).
What made those two coaches so appealing?
Their clearly conveyed, authentic personal brands.
Despite receiving the written bios, many of the program participants extended their research of the potential coaches into the online realm. The two coaches preferred by the majority of participants had invested in creating online presences and websites (complete with brand-aligned photos, copy, design, etc.) that told authentic, cohesive brand stories.
The powerful first impressions these two coaches made online led the majority of participants to feel as though they’d already started to know, like and trust them, which caused the participants to feel more comfortable with their selections.
To be clear, clarifying and consistently conveying your authentic, unique personal brand won’t necessarily cause more people to be aware of you and your services—that’s where the important role of marketing comes in—but it will enable you to convert more of the right prospects when they do find you, leaving them with the satisfying feeling, “You’re exactly what I was looking for.”