Becca Tracey, Founder of The Uncaged Life, talks about packaging early on in your coaching journey.
She explains why most coaches don’t realize that their problem getting clients is grounded in unclear packages for their coaching services.
She warns against having broad marketing or trying to just sell an abstract concept. The solution is to create packages that work with the life coaching model.
Becca discusses the ‘traditional’ coaching model of being open-ended. She shares the often uneasy way to market it and explains how to remodel your coaching: after you try out a few niches, have a timeframe that works for you and your clients’ goals.
She shares advice about niching down and doing the market research to understand how to communicate and draw in your ideal clients.
Lisa Ann Edwards, executive coach and founder of Excelia Inc., shares her own personal journey in getting clarity on her career and how that led to others wanting her to guide them through that same work.
She shares the resources she recommends and the early steps of running her first program.
She discusses the things she noticed about her clients and how revelations made her aware of who she was helping and how to market the program.
Becca talks about clarity in marketing, to differentiate your services, and Lisa’s story models how to take the next step from understanding your ideal client to connecting with them. Both model how to develop trust and empathy with clients.
Lisa Ann tells a story about coming into a company that had an upheaval and how she had to prove the value of her leadership program through data.
Becca explains how to focus on selling something specific by having packages and helping coaches who don’t know how to sell themselves.
Lisa Ann explains how she faced barriers when measuring the value of coaching. She talks about the heart-centric approach of traditional coaching and how she balances that with the support and research from her data collection.
Becca’s litmus test for coaching packages is clarity: if someone listening knows who to refer your program to and if ideal clients know your program is right for them.
Lisa talks about marketing and how being able to measure allows for business development. She shares how to use data in a sales conversation.
Becca discusses coaching as an investment, highlighting how building more specific models allows clients to understand what they’re paying for and the results they’re working towards with the coach. She also discusses how to model packages to step away from the traditional ‘therapy’ process.
I think that coaches should be thinking about how to structure their packages right from the very beginning, maybe not when they’re in coaching school and they’re just practicing with every type of client just to get some experience. But as soon as they start going out and trying to actually get clients, it’s so much easier to sell coaching when you actually have a structured package.
That’s Becca Tracey, the founder of Uncaged Life. As a coach, she helps her clients grow their businesses and their clientele. Welcome to the Coach Factory podcast. I’m your host, Shawn Hesketh, and today we’re pulling back the curtain to take a look at the most common mistakes and solutions when it comes to packaging your coaching services. And that first mistake is often a lack of awareness.
I actually don’t even know if most newer coaches realize that they have a packaging problem. I feel like coaching can be hard to sell when you’re new and a lot of new coaches end up struggling with getting clients and selling coaching. But what I have seen is that it’s usually a packaging problem. It’s that most people don’t understand what life coaching is, and they’re trying to sell this broad general concept of coaching. And if they had it housed and packaged in something that was just more concrete, it would be so much easier to sell. So I think that there’s this general struggle of how do I make money as a coach and how do I sell this? And one of my solutions to that is actually creating packages that people can wrap their heads around more.
As a new coach, you often don’t know what you don’t know, and it’s hard to design packages when all you have is a basic idea from coaching school or an outsider’s perspective of what you see other coaches doing.
Before people are actually out there creating packages like this, usually they’re doing what their coaching school has taught them, which is go and find a client and work with them ongoing maybe once a week, maybe every two weeks, and just keep going like that. There’s really no container to it at all. It’s open-ended. It’s up to the coach and the client to see how long it should go. It doesn’t have a lot of structure around it. And for a lot of coaches, and before I started teaching marketing to coaches, I was a coach and I always found the same when I was working with clients. In that way, we always got to a point where I was like, “Are we done? How do we know if we’re done and how long is this going to go on and are they even getting anything out of this? And have we even reached our goals?” It just all felt a little bit too airy for me until I started giving it more of that packaging container around it.
Setting clear expectations about your services removes ambiguity for you and your clients, and having clarity about your niche helps tremendously.
So what problem to solve with your package is really more of a niching question. So it’s impossible to even talk about packages and programs without talking about having a coaching niche in the first place. But it does become very important when you start to create packages and you’re speaking to a specific group of people who have something going on in their life that they’re wanting to solve. Usually when you start as a new coach, you’re just coaching everybody. And you’ll start to find, as you coach more and more people that your niche will start to develop, you’ll find that you have certain areas that you like to coach in more than others.
And then I recommend actually doing market research. So you can actually ask the people who would be your ideal clients, what it is that they’re struggling with, what it is that they want in their life that they don’t currently have, so that you’re actually getting an idea of the problems that they’re experiencing that your coaching can help solve. So it’s not something that we as the coach decide, I mean it can be, but usually it’s that we see a need out there in the world that we feel called to help with, and that becomes the problem that our coaching then is the solution for.
