Ideal coaching client

If you didn’t read yesterday’s post (Getting More Clients: What’s Your Real Goal?), take a moment to check it out. We’ll still be here when you’re done.

Today we have a new question for you.

A fair number of marketing coaches out there instruct you to do a little exercise called “Defining Your Ideal Client.”

The premise of this exercise is basically “Figure out who you really want to work with so you don’t end up with clients who aren’t the right fit for you.”

I’m all for ideal clients. It’s nice work when you can get them. But it can be a very fine line between Defining Your Ideal Client and Defining the Flawless Human Being.

Here’s what I tend to hear when people do this exercise.

When people give me their definitions of their ideal clients, they include a level of detail that looks impossible to find in the wild, because they’ve been taught to only focus on their “ideal.”

You may ask, what does the perfect human being coaching client tend to look like?

On paper, it tends to be a list of fairly innocuous positive traits:

Clients who are passionate about [the thing]. Clients who are self-starters and willing to take direction without being dragged. Clients who stay on track and don’t rush the process. Clients who are open-minded, optimistic, and willing to invest in whatever it is they’re getting coaching about. Clients who Take This Stuff Seriously.

All good on the surface, no?

But when you read between the lines, here’s what it really boils down to:

They can’t live without you, but they’re not needy. They should be willing to pay a lot, but they can’t expect the world from you. They should be flexible, but they shouldn’t reschedule a lot if things come up. They have plenty of money, but not enough to hire someone better than you. They should be broken enough to need your help, but not… you know … broken. Eew.

Our demands list for a client becomes longer than that for a spouse, and somehow we expect to find 30 of them a year.

There is a big difference between a qualitative definition and a quantitative definition. You can get your hands on the latter a lot more easily than the former.

(My grandfather’s definition of the ideal client, incidentally, was “one who paid upfront”.)

“I want clients who are willing to invest in what’s important” is not the same as “I want clients who think paying my rates is a completely reasonable thing to do.”

(Parenthetical aside: If someone isn’t willing to “invest”, then they can’t, by definition, be a client – ideal or otherwise. Clients pay, which is another word for “invest”. If they don’t pay, they’re not clients. I notice that when a coach uses the word “invest” in their head, they often subconsciously feel “I know I’m probably charging more than I should be.” Not always, but often enough to be statistically significant.)

“I want clients who are self-starters” is not the same as “I want clients who consistently take action on the things we cover each session.”

You can tell when you have the latter. (And, you can communicate that clearly to clients as well.) You can measure it every single session. Not so much with the former.

This is exactly the same principle that we talked about in yesterday’s homework.

“I just want good clients” sounds reasonable when you’re desperate, broke, or both. It sounds like a perfectly unassailable statement. But if you take a step back, and you just hear those words by themselves, it sounds ridiculous.

Understandable, yes. Ridiculous, also yes.

Imagine a 15-year-old girl’s diary entry.

It says, “Oh, God, I just want a good boyfriend. That’s all I want. A good boyfriend.”

If a grown-up were to say, “You might want to be a little more specific about your demands of the universe,” they would get a frenzied and furious, “You just don’t get it!” in response.

And of course the adult realizes, “No, honey. You don’t get it.”

If you walk out just looking for a “good boyfriend,” you’re either a) not going to find one because of your psycho desperate frenzy, or b) you’re going to get a person who can’t possibly meet the criteria of “good boyfriend” because you haven’t even defined what that meant.

On the other hand, if the same girl’s diary read, “I want a boyfriend who is between one and two years older than me, tans easily but isn’t too dark, plays football but isn’t a jock, gets great grades but doesn’t think he’s smarter than me, pays attention to his schoolwork, has a good job so we can go on awesome dates, but above all, he has lots and lots of time to spend with me”?

This girl lives in La La Land.

It’s like that with clients, too.

The thing is, when you start defining something in detail you can intuitively tell whether you’re asking too much of the world (aka, “looking for the Flawless Human Being”).

Defining your desired clients in detail can also get you to see things that are mutually exclusive to a coaching relationship. (aka, “If they have that much money and are that much of a self-starter, then they probably don’t need a coach.”)

