How Many Packages Should You Offer?

Coaches face a problem that a lot of other business types don’t have to deal with – how many options to offer to clients. If you’re producing products, the answer is relatively simple – you sell the number of things you have available to sell. (It can get tricky when you start having too many things, but that’s not a problem you face at the beginning.)

But when you’re a coach, you get the tricky part right from the start. Your “product” tends to be something along the lines of talking to people one-on-one about a particular issue they’re facing. If you’ve got a wide range of experience, there’s probably a lot of things you can do for clients.

However, slapping up a page saying “There are a lot of things I can do for you” doesn’t exactly have a high probability of getting a Visa card out of a wallet. Your potential client is just going to stare at their screen with glazed eyes, wondering what in the hell that even means for them.

And yet, you can’t move for coaches who do exactly that.

Now, to be fair, if you’re already Very Well Known, you can do this. That’s because if you’re Very Well Known, you’ve got two things on your side.

First, people have heard of you, and they’ve probably heard specific things about you. You did X for this client, and Y for this client, and Z for this other client who had a really weird situation.

Second, at that point your reputation may be so established that a client can assume that whatever their problem is, you can handle it. That’s a good place to be.

But if you’re not at that place yet, you’ve got a job on your hands. You have to give your potential clients an easy way to figure out exactly what it is they’re going to give you money to help you with.

And therein lies the tough part – how many options should you offer?

The answer to that question is pretty much the same answer we give to almost every question that comes across the desk – “It depends.” It depends on a lot of factors – the industry you’re in, how well established you are, how mainstream your coaching niche is (i.e., people’s preconceptions of what a coach like you should be offering in the first place), what your price points look like – and about a bamillion other factors.

Balancing a bamillion factors is hard. Fortunately, you don’t really have to think about every single one of them if you just fall back on what they all have in common – the experience that the client is going to have in choosing why they want to work with you.

In other words, the whole reason a coaching package, or offer, or whatever you want to call it even exists is this: to help the client feel more comfortable about a buying decision.

That’s the most important part of this post, so let’s cue up the red text and say it again:

The whole reason a coaching package exists is this: to help the client feel more comfortable about a buying decision.

A lot of coaches are taught that the way to get clients in the door is to make things as sexy as possible. Big promises. Tons of hyper testimonials. Sexy numbers and names dropped as often as possible. (Also, acronyms. And alliteration. See what I did there?)

You can certainly go that route. I hear that it can work, for certain clients. But I always prefer to fall back on things that would stand a higher than average chance of working with just about anybody.

And one of those things can be summed up as “make it easy for the customer to know what they’re getting without overwhelming them.”

Commerce isn’t complicated. It’s just not.

People want to have as many decisions taken off the table as is reasonably possible. They may want a lot of choices, but they don’t want unlimited choices. Even if you’ve heard they do.

When a client considers you as a coach they might want to hire, what they want from your offers is enough detail to help them get their bearings, and not so much detail that they get overwhelmed.

If you’re not providing enough detail, it’s going to drive them insane. “We can talk about whatever you want” is not a coaching offer. It’s tossing them to the wind. When presented with limitless choices, most people make no choice at all.

Even basic structure can make a difference.

Show them examples of payment options and payment plans. Let them know that you do one-off calls as well as three- and six-month packages. Don’t make them have to guess or choose for themselves, because the majority simply won’t.

Every piece of clarity and specificity you offer will help them get their bearings and think about what kind of thing they want. They need those bearings to begin getting comfortable with the idea that you’re going to take very good care of them.

The same goes for the types of services you offer. “Help in this area of expertise” is not going to get them past the vague, wispy space they’re in before they decide to commit to getting assistance from you.

But if that’s what you’re offering, you’re basically like a doctor who hangs up a sign that says “If you’re not feeling quite right, I can help you do something about that.” It’s a rare bird who is going to get off their couch and go to that doctor. There’s nothing to latch on to.

That’s why anything concrete you can give a client will boost your chances of getting them to contact you.

If you’ve made it clear which specific services you offer, and given them details – real details – about what each of those specific services entail, then you’ve got a much higher chance of getting and keeping their attention.

But it’s easy to go overboard on this, too. We’ve seen plenty of coaches who offer ten different kinds of services, and they end up shooting themselves in the foot there. Once you get into offering more than a handful of options, there can simply be too much to choose among.

You run the risk of having so many options they would like to get, that picking one would force them to give up on all the other ones that look so juicy. To protect against that feeling of loss, people tend to bail. You don’t want that.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb that you can follow.

When in doubt, offer three types of packages. People can easily wrap their heads around that number. If all three packages seem appealing, it doesn’t hurt as much to have to make the decision on just one. They can look at three ways you can offer you help and they won’t feel overwhelmed.

(Aside: Generally speaking, any individual person will always pick the same package, no matter what they’re buying. They’ll buy the entry level package, saying they can increase it later. They’ll buy the middle package, because it’s the safest route. Or they’ll buy the biggest package, because then they know they’re getting the best. If someone buys your middle package, the odds are good that they bought the middle package at the cable company and the gym as well.)

Same goes for commitment options. Three package types. One-off sessions, three-month, six-month – you can’t go too wrong with that. It doesn’t really matter what you offer as long as you’re keeping it manageable.

Keep in mind here that we’re talking about a “when in doubt” scenario. If you have a good, solid reason to break away from the rule of three, and you feel confident that the reason will make decision-making easier for the client, then run with that.

But in general, only having one option, or having more than five is likely to cause your potential client to have to think too hard about what it is they want to get from you.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.