Finding the unique problem you’re called to solve challenges you as a coach to be aware of your opportunities and step up when they present themselves. For some of us, those problems are actually opportunities in disguise. Lisa Ann Edwards is an executive coach and the founder of my Excelia, and she described how she found answers in the problems.
Lisa Ann Edwards:
The first major turning point was when I was going through a lot of turmoil and upheaval in my personal life. As I was going through that process, I started to do a lot of personal development. So I was reading self-help books, reading things like Dwayne Dyer, Louise Hay, and as I was getting more clarity on my life and my life purpose, my direction in life, my friends noticed the shift in me. So my friends said to me, “What is it that you’re doing with yourself? Whatever you’re doing with yourself? Would you do it with me?” And I would say, “Just read this book or just read that book.” And they’d say,” I don’t want to read the book. I want you to do the work that you’re doing with yourself. I want you to do it with me.”
So, I ended up developing a program called Bloom Where You Are Planted: Finding Purpose in Your Work and Life. It was a career and life coaching program. And I ran that program at a local community college for several years.
And while I was running that program, I noticed that people came to that program thinking they were in the wrong job or the wrong career, that they were going to get clear about who they were and where they wanted to go in their life and change jobs or change career. What happened instead is once they got clarity on their life direction and where they wanted to go, they realized they were actually in a job or a career that could help them get there. So when I noticed that, when I saw that my business mindset said, “I have an employee retention program.” That was a major turning point in my career. It was was just one of several.
Listening to your audience is one way to vet your offerings, and most of us have been told to sell the results or outcomes of our services. And while that’s a great place to start, Becca takes it one step further.
So there’s all these different approaches that different businesses are basically offering people to get to the results that they want. So that’s where you get to really differentiate yourself. You get to say, “Hey, here’s all these other ways of doing this. Here’s what I believe is the best way. Here’s my approach and here’s how I’m going to help you get over to the other side.” And I think that’s important because people are discerning these days, especially with every business being online, and people are just picky with what they spend money on. And I feel like most people who are looking for a solution have heard it all before.
So if we’re just trying to sell people on the results without being clear about how we’re going to get them there, it can feel a little bit like something missing or there’s not a lot of trust built. So I think when you’re able to offer your specific boat as Tad would put it helps people really place you amongst everything else that they’ve done and trust you more because you can actually speak to the other boats and say, “I know you’ve tried this boat. I know you’ve tried this boat.” And they’re like, “Yes, I have tried those things.” So it helps build empathy, I think, and it helps build trust.
It’s interesting to see how the elements Becca mentions play out in real life stories like Lisa’s. And what’s really fascinating is seeing how her challenges help define her differentiators.
Lisa Ann Edwards:
When I was running that program is actually doing some work for the SBA. I grew up in a entrepreneurial family, so everyone in my family owns a business, so I never saw myself as a coach. That is something that I was doing. I saw it as a hobby. It was fun. It was personally rewarding. I certainly didn’t get paid very much money for it, and I truly didn’t see it as a possible career or business. I thought it was too fluffy. But once I noticed that people were deciding to stay at their employer, I took that program to a couple of organizations and offered to run the program as a pilot study to discover how could this life coaching program help their employees.
In those days, training programs, leadership programs were still relatively new to organizations, but I applied for a job at a Bill Gates owned global media company here in the Seattle area, and I was hired. And I believe the reason I was hired for that was because I could speak in tangible terms about the value of things like people communicating more effectively or people gaining clarity about their life purpose. That was a differentiator for me, and I believe that’s why I landed that job.
And when I joined that organization three months into my brand new job, the business was going through huge upheaval as a result of what was happening in the marketplace. And yet they had executive coaches for all of their senior executives. At that time, we had 22 senior executives all across the globe. They all had an executive coach. If you had a meeting with the CEO, you’d see his coach in the corner taking notes so she could give him feedback and coaching was highly embraced when I joined that organization. But three months into that job, as the organization was going through a huge upheaval, they decided to make a budget cut.
So they cut all of the funding for the leadership program that I had been hired to run. I thought I was going to lose my job. And what happened instead is I was able to keep my job, lost my budget, didn’t have a team, but I developed a coaching program where I was the coach and I coached a dozen people in that organization to solve a business problem that the organization was facing, tracked and measured the results of that program. Shared it with the CFO at the end of nine months, and that allowed me to get budget to bring back leadership programs, management development programs and so on.
So that was another major turning point in my career where I saw, again, wow, having data to measure this work that’s really vague and fluffy and intangible and hard to measure. Here’s another example of how it is so valuable. And when I launched my business several years after that, I wanted to do work in this area where I could show the value of these hard to measure programs.