As you build your coaching practice, you are bound to have a certain number of clients who, through no effort of your own, are what you would consider to be your ideal clients. When that happens, yay for you.

What’s more likely is that you will have a larger number of clients who are Perfectly Good Enough.

Some will be self-starters but they have to reschedule appointments a lot. Some will send you too many questions via email, but they do everything you suggest and think you are an angel sent from God. Some you have to drag kicking and screaming towards their goals, but they ultimately follow your direction and they buy six months at a time in one lump sum.

Like a spouse, you wouldn’t call them perfect by any stretch. But they’re fine. They’re just fine.

The purpose of the Defining Your Ideal Client exercise is not to magically set a force in motion to guarantee only the perfect people come to you.

The real purpose is to get you very clear on what kinds of clients you truly don’t want, and what makes a client Good Enough To Work With. It also helps you decide what to communicate to potential clients so you are able to say what kind of coaching experience they can expect from you.

Done right, it’s how you start filling your book as you grow your coaching practice. When it’s overdone, you’re being Miss Princess Diva Pants Hand Me My Tiara And Peel Me A Grape.

Your homework for today:

Think about your Ideal Client. Go ahead and write it down in as much detail as you can.

Next, look at that definition and ask how many humans on Earth would fit that description. Edit it and tone it down where it makes sense to do so. Make anything that’s vague (self-starter) more specific (takes action on what we cover each week).

Finally, look at it again and ask yourself if it reflects what you’d really accept in a client. You may have defined a perfect 10, but you may still be very, very satisfied working with 7s or higher. Figure out what 7 means for you.

Because your ideal client is really the Satisfying Enough Client who decides to hire YOU.

It would probably be a good idea to make that as wide a pool as you can.

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.

How Many Clients Do You Want?

Note: Next week we will be reopening a 2015 session of our coaches’ class, Fast Track To Fully Booked. This means I have coaches on the brain at the moment. Which brings us to …

This is what happens when I pick up the phone on your average Monday.

Every time I get on the phone with a coach or consultant (well, not every time, but enough to qualify for “your average Monday”), the question comes up:

“I need to get more clients. What should I do?”

Pretty straightforward question, right?

So I ask back, “Sure, how many clients do you need?” or “Absolutely. How many billable hours are you looking to get to?”

Usually I get an immediate answer, but it’s not from the person on the other end of the phone – it’s from the crickets, chirping away in the background.

This happens, say, 70% of the time. It’s not everybody, but it’s everybody enough.

It seems like this can be a tough question to answer.

If you’re a coach, or a consultant, or a person who finds themselves saying, “I hate the word coach, I’m really more of a mentor” a lot, generally the thing you want is a full book.

But a full book means something.

It means a concrete number. 14 clients. 22 billable hours a week. It’s not a concept. It’s a number. A number is something you can work towards, and something you can track.

But “more clients” is not something you can work for. The only thing you can do with “more” is hope for it. It rarely tends to get you taking the specific actions that will move you forward, because there’s nothing tangible to move towards. (You also never know when you’ll get to the end, but that’s another story.)

Here’s what would happen if you got “more.”

Tony Robbins has a little vignette that he refers to a lot, about a particular attendee at one of his seminars.

This attendee told Tony something like, “I’d be a lot happier if I made more money, but I just can’t seem to make it happen.”

Tony double checked with him. “So you KNOW you’d be happier if you had more money?”

The man agreed.

“You’re sure?”

“I’m sure.” (I would imagine the man is looking at Tony like he’s got three heads at this point.)

Tony reaches into his pocket, plunks a quarter into the man’s hand, and says, “Poof! You have more money. So you’re happier now, right?”

The man replies something to the tune of, “Tony, you know what I mean.”

No. Tony does NOT know what you mean. And the man probably didn’t either, which is why he said “more money” rather than “what I really want is to make $18,000 more a year.”

“Naomi, you know what I mean.”

Sadly, I don’t. And if you don’t know what a full book looks like, neither do you.

If you don’t know what you want, and how to measure when you truly have it, then chances are high that you will not get it.

