7 Tips for Building an Online Coaching Brand
To build a successful online coaching and mentoring business, you first need to build clear messaging with your brand.
Coaches and mentors are some of the most consequential relationships in many people’s lives. You’ve probably heard many successful people thanking their mentors and coaches during award ceremonies or in the acknowledgment of their books. When a beloved mentor dies, their mentees will be the first to step forward and share all the ways that person touched their lives.
It’s no wonder, therefore, that so many people want to be mentors themselves. And online learning makes it more possible than ever before for these coaches and teachers to reach a wider audience. The catch is that, given the close relationship involved, many learners are hesitant to choose a coach unless they’re sold on the brand.
Unfortunately, to most coaches, a “brand” is nothing more than a logo and a color palette. Because of this, they can often fail to be effective in the way they communicate their services. The good news is that, if you want to be a successful online coach, clarifying your brand will go a long way to helping you develop a successful business model. Here’s how you can go deeper and build a better coaching business.
1. Define your core coaching beliefs.
As a coach, you probably have a set of “lessons to live by” that you return to frequently when talking to your clients. I’m not talking about “core values” like “transparency” or “innovation,” which you often see spelled out on corporate press releases. Instead, I’m talking about principles, as expressed in stories or anecdotes, that you come back to over and over again. These tend to be in the form of statements, such as “we live in a world of abundance; another’s gain is not my loss,” or (in?)famously “move fast and break things.”
You probably have at least two or three of these key beliefs, although you may not know them off the top of your head. That’s alright. Be aware of them, and as you notice yourself falling back on one of these ideas, write it down. These will help guide your messaging in a more authentic way, and can help set you apart from your competition.
2. Identify your audience.
Next up, take a good hard look at your audience—not just the people you have, but those you would like to attract. Are you focusing on mentorship for adolescent girls? Are you training corporate leaders? Do you hope to attract young entrepreneurs?
Each of these audiences will have different expectations in terms of tone, content, and cultural references. Look at other brands who are appealing to this demographic and think about how you would like to do the same. What lessons can you learn from others in this field?
3. Make a promise to your learners.
This may sound bold and risky, but you’ll probably struggle to attract learners otherwise. After all, would you want to work with anyone who didn’t think you could be successful? And yet, despite this, many coaches avoid this because they don’t want to make a promise they can’t deliver.
Of course, you shouldn’t make unreasonable claims, like “follow my financial plan and I guarantee you’ll be a millionaire by 30.” But you should have the confidence to say “My plan will help you pay down your debt.” Defining what your learners can expect to get from working with you is a key to creating an effective mentorship brand.
4. Differentiate yourself from the competition.
A lot of your competitors will be following similar steps to identify their core beliefs, audience, and bit promise. The good news is that all of you will almost certainly some up with a different angle on how to present your coaching and mentoring services.
Now is a good time to look at how your competitors are positioning themselves, so that you can set yourself apart from them. If fitness coach A likes to emphasize HIIT and Tabata workouts, you can talk about the need to incorporate a range of exercise styles to balance things out. If fitness coach B also likes to share a range of exercise styles, you can pitch yourself as “exercise in 10 minutes,” or choose an aesthetic that you enjoy and that you think others might also enjoy (80s aerobic video revival?).
5. Incorporate your identity into imagery and messaging.
With all this work in place, it’s finally time to think about all the “typical” brand stuff that people usually think of—things like colors and logos. The reason why you want to put this off is that, by the time you get to it, you will have a better sense of your brand identity, and can make choices that better reflect that.
Messaging is just as important as colors and font choices. Go back to some fo your core beliefs or your big brand promise and see if you can shorten them to three to five words. These can work as slogans or ad copy, and because they’re centered on beliefs and promises, they will be more emotionally resonant.
6. Prioritize your marketing energy.
Now that you have your brand in place, it’s time to start marketing your coaching services. There are a lot of ways to do this, and you probably don’t have the bandwidth to tackle them all. However, you should be able to create a short list of marketing tasks that you can keep up with. These might include maintaining a blog and a newsletter mailing list, or being active on Twitter but not on Facebook.
While you’ll want to continue to expand your brand, in the beginning, it’s more important not to stretch yourself too thin. Begin with where you feel confident, and work on expanding later.
7. Learn from your learners.
Finally, be ready to return to your brand and make adjustments if it isn’t connecting with learners. You may find that the people you’re attracting aren’t your ideal clients, or that the learners who do come to you are a little hesitant and still need to be won over. If this happens, go back to your brand and see what you need to add, remove, or replace to make the right connection.
Coaches and mentors have the opportunity to focus on a niche audience.
As we said at the beginning, coaching and mentoring are highly personal services. This means that many coaches and mentors can be incredibly successful by recruiting a small but loyal client base, rather than the hundreds of thousands of followers you see from online influencers. And because coaches and mentors only need to recruit that small, loyal client base, they can be much more niche in how they present themselves than other industries.
But, to bring the conversation full circle, being niche means knowing your brand. Once you’ve settled on your most essential messaging, you will be better able to communicate it to your audience. So don’t skip your brand work or simplify it to a simple logo and color scheme. Your brand goes deeper than that, and the time you put into discovering and defining it will be time well spent.