Hearing Lisa talk about measuring her own value reminds me of what Becca had to say about the concept of selling yourself as it applies to packaging your services.
Most coaches are going into coaching with no marketing background and no sales background. Sure, some people come from that avenue, but most people have never done anything like this before and they’re not used to selling, let alone selling themselves. And you have to learn how to sell, and it’s much, much easier to sell something specific than it is to sell something general. So once you go through this process of selling a really specific niche, creating a package or a program, having those first sales conversations, going through the whole thing, your brain understands the sales process. So when you do go to expand a little bit and maybe try to sell something that’s a little bit broader, you already know how to sell. So you have a leg up versus a new coach who has no idea what they’re doing.
So I definitely have seen people expand. Even a lot of the… I won’t name any specific names, but there’s a lot of well-known coaches out there who people always come to me and they say, “Well, look at so-and-so. They have a broad coaching niche.” And I’m like, “Right. If you go through the history and you look at how they started, they started with actually really specific nichey topics and learn how to sell, learn how to market, build a brand for themselves, and now they can be broad because they’ve understood how to do that.”
Clarity on your coaching package comes with time, experience and feedback. Lisa’s transparency about her own struggles opens up the question, why are coaches so hesitant to share numbers when showing packages?
Lisa Ann Edwards:
Well, the first thing that I faced when I first launched my business, and I would speak at events and talk about this work and the value of having this data, the biggest, I don’t know if it’s skepticism, but the biggest barrier that I faced is that coaches in particular in some cases were almost angry at me for wanting to measure the transformational changes and especially around measuring the financial impact. And I remember a few times when I was speaking at conferences where people were angry at me for even suggesting that we measure that.
I think it’s because most coaches and leadership development experts are very heart centric people, myself included. And the idea of putting a dollar value on investing in the potential of another person just feels wrong. So that was the first major barrier that I faced in the beginning.
I also faced just comprehension. I think many coaches and experts are gifted around concepts and ideas that are what we might call squishy. Hard to understand. I think most coaches and experts are very gifted in that area. So putting numbers around things, I had many people tell me make statements like, “Well, I’m not very good at math. I’m not very good at numbers.” So there was, I think maybe a comprehension around that. I see that still even today. But when it comes to measuring this work and thinking, well, it’s not hard science. So I have a long history and training and education around measuring things that are hard to measure. And I think that people who are maybe not as steeped in research may see that when you’re measuring something like coaching, it has to be a number that you would see on a P&L statement, on an income statement. And it does not have to be that way. There are other ways that we can measure.
Brene Brown is a great example. She measures, I don’t know if you want to call it courage or wholeheartedness, there’s a few different ways to describe her work. But all of her work is grounded in research and it’s grounded in interviews. And those interviews have what we call narrative data, which are people’s words. And then those words and themes are categorized and counted for frequency, and I’m sure she does some data analysis on that as well. So on the surface, it might sound like hard science, but when you look at what she’s doing, if you didn’t know very much about what’s possible to measure, you might think, “Well, that seems like a very soft science,” but this is what we’re left with when we’re measuring human behaviors, psychology, leadership skills. This is the way that we have to be able to measure those transformations.
Just like there are ways to measure the frequency of words that show up in a poll, there are ways to measure how effective your packaging is, and Becca uses one simple test to measure great packaging.
I feel like the biggest litmus test for me, because we’re talking about packages and offers, is always, if I was to see your coaching package, would I automatically know who to send to it? Would I be able to think of someone in my life or a referral or something like that that I would send your way? So basically, is it clear enough to the average person who’s looking at it? And then I guess on the flip side of that, if your ideal person was to come to your site or wherever you’re promoting this and see your offer, would they know that it’s the right thing for them automatically or do they have to do a lot of digging to really figure out what it is? They’re not going to bother doing the digging basically. So clarity is key in really making sure that other people can refer you easily and that people know that the offer that you’re offering is actually specifically meant for them.
Good packaging makes getting the right clients easier, but even good packaging can become better when you understand how it converts into sales.
Lisa Ann Edwards:
The biggest benefit, and it’s the number one reason why coaches, consultants, and experts want to be able to measure, and that is for business development purposes. And I think of that as the tip of the iceberg. It’s certainly what we use in our marketing messaging to attract our customer to us because our customer is the coach. They’re the one investing in our system. So the benefits for them is that it gives them data that they can leverage in the sales conversation when they’re speaking at events as a way to back up their ideas or their strategies. They can back it up with case studies and data and evidence.