There are many, many reasons we resist setting those SPECIFIC numbers in stone. It can be scary, because what we really want feels like it might be unattainable.

Or we try and think about the number, but we don’t really know if that number will be too low, which will keep us broke, or too high, which will stress us out.

We might simply be afraid to set a number because we know that the things we’re doing in the hopes of getting “more” will actually not get us that concrete number. So “more” or “a lot” or “enough” seems a lot easier to wrap our heads around.

(I’d also venture to add that “more” anything has never made anybody happier, and deep down we know that, but we’d like to cling to the belief anyway. But that’s outside of the scope of marketing consulting.)

That is all true. It’s hard and scary and unpleasant and forces us to face uncomfortable truths.

But it is also true that vague, amorphous goals are generally impossible to achieve. If that were not the case, I would not be getting phone calls from clients asking why what they’re doing isn’t working.

You don’t want “clients” anymore than you would want a quarter from Tony Robbins.

There are a specific number of clients (or billable hours) that you want.

There is a specific spectrum of people who you would find acceptable to work with. (More on this later.)

That’s what you want. But if you don’t put it into words – the kind of words that would make a jury of your peers agree you’re being theoretically reasonable – it’s not going to happen.

Your homework for today

Today I want you to quantitatively define your goal for what counts as “getting enough clients.”

How many hours are you billing now? How many do you want to be billing? What’s the gap between here and there?

There. That’s a goal with numbers. Now we have something we can work with.

Stay tuned ‘till tomorrow for the next question.

(Edit: You can read the next question here!)

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.

Freebie Friday!
Freebie Friday continues!  

If you missed last week’s edition, then click here to read Getting Great Testimonials.  This week’s release is Training People To Be Trained By You, which is particularly helpful for coaches, bloggers or product producers.

For those new to Freebie Friday, we are sending out samples from our BIG LAUNCH class (opening up in late December) so you can get a feel for what’s inside.

These freebies are what we call the “Launch Multipliers”, which are 108 tactical training modules that come with the class and are designed to boost your conversion during a launch.

So! Without further ado, let’s get to today’s lesson.

(We have links for you to download the audio or written version below, followed by the full text of the lesson.)

Training People To Be Trained By You

… or, read it below!

Training People To Be Trained By You

Hello, and welcome. I’m Naomi from IttyBiz, and you are listening to the BIG LAUNCH launch multipliers. This track is called Training People To Be Trained By You.

At the beginning of the launch multipliers, way back in Month 4, we mentioned that some of the multipliers would apply more to some industries or businesses than others, and some would only apply to specific types of products. Of course, you’re always welcome and often encouraged to listen to the multipliers that don’t necessarily apply directly because with some inspiration, some extrapolation and some creativity, things that shouldn’t apply turn into things that can apply very quickly.

This is one of those tracks. Today, we’re talking to people who are in training, teaching, coaching, guiding, education or leadership situations. It’s the serious information product seller, yes, but it’s also the marriage counsellor running a training heavy blog. If you’re gently encouraging people to get in touch with their feelings, you’re not necessarily in training, sure.

But if you’re in the business of teaching hard skills – negotiation skills, communication skills, or anything that could theoretically include a checklist – congratulations, you’re a trainer. So this might apply even if you think you’re too touchy feely to call yourself a trainer. You might be surprised.

Maybe you’re teaching people to knit. Maybe you’re training corporate employees in workplace sensitivity. Maybe you’re giving leadership seminars, or career counselling, or public speaking guidance. Basically, there’s a room, and you’re at the front of it.

Today we’re talking about creating an environment in which people are accustomed to being trained by you. We’ve talked in other multipliers about the concept that, once people are in the habit of buying, they tend to continue to do so. Well, the same is true here. Once people are in the habit of learning, they tend to continue to do so. So we’re going to talk about getting them in the habit of learning – specifically, learning from you.

One of the beautiful things about the era of push button publishing – whether you’re publishing blog posts or podcasts or videos or whatever – is that pretty much everybody in the world has the opportunity to get on a soapbox at the front of the room. There isn’t anybody who can’t stand at the lectern or the podium or the microphone and let loose on what’s what. (Or what they think is what, anyway.)

