I believe that one of the best ways to create a simple, leveraged coaching business is by building it on the foundation of a clearly defined ideal client, niche, and “sweet spot” within that niche.
Defining your ideal client may on the surface look easy but it often can be a struggle to really pinpoint who your ideal client is. If you need some assistance in beginning this exploration, I have a number of articles on my blog to help support you.
Now, once you narrow in on an ideal client, you might think the work is done. But in some ways, it’s never “done.”
In fact, I recommend that you re-examine your ideal client every 6 months because there is nothing like the live coaching experience to tell us we are on the right track.
When you are serving the right clients, the work will energize you; whereas clients that aren’t the right fit will take a lot more out of you and leave you ultimately more drained. The more clients you work with, the more you will start to notice the nuances of those clients that light you up and bring out your best verses those that feel more challenging. You may go through some cycles, too, where you choose to take a chance on someone who you aren’t sure will be the right fit and other times where you are rigorous with the filter you use to insure you identify those ideal clients and refer the others elsewhere.
It’s important to remember that in some ways these cycles are part of the imperfect perfection of your coaching business evolution.
It’s only by comparing the clients you enjoy working with to the not-so-fun or not right fit clients that you can truly pinpoint the characteristics and psychographics of the clients you work best with. As an example, I have some clients who’ve found they really want to work with people who lean in to their expertise and follow their lead, while I have other clients on the opposite of the spectrum who loves having clients who challenge them and push back. I also have clients that love it when a client throws out “F-bombs” and others who find it themselves wince internally when a client swears. As I often say “garage sales work because someone else’s junk is someone else’s treasure.”
At the end of the day, if it doesn’t serve you, it won’t serve the client either and it’s best to refer them to someone else who will be the right coach for them. It’s important to remember that this clear boundary will clear the way for the right clients to work with you and that whatever it is that makes you you, there are clients out there who need that exact way of being.
Narrow Your Ideal Client to the Degree it Serves
I was working with a client the other day and we were re-examining her ideal client. She’s been working with me on and off for many years, so niche and ideal client are topics that we’ve discussed multiple times.
The first question we explored was “If you could wave a magic wand and have a full practice of people just like ”x”, what would they look like?” The answer to this question defines your bull’s-eye.
The next question is: “Who are the clients you would also be happy to work with if they showed up?” This is the dartboard.
She initially defined her bull’s-eye as “Women leaders from Director to C suite.” However, I knew from our earlier discussions that she really shines and leans in with women who have been newly promoted the VP level. I pointed out to her that it appeared to me her dartboard was sneaking in to her bull’s-eye.
When the line between your bull’s-eye blends with your dartboard, you lose the ability to clearly communicate your value to your ideal client. In my client’s case for example, when she focuses on the challenges, opportunities, and desires of a women executive who’s been newly promoted it makes it easy for a woman in that position to recognize “Yes, this coach can help me. She gets it.”
It’s when we try to speak in more general terms that we lose our potency, our ability to engage with the people we want to work with the most. They lean in hard with us when we speak directly to — and only to — them.
But what about the dartboard? Can’t I serve and coach them too?
Many coaches fear narrowing in on an ideal client because it means they have to say no to everyone who doesn’t fit into this tight definition. But it doesn’t work that way. People who fall into your “dartboard” are still going to lean in with you if they are meant to work with you because they likely have some of the qualities of your ideal client. For example, when you talk with them, they might say, “I know you normally work with women, and although I’m a man, I still think you are the right coach for me because…”
Claiming your ideal client in a powerful and intentional way allows you to fully show up for them and support them to experience major transformation. It also makes it easy for you to create a memorable experience that inspires your clients to refer you to other people who want that, too.
Don’t be afraid of choosing a clear and detailed ideal client. It can help to remind yourself that defining your ideal client is an evolution. You don’t have to get it right the first time. In fact, as you grow and change as a person and a coach, the definition of your ideal client will grow and change along with you. After all, we are in a changing world, so the challenges and desires of your ideal client are likely to change with it. Embrace the evolution with intentionality!
Would embracing the idea of your ideal client evolving over time help you to choose one? If you already have a defined ideal client, how has that definition changed over time? I’d love to hear from you!
Tara Butler Floch