They can use their case studies as a way to convert sales conversations into customers. They can also bake in the metrics when they are doing work with clients. That’s a way for them to build their authority, start to influence and seed other decision makers by having the data and the evidence of the work that they are doing with clients. And then being able to leverage that data when they’re done with the work to expand the investment that a client or an organization is making with them by having that data and evidence.
So those are the big benefits, but I really see that as the tip of the iceberg. I think the most overlooked person in the entire process of capturing the data is the individual client, the coachee. And if you think about especially people inside organizations, and if you think about what do they want today, I don’t think this is very different from any point in time, but most people, they want recognition. They want to be seen as a great leader. They want to get that promotion, they want that pay increase, they want that bonus. And without data and evidence that they can leverage to advocate for themselves, they have no other way to arm themselves or empower themselves and advocate for their own career growth and advancement. And they’re the most overlooked person in the entire process of measuring and showing the value of coaching engagements.
Lisa’s ROI tool gives both coaches and coachees an easy way to understand the value of coaching packages. And knowing your value builds both trust and confidence for everyone involved.
So as someone who invests in programs and as somebody who sells programs, I think just on both sides, when you’re the consumer, it’s so much easier to commit to something when you know about how long you’re going to be in this for. And as the coach, it’s so much easier to sell something when you can give someone a bit of a container around it. If you can put a timeframe around it and give clients an idea about how long this work is going to take and what the total investment’s going to be.
Number one, they feel safer investing. They actually trust that they’re going to get those results, and it’s easier to get paid as a coach because if you’re relying on people to just keep showing up weekly and they pay you, or they might skip a session. It’s like a therapy model. I skip my therapy appointments all the time. I might go for a week and then not go for another month. There’s no certainty with your income and how much is going to be coming in and when it’s going to be coming in. So I think it’s beneficial on both sides to have more of a timeframe around your coaching container.
So really doing a lot of practice coaching with people in a niche area will help you build that confidence that you can actually put a timeframe around it. I think the other thing that’s important to remember is that it’s not set in stone. So if you’re working with someone and you get to your 10 sessions and you’re like, “We need more.” Fine, you tell them that. Or if you finish early and you’re like, “You know what? We’re only at eight sessions, but I feel like we’re wrapped up here,” then you can also do that. So it’s more just initially getting someone to buy into it that this is important for. It’s not that you’re sticking rigidly to this schedule and it has to stay that way the entire time.
This balance between structure and personalization makes your coaching more collaborative and even more effective, or like Lisa suggests, can even become part of your value proposition.
Lisa Ann Edwards:
To understand what’s unique about the way that you work with people. That uniqueness can become a part of your value proposition. I call it the ROI power statement, but your value proposition clearly defines the type of person that you work with, the kinds of situations you’re helping them with, and a one sentence statement that summarizes the results that you can help your clients get. When you have something really clear like that, it allows you to create focus in the niche that you work in.
And that clarity becomes really important when you’re presenting your coaching packages to potential clients. Becca recommends simplifying your coaching packages, especially in the beginning.
I’ve seen this before where I’ve been to a coach’s website and there’s six different packages and they’re all promising the same thing, but the only difference is how many sessions there are and the length of the sessions. So it’s like you can sign up for three sessions a month for 45 minute sessions, or you can sign up for four sessions a month for 60 minute sessions, or you can sign up for two sessions a month for 35 minute sessions. And my brain is like, what? This is first of all, a lot of math for me to figure out, and also as the consumer, I have no idea what I should be signing up for. I would like you to tell me how long the sessions need to be to get me what I need.
So, too many offers is definitely something we want to take off your website and take off the table. I’m a big fan of creating just one offer, and this is, again, where niching and becomes important, and having that structured package becomes important. But when you’re out there trying to market yourself, if you have two different packages that solve two different problems are they’re for two different niches, then your attention is automatically divided. And you’re trying to figure out, how do I market both of these at once and which 1:00 AM I talking to where? And it just overcomplicates things.
So if you have one coaching offer and you focus on just selling out five spots or 10 spots, however many clients you want to have in that one offer, and then once that’s full, you might go, “Okay. I want to experiment with something else now.” But start with one. Keep it simple. It’s already complicated enough. So sell one thing, make it easy for yourself.
Special thanks to Becca Tracey and Lisa Ann Edwards for their insights and expertise, and also for being willing to share the more personal side of marketing yourself as a coach. If you’ve got questions about this episode or found it particularly helpful, we’d love to hear from you. We are here to support the work you’re doing as a coach. So we’d love to send you a special gift just for reaching out. Just go to: CoachFactory.chat to start a conversation.
And thank you for listening. This episode of the Coach Factory podcast was produced with the support of Come Alive Creative. To hear more episodes, get the show notes and learn how to start, run, and grow your coaching practice. Visit CoachFactory.co.