This is wonderful, and it has resulted in a smorgasbord of learning content that these days, means there’s nothing you can’t learn. The content producer can produce and publish at the touch of a button, and the consumer can consume at the touch of a button.

Great. Lovely.

There are a few problems with this state of affairs, though.

First, there’s too much content. Way too much content. We’re drowning in it.

Second, just because somebody has an opinion on how something should be done, that doesn’t mean they’re a good or trustworthy or reliable or effective teacher. There are plenty of people out there willing to teach you how to half-double crochet. I’m guessing there aren’t many of them you’d pay cash money and sit down, at a regular time, to have them teach you.

And third, the combination of the other two – since there are so many people with opinions and soapboxes and lecterns and podiums out there, it’s really hard to differentiate which ones are the good teachers you want to learn from, and which are the writers of great blogs.

One of the ways we can get around these issues is by cutting back on acting like a blogger or a podcaster or a video producer, and start acting like a teacher.

So, today we’re going to talk about a few elements that make up teaching and training – some things that differentiate teaching and training from spouting off opinions and tips. We’re going to give you five of them. And we’re going to give you three places you might want to incorporate these elements to improve the likelihood that, when you suggest people give you money in exchange for you to tell them how to do stuff or solve problems, they might take you up on it.

Good? Good. Let’s get started with the elements. It starts with thinking to what we associate as a learning environment. School would be a good place to begin. Think back to elementary school, or secondary school, or college if you took something practical. (If you have a liberal arts degree, do not think about college. Think about something like sixth grade social studies.)

Here are some elements that took place while you were learning, rather than simply reading a book or watching a cooking show for fun.

1. Teaching occurs at a specific time, place or both.

There are plenty of things you learn throughout your life. You know the expression, “You learn something new every day?” That’s because, generally, you learn something new every day. But when you learn that the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1976, you don’t consider the source of that fact to be your teacher. Now, if you signed up to go to a place, at a certain time, and be told a lot of facts about Montreal, or the 1970s, or the Stanley Cup, or hockey, that would be different. The person dispensing the information would seem very much like a teacher.

There is a formality, organization and structure associated with training that isn’t there when you’re just reading an article. So if you want to get people in the habit of seeing you as their trainer, it makes sense to incorporate that structure into what you do. This could be announcing on your website that you’re going to have a five part series next week on a certain learning outcome, or it could be getting people to come to a webinar at a certain time. You could lead a freaking Twitter chat on Tuesdays at 8, if you wanted to. But formal training and learning usually has a specific time and/or place.

2. Trainers give specific instructions.

Bloggers and pundits and thought leaders tend to give opinions, philosophies, or tips – fairly random tidbits of instruction at best, a motley crew of random information at worst. If you read a crochet blog, you’re going to see a bunch about crochet, the crochet world, the pattern the blogger is making right now, pictures from the yarn show she went to, and so on. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The crochet blogger can still be a trainer – if she also trains.

If she gives tutorials that have specific instructions, rather than a big list of tips. If she starts at the beginning of something and moves through to the end. If she has a library of sorts that people can find numerous pieces of training in. These are the marks of a trainer, rather than a talker. And when people get used to being trained by her, then when she comes out with a paid version of her training, her readers or viewers or listeners are more likely to already have an established association of being trained, rather than simply chatted to.

3. Trainers incorporate interactivity.

Teachers let you ask questions. There is usually some kind of forum or channel or process for getting help. If you don’t understand something, or your situation is unique, or you need some extra help, a trainer or a teacher is there for you.

In the real world, a corporate trainer lets you wait until after class to get some extra support. A teacher lets you raise your hand. Even your TA in college had hours where you could go and say, “I’m an idiot and I don’t get this.”

Creating a semblance of interactivity in your materials makes it much more likely that people view you as somebody training them, rather than somebody who talks and if you get it, you get it, and if you don’t, you don’t.

(Incidentally, very few people tend to take you up on this element, whether you’re teaching high school or launch training. But the presence of it indicates that it’s there if the learner needs it, and also shows you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is. It’s a guarantee of sorts, and it ups conversion, even for those who are pretty sure they’ll never take you up on it.)

4. Trainers give you something to do.

Generally speaking, when we’re learning something out there in the big, bad world, good trainers understand that in order to learn, there’s at least a marginal level of doing required on the part of the learner. It’s pretty accepted that to learn, you have to try. And trying requires more than simply thinking.

Exercises, worksheets, homework – even “try saying this to the grocery store clerk tonight” or “take a bubble bath and report back” are things to do, to reinforce learning. You don’t have to incorporate tons of this if it’s not your style – some of us are more cerebral than others, and accordingly attract a more cerebral audience or customer base – but if you want to be more than just a wannabe thought leader, you’re going to have to get them to do something.

(Incidentally, this is a constant struggle for me. Dave, on the other hand, was telling people what to do in the womb.)

5. Trainers offer deliverables.

The last key difference we’re going to touch on today is the idea of specific deliverables. Nobody goes to a $1400 seminar to learn “about marketing” – well, not when they’re paying for it themselves, they don’t. Nobody goes to a workshop at the local craft store to learn “about crochet”. Nobody attends a webinar to learn “about public speaking”. It just doesn’t happen.

The basic idea behind training – which often feels forgotten by the majority of the internet – is that training is about learning to do something. There is a thing you have at the end that you did not have at the beginning. Before you attend – whether attendance is literal or metaphorical – there is a promise that is made to you, and you decide to attend based on whether or not you want what’s being promised.

We would all be very much happier if we could earn a living selling things like “Mindful Pregnancy.” That would be great, for trainers everywhere. The reality of the situation is that if you want to be seen as a trainer or a teacher, and eventually get paid accordingly, you’re going to have to train. And you train people to do things. Specific things. With names. You can probably sell “Create Your Own Mindful Birth Plan” or “Sleeping Through The Night The Mindful Way” or “The Mindful Way To Swing Your Gender Odds”. Those are things you’re training people to do. People pay to do, to have concrete deliverables they didn’t have before.

(Hint: If, in describing what you’re training, you find yourself using the verb “to be”, you’re probably not offering a concrete deliverable. “I train people to be more mindful during their pregnancy” is not a thing. “I train people to create and implement mindful birth plans” is.)

So those are the five elements to integrate. Now, let’s talk about where you can implement them.

If we’re going to be trying to train people to be trained by you so that they’ll see you as a competent trainer who trains them, we’re going to have to do it before they buy, yes? Yes. So let’s talk about how we’re going to do that. We’ve got three places for you – two obvious, and one less so.

We’ll start with the time period leading up to your launch. Before your launch – whether we’re calling it the pre-launch period, or whether we’re simply going to call it normal life before you launch something – before you’re launching anything is really the best time to start anything. The best time to plant a tree was forty years ago, and the second best time is today? This is true. And the best time to get people accustomed to being trained by you was before you wanted to hit them up for money. There’s no official time to start. This isn’t like the lead time for the Christmas issue of a magazine. It’s simply that far in advance is better than at the last minute.

You can start incorporating the five elements of training in advance of launch in all manner of ways. Make a series, or a series of them. Start giving people homework at the end of your podcasts, even if it’s only in a tongue in cheek way. (Although bonus points for not tongue in cheek at all. People tend to take homework pretty seriously, as a rule.) Schedule a free seminar for them to attend, and include standard teacher-student elements like worksheets or even homework buddy groups.

The further in advance of launch that you start incorporating these elements into your communication with your audience, the more they’ll have the opportunity to take your training and actually benefit from it. If they take your free training, and incorporate what they’ve learned, their situation is going to improve. They’re going to know how to knock out stage fright, or how to add a fringe to a granny square, or communicate assertively with waitresses. They’re going to experience the changes that your training can facilitate, and the more times they’ve experienced that, the more likely they are to make the jump come launch time. I mean, you’ve helped them how many times before? They may as well make it one more.

Next, we’re going to address teaching during launch.

This should be obvious, and for many of you, it’s going to be. If you’ve been around the internet marketing community for a while, you’ve probably seen the training heavy launches that the big boys are doing, and you’ve seen the high profile, probably high spectacle, shows that they’re putting on.

Training exclusively during launch is a popular choice for a lot of internet marketing types for a few reasons. One, training all the time takes a lot of resources. It’s an energy heavy activity. And the “bigger” an internet marketer is, the more likely they are to be more involved in the statistical end of running a business and less involved in the community engagement part. The average big shot internet marketer is writing ads, and split-testing sales page copy, and basically working on the nerdy end of the business. Focusing on content during non-launch periods is low priority for a lot of internet marketers.

On the other hand, though, launch period is a great period to work on heavy training initiatives. Especially if they’re not training the rest of the time, when they start, they tend to get a whole lot of traffic. People pay attention, and they tell their friends to pay attention, too. Shares go up, both publicly, like on Facebook, but also privately, in private forums and via email and direct messages. Good training, especially good training with a promise at the end of more good training to come if you sign up for their email list, is basically Product Launch 101.

So training during launch is the second item. Generally speaking, you’re going to want to go with standard launch content rules, which means your content is going to be a lot more compelling than it is on a daily basis. Longer content, more details, teaching more advanced concepts, teaching the stuff nobody else is teaching, teaching stuff that’s normally paid content and making it free – that’s an information product launch for you. Obviously, you’ve already had a lot of multipliers devoted to launch content, so go back and give yourself a refresher on those when you’re ready to start making your training content.

Last, we’re going to address the weird one, the one that most people wouldn’t think about, and that’s the sales page.

Training on your sales page can bring sales up – sometimes way up – and it can capture a lot of those almost buyers we’re talking about.

Now, training on a sales page has to be a modified version of what we’ve discussed so far in this module. You’re going to have a tough time giving homework, or setting a date and time for people to come up and read your sales materials. But training elements can be incorporated, to the surprise and, yes, even delight of your customers and customers to be.

We did this way back in the day with our old sales page for How to Launch the **** Out Of Your Ebook. Now, that page was an old-school sales page, and if you saw it back then, you might be laughing now at the memory. It was pretty spectacular in its spectacle. But the first thing we did on that page, before we even introduced ourselves, was give a few thousand words of literal launch training in how to do the basics.

The premise was that we’d give them a bunch of good information before they even got to the introduction – hi, I’m Dave, and this is Naomi, and here’s why you might be inclined to listen to us – and that would be so surprising and so useful that they’d want to read more. And it worked. They did want to read more, and your customers might feel the same way.

If you’re going to put this into practice, the best way is to create a basic step by step tutorial of some sort on a topic that is HIGHLY relevant to the topic at hand. If we were going to do it for BIG LAUNCH, we might start with seven steps to a great product launch. (Or, in our case, we’d go with nine, to tie in with the Nine Decisions.) We’d talk about the first decision a little, give a few options, give a few places where this option might be better than that one, and then move on to the next one.

Then, at the end of that section, we would say that those nine steps are the foundation for the course we’re about to introduce. And then we’d move on with the sales page.

This doesn’t just have to be for big products either. If you’re selling a $47 Clean Your Closets class, you could have six steps to a cleaner closet, and introduce each element of the six week seminar. You wouldn’t talk about the seminar during that section of the class at all.

You’d just say that number one is to eliminate everything that doesn’t belong in that closet, number two is to eliminate everything that doesn’t fit your body, then everything that doesn’t fit your lifestyle, and so on. It’s not just for the big stuff – it works just as well and sometimes better with the little stuff.

So there you have it. Five ways to create a conducive training environment and three places to train your customers to get trained by you. You are now smarter, but don’t worry – you’re just as pretty as you were before.

Thank you so much for being here with us today. You’ve been listening to the BIG LAUNCH launch multipliers, Training People To Be Trained By You. I’m Naomi from IttyBiz, and I’ll talk to you very soon.

If you liked this Launch Multiplier, make sure to check out Getting Great Testimonials while you’re at it. And hop on our newsletter if you want updates on additional Freebie Friday lessons as they’re released. (You’ll also get some free marketing courses for doing so.)

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.